How popular is the baby name Geoffrey in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Geoffrey and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Geoffrey.
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When we think of King Lear, we think of the famous William Shakespeare play, which was written in the very early 1600s.
But the story of the legendary king of Britain predates Shakespeare by centuries. The first written account we know of comes from The History of the Kings of Britain (circa 1136 A.D.) by British cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth.
In Will’s version, the king is named Lear and the three daughters are named Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. But in Geoff’s version, the king is Leir and the daughters are Gonorilla, Regau and Cordeilla. And in the dozens of versions of the story published in between, the names are rendered all sorts of ways:
Interesting how Shakespeare’s “Goneril” and “Cordelia” are easy to differentiate, but certain earlier versions of the two names were quite similar. Modern academics associate them with the Latin words gonos, meaning “genitals,” and cordis, meaning “heart.”
Charlton, H. B. Shakespearian Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1948.
Perrett, Wilfrid. The Story of King Lear from Geoffrey of Monmouth to Shakespeare. Berlin: Mayer & Müller, 1904.
At first glance, Guillaume always looks like gobbledygook to me. It’s the French form of William — that much I know — but it takes a few seconds for me to remember that it’s pronounced ghee-ohm, not not gwill-awm or gwee-awm.
And it’s not just Guillaume that trips me up. I find many other French names (Étienne, Edwige, Anaïs, etc.) equally tricky to pronounce.
So for those of us who struggle with French names, here are some simplified rules of French pronunciation, plus names to illustrate each rule.
This list is far from comprehensive, and my pronunciations are just approximations, but hopefully my fellow non-French speakers out there will find it helpful nonetheless.
French Pronunciation + French Names
AU: The vowel combination “AU” is pronounced like a long o.
Paul, in French, is pronounced pohl.
Margaux, a French form of Margaret, is pronounced mar-goh.
CH: The letter combination “CH” is typically pronounced sh.
Charles, in French, is pronounced shahrl.
D, P, S, T, X, Z: The six consonants “D,” “P,” “S,” “T,” “X” and “Z,” when at the end of a word, are typically silent.
Arnaud, the French form of Arnold, is pronounced ar-noh.
Denis, the French form of Dennis, is pronounced de-nee (remember the Blondie song?).
Lucas, in French, is pronounced loo-kah.
Louis, in French, is pronounced loo-ee (think Louis Vuitton).
…They’re not always silent, though. Here are some exceptions:
Alois, the French form of Aloysius, is pronounced ah-loh-ees.
Anaïs, a French form of Anna, is pronounced ah-nah-ees.
David, in French, is pronounced dah-veed.
Ë: The pronunciation of “Ë” (E with a trema) is like the e in the English word “bet.”
Gaël and Gaëlle are pronounced gah-el or gai-el.
Joël and Joëlle are pronounced zhoh-el.
Maël and Maëlle are pronounced mah-el or mai-el.
Noël and Noëlle are pronounced noh-el.
É: The pronunciation of “É” (E with an acute accent) is somewhere between the ee in “see” and the e in “bet.”
Noé, the French masculine form of Noah, is pronounced noh-ee.
Salomé, in French, is pronounced sah-loh-mee.
G: The consonant “G” is soft (zh) when followed by “E” or “I” but hard (gh) otherwise.
Georges, the French form of George, is pronounced zhorzh.
Guy, in French, is pronounced ghee.
H: The consonant “H” is silent.
Hélène, the French form of Helen, is pronounced eh-lehn.
I: The vowel “I,” and the forms Ï, and Î, are all pronounced ee.
Loïc, a French form of Louis, is pronounced loh-eek.
J: The consonant “J” is pronounced zh.
Jacques, the French form of Jacob, is pronounced zhahk.
LL: The letter combination “LL” is typically pronounced like an l.
Achille, the French form of Achilles, is pronounced ah-sheel.
Lucille, the French form of Lucilla, is pronounced loo-seel.
…But in some cases “LL” is pronounced like a y.
Guillaume, the French form of William, is pronounced ghee-yohm or ghee-ohm.
OI: The vowel combination “OI” is pronounced wah.
Antoine, the French form of Antony, is pronounced an-twahn.
Grégoire, the French form of Gregory, is pronounced gre-gwahr.
OU: The vowel combination “OU” is pronounced oo.
Lilou is pronounced lee-loo.
R: The consonant “R,” when at the end of a word, is typically pronounced.
