Meaning & History
Contracted form of the Old Norse name RÁÐÚLFR (or its Norman form Radulf). Scandinavian settlers introduced it to England before the Norman Conquest, though afterwards it was bolstered by Norman influence. In the Middle Ages it was usually spelled Ralf, but by the 17th century it was most commonly Rafe, reflecting the normal pronunciation. The Ralph spelling appeared in the 18th century. A famous bearer of the name was Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), an American poet and author who wrote on transcendentalism.
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Entry updated June 13, 2019