Guinevere: Baby Name of the DayGuinevere reigned in Camelot and inspired the top name of the 1970s, too. But that hasn’t translated to mainstream use as a baby name – yet. Will a new movie make the difference?

Thanks to Angel, Charlotte, and Mary Renee for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.

Guinevere: Jennifer’s Grandmama

You know someone named Jennifer.  I just know that you do – your sister, an aunt, a neighbor, a colleague, a friend.  After all, the name dominated the top spot for more than a decade, and first entered the Top 100 back in 1956.

Guinevere is as rare as Jennifer is common.  The name has never ranked in the US Top 1000, and just 176 girls received the name in 2015.

Of course, the name has more than tripled in use since 2010, so remember that rare is relative.

What connects Jennifer and Guinevere? The original name comes from Welsh. The first element means fair; the second, either phantom or wave. It started out something like Gwenhwyfar.

Geoffrey of Monmouth Latinized it as Guanhumara. The Italians remade it as Ginevra, while the Cornish transformed it to Jennifer.

Jennie and Jenny predate Jennifer as a short form of Jane; today, though, they’re simply part of a former number one name.

Guinevere: Queen

Because few women have answered to the name, we recognize the most famous Guinevere immediately. She reigned alongside King Arthur in Camelot. The happy ever after ended abruptly when the queen fell for the handsome knight Lancelot, and the betrayal brings down Arthur’s rule.

Versions of the story vary, from the rich and varied medieval tales to the Broadway version most of us know today. Descriptions of the queen vary, too, from a heartless schemer to a hopeless romantic.

Maybe the character’s ambiguous nature gave parents pause. After all, the story has been told and re-told countless times. Julie Andrews played the ill-fated queen on Broadway in the 1960s: Vanessa Redgrave donned the crown for the 1967 film version. Neither actress was the first to take on the role, either – it’s been adapted on stage for over a century.

Guinevere: After Camelot

A few prominent women answer to the name, but most uses are fictional:

  • 1999 indie flick Guinevere won accolades, though it was a nickname for the main character.
  • Mid-90s cartoon Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders called their main character Starla.
  • Canadian television gave us a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-esque character in the early 2000s, named Guinevere Jones.
  • Sara Domet penne a 2016 novel titled The Guineveres, about four girls who share the name, nicknamed Gwen, Ginny, Vere, and Win.

Guinevere: 21st Century Boost

Two factors explain the recent rise in use – and could signal more to come.

First, the fifth season of ABC’s successful fairytale series Once Upon a Time took us to Camelot. That comes a little too late to boost the name, though. And while a 2017 movie stars Charlie Hunnam as King Arthur, we’ll have to wait and see if it proves a hit.

The second factor fueling Guinevere’s rise depends on pure sound. Evelyn has soared. Genevieve, Evangeline, Vivian, and Vivienne all continue to climb.

If you love dramatic, literary, vaguely medieval, and distinctive names, this one belongs on your list. As nickname-rich as Elizabeth, as familiar as Charlotte, file Guinevere with familiar names that no one is using – for now.

Do you think this name will continue to rise?

This post was published on June 13, 2011. Following substantial revision, it was re-posted on March 8, 2017.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. My daughter’s name is Guinevere and the nickname I chose is Winnie! I call her that all of the time and try to correct people who call her “Guin” or “Guinnie” because I’m not super fond of those nicknames.

  2. In March of 1924 my grandma was born & give the name Gweneviere. Years later when my mother was expecting me she knew that she wanted to use my grandma’s name, so she named me Kirstie Gweneviere after my grandmother. Since I had such a unique first name as well that no one could pronounce correctly, from 4th grade until my sophomore year in high school I went by Gwen which made me feel even close to my grandma. Both my grandma & I bonded closely because of this along with million’s of other reasons & we both loved the Arthurian Legend. Although she passed June of this year (2018) & she will never met any of my future children I hope to have, I know that no matter what my future daughter’s name will also be Gweneviere in memory of her.

    Out of all my research I’ve still yet to find anyone else with this exact spelling making her the first & me the second. Similar to my grandpa (Jeraild) although he was the seconded being named after he’s father whom both he (Jeraild) & he’s twin brother (Heraild) were the only people ever named with they’re names.

  3. I love this name! I’m a Arthurian legend fan, and the story doesn’t bother me at all. Actually, my name-nerd boss has assigned alternative names to all of my colleagues, and she gave me Guinevere! I was quite pleased.

    My main hangup is actually the spelling! The original Welsh Gwenhwyfar feels a bit much to give an American child, but I really love the nickname Gwen and the Welsh “we” over the Guin spelling. And while there are variants like Gwenevere that are legitimate, they just look misspelled to me. I suppose one could have the French Guinevere with the Celtic Gwen nickname, but the mismatch feels off to me as well. We’ve actually considered using Branwen for the wen/gwen root and giving her the nickname Gwen. But Guinevere is such a wonderful name!