Dictionary.com

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.

37 Comments

  1. Gwyneth Nomvuyo Lokwe -  February 11, 2012 - 9:16 am

    wow my nym iz also Gwyneth.I ddnt knw it meant happiness.The nycest part iz tht both my ntms Gwyneth and Nomvuyo mean happiness.My name makes me feel unique coz damn i am a xhosa and its lyk a welsh nym woow

    Reply
  2. Gwyneth -  December 4, 2011 - 8:45 pm

    My name is Gwyneth and I already knew my name was welsh, but I didn’t know it meant happiness!! That’s really cool because I’m notorious for being an eternal optimist, great to know my name fits my personality!!

    Reply
  3. PreciousMetal -  December 30, 2010 - 3:12 am

    What is it with celebs and weird names?!?! Why can’t they just call their daughters ‘Lucy’ and their sons ‘William’ or something?! Like, seriously, Michael Jackson called his son ‘Blanket’? The poor kid :(

    Reply
  4. Lilliana -  December 27, 2010 - 4:47 pm

    STOP FIGHTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! seriously you guys have blogging problems.

    Reply
  5. Geosota -  December 17, 2010 - 4:50 am

    Well, some of you might not like this topic, but it brought me here for the first time – even though I’ve been using Dictionary.com many ages. [note: it was linked by Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto, albeit under the heading “Questions Nobody is Asking”.

    Reply
  6. james -  December 16, 2010 - 11:11 pm

    leigh, shush, would you? throwing around terms doesn’t make you look intelligent, it makes you look angry and ignorant. ooo, lets criticise western culture! the purpose of this blog is to look at interesting aspects of linguistics, Gwyneth being one of them. it’s not SUPPOSED to tackle the big issues, and “dictionary.com” is hardly an embodiment of popular culture anyway. get off your high horse, stop complaining, and only start criticising things when they’re actually failing to do what they’re supposed to be doing, you angry little man!

    and “Who cares about the latest song or movie or video game?” … really?

    Reply
  7. READ READ READ -  December 16, 2010 - 2:36 pm

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Hahaha wow i dont agree^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Reply
  8. taylor -  December 16, 2010 - 2:34 pm

    i agree^^^

    Reply
  9. Orko9 -  December 16, 2010 - 1:49 pm

    I’M HALF WELSH AND HALF HUNGARIAN…MAKES ME WEL-HUNG!!

    Reply
  10. Melissa -  December 16, 2010 - 12:47 pm

    Even if she were an Emily I would hope they’d still do a name spelling check. I once knew an “Emilie”.

    Even for a name like Tom Hanks, you’d think they would still double check the spelling first – it is, after all, going to be carved in stone (well, carved in bass and inlaid in stone).

    Reply
  11. speaking of... -  December 16, 2010 - 11:23 am

    You want an unusual name? What about ‘Benedict Cumberbatch’? He plays Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s modern day update.

    Reply
  12. QUESTcrewFAN -  December 16, 2010 - 10:55 am

    DANG! i totally agree. THIS IS A BAD TOPICCC!

    Reply
  13. IHaveNoName -  December 16, 2010 - 10:39 am

    I kinda agree with READ THIS, but it is true that Gwyneth is a strange name–the only time I’ve heard of it before is in a book where they’re in another world.

    Reply
  14. leigh -  December 16, 2010 - 10:25 am

    I agree with READ THIS. Western culture’s obsession with celebrities and the entertainment industry is ridiculous. Who cares about the latest song or movie or video game? Let’s try caring about something important, like homelessness, starvation, gang violence, mental illness, or the desperate situation in the Congo.

    @Cyberquill – always enjoy your posts!

    Greedy Stuffmas, to those who worship Stuff and the acquisition of it. To everyone else, Peace.

    Reply
  15. READ THIS -  December 16, 2010 - 9:42 am

    Seriously, Dictionary.com could have found a better topic to research!

    Reply
  16. Anonymous -  December 16, 2010 - 9:08 am

    They should’ve used starlette. Not starlet. She is a woman, so she can’t be called a star!

    Reply
  17. David Knight -  December 16, 2010 - 8:11 am

    I would like to purchas reference book/dictionary of similar names & origins of Irist/Weks/Scotch heritage or related. Please advise where such question & answer books may be located. Trivia type or similar

    Reply
  18. 17crosses -  December 16, 2010 - 7:39 am

    stop ^

    Reply
  19. GWYNETH | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  December 16, 2010 - 6:51 am

    [...] Gwyneth speaks as an actress and the daughter of Blythe Danner, a great actress in her own right. — They have nothing to do with “Gwinett Speak” since his Star is outa sight — which has nothing to do with talented Paltrow or “Gwyneth” on the walk of fame. — Gwinett created works of art. — The most bodacious beautiful Gwyneth knows how to play the game. –>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

    Reply
  20. louis paiz -  December 16, 2010 - 5:54 am

    gwyneth, gwendolyn,ginivere or genoveva means purity,life spring in one word down, la aurora boreal,o el amanecer. tkank you very much

    Reply
  21. Daniel -  December 16, 2010 - 5:20 am

    So Winnie the Pooh should really be Gwyneth the Pooh? Now I know why they just went with Winnie.

    Reply
  22. cymro -  December 16, 2010 - 4:50 am

    The Welsh word for white is “gwyn”.

    Reply
  23. Manjot Singh -  December 16, 2010 - 2:12 am

    A prestigious award named after a Wheat farmer-Oscar.
    Kudos…!

    Thank you for enhancing the intellect.

    Reply
  24. iwskjp -  December 16, 2010 - 12:33 am

    I didnt know that she has a two children, whose name are very peculiar–a very celebrity thing.

    Reply
  25. Zachary Overline -  December 15, 2010 - 10:49 pm

    Yeah… “starlet” is kinda gendered language. Not a big fan. And regardless of any inherent sexism, it’s technically incorrect: starlet refers to “a young actress promoted and publicized as a future star, esp. in motion pictures.” Gwyneth Paltrow is neither especially young nor an upcoming star. She’s pretty damn famous already.

    Got that definition from Dictionary.com, btw :)

    Reply
  26. ♥r a n n e y -  December 15, 2010 - 10:17 pm

    “starlet” ?

    Reply
  27. ilovpink09 -  December 15, 2010 - 8:57 pm

    I want to my chid that whe i’m older. Gwyneth and she can be called Gwen for Short. I think it is a pretty name and sometimes wish it was my name! :( but also :)

    Reply
  28. Kei -  December 15, 2010 - 7:48 pm

    I knew before I read this that Gwyneth is a Welsh name! I’m half Welsh. :D Whooo

    Reply
  29. man -  December 15, 2010 - 6:02 pm

    U guys should do one about the phrase “night night don’t let the bed bugs bite.

    Reply
  30. guy man dude -  December 15, 2010 - 6:01 pm

    U guys should do one about the phrase “night night don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

    Reply
  31. Andreas Garcia -  December 15, 2010 - 2:29 pm

    ^ Same, I think we may be reading the same book!

    Reply
  32. Nathan Hunter -  December 15, 2010 - 1:12 pm

    The names Gwynth, Gwendolyn, and Guinevere appear in a book I’ve read, but not all the names are spelt the same as this article, but now I know maybe where the setting of the book. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Reply
  33. Cyberquill2 -  December 15, 2010 - 12:20 pm

    stop ^

    Reply
  34. Ivo -  December 15, 2010 - 12:17 pm

    Probably because star is being used just afterwards

    Reply
  35. Cyberquill -  December 15, 2010 - 11:51 am

    If she’s an Oscar winner with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, why refer to her as a “starlet”?

    Reply

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