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English Name Generator

Struggling with a script? Need to name your main character and unsure how to go about it? Our English name generator is here to help!

About English Names

The vast majority of English surnames do not originate from England – instead, they come from a wide variety of sources, including Latin and Roman, Greek, Christian or Biblical names, as well as some Germanic names that were adopted through the use of the Old French or Norman language following the Norman invasion of England in 1066. By 1250, most Old English names had been abandoned in favour of the continental-styled names used by their Norman rulers. Names like Alfred, Edgar, Oswald and Harold retain their Old English etymology, but aside from the still-popular example of Edward, most of them are no longer commonly used in the modern day.

Defined hereditary surnames started to appear in English records in the eleventh century, although the system of naming was in flux for many of the centuries that followed. A common tradition used was naming the first son after the paternal grandfather and the second son after the maternal grandfather, with the third son named after the father, and any further sons named however the parents wished, although they were often named after a favourite brother or uncle (a system which was similarly applied to daughters, except with grandmothers and the child's mother). Names could also sometimes be used to honour a king (especially in the case of Henry or George), or to pay homage to a wealthy landowner.

Parish registers were introduced in 1538, and this helped significantly with the stabilisation of surnames, but it wasn't until the late seventeenth century that fixed hereditary surnames became the standard throughout England. Some surnames of important political families began to be used as first names, in order to show allegiance to that family's ideals – this included names like Gerald, Percy, Stanley, Cecil and Howard, with some female variants like Cecilia and Geraldine.

Between the mid-thirteenth and eighteenth centuries, the selection of English names used were surprisingly narrow, with fewer than a thousand names being used, and the male first names John, Richard, Thomas, William and Robert accounting for seventy per cent of the entire male population. (This contrasts with census results in 2009, where approximately 60,000 names were recorded.) The biggest deliberate shift in the English naming customs happened during the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation of the Church, when Puritan activists chose names either from the Old Testament (e.g. Abraham, Isaac or Samuel), or names based specifically on Christian virtues (e.g. Chastity, Prudence or Temperance).