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.


  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

  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!!

  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 :(

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

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

  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”.

  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?

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

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

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

    i agree^^^

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


  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).

  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.

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

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

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