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

Sources and Help

The names and information in this article come from several very good statistical studies of Elizabethan names. I have also been assisted in this project by Heather Rose Jones, Sharon Krossa, and Josh Mittleman. I am greatly indebted to them and to my sources, although any mistakes are, of course, my own.

A good (though rather dry) recent study of given names is Names and Naming Patterns in England 1538-1700, by Scott Smith-Bannister (Oxford Historical Monographs, Clarendon Press, 1997, ISBN 0-19-820663-1).

The name lists in this article that are not from Smith-Bannister are originally from the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology's index to its brass rubbings collection at Oxford University. The compilation I've used is by Janell K. Lovelace.

A similar study by Brian M. Scott, also available on the web, is Late Sixteenth Century English Given Names.

The Academy of S. Gabriel is an excellent name resource, although Elizabethan England falls at the end of their time period. Their focus is on historical accuracy. The Academy also offers a consulting service if you have in-depth questions about a historically accurate name (they will help you with Welsh or Gaelic names, for instance), although due to their small and completely volunteer staff, a response may take several weeks.

For Scottish and Irish names, before you do anything else, please read Scottish Names 101 and Quick and Easy Gaelic Bynames, both by Sharon Krossa, part of her Medieval Scotland website.

For Welsh names, Heather Rose Jones has written A Simple Guide to Constructing 16th Century Welsh Names in English Contexts.

All these authors can be contacted through S. Gabriel if you have questions about names in their specific languages and cultures.

I'm also available to field questions about Faire names in general. I can be contacted at CLaning@igc.org.

Other helpful books

It doesn't have much to say about naming as such, but for a detailed and fascinating discussion of Elizabethan birth, baptism, and godparents, I recommend David Cressy Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-19-820168-0).

If you are interested in a possible name that is not in this article, probably the best and most easily accessible standard name references that cover this period are the following. Most large libraries are likely to have them.

Withycombe, E.G., The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press.

Reaney, P. H., & R. M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames London: Routledge, 1991; Oxford University Press, 1995. Or the earlier edition: Reaney, P.H., A Dictionary of British Surnames, 2nd ed., Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976. This will also confirm correct 16th-century spellings for names in this article's surname list.

© 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