Baby Name of the Day: Emrys


A welsh dragon. Found a very similar one on a ...

Welsh dragon; Image via Wikipedia

Emmett is big for boys. Rhys, Reese, and Reece are on the rise for both genders.

Here’s an obscure option that combines the best of both. Thanks to Shelby for suggesting Emrys as our Baby Name of the Day.

Emrys is a Welsh name, and there’s some debate about his pronunciation. Most guides list him as EM riss, and most YouTube videos confirm. But I find it hard to shake impulse to say EM rees. Maybe that’s just an American inclination to gussy up the pronunciation of a foreign name, or maybe that’s the similarity to Rhys.

But Welsh is phonetic, and the rules are clear. The “hy” in Rhys makes a long e sound, but Emrys sounds like Carys or Dilys.

If you can get over the possible pronunciation snarl, this is a versatile option, with ties to saints and wizards alike.

Let’s start with the saint. Saint Ambrose lived in the 300s. He didn’t seek out a career in the church, but eventually became bishop during a theological crisis. He went on to become a theological heavy hitter, and a major influence of Saint Augustine.

His name caught on, and in Welsh, Ambrose became Emrys.

Ambrose and Emrys are universally listed as equivalents, sharing an origin – the Greek ambrosios, meaning immortal. Emrys could be the Welsh version of Ambrose – like Betrys for Beatrice – or Emrys might be an older Welsh name that was linked with the saint’s appellation. Emyr means king in Welsh, and -rys is a common enough ending.

In either case, Emrys is a serious Welsh heritage choice. In the fifth century, Emrys Wledig was a military leader, fighting off invaders. In the same era, Myrddin Wyllt was a semi-legendary prophet. Geoffrey of Monmouth combined the two figures to create Myrddin Emrys to his retellings of traditional Welsh stories about King Arthur. Monmouth Latinized Myrddin Emrys as Merlinus Ambrosius, creating the enduring figure Merlin.

There have been Welsh men named Emrys over the years. Perhaps the best known is famed Shakespearean actor Emrys James, born in 1928.

Emrys is equally compelling as a place name. The ruins of the castle Dinas Emrys – the fortress of Ambrosius – stand in north-west Wales. The story goes something like this: King Vortigern chose the site for his fortress, but attempts at construction were unsuccessful – every night, the day’s work was undone. He’s told to summon a local youth – Emrys, known to us as Merlin. Emrys explains that a pair of dragons live in a pool under the fortress site, and it is their nightly battle that undoes Vortigern’s efforts.

Advice in hand, Vortigern frees the pair of dragons. The red one wins – hence, the flag of Wales, pictured above.

Despite dueling dragons and legendary kings, Emrys has a gentle sound. If you’re looking to honor Welsh roots, he’s a compelling option. With his -s ending, he’s quite stylish, fitting in with choices like Rufus and Silas.

The only challenge is one shared by surname picks like Emerson – nearly any starts-with-Em name is vulnerable to sounding like an alternative to Emma and Emily.

But Emrys is so rare that chances are your son would never share his name with anyone, except his legendary namesakes.

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35 Comments

I love this. We are expecting in December and we have chosen the name Emrys (Welsh) Khephren (Egyptian) which means Immortal Leader/King. And we have a 15 year old and his name means To Blossom On Faith.

My son’s first name is actually John and his middle name Emrys, but since his daddy and his papa are both John as well, we call him Emrys. I’ve been in love with the name ever since I was in middle school, so almost as soon as I found out we were having a boy I knew I wanted Emrys to be one of the names. Ive gotten a few questions about how we ended up with that name, but generally people seem to take to it quickly. While it’s not heard often, its also not a really flashy name, and once you explain how it’s pronounced its easy to remember.

We named our son Emrys, he was born Oct 2016. My husband is Welsh and it is a wonderful name – although most of the time he is just ‘Em’ 🙂

I named my son Emrys….he’s only 5 months old….but he has one of the most common last names, that we had to do something different. we’ve never heard before for his 1st name….I love that it has ties to Merlin and King Arthur legend…I wanted to name our daughter Morgana, but Dad didn’t like it…so we named her Pandora…after my Greek side….I love unique names….And Emrys is so much easier to say and spell then my name is and was growing up…I don’t think either or my kids will have the same issues I had with a different name….

My husband, who is a Welsh speaking North Walian, is called Emrys Wyn. It is NOT a girl’s name. Wyn is Welsh for ‘white’.

I just found out I’m expecting and am pretty much 99% sure we’ll be going with Emrys, boy or girl. I’ve been eyeing this name for years, and am pretty happy it hasn’t gained much popularity since I first started considering it.

Absolutely right, Emrys! Though it makes some parents absolutely crazy. And it’s worth thinking about that in advance …

I love the name Emrys. In fact we named our son Emrys Kai. We get people thinking the s is silent so a lot of Emry (em-ree) the other issue we have gotten is people thinking it is pronounced Em-er-iss. I think it is because they think of Emerson. At 19 months old it seems to fit him and everyone who comments, says they love it. As a baby he would giggle every time we said his name. It is a great name.

