BOOK REVIEW: THE CELTIC BABY NAMES BOOK
The Celtic Baby Names Book
Compiled by Gillian Delaforce
Published May, 2007, by Vermilion, an imprint of Ebury Publishing, Random House UK Ltd, London
No further information was provided by the publisher.
Any time you wander into the world of Celtic baby names, you can get lost in a labyrinth of names, where it becomes difficult to separate fact from fiction, history from myth, and scholarship from guesswork. Even the genetic origins of the people referred to as Celts is a hotly-debated academic argument.
To the author's credit, this difficulty is squarely acknowledged in the short but useful introduction to The Celtic Baby Names Book. The author states that:
"The old names that came down through the oral tradition of story-telling have many variations of spelling, as nothing was written down...The derivation of names is a very imprecise science. Similar-sounding Gaelic words may mean different things, hence various sources will give quite dissimilar meanings. This does not necessarily mean that one is right and one is wrong, just that there are different valid interpretations."
Beyond the introduction, the book is basically a dictionary of names, with none of the trimmings usually found in today's baby name books. There are no lists, no popularity charts, no graphs plotting the rise and fall of a name over the last century. Just an alphabetized dictionary of about 2500 names with definitions. There are more boys' names than girls', a fact that is noted in the introduction. Many of the names have been used for both boys and girls.
One shortcoming of the book is if you are seeking a specific type of Celtic name, such as a name of Irish origin, or Welsh, or Scottish, you have no alternative but to scan through the listings looking for those words to jump out at you. The names are alphabetized without regard to any other filter. On the other hand, it's a lot of fun to browse through the pages of these Celtic names, just letting your fancy take you where it will. From Rhona, named after a Scottish island, to Banadel, the name of an early Welsh king, to Glastenen, the Cornish name meaning "red oak," the book is a treasury of Celtic names, both familiar and obscure. It's a labyrinth you'll enjoy being lost in for a while.