Italian and English: from Roman legend. Rhea Silvia was, according to mythological tradition, the mother of the twins Romulus and Remus, who founded Rome. Her name probably represents a reworking, by association with Latin silva wood, of some pre-Roman form. It was borne by a 6th-century saint, mother of Gregory the Great, and has always been relatively popular in Italy. Shakespeare used it as a typically Italian name in his Two Gentlemen of Verona, but it is now completely established in the English-speaking world. Variant: English, Scandinavian: Sylvia.
Cognate: French: Sylvie.
English: of Germanic (Frankish and Lombard) origin, introduced to Britain by the Normans. It was in regular use among the counts of Anjou, ancestors of the English royal house of Plantagenet, who were descended from Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou (1113–51). Godefroy de Bouillon, leader of the First Crusade, is commemorated in Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata (1581). It was a particularly popular name in England and France in the later Middle Ages; notable bearers in England include the poet Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1340–1400) and in Wales the chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth (Gaufridus Monemutensis; d. 1155). The original form and meaning of the elements of which the name is composed are disputed. According to one theory, the name is merely a variant of Godfrey; others derive the first part from the Germanic elements gawia territory, walah stranger, or gisil pledge. Medieval forms can be found to support all these theories, and it is possible that several names have fallen together, or that the name was subjected to reanalysis by folk etymology at an early date. Variant: Jeffrey.
Cognates: French: Geoffroi. Italian: Goffredo. Spanish, Portuguese: Godofredo. Welsh: Sieffre. Irish Gaelic: Siothrún.