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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  1. I named my son Maksen – the “k” being a nod to his dad, Karl – who was adamant that our son be named “Max”. I was able to sell him in Maksen because of the history and lore of Macsen. I LOVE his name and have zero regret.