A Concise Dictionary of First Names
Here is the ultimate first name handbook, a delightfully informative, comprehensive survey of over 4,500 European and American names (with two appendices covering the most common Arabic and Indian names). The real charm and value of this reference lies in the wealth of fascinating additional information the authors provide. Under the entry for "Audrey," for example, we learn of the sixth century saint of that name--who died from a neck tumor, divine punishment for her youthful delight in fine necklaces--from whom the word "tawdry" derives: it referred originally to the cheap jewelry sold at fairs in her honor (St. Audrey eventually being compressed into "tawdry"). The authors reveal that the name "Colleen," a very popular name among Irish Americans, is in fact never given as a first name in Ireland; that the name "Wendy" didn't exist until J.M. Barrie invented it for Peter Pan; that "Algernon" originally meant "moustached" and was a nickname among the predominantly clean-shaven Norman French; and that the "th" in our spelling of "Anthony" comes from an erroneous confusion with the Greek word for flower, anthos. Perhaps more important, this dictionary is an authoritative reference. Indeed, no other handbook provides a fraction of the information found here. Typical entries provide the linguistic and ethnic root of a name. "Jennifer," for instance, is a Cornish form of "Guinevere," which in turn is the French version of a Welsh name combining gwen, white, fair, smooth, and hwyfar, smooth, soft. Most entries also include the non-English form or cognate of a name. The name "Geronimo" is an Italian cognate of Jerome, whose Dutch cognate, "Jeroen," the authors point out, was the most popular male name in Holland in 1981. In addition, entries include diminutives and pet forms. A companion to the authors' A Dictionary of Surnames, this informative reference offers a goldmine of curious facts to delight browsers of every age as well as a wealth of inspiration for prospective parents. It is an ideal baby shower gift.
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