Names of the Week: Humphrey and Olivet

Humf is a children's show character, from

Humphrey is one of those great names you actually find yourself saying again and again, just because it’s so much fun to say. Or is that just me? Either way, I’m fortunate enough to know one as a friend of a friend, even if he goes through his day to day life as a Harry.

Humphrey shares his Germanic origins with the name Harry, but they come from different sources. Whilst Henry means home ruler, Humphrey means peaceful warrior. The Normans kindly brought the name over to England with them alongside dashing William and friends, and it remained in relative use throughout the Middle Ages.

A contempory bearer of the name is Humphrey Ker, an award-winning comedian who was born in 1982 in London. Indeed, you can find a whole host of birth announcements for Humphreys in the London Telegraph Birth Announcements. A slightly older Humphrey is the actor Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957), who starred in such films as Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon.
Another, quite sweet, bearer of the name is the children’s television character. Humf appears to be called just Humf though, since I’ve yet to see indication otherwise. It also leads nicely onto a potentially sweeter nickname for baby Humphrey: Heffalump, which is the name of a character in the Winnie the Pooh franchise. He featured heavily in the 2005 film: Pooh’s Heffalump Movie.

The name Humphrey has also seen use as a surname, either as he is or as Humphreys/Humphries. I know of a family with the latter surname and the parents deliberately gave each a child a three-letter first name because they thought their surname was too long for anything else. This always puzzled me, since my own surname is of similar length, but with an extra syllable and my parents stretched to 7 letters for the first name of one of my sisters. That said, I do share my surname with a tree, not that it helps people with the spelling of it.

What’s nice to note is that we actually seem to be embracing the name Humphrey more and more, as of late:

  2003 2004 2005 2006
Rank 3467 2070 2754 2870
Births 3 7 5 5
  2007 2008 2009 2010
Rank 2211 2276 1218 1171
Births 8 8 20 22

Either way, let’s now ponder about Olivet, who’s a super snazzy alternative to the current #1 in England&Wales:Olivia. One could go even further down the road to either Olivette or Olivetta. Or just cut it down to Olive or Oliva.

As a name, Olivia was created by Shakespeare, who was likely inspired by the pre-existing names Oliver and Oliva. A fun-fact to know is that the father of the identical Dionne quintuplets was called Oliva, a name which derives from the Latin word for olive.

Oliver does not come from this Latin source, however. He comes from the French name Olivier, which itself derives from Germanic name Alfher, which means elf army. The spelling of the name was, however, influenced by the Latin word oliva. The name Oliver fell out of favour in around the 17th century following the unpopularity of Oliver Cromwell.

Charles Dicken’s released the novel Oliver Twist in 1838 and with it came a revival of sorts of the name. He’s been going strong ever since, and has now been sitting at the top of the Top 100 in England&Wales for two years, first knocking Jack off the top spot in 2009.

Since Olivet has seen such little usage by the darling people of England&Wales, I shall instead treat you all to a popularity grid for Olive:

  2003 2004 2005 2006
Rank 965 1043 1012 816
Births 25 23 25 37
  2007 2008 2009 2010
Rank 623 445 428 337
Births 56 95 97 139

Clearly, a famous couple had a daughter named Olive in 2007, I’m hedging my bets that it was Sacha Baron Cohen’s daughter who helped accelerate the climb of a name which, to be fair, was already on it’s way out of the depths of unknown baby name land.

Oh, and a big thank you goes out to Anna for her lovely review of Mer de Noms, makes me feel all important and stuff like that 🙂

Categories: Names of the Week | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Names of the Week: Humphrey and Olivet

  1. Humphrey is one of those names that makes me smile. He has a stuffy but also “cuddly” vibe to me. I was very amused to find a Humphrey Humphreys on my family tree a few years ago (it was the Welsh side and they loved matching the first name with their patronymic surnames).


  2. Awkward Turtle

    Humphrey is one of those great names you actually find yourself saying again and again, just because it’s so much fun to say. Or is that just me?

    Nope! I have Juniper, Clementine and Barnaby to add to that list.


  3. namemuststay

    Much as I love Humphrey Bogart, I’d be more inclined to honour him at all by his last name, even though ‘bogart’ is slang for not sharing. (Like, “Don’t bogart all the chips!”) The name Humphrey is a non-entity over here. Olivet, though, is really quite pretty.


  4. Here in Australia, Humphrey is sadly almost unusable, as it’s so strongly associated with a children’s character, Humphrey B. Bear (His theme song goes, “What a funny old fellow is Humphrey …” which sounds ripe for teasing). He’s been going for decades, so a bit too familiar.

    Weirdly, I don’t like Olive much, Oliva sounds a bit odd and Olivia sets my teeth on edge. Yet I quite like Olivet.


    • namemuststay

      I can’t help but feel exactly the same way you do about each of those O names 😉

      Indeed, if Humphrey B. Bear was known over here, it would fall even further down the charts. Ronald McDonald killed almost all use of that name, too, and may also have negatively affected Donald (but I don’t have any proof 😉


  5. I love Olivet! It’s beautiful. Humphery is just adorable too.


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