What does the name William mean?



Origin of the name William:

William originates from two German words; willeo which, means will and determination. The second word being helm, meaning protection and helmet. Put together these words are Willehelm and it means resident protector.

According to a Dutch legend it is also thought that the name dates back to Roman times, and derives from the German name Gildhelm, which means golden helmet.

The name was later changed to more well known and popular forms of the name, such as Wilhelm and Guillaume. As the legend goes Gildhelm was a title given to German soldiers who killed Roman soldiers in battle. The soldier would then be given a golden helmet of a dead Roman soldier.

The name became popular amongst Normans in the 8th century because of Saint William of Gellone who was a monk and a cousin of Charlemagne.

The name was introduced to the English by the Normans in 1066 AD, after their conquest. Many of the English boys were given some form of William the Conqueror’s name, when he became the first Norman King of England. Therefore being given the name golden helmet.

In French the name was Guildhaume, and would often refer to the crown of a King in the later days of the Roman Empire. In French the name William means determined protector.

Popular Countries

The name William has become popular in many countries. It is very popular in Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden, England, The United States, Wales, and Norway.

William in Other languages

William has become a popular name around the world and is found in several different languages. In German the name appears as Wilhelm, and the nickname WIlly is often used.  The same name is used in Dutch, along with the names; Willem, and the nickname Wim is often used.

In Latin the name is Gulielmus, Guihelmus, and Gudielmus, and several similar forms of the name can be found in Latin speaking languages. In French the name is known as Guillame. In Italian, the name is known as  Guglielmo, and in Spanish the name is found as Guillermo. In Portuguese the name can be found as Guilherme.


Popular nicknames for William include Bill, Billy, Will, Willie, Willy, Wills, Willis Liam, Wim, and Guy (for Guillaume).

Bill is one of the most popular nicknames for William, and many people wonder why. While there are several theories the most common theory is that during the middle ages, swapping out letters for ones that were phonetically easier to pronounce was very common.

In the case of names the first letter was often swapped out so that the name rhymed. Hence Bill rhymes with Will. Liam is a common nickname for William in Ireland. Liam is also a common nickname for the Irish name Uilliam, and those names are often found alongside each other.

Famous People Named William

There are many famous heads of state, members of royal families, artist, and businessmen with the name William.  Here’s a list of some of the most famous.

  • William Shakespeare-  (1564-1616)- an English poet, playwright, and actor. He is widely regarded as the best writer in the English language of all time. He is nicknamed the “Bard of Avon”. His plays include “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet”.
  • Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, Duke of Cambridge- (1982-) the son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and grandson of the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth. He is  second in line to the British throne.
  • Bill Clinton (William Jefferson Clinton)-  (1946-)42nd President of the United States of America. Served as President for two terms, from 1993-2001.
  • William Faulkner-  (1897- 1962)-  was an American writer of short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, essays, and novels. He is specifically known for writing in the Southern literary genre.  He won the Nobel Prize for literature and two Pulitzer prizes in fiction. His most notable work may be the novel, “The Sound and the Fury”.
  • Bill Gates (William Henry Gates)-  (1955-) Is the co- founder of technology giant Microsoft, investor, and philanthropist. He currently runs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with his wife.
  • Will Ferrell (John William Ferrell)- (1967-) is an American actor, comedian, producer, and writer. He has starred in movies such as “Anchorman” and “Elf”.
  • Smokey Robinson (William Smokey Robinson)- (1940-) is an American  R&B, soul, and pop singer. He is also a record producer and former record executive. He was a member of “The Miracles” and has a solo career. He was a prolific Motown songwriter, writing songs such as “The Way You Do the Things You Do”, “My Girl”, “Since I Lost My Baby”,  and “ Get Ready”. He wrote for acts such as The Temptations, The Supremes, and  Marvin Gaye.

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