Arthur is the name of the central character in Arthurian legend, a 6th-century king of the Britons who resisted Saxon invaders. He may or may not have been based on a real person. He first appears in Welsh poems and chronicles (perhaps briefly in the 7th-century poem Y Gododdin and more definitively and extensively in the 9th-century History of the Britons by Nennius ). However, his character was not developed until the chronicles of the 12th-century Geoffrey of Monmouth . His tales were later taken up and expanded by French and English writers.
The name came into general use in England in the Middle Ages due to the prevalence of Arthurian romances, and it enjoyed a surge of popularity in the 19th century. Famous bearers include German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), mystery author and Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), and science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008).
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 common Norse name was first brought to England by Danish settlers during the Anglo-Saxon period. It was not popular in England in the Middle Ages, but it was revived in the 19th century, in part due to the children's novel Eric, or Little by Little (1858) by Frederic William Farrar.
Initially Saint George was primarily revered by Eastern Christians, but returning crusaders brought stories of him to Western Europe and he became the patron of England, Portugal, Catalonia and Aragon. The name was rarely used in England until the German-born George I came to the British throne in the 18th century. Five subsequent British kings have borne the name.
Other famous bearers include two kings of Greece, the composer George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), the first president of the United States, George Washington (1732-1797), and the Pacific explorer George Vancouver (1757-1798). This was also the pen name of authors George Eliot (1819-1880) and George Orwell (1903-1950), real names Mary Anne Evans and Eric Arthur Blair respectively.
Due to the renown of the saints by this name, Gregory (in various spellings) has remained common in the Christian world through the Middle Ages and to the present day. It has been used in England since the 12th century. A famous bearer from the modern era was American actor Gregory Peck (1916-2003).
Heinrich was popular among continental royalty, being the name of seven German kings, starting with the 10th-century Henry I the Fowler, and four French kings. In France it was usually rendered Henri from the Latin form Henricus.
The Normans introduced the French form to England, and it was subsequently used by eight kings, ending with the infamous Henry VIII in the 16th century. During the later Middle Ages it was fairly popular, and was generally rendered as Harry or Herry in English pronunciation. Notable bearers include arctic naval explorer Henry Hudson (1570-1611), British novelist Henry James (1843-1916), American automobile manufacturer Henry Ford (1863-1947), and American actor Henry Fonda (1905-1982).
This name has been used in England since the 13th century, though it became more common in Scotland where it was borne by several kings. In the 17th century the Scottish king James VI inherited the English throne, becoming the first ruler of all Britain, and the name grew much more popular. In American name statistics (recorded since 1880) this name has never been out of the top 20, making it arguably the era's most consistently popular name. It was the top ranked name for boys in the United States from 1940 to 1952.
Famous bearers include the English explorer Captain James Cook (1728-1779), the Scottish inventor James Watt (1736-1819), and the Irish novelist and poet James Joyce (1882-1941). This name has also been borne by six American presidents. A notable fictional bearer is the British spy James Bond, created by author Ian Fleming.
The name was borne by a semi-legendary 4th-century saint and martyr from Alexandria who was tortured on a spiked wheel. The saint was initially venerated in Syria, and returning crusaders introduced the name to Western Europe. It has been common in England since the 12th century in many different spellings, with Katherine and Catherine becoming standard in the later Middle Ages. To this day both spellings are regularly used in the English-speaking world. In the United States the spelling Katherine has been more popular since 1973.
Famous bearers of the name include Catherine of Siena, a 14th-century mystic, and Catherine de' Medici, a 16th-century French queen. It was also borne by three of Henry VIII's wives, including Katherine of Aragon, and by two empresses of Russia, including Catherine the Great.
In the Celtic legend of Tristan and Isolde this was the name of a king of Cornwall. It was also borne by the American author Mark Twain (1835-1910), real name Samuel Clemens, the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He took his pen name from a call used by riverboat workers on the Mississippi River to indicate a depth of two fathoms. This is also the usual English spelling of the name of the 1st-century BC Roman triumvir Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony).
This is the name of several New Testament characters, most importantly Mary the mother of Jesus. According to the gospels, Jesus was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit while she remained a virgin. This name was also borne by Mary Magdalene, a woman cured of demons by Jesus. She became one of his followers and later witnessed his crucifixion and resurrection.
Due to the Virgin Mary this name has been very popular in the Christian world, though at certain times in some cultures it has been considered too holy for everyday use. In England it has been used since the 12th century, and it has been among the most common feminine names since the 16th century. In the United States in 1880 it was given more than twice as often as the next most popular name for girls (Anna). It remained in the top rank in America until 1946 when it was bumped to second (by Linda). Although it regained the top spot for a few more years in the 1950s it was already falling in usage, and has since dropped out of the top 100 names.
This name has been borne by two queens of England, as well as a queen of Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots. Another notable bearer was Mary Shelley (1797-1851), the author of Frankenstein. A famous fictional character by this name is Mary Poppins from the children's books by P. L. Travers, first published in 1934.
The Latinized form of this name, Maria, is also used in English as well as in several other languages.