From a French form of Latin Laurentius ‘man from Laurentum’. Laurentum was a town in Latium, which may have got its name from Latin laurus ‘laurel’, although it is more probably of pre-Roman origin. The given name was moderately popular in the Middle Ages (when it was used for girls as well as boys), under the influence of a 3rd-century saint who was one of the seven deacons of Rome. He was martyred in 258. The legend is that, having been required to hand over the Church's treasures to the civil authorities, he assembled the poor and sick and presented them. For this act of Christian defiance, he was roasted to death on a gridiron. In England the name is also associated with St Laurence of Canterbury (d. 619). A more recent influence has been the actor Sir Laurence Olivier (1907–89). See also Lawrence.