Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Harold

Harold is one of the few Olde English names which has endured and survived. It dates back well before the Norman Conquest of England in the 11th century, and is a modern English version of Hereweald, composed of the Germanic elements “here” meaning “army” and “weald” meaning “ruler”. Early Scandinavian settlers in England helped reinforce the usage of this name with their own Old Norse version: Haraldr (meaning the same). The name Harold was borne by two Kings of England. The first, Harold Harefoot, was the son of the Canute the Great who reigned over England, Denmark and Norway during a period of English history when the Vikings saw the English throne as theirs for the taking. The other English king, King Harold II, reigned for about 10 months in the year 1066; this Harold had the dubious honor of being the last Anglo-Saxon King of England. It was Harold’s assumption of the throne upon the death of Edward the Confessor that set off the Norman Conquest of 1066. You see, William the Conqueror had fully expected to succeed Edward as King of England; according to William, Harold (then the Earl of Wessex) had double-crossed him. This meant invasion! William “the Conqueror” of course was victorious in his military campaign and the unfortunate Harold II died at the Battle of Hastings with an arrow to his eye. After the Norman Conquest the name Harold dried up in popularity, probably because of its association with the defeated king. Harold's popularity as a boy's name was basically replaced by William after 1066 for obvious reasons. Fortunately people's memories are short and so usage of the name Harold was fully restored by the 19th century.

All About the Baby Name – Harold



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Harold is an old-fashioned charmer but probably too crusty “old man” by today’s naming standards. Harold has a long and illustrious history on the American male naming charts. He brought in the 20th century with a bang when in 1900 he was the 20th most popular boy’s name in the country. Harold maintained his Top 100 status all the way up until 1967. Eventually the name began to show signs of wear and tear as he slowly reversed his course on the charts. At first his drops were slow and steady, but by the 1990s, Harold started to plummet more dramatically. What was once the height of fashion had now become stale and passé. Today Harold is coming dangerously close to disappearing from the charts completely, and how sad would that be? We’re talking about a name that has survived over 15 centuries of English usage!! The "uncool" Harold has now been replaced with names like Harley and Harrison. There’s still a lot to be said for this name – it just seems a matter of time before American parents rediscover his hidden charms. Although it might take a generation or two...

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Cultural References to the Baby Name – Harold

Literary Characters


Harold is the wealthy but parentally neglected young hero of the 1971 cultish dark comedy, Harold and Maude, based upon a screenplay by Colin Higgins and also published as a novel that same year. Harold (played by Bud Cort) is a twenty-something boy with an abiding obsession with death, who meets and forms a relationship with a 79-year old woman, Maude Chardin (played by the inimitable Ruth Gordon), who has a fondness for funerals. In his deadpan approach to life (actually, death), Harold is hilarious, as he stages highly stylized series of suicide attempts for his mother’s benefit. Her attempts to find suitable young women for him are thwarted by his insistence on reenacting his suicidal pranks for them. He transforms his Jaguar into a hearse and attends the funerals of strangers. Enter Maude – a Holocaust survivor, a lover of life and a woman with a fine and firm sense of the value of life. She – as fanciful as it may seem – teaches him that very lesson not only by her life but by her death. After having been exposed to Maude’s joie-de- vivre, Harold is ready to face life realistically, yet equipped with a grateful song in his heart.

Childe Harold is the protagonist of a long narrative poem by Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, published between 1812 and 1818, and extremely popular in its time. The poem describes the search for the meaning of life by a disillusioned young man who has wearied of his hedonistic life style. (The “Childe” of the title refers to a man who is in line to be knighted.) Although Byron disclaimed any autobiographical intent – “Harold is the child of imagination…” – critics and readers alike have ignored him and find Harold to be a stand-in for the poet. The young Harold travels throughout the Continent; he is a self-proclaimed, unhappy sinner, searching for love and meaning. In other words, catnip to the ladies. Here is the Byronic hero in full swing, theirs for the taking – all they needed to do was show him to the path of virtue which also includes pleasure. Possible? You be the judge.

Popular Songs


Voice of Harold
a song by R.E.M.

Margo and Harold
a song by Drive-By Truckers

Harold the Barrel
a song by Genesis

Harold of the Rocks
a song by Primus

Harold Land
a song by Yes

Harold and Joe
a song by The Cure

Harold & Joe
a song by The Cure

Famous People


Harold I (King of England)
Harold II (King of England)
Harold Pinter (English playwright)
Harold Hitz Burton (U.S. Supreme Court Justice)
Harold W. Kroto (Nobel Prize winner, chemistry)
Harold Holt (PM of Australia)
Harold Clayton Urey (Nobel Prize winner, chemistry)
Harold Ramis (actor/director)
Harold E. Varmus (Nobel Prize winner, medicine)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Harold

Historic Figures


We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Harold