Olwen


Olwen (Alan Lee)

  • Origin: Welsh
  • Meaning: “white footprint.”
  • Gender: feminine
  • (OLE-wen)

The name is composed of the Welsh elements ol “footprint, track” and gwen “white, fair, blessed.”

The name is borne in Welsh mythology by the beautiful daughter of the giant  Ysbaddaden. Her story appears in Culhwch and Olwen in the Mabinogion. Olwen’s father is cursed to die if she ever marries, so when Culhwch asks to marry Olwen, Ybaddaden makes Culhwch go through 10 impossible tasks. Culhwch is eventually helped by his cousin King Arthur and succeeds, Ybaddaden dies and Culhwch is able to marry Olwen. According to legend, Olwen was so gentle and sweet that flowers or clovers would grow in her footprints.

The name also appears in an early 20th-century love story, Einion & Olwen, in which Einion must travel to the otherworld to rescue his lady love, Olwen.

The name has been relatively common in the U.K. since the early 20th-century.

Other forms are Olwyn & Olwin.

Sources

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