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Meaning & Origins

Probably the most successful of all the Old French names of Germanic origin that were introduced to England by the Normans. It is derived from Germanic wil ‘will, desire’ + helm ‘helmet, protection’. The fact that it was borne by the Conqueror himself does not seem to have inhibited its favour with the ‘conquered’ population: in the first century after the Conquest it was the commonest male name of all, and not only among the Normans. In the later Middle Ages it was overtaken by John, but continued to run second to that name until the 20th century, when the picture became more fragmented.
6th in the U.S.
English, Scottish, and Irish: generally a nickname referring to the color of the hair or complexion, Middle English br(o)un, from Old English brūn or Old French brun. This word is occasionally found in Old English and Old Norse as a personal name or byname. Brun- was also a Germanic name-forming element. Some instances of Old English Brūn as a personal name may therefore be short forms of compound names such as Brūngar, Brūnwine, etc. As a Scottish and Irish name, it sometimes represents a translation of Gaelic Donn. As an American family name, it has absorbed numerous surnames from other languages with the same meaning.
4th in the U.S.

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