We all have our favourite characters in the hit series Game of Thrones. Whilst many of the names included have been imagined, such as Lannister and Targaryen, others are ancient British surnames still present today.
These include the mighty houses of Stark and Tyrell, which both have interesting meanings when the etymological origins are examined. The surname Stark, for instance, was originally a nickname given to someone strong, or mentally determined, and came from the Middle English ‘stark’, meaning firm. Surely no surname is more appropriate for the Lords of the North.
The surname Tyrell, and the variant Tyrrell, also denotes a strong character. One of its possible origins is from a Norman nickname for someone who was particularly stubborn. Perhaps a fitting name for Lady Olenna, the ‘Queen of Thorns’, to possess.
House Martell, too, has distinctive origins. Whilst it could be a diminutive form of the names Martin or Martha, it could also denote a powerful person, coming from the Old French for a hammer, being ‘martel’.
By contrast the surname Bolton has almost tame origins. As a locative surname, it originally signalled someone who came from one of the many places of this name. The exact etymological origins show that the name was made up of the Old English for a dwelling, ‘botl’, and enclosure, ‘tun’. Perhaps House Bolton makes up for this lack of prowess in the origins of their name, by naming their principal seat the ‘Dreadfort’.