Thanks to C. for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
MEANING OF BRYNN
Bryn – spelled with a single N – means hill in Welsh. It’s heard in a few place names in Wales and elsewhere.
And it’s also a given name, one that started out mostly masculine.
In fact, Bryn – with a single ‘n’ – remains fairly common in Wales, appearing in the combined England & Wales Top 500 as recently as the late 1990s and early 2000s.
MYRDDIN and MAWR
You can still visit Bryn Myrddin, or Merlin’s Hill, said to be the home of the legendary wizard. Or make that prison. After Merlin taught his craft to the Lady of the Lake, she trapped him in the hill.
There’s also Bryn Calfaria, a melody written by William Owen, and used for several hymns. (Which means, of course, that unless you’re a church musician, you’re unlikely to recognize this one.) It translates to “Calvary Hill.”
Americans might think first of Bryn Mawr, the college outside of Philadelphia. The name translates to “large hill.” It came from the surrounding town, which, in turn, was named for the estate of Rowland Ellis. A Quaker, Ellis emigrated to the US to escape religious persecution, settling outside of Philadelphia with other Welsh Quakers. Eventually the land they settled took the name of Ellis’ former home.
The college likely gives us the first reason Brynn is often considered a female name in the US. The school is one of the Seven Sisters, a women’s college first established in 1865, at a time when higher learning was not readily available to women. Could it be that this powerful association colored how we hear the name?
You might hear also hear Brynn as a surname, sometimes spelled Bryn and Brin.
With the ‘y’, odds are that it’s still the Welsh word.
But Brin carries a host of associations. It’s the Yiddish name for the city of Brno, in the Czech Republic, and so it might be given to those who lived there.
Or maybe it’s from an Old French word meaning noise, which would make this a nickname for a certain type of person. Dutch and Norwegian tie-ins are possible, too, and a Norman conqueror brought some version of the name to England.
So while the meaning ‘hill’ is familiar and obvious, it’s not the only possible meaning for this girl’s name.
This name might have remained a seldom-heard import, if not for American actress Brynn Thayer.
In 1978, Thayer got her big break, as Jenny Wolek on ABC’s One Life to Live. She earned accolades for her work, and eventually graduated to prime-time television in the 1980s. By 1992, she became a cast member on successful legal drama Matlock.
BY the NUMBERS
Thayer’s career tracks with the data on the popularity of the name Brynn.
It was used in very small numbers from the 1940s into the 70s, mostly for girls, but sometimes for boys. In 1980, it debuted in the girls’ Top 1000, just two years after Thayer took on her soap opera role.
Lynn and Lynne had peaked for girls about twenty years earlier, and remained in heavy use. So doubtless it sounded like a Brenda-Lynn mash-up to contemporary parents. (Brenda also ranked in the Top 20 during the mid-1950s.)
But there’s a twist: while Brynn spent the 1980s in the Top 1000, it never quite caught on. Instead, the name slowly declined in use, even while Ms. Thayer remained in the spotlight.
BRYNN BOUNCES BACK
By the late 1990s, the baby name Brynn was back again.
Maybe that’s because we’d embraced slim, trim names for girls, like Paige and Jade.
Another possible factor? Our love of Br- names. Brittany, Brianna, and Brooke all ranked among the Top 50 names in the late 1990s. It’s possible that Brynn might’ve served as a baby girl’s name to honor a Brian or Bryan.
Real Houswives alum Bethenny Frankel named her daughter Bryn, after a family member named Bryan.
Or perhaps some of those 1980s Brynns and beyond were helping parents take note.
American pair skater Brynn Carman competed in the World Junior Championships in the early 2000s. And while she never took home a medal, figure skating remains a widely popular – and watched – sport.
Credit for the name’s revival almost certainly goes to reality television. MTV’s The Real World set season twelve in Las Vegas, and one of its cast members was 21-year-old Brynn Smith.
That was 2002. A year later, the name catapulted into the Top 300.
It’s bounced around the Top 500 ever since, standing at #388 as of 2022.
Other famous people and characters by the name include:
- Rebel Wilson wore the name in the 2011 movie Bridesmaids.
- Disney Channel series Jessie gave the name Bryn to a high school mean girl.
- Another reality series included a cast member with the name, a young dancer on Lifetime’s Dance Moms.
All of this makes the baby name Brynn a stands-out/fits-in choice.
It’s never been so popular that it feels tied to a specific decade. In fact, plenty of us may have never met a Brynn in real life.
If you like your baby girl names straightforward, or if you love similar names like Sloane and Blair, Brynn might belong on your list, too.
What do you think of the baby name Brynn?
First. published on April 25, 2018, this post was revised and republished on November 18, 2023.