Faire Names for English Folk:
Late Sixteenth Century English Names

by Chris Laning (SCA: Christian de Holacombe, claning@igc.org)
(or at Renaissance Pleasure Faire: Mistress Christian Ashley)
3rd edition, 1 August 2000

Given Names

Men's given names

The list of the most common men's given names in England stayed pretty nearly constant from the 1530s through 1700, especially the top four or five names, though the exact order changed a bit. It's notable how dominant the top few names are; the top five names account for 70% of all men studied. The figures from Janell Lovelace are:

John 29%
Thomas 14%
William 14%
Richard 7%
Robert 6%
Henry 3%
Nicholas 3%
Walter 2%
Edward 2%

The top 50 men's names listed by Scott Smith-Bannister for the 1560s and 1570s (a larger sample, with a more specific date focus) follow this trend fairly well. In approximate order from most common to least, they are:

John Francis Andrew Lawrence Gregory Fulke
Thomas Nicholas Humphrey Roger Nathaniel Luke
William Ralph Leonard Daniel Abraham Mathias
Robert Christopher Martin Michael Barnaby Tobias
Richard Anthony Simon Samuel Geoffrey Isaac
Henry Matthew Peter Allen Reynold Jerome
George Edmund Philip Charles Arthur Joseph
Edward Walter Stephen Alexander David Rowland
James Hugh

Some additional, slightly less popular names are:


Women's given names

The top five to ten women's given names are somewhat more variable from decade to decade, and not quite so dominant. It takes nine names rather than five to account for 70% of all women studied, and Elizabeth, the most common women's name, is only about half as common as John is for men. The figures from Janell Lovelace are:

Elizabeth 15%
Joan 12%
Margaret 11%
Anne 9%
Alice 8%
Agnes 6%
Isabel 4%
Jane 3%
Mary 3%
Katherine 3%
Margery 2%

The top 50 women's names listed by Scott Smith-Bannister for the 1560s and 1570s follow this trend fairly well. In approximate order, they are:

Elizabeth Catherine Frances Cecily Millicent Audrey
Joan Elinor Joyce Frideswide Rose Helen
Margaret Isabel Bridget Grace Thomasin Janet
Agnes Dorothy Christian Amy Fortune Sybil
Alice Margery Edith Barbara Gillian Ursula
Anne Susanna Emma Rachel Judith Avis
Mary Ellen Lucy Charity Julian Beatrice
Jane Sarah Martha Mabel Philippa Blanche
Clemence Marion

Some additional, slightly less common women's names are:

Ruth Constance Florence Maria Parnell
Wilmot Denise Josian Maud Rebecca
Christina Ellen Lettice Mildred Winifred

© 1999, 2000 by Chris Laning (SCA: Lady Christian de Holacombe; Renaissance Pleasure Faire: Mistress Christian Ashley). Unlimited reproduction of this article in print or electronic media for nonprofit educational purposes is permitted, provided it is reproduced in full including this notice, and no money is charged beyond the cost of copying. All other rights reserved.

Edited and published by Arval Benicoeur