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, Bristol, Bridget, 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.
My daughter Bronwyn turns 2 tomorrow (2/12/14) and I love her name. I went to school with a Bronwyn growing up and thats where we got the name. When researching it we saw the -wen spelling but decided to pursue the -wyn spelling as we are in the US and that is where we had traditionally seen the spelling. Her nickname has become Bee which I think is adorable. I don’t care how anyone spells the name, I am just a lover of the name and meaning and encourage its use 🙂
I love the name, think people are being a bit pedantic about the spelling. It makes sense if you’re in Wales, but if you’re naming a son Bronwyn in the US, you are spitting in the wind, and may as well have called him Margaret. In the U.S., the y looks feminine – that’s our cultural norm. Robin can be either gender, but Robyn is almost certainly female. Tamsen or Tamwen look more masculine to my eye than Tamsyn or Tamwyn.
Bronwen wasn’t on my short list, though, because I am a chronic nicknamer, and Bron was not going to work for me.
This is exactly the thing we’re trying to avoid.
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!
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.
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.
“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.
I’m naming my baby girl Bronwyn, and I am fully aware that it’s the male form. Just fine by me, and I have Welsh ancestry.
A few years back, I also tended to get bent out of shape about colloquial spellings that weren’t traditional. But then I studied some linguistics, particularly Welsh, English, and Gaelic, and learned that languages are ever-changing. The suffix -wyn came to be masculine and -wen feminie just as arbitrarily as -wyn is now used in the English-speaking word for Bronwyn. In 100 years many words will have different meanings. So untwist those panties, ladies.
But changing usage is what I [and others] have a problem with. When people use male names for girls, eventually it’s no longer socially acceptable to use those names for boys. This shrinks the pool of male names available to choose from.
It’s fine to have a problem with it if you choose to; of course you’re entitled to your opinion. It appears that the ship has sailed on Bronwyn a while back though, so pardon me for not feeling guilty for using it. Especially because the list of boy names is a mile long.
The names Meredith and Kimberley were also originally masculine forms, and I don’t see anyone having this conversation on baby name sites about those names, or implying that parents who use those names are woefully ignorant. There’s plenty of intentional gender-bending with names these days, and as I said before, word usage is arbitrary to begin with.
Regardless, I hope you named your child something that YOU loved. 🙂
I don’t think the problem is parents choosing traditionally masculine names for girls. I think the trouble is that parents are too quick to cross those same names off their boys’ list. It’s actually kind of awful – the idea that a name being used for a girl, maybe, possibly even a handful of times, taints it.
Absolutely! I was going to bring this up too but felt myself getting too long-winded. Everyone thinks Charlie and James are adorable names for girls, but would never give their son a “girl” name. Why can’t parents name their son Bronwyn? It reeks of inherent cultural sexism.
I agree that people are oftentimes misogynistic in their view of name genders and that this is part of the problem. In a perfect world we would all be able to use whichever names we like for our children, regardless of gender. I would name my son Margaret, but sadly, that would set him up for a lifetime of teasing and mistaken identity. When male names are used on girls, those girls aren’t seen as weaker or less-than or any other “negative” adjective that people associate with females — but boys are when they’re given names that our society feels are female/feminine. While we can’t do a whole lot to change cultural sexism as individuals, we *can* stop using male names on females, and encourage others to stop doing so, and then we wouldn’t have as much of an issue.
A lack of available male names doesn’t actually seem to be an issue at all, so thanks but no thanks.
Nina Cunnick says
That is exactly why I called my daughter Tanwen instead of Tanwyn which may look prettier but is the masculine spelling.
“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?
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.
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 …
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!
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.
Waltzing More Than Matilda says
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.
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.
Charlotte Vera says
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.