Cornish Names

Traditional and Modern Names from Cornwall

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Almost an island on the southwestern tip of the British Isles, Cornwall is not only a land of stunning landscapes but a place with a unique and rich cultural heritage. From ancient Celtic roots to the fishing and mining industries of the nineteenth century, Cornwall has always maintained a distinct identity to the rest of Britain.

Cornish names

Once a nation in its own right Cornwall has its own language – Kernewek. Celtic in origin it is closely related to Welsh. However, by the end of the eighteenth century it is thought that no one spoke Cornish as their main language. That is not say Kernewek disappeared as it remains everywhere in the place names and surnames of its people.

Over the years the names given to Cornish babies became more traditionally English, but this trend has somewhat reversed relatively recently with a revival of Cornish names. From the 1970s and 80s interest began to grow with parents seeing their child’s name as a unique way to connect with Cornwall's unique history and beauty.

Along with long-standing classics such as Jago, Jowan or Tamsyn, modern Cornish names began to appear. Many came straight from the dictionary or from place names such as Zennor or Bryher. A further treasure trove of names came from the early Celtic saints who landed on Cornwall’s shores many hundreds of years ago

But choosing a Cornish baby name is more than just linguistic aesthetics; it's a celebration of Cornwall's rich cultural tapestry. These names carry the essence of Celtic origins, Cornish legends, and the stunning surroundings where the land meets the sea.

Below are some of the most popular Cornish baby names over recent years. Have a look at the UK Baby Names website for a complete list of Cornish names.

Boys names

  • Arthur - Cornwall is central to the legends of King Arthur, after all it is where he was born. That said the actual origin of the name is uncertain and whether it is Roman or Celtic is up for debate.
  • Cadan - Meaning "battle" or "fighter",this strong and distinctive name reflects qualities of courage, determination and resilience.
  • Denzel - The name is believed to have more than one origin but the Cornish version translates as "from the high stronghold". This meaning evokes a sense of strength, security, and stability.
  • Jago - One of the most popular Cornish names today, it is the Cornish form of James.
  • Jory - Derived from the Cornish word "Jori," meaning joy, this name exudes positivity and happiness. Jory captures the essence of the Cornish spirit, reflecting the joy found in Cornwall's vibrant communities and picturesque landscapes.
  • Jowan - The Cornish form of the name George, which in turn means "farmer" or "earthworker".
  • Kitto - This is the diminutive form of Christopher similar to Kit which is more widespread. The name Christopher means "bearer of Christ".
  • Locryn - Refers to the legendary king of Britain, Locrinus who reputedly ruled over 3,000 years ago.
  • Lowen - A name with a profound meaning, Lowen translates to "happy" or "joyful" in Cornish. It's a popular choice for those seeking a name that encapsulates the sense of contentment found in Cornwall's seaside villages and cheerful festivals.
  • Mawgan- Mawgan is the Cornish version of the Welsh "Morgan". It's popularity as a name comes from Saint Mawgan and the places named after him. The actual meaning is somewhat open to discussion with some sources saying it means "sacred one" while others mention hounds and wolves.
  • Perran - From the Cornish patron saint, St Piran. Thought to mean "Little dark one", likely arising from the Cornish word "per" meaning "small" or "little" and "ran" which could refer to darkness, blackness, or raven (the bird).
  • Tristan - This Brythonic (Cornish/Welsh/Breton) name is often said to be derived from the French word "triste" meaning "sad". That would certainly fit with the theme of the tale of Trystan and Isolde, although it is also said the name comes from a Celtic word meaning "tumult" or "outcry."

