How popular is the baby name Willibrord in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Willibrord and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Willibrord.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Willibrord

Number of Babies Named Willibrord

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Willibrord

What’s Up with Walpurga?

bonfireI’ve never celebrated Walpurgis Night, which seems to be a big bonfire party held across large swaths of Europe every spring (April 30/May 1), but I am curious about the name of the holiday. Where does it come from?

It was named after St. Walpurga, an 8th-century English missionary whose name in Old English would have looked more like “Wealdburg.”

Her name reminds me of Willibrord, and for good reason — the corresponding saints were both Anglo-Saxons who lived right around the same time.

So what does her name mean?

As with Willibrord, there are two elements to Wealdburg.

The first element comes from the Anglo-Saxon word weald, meaning “power,” “authority” or “ruler.” This element can also be seen in Germanic names like Walter and Waldo.

The second comes from the Anglo-Saxon word burg, meaning “fortress,” “castle,” “town,” “city,” or something similar.

Now, Germanic names weren’t constructed so that the meanings of the two elements would form a phrase. So combining these two definitions to create something catchy like “ruler of the fortress” would be taking things a bit too far. Better to leave the definition at “power + fortress” or something like that.

Walpurga has never made the SSA’s list of baby names, but Walburga has — on and off from the 1890s until the 1920s.


Where Does Wilbrod Come From?

A reader named Sam sent me a great question several days ago:

I remember my late great-grandfather very fondly and have been thinking about passing on his name as a middle name for a son. However, there’s one catch: his name was Wilbrod, and I don’t know a thing about the name. I’ve never met any other Wilbrods, and what little I’ve been able to dig up is that it’s the name of a street* in Ottawa and a rare but not entirely unheard of first and last name in certain francophone groups (historically) and in East Africa (currently). My great-grandfather was himself Canadian, of predominantly Ojibwe and partly either French or Belgian heritage. I’d love to know a little about the name’s history and meaning, if you have any information about it.

I can see why this one would be hard to research. Not only is it rare, but the historical figure who popularized it goes by a different spelling.

St. Willibrord StatueThe name Wilbrod can be traced back to St. Willibrord, an Anglo-Saxon (specifically Northumbrian) missionary who became the first Bishop of Utrecht in 695.

According to one source, Wilbrod is a specifically French form of the name. Other forms include Wilbrord, Wilebrode, Wilibrord, Willbrord, Willebrode and Willibrode.

What does it mean?

Well, like many Germanic names, it contains two elements.

The first element comes from the Anglo-Saxon word willa, meaning “will,” “wish,” “desire,” or “pleasure.” We see this element in many Anglo-Saxon words:

  • wilboda, “welcome messenger”
  • wildæg, “wished-for day”
  • wilfægen or wiltygþe, “having ones desire, satisfied, glad”
  • wilgæst, “welcome guest”
  • wilgehléþa, “pleasant comrade”
  • wilgesteald, “desirable possession”
  • wilsíþ, “desired journey”
  • wilspell, “welcome news, glad tidings”
  • wilwang, “pleasant land”

We also see it in many Anglo-Saxon names: Wilbeald, Wilbeorht, Wilhere, Wilmund, Wilric, Wilsige, Wilburh, Wilcume, Wilswið, Wilþrýð, and so forth.

The second element is the Anglo-Saxon word brord, meaning “point,” “prick,” “spear,” or “spire of grass.” Because Germanic names are often war-related, I think “spear” would be the most appropriate interpretation.

It’s tempting to put the meanings together and get something like “desired spear,” but the elements in compound Germanic names are often unrelated (i.e. not meant to form a phrase) so it might be more accurate to leave it at “will” and “spear,” or “welcome” and spear.”

*Wilbrod Street in the Sandy Hill district of Ottawa was named for the eldest son of former landowner Louis-Théodore Besserer.

Sources:

  • Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary
  • Ferguson, Robert. The Teutonic Name-System Applied to the Family Names of France, England, & Germany. London: Williams & Norgate, 1864.
  • Latham, Edward. A Dictionary of Names, Nicknames and Surnames of Persons, Places and Things. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1904.
  • Orel, Vladimir. A Handbook of Germanic Etymology. Leiden: Brill, 2003.
  • Smith, William and Henry Wace. A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines. London: John Murray, 1887.
  • Source: Stevenson, W. H. “The Christian Name William.” Notes and Queries 3 Apr. 1886: 272.

Image: St Willibrord by Stijn van W