Meaning: “desire; helmet protection.”
The name is of Norman origins and is derived from the Old Germanic elements wil meaning “desire” and helm, meaning “helmet; protection.”
In the early Middle Ages, the name was especially popular among Norman nobility and royalty. It was borne by an 8th-century saint, William of Gellone, a monk and cousin of Charlemagne.
The name was introduced into England in the 11th-century by William the Conqueror, and remained an extremely common name in England from thereon.
In the United States, William stands as the 8th most popular male name (2008), the lowest he has ever ranked in U.S. history was in 1992 and then again in 1995 when it came in as the 20th most popular male name.
At the turn of the last century, for 30 years in a row, William remained the 2nd most popular male name in the United States, (1880-1909).
His rankings in other countries is as follows:
# 2 (Australia, 2008)
# 16 (Canada, B.C., 2008)
# 10 (England/Wales, 2008)
# 83 (France, 2006)
# 44 (Ireland, 2007)
# 402 (the Netherlands, 2008)
# 5 (New Zealand, 2009)
# 19 (Norway, 2007)
# 46 (Scotland, 2008)
# 4 (Sweden, 2008)
Another popular up-and-coming form is Liam, which is an Irish contracted form of William. Currently, he stands as the 75th most popular male name in the United States (2008). His rankings in other countries are as follows:
# 17 (Australia, 2007)
# 48 (Belgium, 2006)
# 10 (Canada, B.C., 2008)
# 22 (England/Wales, 2008)
# 26 (Ireland, 2008)
# 82 (the Netherlands, 2008)
# 7 (New Zealand, 2009)
# 4 (Scotland, 2009)
# 13 (Sweden, 2007)
The name is borne by Irish actor, Liam Neeson.
Other cognates of William include:
- Guildhelm (Afrikaans/Old Dutch)
- Uilliam (Albanian)
- Willelm (Anglo-Saxon)
- Guillén (Aragonese)
- Gwilherm (Breton)
- Uiliam Уилиам (Bulgarian)
- Guillem (Catalan)
- Vilém (Czech)
- Vilhelm (Danish)
- Willem (Dutch)
- Wim (Dutch)
- William (English/Scandinavian)
- Villem/Villu (Estonian)
- Vilhelmi (Finnish)
- Vilho (Finnish: contracted form)
- Viljami (Finnish)
- Ville (Finnish: contracted form)
- Guillaume (French)
- Jelle (Frisian: originally a diminutive form, used as an independent given name)
- Pim (Frisian: originally a diminutive form, used as an independent given name)
- Wilke/Wilko (Frisian)
- Guillerme (Galician)
- Wilhelm (German/Polish)
- Gouliélmos Γουλιέλμος (Greek: Modern)
- Vilmos (Hungarian)
- Vilhjálmur (Icelandic)
- Uilleag (Irish-Gaelic)
- Uilliam (Irish-Gaelic)
- Ulick (Irish: anglicization of Uilleag)
- Guglielmo (Italian: most common offshoot)
- Lemo (Italian: contracted form)
- Velmo/Velmino (Italian: obscure)
- Villelmo (Italian: obscure)
- Villermo (Italian: obscure)
- Vilio (Italian: obscure)
- Guilielmus (Latin)
- Viljams (Latvian)
- Vilis (Latvian)
- Wöllem/Wullem/Wum (Limburgish)
- Vilhelmas (Lithuanian)
- Vilius/Viliumas (Lithuanian)
- Wellëm (Luxembourgish)
- Illiam (Manx)
- Wiremu (Maori)
- Gllâome (Norman)
- Guilhem (Occitanian)
- Willahelm (Old German)
- Vilhjálmr (Old Norse)
- Willken/Wilm/Willm (Plattdeutsch)
- Guilherme (Portuguese)
- Zelmino/Zelmo (Romanesque)
- Vilhelm (Romanian/Scandinavian)
- Wellem (Ripoarisch)
- Vilgelm Вильгельм (Russian/Ukrainian)
- Vėljams (Samogaitian)
- Uilleam (Scottish-Gaelic)
- Gugghiermu (Sicilian)
- Vilim Вилим (Serbian)
- Viliam (Slovak)
- Viljem (Slovene)
- Guillermo (Spanish)
- Gelmo/Gilmo (Venetian)
- Gwil (Welsh)
- Gwilim/Gwilym (Welsh)
- Velvel װֶעלװֶעל (Yiddish: also the Yiddish word for wolf but commonly used as a diminutive form of Wilhelm)
Notable bearers include: Swiss national folk hero, William Tell (14th-century), Scottish national hero, William Wallace (13th-century).
