Bronwyn: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on January 17, 2013

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

She’s a wearable Welsh name, familiar in the US but seldom heard.

Thanks to Lora for suggesting Bronwyn as our Baby Name of the Day.

Bronwyn is the kind of name that appears in every baby name book, even though you don’t meet a lot of girls by the name.  Strictly speaking, Bronwen is the feminine form of the name, from bron - breast – and gwen -blessed or fair.  Because the -y spelling tends to be associated with feminine names in English, Bronwyn is the more common spelling in the English-speaking world.

But only slightly more common.  Neither spelling has ever cracked the US Top 1000, and while she’s more often heard in Australia, she’s not topping their popularity charts, either.

The reason she’s heard down under?  That may be due to the Neighbours character Bronwyn Ramsay.  She first appeared on the show in 1988, and left the series two years later.  A two-year run might not seem like much, but it was apparently enough to put Bronwyn on parents’ radar.  While Rachel Friend, the unknown actress cast as Bronwyn, quit acting entirely in 1990, her character was popular.  She won “Most Popular Actress” in the Australian equivalent of the Emmys the same year she departed.

Another use?  Do you remember the Dilley sextuplets: Brenna Rose, Julian Emerson, Quinn Everett, Claire Diane, Ian Michael, and Adrian Reed?  Nope, not a Bronwyn among them.  But if you caught Half a Dozen Babies, the 1999 made-for-tv movie about the couple’s experience, then you saw Becki Dilley flipping through a baby name book, suggesting Bronwyn.

The Dilleys didn’t use Bronwyn, but they did end up with a Brenna.

In fact, Br- names are all over the US Top 1000 right now:

  • In the Top 100, there’s Brooklyn, Brianna, and Brooke.
  • Just beyond, we find Brielle and Brynn.
  • The Top 500 includes Brynlee, Brylee, Brittany, Braelyn, BristolBridget, and Briella.
  • Also in use are Brenna, Brinley, Brenda, Bria, Brisa, and Bree.

Factor in spelling variations of several of the names, and Br- is a popular element for girls.  So is -yn, from Kaitlyn to Jordyn.

It should spell success for Bronwyn in the US, but she’s remained rare.  From the 1990s on, she’s been given to between 50 and 80 girls annually.  Actors Courtney Vance and Angela Bassett welcomed a daughter named Bronwyn Golden in 2006.

File her under the category of names that we all like, but relatively few of us love enough to use.  Bronwyn often finds herself in-between: frills-free, but not as spare as Jane.  Modern, but not as stylish as Aderyn Tailored, but less established than Brooke.

If you’re after a Welsh heritage choice that isn’t widely used – but remains familiar as a given name – Bronwyn has promise.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather April 19, 2014 at 10:11 PM

I named my daughter Bronwen in 2013, and I love it (although EVERYONE, even good friends, seems to want to spell it Bronwyn). I prefer the “cleaner” look of the -wen spelling. Growing up as a Heather in the ’80′s, I desperately wanted an unusual name. Perhaps my Bronwen will want a more common name, but c’est la vie!

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Bree January 19, 2013 at 10:31 AM

We have a Branwen. I originally came across the name in Madeline L’Engle’s “Swiftly Tilting Planet.

Most people do think that we’ve chosen the “alternative” spelling.

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Justno January 18, 2013 at 9:44 PM

But unlike the Caitlin/Kaitlyn thing, where alternate spellings are not a problem unless they butcher the pronunciation, Bronwyn is the male form. So naming a daughter Bronwyn instead of Bronwen is like naming her Jefferson or Peter. I have no problem with male names on females, as Leslie, Meredith and the whole -son group (Addison, Allison, Madison)
were male names, but what ticks me off about Bronwyn people don’t know they are using a male name so I’d wish it would stop getting promoted as an “alternative” spelling when it’s in fact, genderbend. So it’s not a “spelling of Bronwen” it’s an altogether different name.

