Oliver, Olivier

Gender: Masculine
Origin: debated
Meaning: debated
Eng (AHL-ih-VER); Fre (oh-LEE-vyay)

This name has a very interesting past. Its origins and meaning are debated, despite its obvious similarity with the word “olive”, many sources believe that is is either derived from one or two Old Norse names, Alfihar or OleifrAlfihar meaning “elf army” or Oleifr meaning “ancestral relic,” while other sources argue that it is indeed related to the Latin word oliverus meaning “olive tree.”

The name first appears in the French epic poem, Le Chanson de Roland. Olivier is the one of the better retainers of Roland. The name was introduced into England by the Normans and was consequently anglicized as Oliver.

The name has been in and out of usage in the English-speaking world since the Middle Ages. There was a time in England when the name went out of favor due to the bloody exploits of Oliver Cromwell. It was revived in the 19th-century due to Dicken’s lovable orphaned character of Oliver Twist.

In recent years, the name has seemed to go through a revival in both the United States and the United Kingdom. In 1979, Oliver ranked in at # 396 for the most popular male names in the United States, in 2010, however, he cracked into the top 100, making it all the way up to # 88. No doubt thanks to the popularity of its seemingly feminine form of Olivia.

As of 2010, he was the most popular male name in England/Wales. His rankings in other countries are as follows:

  • # 3 (Australia, NSW, 2010)
  • # 3 (New Zealand, 2010)
  • # 6 (Norway, 2010)
  • # 7 (Sweden, 2010)
  • # 8 (Scotland, 2010)
  • # 9 (Denmark, 2010)
  • # 10 (Finland, 2011)
  • # 12 (Ólafur, Iceland, 2010)
  • # 16 (Northern Ireland, 2010)
  • # 23 (Canada, BC, 2010)
  • # 25 (Oliwier, Poland, 2009)
  • # 38 (Olivér, Hungary, 2010)
  • # 48 (Óliver, Iceland, 2010)
  • # 51 (Austria, 2010)
  • # 52 (Ireland, 2010)
  • # 55 (Olivier, Netherlands, 2010)
  • # 86 (Spain, 2010)
  • # 269 (Netherlands, 2010)
  • # 305 (Olivier, France, 2009)

The name is used throughout continental Europe. Its French form of Olivier is still fairly common in France and it is occassionally found in the Bayous of Louisiana among Cajun families, along with its lovely accented drawled out pronunciation of (oh-LIV-ee-AY).

In Poland it is rendered as Oliwer pronounced the same way as in English though the final R is rolled. In Iceland the popular male name of Olafur may be related. Pronounced (OH-lahf-ER), it has a feminine form of Olafia (OH-lah-FEE-ah).

Popular English nicknames are Ollie and the less common Noll.

Its designated name day is July 12.

Other forms include:

  • Olivier (Afrikaans/Dutch/French/Frisian)
  • Oliver Оливер (Croatian/Czech/Dutch/English/Estonian/Finnish/German/Hungarian/Macedonian/Portuguese/Russian/Serbian/Slovak/Spanish)
  • Fier (Dutch: originally a diminutive form, used as an independent given name)
  • Oluvier (Dutch)
  • Olivur (Faroese)
  • Ólivar (Faroese)
  • Olivér (Hungarian)
  • Ólafur (Icelandic)
  • Óliver (Icelandic)
  • Ólíver (Icelandic)
  • Oilibhéar (Irish)
  • Oliviero (Italian)
  • Olivarius/Oliverus (Latin)
  • Alfher (Old High German)
  • Áleifr (Old Norse)
  • Oliwer/Oliwier (Polish)
  • Oliwir/Olwer/Olwir (Polish: obscure)
  • Oliveiros (Portuguese)
  • Olaghair (Scottish)
  • Oilbhreis (Scottish)
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