The most unusual celebrity name? What does “Gwyneth” mean, and what language is it?

Hollywood starlet and Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow is being honored with a star along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The actress is also the first to have the words on her star receive a thorough spellchecking. One reason: to avoid another misspelling scandal like the one surrounding the star of Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

(Why is it called an “Oscar,” not a “Frank” or “Bartholomew?” Get the story, here.)

Another reason for the orthographic scrutiny surely must be Ms. Paltrow’s unusual name. While it’s not as outlandish as Prince’s brief use of a glyph for his name, “Gwyneth” isn’t “Jane” or “Emily.” What’s the background of her appellation?

Gwyneth is a traditional Welsh name meaning “happiness.” Variations of the name include Gweneth and Winnie. The similar sounding, yet more commonly heard Gwendolyn, is also a Welsh name. Its meaning is tied to the legend of Merlin, who reputedly had a wife by that name. Both names have a root in Gwen, meaning “white, fair or blessed” in Welsh.

(A related name, Guinevere, King Arthur’s legendary wife, is the basis for what popular name for girls? The answer.)

Gwyneth ranked under 1000 in the U.S. for girl baby names in 2004, perhaps linked to the popularity of Ms. Paltrow. It is currently in the low 3000’s.


  1. Maria gwyneth -  June 9, 2016 - 1:30 am

    Wow! My bame is also gwyneth… I don’t even know what that means… Now i know

  2. Gwyneth Nomvuyo Lokwe -  February 11, 2012 - 9:16 am

    wow my nym iz also Gwyneth.I ddnt knw it meant happiness.The nycest part iz tht both my ntms Gwyneth and Nomvuyo mean happiness.My name makes me feel unique coz damn i am a xhosa and its lyk a welsh nym woow

  3. Gwyneth -  December 4, 2011 - 8:45 pm

    My name is Gwyneth and I already knew my name was welsh, but I didn’t know it meant happiness!! That’s really cool because I’m notorious for being an eternal optimist, great to know my name fits my personality!!

  4. PreciousMetal -  December 30, 2010 - 3:12 am

    What is it with celebs and weird names?!?! Why can’t they just call their daughters ‘Lucy’ and their sons ‘William’ or something?! Like, seriously, Michael Jackson called his son ‘Blanket’? The poor kid :(

    • Annika -  December 15, 2015 - 6:40 am

      Just because you live in a tiny bubble with only a few names, doesn’t mean others are uncommon. My sisters name is Gwyneth and I have a niece named Gwyneth. It’s very common in Europe. It’s stereotypically a very white name as the Welch are very fair (and the name also means fair or white). Not everybody wants to go with a generic plain name or maybe they want to honor their heritage.

  5. Lilliana -  December 27, 2010 - 4:47 pm

    STOP FIGHTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! seriously you guys have blogging problems.

  6. Geosota -  December 17, 2010 - 4:50 am

    Well, some of you might not like this topic, but it brought me here for the first time – even though I’ve been using Dictionary.com many ages. [note: it was linked by Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto, albeit under the heading “Questions Nobody is Asking”.

  7. james -  December 16, 2010 - 11:11 pm

    leigh, shush, would you? throwing around terms doesn’t make you look intelligent, it makes you look angry and ignorant. ooo, lets criticise western culture! the purpose of this blog is to look at interesting aspects of linguistics, Gwyneth being one of them. it’s not SUPPOSED to tackle the big issues, and “dictionary.com” is hardly an embodiment of popular culture anyway. get off your high horse, stop complaining, and only start criticising things when they’re actually failing to do what they’re supposed to be doing, you angry little man!

    and “Who cares about the latest song or movie or video game?” … really?

  8. READ READ READ -  December 16, 2010 - 2:36 pm

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Hahaha wow i dont agree^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

  9. taylor -  December 16, 2010 - 2:34 pm

    i agree^^^

  10. Orko9 -  December 16, 2010 - 1:49 pm


  11. Melissa -  December 16, 2010 - 12:47 pm

    Even if she were an Emily I would hope they’d still do a name spelling check. I once knew an “Emilie”.

    Even for a name like Tom Hanks, you’d think they would still double check the spelling first – it is, after all, going to be carved in stone (well, carved in bass and inlaid in stone).

  12. speaking of... -  December 16, 2010 - 11:23 am

    You want an unusual name? What about ‘Benedict Cumberbatch’? He plays Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s modern day update.

  13. QUESTcrewFAN -  December 16, 2010 - 10:55 am

    DANG! i totally agree. THIS IS A BAD TOPICCC!

