History and Historiography

A Boy Named Humiliation: Some Wacky, Cruel, and Bizarre Puritan Names

By Joseph Norwood

Puritanism has its roots in the late sixteenth century, after Henry VIII broke ties with the Catholic Church. The Puritans believed that reforms had not 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 and start colonies in the Northeastern United States.

Perhaps their greatest gift to history, however, is their wonderfully strange taste in names. A wide variety of Hebrew names came into common usage beginning in 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, and opted instead to name children after virtues or with religious slogans as a way of setting the community apart from non-Puritan neighbors. Often, Puritan parents chose names that served to remind the child about sin and pain.

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