Naming The BabyEnglishmen do not have middle names, as a rule. Middle names are in general found only in Europe, especially in Germany and Spain, until the 17th century. Where we find them in some lists, the odds are good that the records from which they were taken were contradictory, illegible, or wrong.
I can think of only three English exceptions; each is a curiosity and has a reason:
We do not put Junior after a name, or use "the Third" except when counting monarchs. We may, however, say "the Younger" to refer to the junior generation.
It is not true that there are only five names each for men and women in England; it just seems that way. The most common names for girls appear to be: Elizabeth, Anne/Agnes, Jane, Mary/Margaret, and Katherine. And for boys: Henry, Thomas, Edward, John, William, and Robert.
People sometimes use nicknames, but only with intimates, children, or servants. Some of these familiar names maybe unfamiliar to you:
Nominal CuriositiesNames like Lettyce (for Letitia), Douglas, Peregrine, Fulke, Susan, Valentine, Reginald, and Ambrose are more or less unique.
James is common only in Scotland until the end of Elizabeth's reign.
Joan is a common (i.e., low) form of Jane.
Mary and Margaret often seem interchangeable in parish records.
Bridget is not considered particularly Irish, but is a fairly ordinary English girl's name. The earl of Rutland has a sisted called Bridget.
Magdelyn is pronounced "Madelyn" or "Mawdlin".
Agnes is pronounced and sometimes spelled "Anys" (an'-nis.) Anthony is always pronounced "Antony".
When a child dies, the next child may be given the same one.
Children are often named for a godparent whom the parents wish to honour. This is another reason why we often find duplicate names in the same generation.
Most Christian names come from relatives and godparents, rather than current trends.
SourcesDuffy: Voices of Morepath
Laning: Faire Names for English Folk
Jones: The Birth of the Elizabethan Age
14 March 2010 mps