My youngest son Emrys turns 21 in two weeks. Although he hated his name in his early teens, it has served him well. Everyone knows who Emrys is – he’s the only one with this name. He is a fine young man, with values such as integrity and honesty, courage and perseverance, with an acute sense of fairness and justice. He is regarded and loved by family, friends and work colleagues. His bosses keep giving him pay rises, and now he earns more than me! A cool dude with the most quirky, wicked sense of humour. I’d highly recommend Emrys as a name for any son.

Going to teach my grandson how to fight as he will need the skill with this rediculos name. What is wrong with family names.

Why do you have to be rude? For one for some people this is a family name, there are lots of Welsh families for whom this is this case. Including mine.

Just because it is a new name to you doesn’t mean anyone will get beaten up for it. Maybe instead of teaching your grandson to fight you should teach him how to treat people with respect so he doesn’t have to resort to physical violence.

I named my son Emrys after his Welsh grandfather. The only issue we have had is people thinking when they see the name that it is Emry’s and calling him Emry.

But most people get it with a couple pronunciations. The EM riss is the correct pronunciation (my husband and his family are native Welsh speakers)

I love this name, but it sounds much too feminine for a man. I would put it in the same grouping as Rowan or Morgan. I would love to meet an Emrys, male or female!

We named our son Emris (so that there was no confusion with the pronunciation as there could be with Emrys) and he was born on April 28th, 2011! His middle name is Taj. The meaning of both names combined is “IMMORTAL CROWN”. I couldn’t ask for a more unique, yet simple, name! I love it!!!

I am the person who dumped Flynn due to it’s impending popularity. We went with Emrys and it’s perfect. Unlike Allegra we haven’t gotten any weird reactions except from Mil whho calls him Emerson half the time.

Love this name. My friend – who’s Turkish – has a baby boy named Emre and I adore it.. Am quickly realizing that your lovely blog might become torture for me as I have now welcomed my third (most likely) final child. Guess I will just have to come here to get inspiration for my fictional characters’ monikers 🙂

Oooh, I like Emrys! I wasn’t familiar with the name prior to this post, but when I saw it listed I thought, “I hope this is a boy’s name. It would make a GREAT boy’s name but a rather boring girl’s name.” I was thrilled to read that, not only is Emrys masculine, but it has a great history too. I don’t see Mark ever coming on board with this one, but it will be fun to add to my collection nonetheless.

When I first read Emrys, I saw Emesis….But then, our family’s been dealing with a stomach bug.

As for Emrys, I worry that it and it’s similar sounding kin, Emlyn, might be perceived as feminine. But on the other hand, I would rather hear about a little Emrys, than another Maddox or Bowen.

Hmm… I like it. I’m in love with most Welsh, Irish, Gaelic, Celtic (did I cover the entire British Isles) names… for girls. This is one of the boy’s that I like (most of the boys names I like are traditionally very English: James, William, Jonathan). I once wrote a story where there was a unicorn named Emrys, as well as another with a king named Emrys. (In the latter was also Saoirse, Caoimhe, Niamh, and Killian (swoon))

It’s fine. It’s got character. I’m fairly sure it might elicit a lot of “Huh?” here. That or people would mentally send it to the “wet blanket pile of wussy names”. Rhys (Dylan, Evan etc.) are normally the go to Welsh staples.

Love Rhys, hate Ambrose (really bad association with having to read Ambrose Bierce in H.S. and too many ambrosia salads). On the fence about Emrys.

OK, don’t string me up, but I must admit that my visceral reaction was ‘girl.’ I like it ok either way, but if it catches on at all, I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes to the girls very quickly.

I really like Emrys. Alas, I cannot even consider it, along with Rhys and Julius, both of which I adore, or any other ends-in-s name, because my last name starts with S. Boo.

Not a fan. Looks like just a few random letters strung together. That said, I’d suggest Em or even M as the nickname. I’d also give a more traditional middle name so that Emrys has options as an adult. Would not use it with any middle names or surnames that start with an S or other sibilant sound.

Another note: it might get confused with Embry, a surname.

I love Emrys, what a sweet sound. I too would dislike meeting a female Emrys…. just because it has a ‘y’ does not make it a girls name.

I had never really thought much of Emrys before, but somehow it’s becoming more appealing to me. hmmmm.

But for my own use, I love Rhys far too much to set the name aside for Emrys.

I like Emrys but seeing as I’ve already used Ambrose, Emrys isn’t for me.
It absolutely strikes me as male so I’d probably have a facial tic or three for the parents of a female Emrys. He’s got both a smooth, suave sound & look. Emrys gets a :thumbsup: from me, neat!

I met a little Emrys a few months ago at an infant massage class. This little Emrys was a girl. Although I think it “works” for a girl, I much prefer it for a boy. I think it’s a really excellent choice!

Emrys is one of my current favourites. I hope he’s not for everyone 🙂

I paired him with Anona, but I can never seem to get a good sibset with him in it that’s not overly Welsh.. I don’t like limiting myself to such a narrow section of names, but he’s hard to find nice siblings for ^^