The name William has sharply increased in popularity since the invasion of Normandy. Many English families are naming their sons after our Norman king. The name itself contains Germanic and French origins: “wil” means to want or desire and “helm” means helmet or protection, wil+helm=william.

What is driving this name’s popularity? Anglo-Saxon names are associated with low social rank. Norman-French names like William denote respect. The problem is that everyone wants respect and too many men and boys are using the name William. How can we tell all of these different Williams apart? The solution is surnames.

Surnames are composed from a family’s career field and can also contain the prefix “fils” (“fitz”) which means “son of” in English. Now we can tell the difference between William Fitzhenry and William Fitzgerald!

Common Anglo-Norman surnames

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