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Welcome to the What's in a Name Forenames website

This website will tell you where Forenames (i.e. Personal Names, First Names or Given Names) are thought to have originated and what they originally meant.

We have also recorded Variations, Pet Names, Diminutives and Abbreviations that you may have to consider when searching in genealogical databases and old records.

The site is being continuously developed. It was started when we found that many forenames in Scotland were interchangeable in ways not obvious to a non-Scot. Many people know that Jane is the same as Jean and Elizabeth is the same as Isabel/Isobel in Scotland, but did you know that Patrick and Peter are often interchangeable?  Also Scots families occasionally use a male name for a girl, see John.

You almost certainly need to consider these things if you are going to climb your family tree. We are trying to cut through the confusion in the old records.

Use this site to help you find your way to your own ancestors who may have been recorded with variations in their name during their lifetime.

There's a lot more detail in the About Us page but why not just use the box top left to look at any name you aren't sure about. BUT bear in mind that we have concentrated on European names for the database. If there are names or name-groups that you feel should be added to the site, please use the Contact Us page.

Other names from English-speaking countries have been added and we have included some other European nationalities although the site is written from the standpoint of English and will remain so. Perhaps, in the long term we will be able to cover any names that can be represented in the standard extended Latin character set.  A small number of Sanskrit and Arabic names have been added in their tranliterated form. Look at the News page to find out more.

There is no charge for the use of this site but check out the T&C page to see the few conditions of use. In particular, we make no claims for complete accuracy. Even the "experts" disagree on many names and the relationships between them! Any statements about forenames are our own although sources used have as far as possible been listed.

To tell us what you think and to let us know anything we might add or correct, use the Contact Us page.

Surnames:  we are adding surnames to the site but it will take a long time (see the News page).

Useful websites:  See Link #35 to the Veritas Prep website which lists a number of valuable Genealogical websites [mainly U.S.].

This page last updated June 2015.


Thanks to Donald Whyte who provided much of the initial information for this site. Copyright: Ray Hennessy 2004-2013  
Website development by Akriga