  14. IHaveNoName -  December 16, 2010 - 10:39 am

    I kinda agree with READ THIS, but it is true that Gwyneth is a strange name–the only time I’ve heard of it before is in a book where they’re in another world.

  15. leigh -  December 16, 2010 - 10:25 am

    I agree with READ THIS. Western culture’s obsession with celebrities and the entertainment industry is ridiculous. Who cares about the latest song or movie or video game? Let’s try caring about something important, like homelessness, starvation, gang violence, mental illness, or the desperate situation in the Congo.

    @Cyberquill – always enjoy your posts!

    Greedy Stuffmas, to those who worship Stuff and the acquisition of it. To everyone else, Peace.

  16. READ THIS -  December 16, 2010 - 9:42 am

    Seriously, Dictionary.com could have found a better topic to research!

  17. Anonymous -  December 16, 2010 - 9:08 am

    They should’ve used starlette. Not starlet. She is a woman, so she can’t be called a star!

  18. David Knight -  December 16, 2010 - 8:11 am

    I would like to purchas reference book/dictionary of similar names & origins of Irist/Weks/Scotch heritage or related. Please advise where such question & answer books may be located. Trivia type or similar

  19. 17crosses -  December 16, 2010 - 7:39 am

    stop ^

  20. GWYNETH | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  December 16, 2010 - 6:51 am

    [...] Gwyneth speaks as an actress and the daughter of Blythe Danner, a great actress in her own right. — They have nothing to do with “Gwinett Speak” since his Star is outa sight — which has nothing to do with talented Paltrow or “Gwyneth” on the walk of fame. — Gwinett created works of art. — The most bodacious beautiful Gwyneth knows how to play the game. –>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

  21. louis paiz -  December 16, 2010 - 5:54 am

    gwyneth, gwendolyn,ginivere or genoveva means purity,life spring in one word down, la aurora boreal,o el amanecer. tkank you very much

  22. Daniel -  December 16, 2010 - 5:20 am

    So Winnie the Pooh should really be Gwyneth the Pooh? Now I know why they just went with Winnie.

  23. cymro -  December 16, 2010 - 4:50 am

    The Welsh word for white is “gwyn”.

  24. Manjot Singh -  December 16, 2010 - 2:12 am

    A prestigious award named after a Wheat farmer-Oscar.

    Thank you for enhancing the intellect.

  25. iwskjp -  December 16, 2010 - 12:33 am

    I didnt know that she has a two children, whose name are very peculiar–a very celebrity thing.

  26. Zachary Overline -  December 15, 2010 - 10:49 pm

    Yeah… “starlet” is kinda gendered language. Not a big fan. And regardless of any inherent sexism, it’s technically incorrect: starlet refers to “a young actress promoted and publicized as a future star, esp. in motion pictures.” Gwyneth Paltrow is neither especially young nor an upcoming star. She’s pretty damn famous already.

    Got that definition from Dictionary.com, btw :)

  27. ♥r a n n e y -  December 15, 2010 - 10:17 pm

    “starlet” ?

  28. ilovpink09 -  December 15, 2010 - 8:57 pm

    I want to my chid that whe i’m older. Gwyneth and she can be called Gwen for Short. I think it is a pretty name and sometimes wish it was my name! :( but also :)

  29. Kei -  December 15, 2010 - 7:48 pm

    I knew before I read this that Gwyneth is a Welsh name! I’m half Welsh. :D Whooo

  30. man -  December 15, 2010 - 6:02 pm

    U guys should do one about the phrase “night night don’t let the bed bugs bite.

  31. guy man dude -  December 15, 2010 - 6:01 pm

    U guys should do one about the phrase “night night don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

  32. Andreas Garcia -  December 15, 2010 - 2:29 pm

    ^ Same, I think we may be reading the same book!

  33. Nathan Hunter -  December 15, 2010 - 1:12 pm

    The names Gwynth, Gwendolyn, and Guinevere appear in a book I’ve read, but not all the names are spelt the same as this article, but now I know maybe where the setting of the book. Thanks for clearing that up.

  34. Cyberquill2 -  December 15, 2010 - 12:20 pm

    stop ^

  35. Ivo -  December 15, 2010 - 12:17 pm

    Probably because star is being used just afterwards

  36. Cyberquill -  December 15, 2010 - 11:51 am

    If she’s an Oscar winner with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, why refer to her as a “starlet”?


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked (required):

Related articles

Back to Top