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Meaning & History

From the Germanic name Willahelm, which was composed of the elements wil "will, desire" and helm "helmet, protection". Saint William of Gellone was an 8th-century cousin of Charlemagne who became a monk. The name was common among the Normans, and it became extremely popular in England after William the Conqueror was recognized as the first Norman king of England in the 11th century. It was later borne by three other English kings, as well as rulers of Scotland, Sicily (of Norman origin), the Netherlands and Prussia.

Other famous bearers include William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish hero, and William Tell, a legendary 14th-century Swiss hero. In the literary world it was borne by dramatist William Shakespeare (1564-1616), poet William Blake (1757-1827), poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850), dramatist William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), author William Faulkner (1897-1962), and author William S. Burroughs (1914-1997).
DiminutivesBill, Billie, Billy, Liam, Wil, Will, Willie, Willy
Feminine FormsWilhelmina, Willa
Other Languages & CulturesWilhelm, Willahelm Ancient Germanic Gwilherm Breton Guillem Catalan Vilim, Vilko Croatian Vilém Czech Vilhelm Danish Wilhelmus, Willem, Jelle, Pim, Wil, Willy, Wim Dutch Vilhelmo, Vilĉjo Esperanto Villem Estonian Vilhelm, Viljami, Jami, Vilhelmi, Vilho, Vili, Viljo, Ville Finnish Guillaume French Wilhelm, Willi, Willy, Wim German Vilmos, Vili Hungarian Vilhjálmur Icelandic Uilliam, Liam, Uilleag, Ulick Irish Guglielmo Italian Vilhelms, Vilis Latvian Wöllem, Wullem, Wum Limburgish Vilhelmas Lithuanian Illiam Manx Wiremu Maori Wilkin, Wilky, Wilmot Medieval English Vilhelm Norwegian Wilhelm Polish Guilherme Portuguese Uilleam Scottish Viliam Slovak Viljem, Vili, Vilko Slovene Guillermo Spanish Vilhelm, Ville Swedish Gwilym, Gwil, Gwilim, Gwillym Welsh


Depiction of William the Conqueror (17th century)Depiction of William the Conqueror (17th century)
Portrait of William ShakespearePortrait of William Shakespeare


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Entry updated July 2, 2017   Contribute