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23 Hipster Baby Name Ideas From The Dictionary of Medieval Names

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Looking for a unique name with some historical cachet? The Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources is the place to go. It is a hefty work of scholarship that “aims to contain all given (fore, Christian) names recorded in European sources written between 500 and 1600, less the names of historical/non-contemporary people and names occurring only in fictional literature or poetry.”

The dictionary so far has over 1000 names, documented with citations and etymologies. They are constantly adding to the collection, planned in two phases, first looking at Western Europe and Hungary and then Eastern Europe. They also maintain an active blog with interesting facts about medieval naming practices and a “Mystery Monday” feature, covering documented names that have uncertain etymologies.

Here are 23 medieval names that would make great hipster baby names today.

1. Osgyth

This name of a 7th century Northumbrian saint comes from the Old English for “war god.”

2. Cherubina

This variant on the word cherub showed up as a name in Rome in 1527.

3. Aylward

There were spelling variations on this one, including Eilwardus, Aloardus, and Æðeluuard, but this one probably works best for the Kindergartener learning to write.

4. Hainfroy

Related to the Old German words for "enclosure of peace," this one showed up in France in 1388.

5. Brihtstan

From the Old English for "bright stone," this one can be pronounced sort of like Brixton (which has a different etymology).

6. Dewnes

The origin of this name is obscure, but it was also sometimes spelled Dunes.

7. Zoete

An adorable choice, from the Middle Dutch word for "sweet."

8. Everbern

For your dangerously cuddly cub, ever goes back to the Old High German for "boar," and bern goes back to the word for "bear."

9. Frost

It’s a solid English word, why not also a name? Someone had the same thought in 1420.

10. Ysoria

The etymology is uncertain, “but perhaps related to Latin Isaura, an ethic byname derived from the region of Isauria in Asia Minor.”

11. Hilpwin

Goes back to a Germanic term for "help friend."

12. Galicius

This delicious choice is from the Latin name for the Celtic tribe who lived in Galicia in Spain.

13. Idony

Name your daughter for Iðunn, the Old Icelandic name of a goddess associated with apples and youth.

14. Roenwallon

Found in France in the 9th century, this is a combination of the Old Breton words for "royal" (roen) and "valorous" (uuallon).

15. Joceran

It sounds cute, but it can also be traced back to something like "goth raven."

16. Magner 

Feel like Magnus is too common? Go for Magner, which can be traced back to the Old High German for "mighty army."

17. Alleaume

This name of a 10th century French saint means "noble helmet."

18. Willulf

Also good is the 9th century Latin version of this name: Willulphus.

19. Landwin

This name going back to "land friend" was popular in early medieval France.

20. Queniva

Formed from the Old English cwen and gifu, Queniva is a "Queen gift." It's also spelled Kueneva or Kweneve.

21. Rustic

Take little Rustic to the farmer’s market with you, just like they did in the 12th century.

22. Snorri

Snorri may sound like a sleepy choice, but it’s actually from an Icelandic word for "smart, sharp-witted person."

23. Unica

There is no one like your baby, says this name, from the Latin for "unique, sole, singular." It was recorded as a name in England in 1552.

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Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
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The POW Olympics of World War II
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism

With the outbreak of World War II prompting a somber and divisive mood across the globe, it seemed impossible civility could be introduced in time for the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan to be held.

So they weren’t. Neither were the 1944 Games, which were scheduled for London. But one Polish Prisoner of War camp was determined to keep the tradition alive. The Woldenberg Olympics were made up entirely of war captives who wanted—and needed—to feel a sense of camaraderie and normalcy in their most desperate hours.

In a 2004 NBC mini-documentary that aired during their broadcast of the Games, it was reported that Polish officers under German control in the Oflag II-C camp wanted to maintain their physical conditioning as a tribute to Polish athlete Janusz Kusocinski. Unlike another Polish POW camp that held unofficial Games under a veil of secrecy in 1940, the guards of Woldenberg allowed the ’44 event to proceed with the provision that no fencing, archery, javelin, or pole-vaulting competitions took place. (Perhaps the temptation to impale their captors would have proven too much for the men.)

Music, art, and sculptures were put on display. Detainees were also granted permission to make their own program and even commemorative postage stamps of the event courtesy of the camp’s homegrown “post office.” An Olympic flag was crafted out of spare bed sheets, which the German officers, in a show of contagious sportsman’s spirit, actually saluted.

The hand-made Olympic flag from Woldenberg.

Roughly 369 of the 7000 prisoners participated. Most of the men competed in multiple contests, which ranged from handball and basketball to chess. Boxing was included—but owing to the fragile state of prisoners, broken bones resulted in a premature end to the combat.

Almost simultaneously, another Polish POW camp in Gross Born (pop: 3000) was holding their own ceremony. Winners received medals made of cardboard. Both were Oflag sites, which were primarily for officers; it’s been speculated the Games were allowed because German forces had respect for prisoners who held military titles.

A gymnastics demonstration in the camp.

The grass-roots Olympics in both camps took place in July and August 1944. By January 1945, prisoners from each were evacuated. An unknown number perished during these “death marches,” but one of the flags remained in the possession of survivor Antoni Grzesik. The Lieutenant donated it to the Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism in 1974, where it joined a flag recovered from the 1940 Games. Both remain there today—symbols of a sporting life that kept hope alive for thousands of men who, for a brief time, could celebrate life instead of lamenting its loss.

Additional Sources: “The Olympic Idea Transcending War [PDF],” Olympic Review, 1996; “The Olympic Movement Remembered in the Polish Prisoner of War Camps in 1944 [PDF],” Journal of Olympic History, Spring 1995; "Olympics Behind Barbed Wire," Journal of Olympic History, March 2014.

 All images courtesy of Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism. 

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President John Tyler's Grandsons Are Still Alive
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Here's the most amazing thing you'll ever read about our 10th president:

John Tyler was born in 1790. He took office in 1841, after William Henry Harrison died. And he has two living grandchildren.

Not great-great-great-grandchildren. Their dad was Tyler’s son.

How is this possible?

The Tyler men have a habit of having kids very late in life. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, one of President Tyler’s 15 kids, was born in 1853. He fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924, and Harrison Ruffin Tyler in 1928.

We placed a somewhat awkward call to the Charles City County History Center in Virginia to check in on the Tylers.

After we shared this fact on Twitter in 2012, Dan Amira interviewed Harrison Tyler for New York Magazine. Lyon Tyler spoke to the Daughters of the American Revolution a while back. They were profiled by The Times of London. And Snopes is also in on the fact.

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