Two interesting name derivations:
I’ve loved the music of Thelonious Monk for many years, but I just discovered that his given name is a Latinized form of the Low German name Till (best known from Till Eulenspiegel), which in turn is a medieval nickname for Dietrich and other names beginning with Diet- (meaning ‘people, race’; deutsch ‘German’ is from the same root); there was an 8th-century St. Tillo who evangelized in Belgium and France. According to Thomas Fitterling in his biography of Monk, “German missionaries could have brought the name to the Carolinas in the Bible Belt.” Other derivatives of Dietrich are Terry (brought to England, as Thierri, by the Normans) and Derek (brought by Flemish settlers engaged in the cloth trade).
And while I was investigating that (in Hanks & Hodges’ wonderful Dictionary of First Names), I discovered that Tiffany is “the usual medieval English form of Greek Theophania ‘Epiphany’… This was once a relatively common name, given particularly to girls born on the feast of the Epiphany (6 January), and it gave rise to an English surname. As a given name, it fell into disuse until revived in the 20th century under the influence of the famous New York jewellers, Tiffany’s, and the film, starring Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).”


  1. Any word on “Britney”?

  2. A form of Brittany, which was not in the original book, but I’m happy to report it’s been added to the newer Concise Dictionary: “…taken from the traditionally Celtic-speaking region of north-west France.. Its adoption as a given name has also been influenced by Britt [Swedish contracted form of Birgit=Bridget], of which it is sometimes regarded [ie, by nitwits] as the full form. In recent years it has rapidly established itself as a very popular name in North America; in one 1989 survey it was the most commonly used of all girls’ names in the United States.” The question is, have any of the parents who give this name to their children heard of the region of France?

  3. As for Dieter and Deutsch, it’s the same stem as Teutonic and the Irish Tuatha.

  4. Also, wasn’t Monk the only person to have ‘Sphere’ as a middle name?

  5. The name Tiffany always reminds me of a little story.

    When my India-born sister-in-law and her Anglo-Texan (then) husband were awaiting their first daughter, they invited family and friends to help them brainstorm about culturally hybrid names. My contributions were:

    Lakshmi Mercedes
    Texmati Sue

    As for Thelonious, before our first child was born I persuaded my wife to agree that in the unlikely event that we had triplet boys, we would name them Mingus, Monk (legally Thelonious) and Miles.

  6. To pick a nit, it appears from where I’m sitting that Thelonious (or Tillonius) is a derivative of a Latin form of Till, perhaps by analogy with Apollonius < Apollo.
    One episode of Daria has a teacher absently address Brittany (the obligatory airhead cheerleader) as Normandy.

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