European Names

Most cultures in Europe, as well as the cultures that sprang from them in their colonies, share a common stock of given names. Though they may be spelled with slight differences, names in, say, France and Slovakia have a lot more in common than names in France and Japan. The major uniting factor amongst these cultures of Europe is Christianity.

Most derive from either Hebrew, Ancient Greek, Latin, or one of the early Germanic, Celtic or Slavic languages.

Christian sources

An important source has always been the names of famous saints. The church strongly encouraged the giving of saintly names to children, and this encouragement continues in Catholic countries. Some of these saints appear in the New Testament, while others play roles in later history and legends. Old Testament names were not commonly used by Christians until relatively recent times.

Other sources

Other European names come from pre-Christian times. These names have survived to this day because they belonged to royalty, heroes, or figures from mythology and literature.

Roman names were spread by the far-reaching Roman Empire.

Germanic names spread with the Germanic tribes from their original homes in northern Europe. During the first millennia a great deal of the continent came under Germanic rule and thus their names were imported into southern regions such as Spain and Italy.

Slavic names are used in several countries of eastern and central Europe.

Celtic names are mostly confined to the British Isles and the English-speaking world.