A primer on Breton names

The Breton (Brezhoneg) people are Celtic Britons in France’s Brittany region. My sweet little Marie Zénobie Sternglass is from Nantes, one of the most important cities in Brittany. Therefore, some of her old friends and neighbors have/had Breton instead of French names.

After so many years of living side-by-side with the French people, many Bretons have had French names. People were also traditionally forbidden from taking names from local calendars, but the laws have now relaxed, and Breton names are becoming more and more popular.

Alphabet:

Breton uses the Latin alphabet, minus Q and X. G is always hard, and pronounced like K at the end of a sentence and the end of a word before a hard consonant. W is pronounced like the French sound ou. A final V is typically pronounced like a French O.

CH is pronounced the French way, like an English SH, though C’H is a separate letter. Frequently, it’s pronounced like a guttural CH (e.g., loch and Chanukah). At the start of a word, it’s more like the expired H in “home.”

Two consecutive vowels are pronounced separately, expect for ou and eu. Ao is pronounced like an O. AE is typically pronounced like È.

Surnames:

Some examples of Breton surnames include Abgrall, Berthou, Caradec, Cariou, Eveno, Floch, Gallou, Gourcuff, Guellec, Heussaff, Jégou, Jézéquel, Kergoat, Lagadec, Le Hir, Le Quellec, Lozac’h, Menez, Omnes, Pinvidic, Quemener, Quiniou, Riou, Seznec, Tanguy, and Trévidic.

Nicknames:

Nicknames are formed by adding -ig to the end of the forename. Historically, this was Gallicized into -ick.

Some common Breton names:

Female:

Ahès
Anna
Aouregan (Holy gold, shining gold, or gold face)
Armeline
Avénie
Awen (Muse) (invented in the 19th century)
Azenor
Aziliz (Cecilia)
Bleuen, Bleuenn (Flower or White flower)
Corentine
Denoela (Danielle)
Enora
Erell
Frañseza (Sezaig)
Gaëlle, Gaela
Gwenaëlle (Blessed and generous)
Gwenola (contemporary coinage)
Herveline
Jannet
Jenovefa (Genevieve)
Joéva
Judikaëlle
Karitez (Charity)
Katarin, Katell
Klaoda (Claudia)
Klervi
Lenevez (Joy)
Lilwenn (White lily)
Loeiza (Louisa)
Madenn (Madeline)
Maela, Maëlle, Maëline
Maïlys
Maïwenn
Margilia
Mari
Morvana, Morvannen
Nolwenn, Nolwen
Oanez (Oanellig) (Agnes)
Onnen
Padriga (Patricia)
Perlezenn (Pearl; Margaret)
Plezou
Rivanon, Rivanone, Riwanon (Rhiannon)
Rozenn (Rose)
Sève (Beautiful)
Solena, Solen, Solenn, Solenne (Solemn)
Sterenn (Star)
Triphina, Tryphine (Exact, precise)
Tunevel
Yannez
Yuna (Oona, Úna)

Male:

Alan
Alberzh (Albert)
Andrev
Aodren
Arthus (Bear)
Arzhur (Arthur)
Briac, Briag, Briog (High, mighty, noble)
Conveg (White dog or White warrior)
Corentin
Deniel, Denoel
Devi (David)
Donan
Efflam (Flammig)
Elouan (may mean “light”)
Émilion
Enor
Erwan, Erwann (Yves)
Even (Ewan)
Frañsez
Frederig
Gaël, Gael
Guénolé
Gwenaël (Blessed and generous)
Gwendal (White/fair/blessed forehead or White/fair/blessed brow)
Gwenlaouen (Blessed and joyous)
Gwenneg, Winoc, Vinoc
Gwilherm (William)
Helori (Generous and wise)
Hoël
Ivin
Judoc, Jodoc (Joyce)
Judikael, Yezekael (Generous prince)
Karentig
Kentin (Quintius)
Laouen (Joyful, happy)
Loïc, Loeiz (Louis)
Maël, Mael
Malo (Pledge of light)
Mathurin (Timely, ripe, mature, grown)
Mazhe (Matthew)
Meriadeg
Morvan
Nedeleg (Noël)
Padrig (Patrick)
Paol
Per (Peter)
Quillien (Killian) (only used as a surname today)
Remig (Rémy)
Riok (Kingly)
Riwal
Riware
Roparzh (Robert)
Serj
Sezni
Solen
Sulien (Born from the Sun)
Tadeg, Tadou
Tangi
Thurian
Tomaz
Tugdual
Visant (Vincent)
Wiomarc’h
Yohan
Youenn (Yves)

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One comment on “A primer on Breton names

  1. cleemckenzie says:

    The history of languages is always fascinating and reveals so much about the people: who they were, how they migrated, the way the created the foundation for future generations and the language they would come to use.

    Like

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