It was also borne dramatist, William Shakespeare (1564-1616), poet William Blake (1757-1827), dramatist, William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), author William Faulkner (1897-1962), including the current Crown Prince of England, Prince William of Wales (b.1982), and it has also been borne by several U.S. presidents.
Common English diminutives England: Bill, Billy, Will, Willy and Wills/Wils.
Italian diminutives include: Gelmino, Ielmo, Memmo (Tuscan dialectical form), Memo and Lemmo.
Feminine offshoots include Willa, Wilhelmina, Wilma, Mina and Minnie.
Wilhelmina is a German/Dutch form that was briefly used in the United States in the early part of the 20th-century but is in rare use today, in fact, she does not appear in the U.S. top 1000. It is, however, currently the 297th most popular female name in the Netherlands (2008)
Wilhelmina was borne by several Danish princesses, and was extremely common in German and Dutch royalty.
Its contracted English form of Willa, seems like it should be an up-and-comer, but currently does not rank in the U.S. top 1000.
The name was borne by famous American author, Willa Cather (1873-1947) née Wilella, another feminine form of William which should be noted.
Minnie was quite fashionable as a stand alone name at the turn of the 20th-century. In 1880, she was the 5th most popular female name in the United States. She was out of the top 1000 by 1971.
The name is usually associated with the Disney Character and girlfriend of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, hence is probably why she fell out of usage.
Wilma is another form that has not been in the U.S. top 1000 for quite some time, introduced into the 19th-century by German and Scandinavian immigrants, Wilma is currently very trendy in both Norway and Sweden. More so in Sweden, it is currently the 9th most popular female name (2008).
An early English feminine form that might be appealing to the surname lovers was Wilmot, which appears as early as the 16th-century. It may have been an anglicization of an early French feminine name, Wilmette.
Other feminine forms are:
- Wilma/Vilma (Czech/English/German/Portuguese/Scandinavian/Slovak/Spanish)
- Elma (Dutch/German/Slovene: contracted form)
- Willemina (Dutch)
- Willemijn (Dutch)
- Mina (English/German: contraction of Wilhelmina)
- Minnie (English/German)
- Velma (English/German)
- Wilella (English)
- Willa (English)
- Willia (English)
- Wilmot (English)
- Wilhelmina (English/German/Dutch/Polish)
- Helmi (Finnish: also means “pearl” see Helmi)
- Miina (Finnish: contraction of Wilhelmina)
- Minna (Finnish/German)
- Vilhelmiina (Finnish)
- Guillaumette/Guillaumine (French)
- Guilette (French)
- Minette (French)
- Wilhelmine (French/German/Dutch)
- Wilmette (French)
- Jeltje/Jeltsje (Frisian: contractions of Wilhelmina)
- Helma (German: contraction of Wilhelmina)
- Helmine (German: contraction of Wilhelmina)
- Vilhelma (Hungarian)
- Vilhelmina (Hungarian/Scandinavian)
- Azelma (Italian)
- Gilma (Italian)
- Guglielma/Guglielmina (Italian: diminutive forms are Mema and Memma)
- Velma/Velmina (Italian)
- Villelma/Vilelma/Villelmina/Villermina (Italian)
- Vilia/Villa (Italian)
- Zelma/Zelmina (Italian)
- Mien (Limburgish: originally a short form of Wilhelmina, now used as an independent given name)
- Guilhermina (Portuguese)
- Wilja (Scandinavian)
- Willamina (Scottish)
- Guilla/Guillerma/Guillermina (Spanish)
- Ilma (Spanish: contraction of Guillierma)
- Gelma/Gelmina (Ventian)
- Velvela (Yiddish)
A Finnish/Scandinavian diminutive is Mimmi.
A Czech and Polish diminutive is Minka and a popular English diminutive was Billie.
Designated name-days are: January 10 (France/Lithuania/Poland), April 6 (Finland/Hungary/Poland), May 26 (Finland/Lithuania/Poland/Sweden), May 28 (Germany/Latvia/Poland/Slovakia), June 8-24-25 (Hungary/Lithuania/Poland), July 5 (Poland), September 2 (Poland), September 19 (Hungary/Lithuania), October 25 (Poland).