The name has been used by kings of Scotland, Poland and Yugoslavia, emperors of Russia, and eight popes. Other notable bearers include English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744), American statesman Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), Scottish-Canadian explorer Sir Alexander MacKenzie (1764-1820), Russian poet Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), and Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), the Scottish-Canadian-American inventor of the telephone.
The popularity of the name in continental Europe was due to the fame of Charles the Great (742-814), commonly known as Charlemagne, a king of the Franks who came to rule over most of Europe. His grandfather Charles Martel had also been a noted leader of the Franks. It was subsequently the name of several Holy Roman emperors, as well as kings of France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Hungary (in various spellings). After Charlemagne, his name was adopted as a word meaning "king" in many Eastern European languages, for example Czech král, Hungarian király, Russian король (korol), and Turkish kral.
The name did not become common in Britain until the 17th century when it was borne by the Stuart king Charles I. It had been introduced into the Stuart royal family by Mary Queen of Scots, who had been raised in France.
Famous bearers of the name include naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) who revolutionized biology with his theory of evolution, novelist Charles Dickens (1812-1870) who wrote such works as Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, French statesman Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), and American cartoonist Charles Schulz (1922-2000), the creator of the Peanuts comic strip.
Due to the popularity of the biblical character, the name came into use in England during the Middle Ages. Though it became rare by the 15th century, it was revived after the Protestant Reformation. Famous bearers of this name include English author Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782), and American frontiersman Daniel Boone (1734-1820).
Among Christians, this name was originally more common in Eastern Europe. It was borne in the 12th century by Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a daughter of King Andrew II who used her wealth to help the poor. In medieval England it was occasionally used in honour of the saint, though the form Isabel (from Occitan and Spanish) was more common. It has been very popular in England since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century. In American name statistics (as recorded since 1880) it has never ranked lower than 30, making it the most consistently popular name for girls in the United States.
Besides Elizabeth I, this name has been borne (in various spellings) by many other European royals, including a ruling empress of Russia in the 18th century. Famous modern bearers include the British queen Elizabeth II (1926-) and actress Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011).
This name was very popular in the English-speaking world at the end of the 19th century. Though it declined in use over the next 100 years, it staged a successful comeback at the end of the 20th century. The American sitcom Will and Grace (1998-2006) may have helped, though the name was already strongly rising when it premiered. It was the top name for girls in England and Wales in 2006.
American writers Jack London (1876-1916) and Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) were two famous bearers of this name. It is also borne by the actor Jack Nicholson (1937-) and the golfer Jack Nicklaus (1940-). Apart from Nicklaus, none of these famous bearers were given the name Jack at birth.
In the United Kingdom this form has been bestowed more frequently than John since the 1990s, being the most popular name for boys from 1996 to 2008.
The English names Jacob and James derive from the same source, with James coming from Latin Iacomus, a later variant of the Latin New Testament form Iacobus. Unlike English, many languages do not have separate spellings for the two names.
In England, Jacob was mainly regarded as a Jewish name during the Middle Ages , though the variant James was used among Christians. Jacob came into general use as a Christian name after the Protestant Reformation. In America, although already moderately common, it steadily grew in popularity from the early 1970s to the end of the 1990s, becoming the top ranked name from 1999 to 2012.
A famous bearer was Jacob Grimm (1785-1863), the German linguist and writer who was, with his brother Wilhelm, the author of Grimm's Fairy Tales.
Due to the renown of the saint, this name has been widely used in the Christian world. It has been common in England since the 12th century, though it became a bit less popular after the Protestant Reformation. The name has been borne by five popes and two czars of Russia.
In England and elsewhere in Europe during the Middle Ages this name was used in honour of the saint. However, it was not generally given in Ireland before the 17th century because it was considered too sacred for everyday use. It has since become very common there.
In the United States this name steadily grew in popularity through the 1950s and 60s. It shot up the charts after the release of the 1970 movie Ryan's Daughter. Within a few years it was in the top 20 names, where it would stay for over three decades. Famous bearers include the Canadian actors Ryan Reynolds (1976-) and Ryan Gosling (1980-).
This name was common among continental European royalty during the Middle Ages, and it was popularized in Britain by the German House of Hanover when they inherited the British throne in the 18th century. It was the name of characters in the novels Tom Jones (1749) by Henry Fielding and The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) by Oliver Goldsmith.
In the United States this name was only moderately common until the 1990s when it began rising in popularity, eventually becoming the most popular for girls from 2011 to 2013. A famous bearer is the Italian actress Sophia Loren (1934-).
This name 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 (called Wilhelm in German, Guillaume in French and Guglielmo in Italian). 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).
In the American rankings (since 1880) this name has never been out of the top 20, making it one of the most consistently popular names (although it has never reached the top rank). In modern times its short form, Liam, has periodically been more popular than William itself, in the United Kingdom in the 1990s and the United States in the 2010s.