If Jackson’s popularity spurred the use of Jax, will the fashionable Max encourage parents to consider this one?

Thanks to Mneme for suggesting Macsen as Name of the Day.

Macsen is no mere respelled elaboration of everybody’s favorite Max. Instead, both names are a nod to the Latin Maximus.

Back in the 380s, the Welsh needed to translate Maximus. Ambitious solider Magnus Maximus earned the loyalty of his troops, and after a series of military victories, he ruled as a co-emperor based in Trier, ruling Britain, Gaul, Spain and even Africa.

Those were the waning days of the Roman Empire, and his time at the top didn’t last long. Maximus did make it into the history books as the first Christian authority to execute heretics. He minted a few coins, too, so we know he was a legitimate historical figure. But before long, Maximus found himself on the losing end of a conflict that ended in his execution.

That might have been the end of Macsen, but he lived on in the Welsh imagination and national heritage, a mix of myth and history that is difficult to unravel. Several Welsh kingdoms – including Powys, Gwent and Dyfed – trace their founding to him. The ninth century Pillar of Elliseg, a sort of memorial carving still standing in Wales today, lists Maximus among the list of historical leaders.

It may be that Macsen made land grants to those families and his soldiers probably settled in the area. It may also be that Macsen’s troops intermarried with the Welsh locals and put down roots. What’s certain is that putting Macsen near the top of your family tree was all the rage. It is possible that some stories, including his marriage to a British princess, are based in fact.

Others are more clearly the stuff of legends. There’s a popular tale of Macsen’s dream, an imagining that sends Macsen in pursuit of a beautiful maiden. He finds her and they wed. In exchange, Macsen makes his new father-in-law King of Britain. While he’s on his honeymoon, a band of usurpers attempt to overthrow him. British troops help him regain his rightful throne and, in thanks, he names part of Gaul in their honor – Brittany.

You’ll find Macsen making cameos in Arthurian romances, Welsh folk songs and a Rudyard Kipling story, too.

Macsen has never charted in the US Top 1000, so he might appeal to parents seeking a Welsh heritage choice less expected than Dylan or Rhys. Plus, you’d have the option of using the nickname Mac or Mack, an appealing diminutive. With the -k spelling, Mack charted in the Top 100 back in the nineteenth century, but somehow it seems too retro these days.

Macsen is undeniably a complete name, and a rather daring one.

The one possible problem is his spelling. Like the Slavic Maksim, he can look less like a stylish foreign import and more like a creative respelling in the key of Jaxxin or Mykal.

But if you don’t mind repeating Macsen’s tale, he is an appealing option – perfectly in step with current trends, yet unheard.

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. I like the story and would use Magnus in a heartbeat, if it worked with our surname.

    I initially read Macsen as Mac-Son and therefore a patronymic surname meaning “Son of Son”. I typically like Welsh names, but the -cs- looks misspelled and the anglicized spelling Maxen looks too much like Jaxon. It’s a lot like M

  2. LOL, JNE hits my feelings right on the head. If people don’t know what a name really is or the history behind it, who cares? I like names for my own reasons, not as a means to impress other people with my onomastic knowledge.

    That said, of course I like Macsen. I tend to llike most Welsh names anyhow, but Macsen has a very nice sound and fits right in with the current popularity trends without being just another “Max R.” or “the other Max” in a classroom.

      1. And I can’t back the Maxon spelling. Reminds me too much of the nausea medication prescribed early on in this pregnancy – Maxolon. Just no.

  3. I rather like this, I’d never use it myself, but I appreciate the history and long usage of this name, while at the same time fitting right into the tryndee pool, without being tryndee 😉

  4. While on the surface I’m with all the others – looked like a Max/Jackson smoosh to me.

    But then, who cares if it looks all trendy. I mean, to some, er, make that many people I’ve come across out and about in real life, Imogen is just a weird way to say and spell imagine. And to them, that’s what my kid’s name is – a freaky, tryndee version of the word ‘imagine’. Screw it if people aren’t in the know!

    So, as a result, I say, go Macsen!

  5. Wait, Macsen’s a real name? Could’ve fooled me! It doesn’t look like a real name, more like a tryndee misspelling of something (maybe Mason, like Bek said). It sounds too muck like Jackson and not enough like Max that it will always be mistaken for Jackson. And that spelling is gonna be a pain in the tush for that poor boy.
    I definitely agree with you, Verity. If one half likes names on the tryndee-er end of the spectrum and the other half likes names with serious history, Macsen could be a good compromise. On paper. I still don’t like it in real life.

  6. I totally thought it was just some creative version of Mason. Wow.

    I agree that a name’s spelling can really hurt any legitimacy it may truly have, making most people just assume it’s some crazy version of a name instead of a legit name in its own right.

  7. It is a problem with Macsen. I love Maksim, but always had that same hesitation.

    Still, when one half of a couple prefers Jaxin/Kayden/Coltyn and the other favors Leopold/Ronan/Wallace, I think names like Macsen fit the middle spot – historical and interesting, but with a nouveau style, too.

  8. It looks made up. Sometimes a name’s history is irrelevant when compared to the asthetics of the name.

    1. To all you people who don’t like this name Maksim looks misspellet and people can EASILY differentiate between Macsen and Jackson