Bizarre, cruel and strangely sweet Puritanical names

"They called them what?" Strange names indeed from Puritanical times.
"They called them what?" Strange names indeed from Puritanical times. 

Puritanism has its roots in the late sixteenth century, after Henry VIII broke ties with the Catholic Church. The Puritans believed that reforms hadn’t gone far enough, and advocated for a church entirely divorced from Catholic ceremonies.

For over a century, Puritans argued amongst themselves, schismed, predicted the end of the world, and still found time to fight the English Civil War while starting colonies in the Northeastern United States.

Perhaps their greatest gift to history, however, is their wonderfully strange taste in names.

Praise-God Barebone as depicted in a portrait from 1660.
Praise-God Barebone as depicted in a portrait from 1660. 

A wide variety of Hebrew names came into common usage from 1560, when the first readily accessible English Bible was published, but by the late 16th century many Puritan communities in southern Britain saw common names as “too worldly”.

Instead, they opted to name children after virtues, or with religious slogans, as a way of setting the community apart from non-Puritan neighbours. Often, Puritan parents chose names that served to remind the child about sin and pain.

Many Puritan names started to die out after 1662, when the newly restored monarch, Charles II, introduced new laws that cracked down on nonconformist religions and consolidated the power of the Anglican Church. Despite this, some of the names have remained in common use in Anglophone countries.

I've collected some of the best, worst and strangest names the English Puritans came up with. Most of these are courtesy of the 1888 book by Charles Bardsley, Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature, which includes some parish records with details about people who had these names.

20 bizarre Puritan names

  1. Dancell-Dallphebo-Mark-Anthony-Gallery-Cesar
  2. Praise-God (full name: Praise-God Barebone)
  3. If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned. (This was Praise-God Barebone's son; for some inexplicable reason, he decided to go by the name Nicolas Barbon)
  4. Fear-God (yes, he was another Barebone)
  5. Job-raked-out-of-the-ashes
  6. Has-descendents
  7. Wrestling
  8. Fight-the-good-fight-of-faith
  9. Fly-fornication
  10. Jesus-Christ-came-into-the-world-to-save (brother of Damned Barebone)
  11. Thanks
  12. What-God-will
  13. Joy-in-sorrow
  14. Remember
  15. Fear-not (full name: Fear-Not Helly, born 1589)
  16. Experience
  17. Anger
  18. Abuse-not
  19. Die-Well (a brother of Farewell)
  20. Continent (full name: Continent Walker)
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Cruel Puritan names: These names were given to remind children of the pain of the world

  1. Humiliation (Humiliation Hynde had two sons in the 1620s; he called them both Humiliation Hynde)
  2. Fly-debate
  3. No-merit
  4. Helpless
  5. Reformation
  6. Abstinence
  7. More-triale
  8. Handmaid
  9. Obedience
  10. Forsaken
  11. Sorry-for-sin
  12. Lament

Strangely pleasant Puritan names: These aren’t exactly common now, but they’re actually not too bad (comparatively!)

  1. Silence
  2. Creedence
  3. Dust
  4. Diffidence
  5. Desire (by the way, in Britain, seven babies were named this in 2012)
  6. Make-peace
  7. Ashes
  8. Tace (another word for silence, this was given to females)
  9. Placidia
  10. Kill-sin (full name: Kill-sin Pimple)
  11. Freegift
  12. Vanity

The sweetest Puritan names: Despite their eccentricities, the Puritans did leave us some beautifully resonant names

  1. Jolly
  2. Liberty
  3. Tenacious
  4. Happy
  5. Felicity
  6. Hope
  7. Prudence
  8. Amity
  9. Verity
  10. Trinity

Thinking about what to call your baby? Visit the Essential Baby name section. You can also chat with others about names, and give opinions on others' ideas, in the Essential Baby forum.  

 - Washington Post