Whilst discussing Gilbert, Catherine mentioned that she preferred this similar moniker – which prompted Lola to knock our socks off with her recitation of the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons, detailing church bells once heard around London.

This conversation led us to today’s Name of the Day: Giles.

Once upon a time, Giles was an ordinary name for a boy born in the US. From 1880 to 1955, he usually appeared in the Top 1000, and while he was never popular, we imagine that he was never eye-poppingly unusual, either.

The name comes to us from the Late Latin Aegidius. There’s a bit of a tangle around the name’s meaning. It’s given as both “shield” and “young goat” – two seemingly unrelated concepts, yet we’re fairly confident that both are correct. The missing link? Our word aegis, meaning protection or sponsorship, comes from the Greek aigis. Aigis referred to Zeus’ shield fashioned from – wait for it – goat skin, or aigos. So while the animal reference is correct, it’s not the whole story.

In the seventh century, a well-born Athenian traveled to France, lived as a hermit and eventually founded a monastery. He was known as Aegidius, which became Gide, Gilles – zheel – and eventually Giles when the Normans invaded England. You can still visit St. Gilles, near Nîmes in southern France. St. Giles is best known as the patron saint of those with disabilities, probably because he once suffered an injury himself while taking an arrow intended for his pet deer.

In the 13th century, Giles of Assisi was one of St. Francis of Assisi’s first followers. While little is known of his early life, the Blessed Brother Giles appears to have kept his birth name, which squares with other reports that Giles remained in steady use throughout Medieval Europe.

Today, St. Giles of London stands on ground that has been consecrated since before the Norman invasion. The present church dates to 1394, though it’s been extensively restored over the years. The nursery rhyme tells us “Brickbats and tiles, say the bells of St. Giles.” It could be a reference to trades practiced around the parish, or possibly a veiled political meaning, lost to time.

The name continues to appear in the historical record. Giles Corey was born in England in the 1620s, and met his death during the Salem witch trials in 1692.

By the 1600s, Giles was also established as a surname, though at some point it was confused with a host of other names, including Gilbert and Gaillard, and was adopted as an Anglicized version of the Gaelic Ó Glaisne.

Pop culture gave us a well-known Giles – Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s mentor was a very British character called Rupert Giles.

With Miles re-entering the Top 200 for boys, we suspect that parents will soon re-discover this rhyming choice for their sons. We find Giles smart and capable, and we like his throwback vibe. He’d fit right in with other gems like Simeon and Silas.

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. Another, Garrett is the name of one of my favorite cousins! He’s only 20-something, and when his mother chose the name, she got some flak for it. (It was the era of Jason, Josh and Ryan.) But I’ve always loved it, and the name caught fire right around the same time she chose it for her son. I’ve also worked with a lovely, 20-something Jarrett, so I’m curious to dig into the history of the name. Garrett will be NotD on 8/28.

    Between Giles and Gilbert, I think I prefer Giles – but it’s a close call. And since my husband’s last name starts with an “S,” we’d actually never use Giles anyhow. What I can say for certain is that I like Giles better than Miles, which always sound like a plural noun or a Pilgrim to me.

    Catherine, *love* that tidbit about Giles Corey’s noble sufferings. It adds something to the name, doesn’t it?

  2. Giles feels a bit too British for my taste. I have a hard time imaging Giles to be much fun at a party, not that “fun” is really a major concern in naming someone, but I guess it’s just not a very versatile name for me.

    Gilbert feels a lot warmer and more friendly to me.

  3. I quite like Giles. Warm & friendly he is. But then, I also Like Niles, despite the fusspot on Frasier and Miles was what Josephine would have been, if she’d been born with male parts. My heart does belong to Gilbert though, I really love him.

    Giles has an interesting history, one I was almost entirely unaware of.The church of London is my main assocation and St. Giles of Assisi was my Babci’s favorite Saint (no clue why, though). I had no notion of his Latin roots, nor his assocation with Zeus. Now there’s a God I’d name a kid for, Zues is fun to say! 🙂

    Giles is one that’s snappy, handsome and strong. I would love to see him used !

  4. While I love Anthony Head’s Rupert Giles, I would never in a million uears use this name. It’s too…serious sounding. And as for Myles – I don’t really understand the attraction these mommies are feeling to that one either.

    I think I’d actually prefer Gilbert over Giles – but for G names, my favorite would be Garrett, probably. Care to do a NotD on Garrett? – maybe include its relation to Jarrett – if any.

  5. Giles! Love it! Of course, my favourite historical/literary reference is Giles Corey of Salem. He was accused of witchcraft and refused to plead, leading to his death. In the play, as he was being tortured and crushed under a weight of rocks, all he said was “More weight.” Now, I don’t know if that really happened, but it makes the character, at least, one bad-ass dude. I also see him as sort of a level head in all of that craziness and an admirable man.

    I thought the part on Giles of Assisi was really interesting. I’m not Christian, never was, but I always did like St. Francis’ whole deal. I suppose you could say he’s my favourite saint, along with St. Cecilia. So this tidbit makes me love Giles all the more.

    Apart from these associations, I love the name for it’s slick throwback feel and smooth sound. Gil is nice, but if I had a little Giles he’d be Giles 24/7. It’s way too cool to nickname. I also love similar names Miles and Niles. Of course, not on siblings!