Clair, the French masculine form of Claire, is pronounced kler.
Edgar, in French, is pronounced ed-gahr.
…When the “R” is preceded by an “E,” though, it is not pronounced.
Gauthier, the French form of Walter, is pronounced goh-tee-yay or goh-tyay (remember Gotye?).
Olivier, the French form of Oliver, is pronounced oh-lee-vee-yay or oh-lee-vyay (think Laurence Olivier).
TH: The letter combination “TH” is typically pronounced like a t (which makes sense, since “H” is silent).
Thibault, the French form of Theobald, is pronounced tee-boh.
TI: The letter combination “TI” is sometimes pronounced like an s or sy.
Laëtitia is pronounced lay-tee-sya.
W: The consonant “W” is pronounced like a v.
Edwige, the French form of Hedwig, is pronounced ed-veezh.
And finally, just a few more French names that I tend to have trouble with.
Anatole is pronounced ah-nah-tohl.
Étienne, the French form of Stephen, is pronounced eh-tyen.
Geoffroy, the French form of Geoffrey, is pronounced zho-fwah.
Ghislain and Ghislaine are pronounced either ghee-len or zheez-len.
Ignace, the French form of Ignatius, is pronounced ee-nyas.
Those aren’t too hard, right?
That’s what I tell myself…and then I come across Guillaume in the wild and my mind goes blank all over again. :)
If you know French and would like to add to the above (either another rule of pronunciation or a more precise pronunciation for a particular name) please leave a comment.
If you’re not a French speaker, here’s my question: Which French name gives you the most trouble?
The male names below appeared in the Open Domesday database just once, except where noted. (For the record, I overlooked entries in which one person’s name was used to refer to another person, e.g., “Aelfric’s uncle.”)
The most-mentioned name within each letter group is in bold.
If you make it all the way to the bottom, your reward is a top ten list. :)
Which male were mentioned most often in the Domesday book? The #1 name was William, followed by Robert and Ralph:
1. William (166)
2. Robert (127)
3. Ralph (124)
4. Aelfric (88)
5. Alwin (76)
5. Hugh (76)
7. Roger (73)
8. Godwin (72)
9. Walter (64)
10. Godric (59)
Though the names in the book aren’t necessarily representative of name usage in England overall, it does make sense than William took the top spot. The Domesday Book was created a couple of decades after the Norman Invasion, at a time when the name William was very fashionable, thanks to William the Conqueror.
I’ve got some 13th-century English names for you today!
They come from the fine rolls of King Henry III (1216–1272). The fine rolls were basically financial records. King Henry III wasn’t the first to keep them, but they “expand[ed] considerably in size and content during Henry’s reign.”
(These lists aren’t the same as the single-year, society-wide baby name popularity lists we’re accustomed to — they cover a wide range of birth years, and a small segment of society — but they do give us a general idea of which names were the most popular during the 1200s.)
Of the 8,423 male names in the fine rolls, these were the most popular:
William (1,217 mentions)
Nicholas, Peter (180 each)
Andrew, Matthew (42 each)
Other names on the men’s list: Hamo, Fulk, Payn, Waleran, Drogo, Engeram, Amfrid, Ratikin, Walkelin, Bonefey, Fulcher, Hasculf, Herlewin, Joldwin, Lefsi, Marmaduke, Orm, Albizium, Cocky, Deulobene, Gwenwynwyn, Markewart.
Of the 1,314 female names in the fine rolls, these were the most popular:
During the last centuries of the Medieval era, the most common cat names were Gib (hard G) and Tib.
Typically, Gib was used for male cats and Tib for female cats.
Gib is a diminutive of the name Gilbert. Tib is either a play on Gib or a short form of Tibert, as in Tibert the Cat, a feline character found in Reynard the Fox stories.
Geoffrey Chaucer mentions a cat named Gibbe in his The Romaunt of the Rose, written in the late 1300s.
The play Gammer Gurton’s Needle, written during the 1550s, features a (female) cat named Gib:
My nee’le, alas! Ich lost it, Hodge, what time Ich me up-hasted
To save the milk set up for thee, which Gib our cat hath wasted.
The name Gib was so ubiquitous that male cats were called Gib-cats. We might still be using that term today if not for “The Life and Adventures of a Cat” (1760), a popular tale that featured a cat named Tom. Tom inspired the term Tom-cat, which eventually replaced Gib-cat.