Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Brittany (Bretagne)



The Breton peninsula was part of the major area of Celtic influence around 200 BC. After 49 BC, it became part of the Roman province of Gallia and when this was divided into three, was included in one of the Imperial provinces, Lugdunensis. After Roman authority weakened, Gaul was overrun by the Huns but they withdrew after the battle of the Catalaunian fields in 451. During this time, the area was being settled by Britons from across the channel who gave it its modern name. Through their influence, part of Brittany or Less Britain was under the Celtic church and the rest remained Roman Catholic like the rest of Gaul (France). The term 'Great' Britain comes from the time during the early medieval period when the two countries had such close ties that Brittany was known as 'Less' Britain but the area is now part of France.

Brittany was never entirely part of the Frankish Empire although it lost land in the reorganisation of the Breton March in 811. From about 844-940, it was a centre of Viking activity. It was claimed as part of the Angevin empire of the Norman kings of England from 1326 and was the Duchy of Brittany until it was annexed by the French in 1491.

Breton Names

Breton is a Celtic language and is still spoken although not usually as the speaker's sole language. In 1803, a law was passed in France which restricted the choice of names to those of saints or figures from ancient history. Biblical names have been freely allowed for a long while and in the C20th a wider range of names became acceptable and old Celtic Breton names began to return. There have been court battles over some of the more unusual names chosen by Breton nationalists although some have become well-established. Many of the names listed are those of early Celtic saints who may have come originally from England or Ireland. Others are forms of Biblical names found in the Breton calendar of saints' feast days.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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