The most unusual celebrity name? What does “Gwyneth” mean, and what language is it?


Hollywood starlet and Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow is being honored with a star along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The actress is also the first to have the words on her star receive a thorough spellchecking. One reason: to avoid another misspelling scandal like the one surrounding the star of Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

(Why is it called an “Oscar,” not a “Frank” or “Bartholomew?” Get the story, here.)

Another reason for the orthographic scrutiny surely must be Ms. Paltrow’s unusual name. While it’s not as outlandish as Prince’s brief use of a glyph for his name, “Gwyneth” isn’t “Jane” or “Emily.” What’s the background of her appellation?

Gwyneth is a traditional Welsh name meaning “happiness.” Variations of the name include Gweneth and Winnie. The similar sounding, yet more commonly heard Gwendolyn, is also a Welsh name. Its meaning is tied to the legend of Merlin, who reputedly had a wife by that name. Both names have a root in Gwen, meaning “white, fair or blessed” in Welsh.

(A related name, Guinevere, King Arthur’s legendary wife, is the basis for what popular name for girls? The answer.)

Gwyneth ranked under 1000 in the U.S. for girl baby names in 2004, perhaps linked to the popularity of Ms. Paltrow. It is currently in the low 3000’s.

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