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Panya February 12, 2013 at 8:12 PM

“But unlike the Caitlin/Kaitlyn thing, where alternate spellings are not a problem unless they butcher the pronunciation, Bronwyn is the male form. So naming a daughter Bronwyn instead of Bronwen is like naming her Jefferson or Peter … but what ticks me off about Bronwyn people don’t know they are using a male name so I’d wish it would stop getting promoted as an “alternative” spelling when it’s in fact, genderbend. So it’s not a “spelling of Bronwen” it’s an altogether different name.”

Ditto this. But I’d say it’s more like naming a daughter Elliot instead of Elliotte, Adrian instead of Adrianne, Vivien instead of Vivienne, René instead of Renée, Jean instead of Jeanne, Jocelyn instead of Jocelyne, Artemus instead of Artemis, Ariel instead of Arielle, etc. It makes absolutely no sense to me for someone to use the male spelling of a name for a female when there’s a legitimate female spelling.

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Emily January 17, 2013 at 7:42 PM

“Strictly speaking, Bronwen is the feminine form of the name, from bron – breast – and gwen -blessed or fair. Because the -y spelling tends to be associated with feminine names in English, Bronwyn is the more common spelling in the English-speaking world.”

Am I the only one who thinks this is all the more reason to be promoting Bronwen, the proper feminine form of the name?

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Jordanna January 17, 2013 at 9:11 PM

No, you’re not. I prefer -wen as well. Not just for authenticity, though, I also just dislike y’s in the middle of names aesthetically. And -wen is so tailored and neat.

Being traditionally feminine and streamlined, it feels the the opposite of, say, andro-girly choices like Ryleigh and Emmersyn.

Bronwen is not quite as much a favourite of mine as Branwen, Anwen, or Rhoswen, but it’s really nice. Bronwyn looks a bit more contrived to me.

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appellationmountain January 18, 2013 at 7:21 AM

I understand your point, but I tend to default to the more common spelling. Bronwyn has never been wildly popular in the US, but she’s several times more common than Bronwen. It’s a tricky question – like Caitlin/Kaitlyn, what happens when the more authentic spelling now feels like a creative variation? I don’t have a great answer, especially because I’d use Isobel and Catharine instead of Isabelle and Katherine – even though they’d cause spelling headaches forevermore …

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Vicki January 18, 2013 at 6:16 PM

I too think the -wen spelling is correct. I think it is one of those names that has been corrupted by the rest of the world. You certainly wouldn’t get Welsh people naming their girls Bronwyn, it’s the masculine ending. In the UK too, Bronwyns outnumber Bronwens, but I find this deepy irritating. Mind you, there are also about 50 girls each year named Pheobe [sic] so I don’t know why I am surprised!

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Katybug January 21, 2013 at 4:39 PM

I lived next door to a Bronwen about 10 years ago. She’s the only Bronwen I have met, so this feels like the “right” spelling for me.

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Waltzing More Than Matilda January 17, 2013 at 7:33 PM

Bronwyn actually got to the Top 100 in Australia in the 1950s, and stayed there until the 1980s. It became after a hit after the movie “How Green Was My Valley” was released, which has a character called Bronwyn. By the time it was on “Neighbours”, it had already disappeared from the Top 100.

It was in the 1980s that the name Bronte began charting, and I’ve often felt it was something of a replacement for Bronwyn.

Now Bonnie is in the Top 100 – which almost feels like another “replacement” name, as the standard nickname for Bronwyn is Bronnie.

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appellationmountain January 18, 2013 at 6:59 AM

Thanks, Anna!

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Kristin January 17, 2013 at 2:38 PM

I do like Bronwen, but I think the bron part puts quite a few off. The sound is so close to brawn, which doesn’t exactly scream femininity.

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Charlotte Vera January 17, 2013 at 5:31 AM

Bronwyn/Bronwen has been one of my absolute favourite names ever since I first encountered it in a name book ’round about the age of eleven or twelve. When I entered university I made a friend by the name, which simultaneously thrilled me and filled me with despair. The Bronwen I know is basically everything you could wish for in a person (so, no negative associations have attached themselves to the name), but I’m not a fan of giving my children names — particularly relatively uncommon names — of people I know unless they’re family or EXTREMELY close friends. So, this name’s been put on the shelf, but I’d love to see her out and about more on other people’s children.

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