Angharad: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on October 9, 2012

Flag of Wales Flag of Wales (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s a Welsh heritage name with a chunky, clunky sound.

Thanks to Kara for suggesting Angharad as our Baby Name of the Day.

But how do you say it?  It’s the inevitable first question when confronted with the mysterious Angharad.

The point of contention is whether to pronounce the g or not: an HAH rad versus ang HAH radForvo lists both options.

She’s Welsh, and she looms large in legends of various and assorted types:

  • Angharad Golden-Hand appears at King Arthur’s Court in the Mabinogion, a collection of traditional Welsh tales including early versions of the Arthurian legends.  She falls in love with Peredur in one of the romances.
  • An early eighth century ruler of the Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd married a princess from Brittany.  She was likely born Agatha, but became Angharad in her new home.
  • A tenth century king of Deheubarth gave the name to a daughter.
  • A twelfth century King of Wales had a daughter named Angharad.
  • Another thirteenth century Welsh prince had a daughter by the name.
  • The Welsh Triads are a collection of poetry and traditional tales dated to the 1200s.  One of those stories includes Angharad Ton Felen – Yellow Wave, probably a reference to her hair.  She’s one of the Three Lively Maidens.  The other two were called Afan and Perwyr.
  • A late-seventeenth century and early-eighteenth century Welsh poet answered to the name Angharad James.

 

All of this makes Angharad a legitimate medieval possibility for a daughter, a heritage choice little changed in centuries.

She’s been embraced by writers hoping to evoke another time, appearing in fantasy tales by Lloyd Alexander, Anne McCaffrey, and Robin McKinley.  Perhaps the biggest literary association is Richard Llewellyn’s How Green was My Valley, a 1939 bestseller turned 1941 Hollywood success.  It won the Academy Award for Best Picture.  Maureen O’Hara played Angharad in the movie.

Her meaning is translated in various ways: beloved, worthy of love, much loved.  Despite the slight differences, it is easy to imagine parents embracing the name for her meaning alone.

She continues to see some use in Wales.  There’s Angharad Mary Rees, an actress best remembered for her turn as Demelza on the BBC’s classic Poldark in the 1970s, an adaptation of a series of historical novels.  It was quite the sensation – something like Downton Abbey today, I think.

So all of this makes a great case for Angharad, but the question is how would she wear outside of Wales in 2012?

She’s surprisingly nickname rich.  Depending on whether or not you embrace the g, there’s Annie, Angie, Anga, Ari, and even the boyish Gary and Harry.  But the name doesn’t really require a short form – at three syllables, she’s no more imposing than many names children currently wear without nicknames.

Chances are that most people will be hearing Angharad for the first time when they meet your daughter.  She’s never made the US Top 1000, and was given to fewer than 5 girls in the US last year.

In the middle spot, she’d make for a lovely secret.  As a given name, if you’re happy to pronounce and explain your child’s name, this is an appealing obscurity, rich with legend and meaning.

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