Friday, August 25, 2006

'-wen' and '-wyn'

Just a little thing that's become a pet peeve of mine - the endings '-wen' and '-wyn' on Welsh names, and the trendiness which is blurring the difference between them.
I only found out the difference this week, but now it is annoying me whenever I see the name Bronwyn for a girl.

A simple rule:

'-wyn' is masculine
'-wen' is feminine

In Welsh these only occur in either masculine or feminine. There is no cross-over.
Bronwyn is masculine
Bronwen is feminine

Confusion is caused because their is an Anglo-Saxon feminine ending of '-wyn'. However, on Welsh names these rule exist.

Therefore someone trying to be trendy and using Bronwyn on a girl is doing the equivalent of calling a girl James or Richard.

Information on this can be found at:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ceres and Vesta

Both are the names of asteroids in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is the largest and has the most mass but Vesta is the brightest (and second massive). These are the only two asteroids that can be seen with the naked eye from Earth (Ceres only under exceptional viewing conditions).

Initially Ceres was thought to be the missing planet, but after discovering it was much smaller than any other planet it was decided that instead it was an 'asteroid' - meaning starlike (Latin astra - star). However, though this definition is wrong (planetoid would be better as they do not resemble stars at all) it has stuck. When Vesta was discovered in 1807 it too was called an asteroid.

Currently the IAU are drafting a definition of Planets and Plutons (orbits lasting over 200 years). Under these definitions Ceres is a planet (as it has enough gravity to assume an almost round - oblate spheroid (same as Earth) shape and orbits a star). For a celestial object that has been an asteroid for over 200 years this is quite a development.

Ceres (said Seer-rez) was the Roman goddess of plants and motherly love. She was connected with the Greek goddess Demeter. It is from Ceres that we get the word cereal. Ceres itself comes from ker meaning 'to grow' which is also the root of the words 'create' and 'increase'.

Vesta was the Roman goddess of hearth, home and family - connected with the Greek goddess Hestia. Her priestesses were called the Vestal Virgins/Vestales. They had to observe absolute chastity for 30 years and ensure that the public hearth sacred to Vesta never went out.

My thoughts? Ceres is possibly a planet name that could be used without sounding stupid. If not there is always Sarah, Cerys and Ceri.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Continuing from Elizabeth - male 'Eli-' names

Eli is probably the obvious choice to start with. In Hebrew el means God, however Eli is also believed to be an ancient Hebrew word meaning 'height' or 'high' or 'ascension'. In the Bible Eli was a High Priest of Israel, and the teacher of Samuel (who in turn went on to become a judge). Eli is a fairly simple name - three letters, two syllables and was popular during the Reformation and the rise of Puritanism.

Elijah is an ancient Hebrew name, borne by an important Old Testament prophet, recognized by Christians, Jews and Muslims. It was originally spelt Eliyahu and is commonly thought to mean 'Jah or Jehovah is God'. However, as with Eli, it may also mean 'Jah is highest'. The Biblical Elijah confronted the corrupt Ahab and Jezebel and was severely punished. Elijah's death was not normal -
'a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.' (2 Kings 2:11 NIV).

This prompted the Jewish people to believe that one day Elijah would return - at the Jewish Passover Seder a cup of wine is left for Elijah, who would arrive as an unknown guest and foretell the arrival of the Messiah. John the Baptist is sometimes referred to as Elijah, and during his lifetime Jesus was mistaken for Elijah - 'Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?"

28They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."' (Mark 8:26-28 NIV)

Elijah also appeared during the Transfiguration, with Moses: 'There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.' (Matt 17:2-3 NIV).

Elias is the Greek variation of the name. The form Elias is used in the New Testament of the King James Bible for Elijah.

Elisha was Elijah's successor and a prominent prophet. This name is now more commonly used as a girls name (as with actress Elisha Cuthbert). It comes from Elishu'a meaning 'God is my salvation'.

There are many other 'Eli-' names including:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lydia and Bethany

In today's climate of giving place names as first names (think of the 'trendy' examples of London, Preston, Ireland) it is always good to look for alternatives which provide traditional charm whilst retaining the place name status. Two excellent examples of this are Lydia and Bethany.


This name has the rather unexciting meaning of 'A woman from Lydia' - an area of Asia Minor - then again when using a place name one should not expect an interesting meaning. However, what's more important about the name is the main namesake - Lydia (from Thyatira) who was a purple cloth-dyer in the Bible and was converted by St Paul. Another famous Lydia is Lydia Bennett in Pride and Prejudice - Lizzie's silly sister.


The name Bethany has more of a connection with Jesus than the later apostles. It was the name of the small village outside Jerusalem where Jesus stayed before the Last Supper and crucifixion. It was also where the sisters Mary and Martha lived, and where Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the death. More information about the town of Bethany can be found here, on Wikipedia.

Bethany has the meaning 'house of figs'. The beth element is used in several place names in Israel such as Bethlehem and Bethsaida.

The enduring popular of Bethany can also be accredited to 'Beth' being a nickname of Elizabeth. Bethany can therefore be used as an alternative - to honour an Elizabeth or the other way around. The 'any' part can also be linked to names such as Anne or containing the '-anne' or '-an' element.

The Welsh name Bethan is connected to Elizabeth, instead of Bethany.