were used by the Germanic peoples of northern Europe. They spoke a common language
, the ancestor of today's Germanic languages
. From their homeland in Scandinavia they spread southward into Europe in the first millennium BC. There were several Germanic tribes: the Goths, Vandals, Franks, Lombards, Angles, Saxons, Swedes, Danes, and many others. During the first millennium AD a great deal of the European continent came under Germanic rule and thus their names
were imported into southern regions such as Spain and Italy.
Between 500 and 1000 AD the various tribes adopted Christianity, and Christian names came to be used alongside traditional Germanic names.
Germanic given names were frequently dithematic, having two elements. For example, the name Gerhard was formed of the elements ger = "spear" and hard = "brave". Other names could be created by combining other elements in different ways. This was often done with little regard for the overall meaning of the name.
- Some elements were used more frequently by some tribes than others.
- Some elements were only used in the first position, and others only in the second position. There were a few that could be used in either position.
- Some elements were used only in masculine names, some only in feminine names, and some could be used in either.
- Many elements had warlike or militaristic meanings.
Germanic names today
Many European names of today are of Germanic origin. In Scandinavia Old Norse names are still in use, such as Ingrid and Gustav. On the continent there are names like Charles, Henri, Louis, Friedrich and Matilda, which were borne by the royalty of Francia and Germania. In Spain and Portugal names such as Alfonso, Rodrigo, Gonzalo and Fernando are remnants of the Visigoths.
The English-speaking world has names of Old English origin (like Edward, Alfred and Edith), as well as Norman origin (like William, Roger and Richard) and Old Norse origin (Eric, Arnold and Ronald).
On this site
List of Old High German names and meanings
List of Ancient Scandinavian names and meanings
List of Anglo-Saxon names and meanings
List of Old High German-origin names and meanings
List of Old Norse-origin names and meanings
List of Old English-origin names and meanings
http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/ONNames.htm Old Norse names
http://www.keesn.nl/names/en1_intro.htm Names in the Low Lands
http://www.pase.ac.uk/jsp/index.jsp Old English names