Derived from the Greek Πετρος (Petros)
meaning "stone". This is a translation used in most versions of the New Testament
of the name Cephas
, meaning "stone" in Aramaic, which was given to the apostle Simon
(compare Matthew 16:18 and John 1:42). Simon Peter was the most prominent of the apostles during Jesus' ministry and is often considered the first pope.
Due to the renown of the apostle, this name became common throughout the Christian world (in various spellings). In England the Normans
introduced it in the Old French form Piers
, which was gradually replaced by the spelling Peter
starting in the 15th century.
Besides the apostle, other saints
by this name include the 11th-century reformer Saint Peter Damian and the 13th-century preacher Saint Peter Martyr. It was also borne by rulers of Aragon, Portugal, and Russia, including the Russian tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725), who defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War. Famous fictional bearers include Peter Rabbit from Beatrix Potter's children's books, and Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up in J. M. Barrie's 1904 play.