William (wil'yum) = "a helmet of will", "determined protector"
William is among the most commonly found Medieval given names, and as a result, a patronymic form of the name; i.e., Williams, is among the most common surnames. Cognate, diminutive, and other forms of the name exist in great number today.
According to the US Census 2000, the name William is the 5th most popular male first name with 2.451% of the male population, or around 3,002,475 Williams in the US. The last name Williams is the 3rd most popular surname with 0.699% having the last name Williams, or around 1,747,500 people.
William was formerly used in communications to represent the letter W.
William is derived from an Old French given name with Germanic elements: wil = desire, will; and helm = helmet, protection. Some say the Old German name Wilhelm derives from Wel-helm (the shield or defense of many), Weil-helm (protector of rest, defender of tranquility), Vil-helm (strong protector), or from the Belgic Guild-helm (harnessed with a gilded helmet).
The name was introduced to Britain by the Normans. When the Normans conquered Britain in 1066 they brought with them a stock of new names and different ideas about names. They were beginning to use the first name and last name system, which allowed the same first names to be borne by many different people at the same time. William - "will" and "helmet" - was an outstanding favorite Norman name and became, in short order, one of the most popular given names in England. In the first century, after the Conquest, it was the commonest male name of all, and not only among the Normans. It has belonged to several rulers of England, Prussia, and Germany, including William the Conqueror, the first Norman king of England.
The word -cock- was a generic term for a young man during the Middle Ages. It originally was used to apply to the young man who strutted proudly about (like the rooster), or was cock-sure of himself, but came to be applied to any young man who was self-assured, or a leader of his peers. As a result, it was applied to several names as a suffix that better-defined the youngish man by his personality. The name Wilcox is a compound name with the elements Will = pet form of William + cock = self-assured young man.
Another medieval given name, Wilkin, is derived from a shortened form of William (Will) with the addition of the suffix -kin to form a diminutive or pet form of the name ("Little William"). In similar fashion, the names Willis and Wilson each represent "son of William."
In the 16th century the split between Roman Catholics and Protestants was reflected in name usage, as the Protestants turned away from Catholic names and preferred to use the bible as a principal source of names. Yet, William continued a popular name, taking on the Old German meanings of "firm protector," "defender," and "helmet of resolve."
Gaelic names from the Scottish Highlands began to spread south throughout the English-speaking world in the 18th century. The usual custom there was for a man to be something like Madog Ap Gryffyd Ap Jorweth, with "Ap" meaning "son of." When formal surnames were eventually used, the traditional method of naming after the father was remembered; thus, traces of the "ap" system survive today in names like Williams. In some cases, the ending "son" is added, producing names such as Williamson (son of William) and Wilkinson (son of little Will). In Scotland and Ireland, either "Mac" or "Mc" means "son of"; "ap" serves the same purpose in Wales. Families which had settled in Ireland soon after the Norman Conquest may have a surname beginning with "Fitz" (from the French "fils," for "son").
Name variants: Bill, Billie, Billie Jean, Billie Joe, Billy, Billy Bob, Bilton, Bo, Byll, Fitzwilliam(s), Gilham, Gillam, Gillham, Gilliam, Gillman, Gillum, Guglielmino, Guglielmo, Guilherme, Guilielm, Guillaume, Guillem, Guillermo, Guilluame, Gullam, Gwil, Gwilherm, Gwilliam, Gwilim, Gwill, Gwillym, Gwilym, Gwylim, Helma, Helmie, Helmine, Ilma, Lyam (Liam), MacWilliam(s), McWilliam(s), Minnie, Quilliam, Uillaim, Uilleam, Ulick, Vilelmo, Vilem, Vilhelm, Uileog, Uilleam, Uilliam, Ulik, Velvel, Vila, Vilmos, Welliam, Wilcock, Wilcocke, Wilcocks, Wilcox, Wilda, Wileen, Wilek, Wilemse, Wilheim, Wilhelm, Wilhelmina, Wiliam, Wiliama, Wilie, Wilken, Wilkens, Wilkenson, Wilkerson, Wilkes, Wilkie, Wilkin, Wilkins, Wilkinson, Will, Willa, Willcocks, Willcockson, Willcox, Willcoxon, Willem, Willems, Willemse, Willet, Willi, Williard, Williams, Williamsen, Williamson, Willian, Willie, Williford, Willimont, Willimott, Willing, Willis, Willmett, Willmin, Willmon, Willmott, Wills, Willson, Willy, Wilma, Wilmin, Wilmot, Wilson, Wim, Wiremu.
Other nicknames: Alfalfa Bill, Battling Billy, Big Bad Bill, Biller, Billiam, Billy Goat, Billy the Pilly, Buffalo Bill, Chilly Willy, Free Willy, Hillbilly, Mister Bill, Silly Willy, Sweet William (aka, Stinkin' Billy), Wee Willie Winky, Wee Willy, Wild Bill, Willy Dilly Ding Dong, Willy Lump Lump, Willy Nilly, Willy Wall Flower, Willy Wonka.
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A Collection of Quotes Based on the Name William