Girls names

  • Demelza - Familiar to fans of Winston Graham's Poldark series, Demelza is a name with Cornish roots that means "fort on the hill." It reflects the historical significance of Cornwall's ancient fortifications and the enduring spirit of its residents.
  • Elowen - A modern Cornish word for "elm," symbolizing strength and growth.
  • Isolde - The other half of the tragic medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde. There are many variations on the spelling, the most Cornish being "Eseld". 
  • Jenifer - Perhaps the most widely used Cornish name. Commonly spelled "Jennifer", the name is a Cornish variation of the name Guinevere, the legendary Queen of King Arthur.
  • Kensa / Kenza - This modern Cornish name means "first". It makes a lovely choice for a firstborn daughter or perhaps someone you see as a future pioneer.
  • Kerenza - This elegant name, meaning "love" in Cornish, reflects the warmth and affection synonymous with Cornwall's welcoming communities. Kerensa is a timeless choice that embodies the love shared among family and friends in this close-knit region.
  • Lowenna - Originating from the Cornish word "lowen," which simply means "joy." Although Lowenna has always existed in Cornish dialects, it experienced a resurgence in popularity during the Celtic Revival movement of the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Morwenna - Appearing in both Poldark and Doc Martin this traditional name literally means "maiden". Another interpretation comes from the Breton/Welsh words "Mor" ("sea") and "Gwenn" ("white") which evokes the waves of the Cornish coast.
  • Tamsyn / Tamsin - The Cornish diminutive version of Thomasina. The medieval feminine form of Thomas, it means "twin".
  • Tegen - As a nod to Cornwall's maritime legacy, Tegen means "pretty" or "fair." This contemporary name beautifully captures the essence of Cornwall's coastal beauty, where rugged cliffs meet the sparkling sea, creating landscapes of unparalleled prettiness.
  • Ysella - This modern Cornish name translates as "modest".

Many of the more traditional Cornish names also appear as surnames, mostly the male names though. For example there are plenty of Mr and Mrs Jago, Pascoe and Jorys to be found in Cornwall.

Cornish landscape

Other inspiration

Cornish Saints

Cornwall has a strong connection to saints, in fact it is sometimes referred to as the Land of Saints. Whilst many places names honour these revered figures they have also provided a spiritual dimension to given names in the region.

  • Breaca - This Irish saint is said to have travelled to Cornwall in around 460 AD with her brother Germoe. She landed near Hayle and lived here as a hermit.
  • Endellion - Saint Endelienta is believed to have been the daughter of Welsh King Brychan and a goddaughter of King Arthur. Settling in North Cornwall as a hermit she lends her name to the village of St Endellion. As a baby name Endellion was given some fame in 2010 when former Prime Minister, David Cameron's daughter was named Florence Rose Endellion.
  • Gerran - This name has several variations including Gerren, Geraint or Gerent. Geraint was an 8th century King of Dumnonia, which is modern-day Cornwall and part of Devon. He died in battle against the Anglo Saxons of neighbouring Wessex.
  • Levan - Saint Levan inhabited the hamlet named after him just to the west of Porthcurno. This pretty sounding name is a corruption of Selevan, the Celtic form of Solomon.
  • Merryn
  • Petroc
  • Piran - Cornwall's patron saint, Piran, the name means "little saint."
  • Senara
  • Wenna

Place names

The fact that a good number of Cornwall's villages and natural features have such lovely sounding names has not gone unnoticed. By using a place name as a baby name a connection is created to one of these special places. It is also usually the case that the name will have a meaning.

  • Bryher - This pretty girls name comes from the equally pretty Isles of Scilly. Smallest of the inhabited islands Bryher is known for its rugged landscape and beautiful beaches.
  • Bryn - This word is shared with the Welsh to mean "hill". It is most commonly a boys name but can be used for girls. It is a name that implies strength and stability.
  • Kenwyn - As well as being a parish lying to the north of Truro, Kenwyn is the name of one of the three rivers which flow through the city. It is likely the name originates from the Cornish words keyn "ridge" and gwynn "white".
  • Lamorna - This girls' name comes from the pretty little West Cornwall cove of the same name. It is thought the name derives from nan meaning "valley" and mor meaning "sea", which would make sense given the cove lies at the end of a wooded valley.
  • Lerryn
  • Ruan
  • Sennen - Tucked in behind Land's End this village is home to one of Cornwall's most picturesque beaches. As far as I know Sennen has only been adopted as a name in recent years and seems to be fairly unisex.
  • Tregony - Once a bustling Roseland village with a small port on the River Fal things are a lot quieter here today, although the high street still retains its charm. The name is generally used for boys.
  • Treve - One of the more widespread Cornish boys' names. Whilst there is a tiny hamlet named Treave near St Buryan the word itself simply refers to a place.
  • Zelah
  • Zennor

Whether you have Cornish roots or simply appreciate the beauty of the region, Cornish baby names provide a unique and meaningful way to honor the past while embracing the future. Each name tells a story, connecting your child to the captivating heritage of Cornwall. So, explore the beauty of Cornish names, and let the magic of this ancient land inspire your family's story.