English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I was going to ask this on Christianity.SE but it's not really a Christian Doctrine question; hope it fits here.

I was reading John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress where almost everyone is named for a virtue or a vice except the protagonists (Christian and Christiana). Were those names common at the time of Bunyan or was he the first to use them as a proper name?

share|improve this question
Here is at least one instance which seems to predate Pilgrim's progress by ~3 centuries. Christian of Oliva. There also appear to be several Kings of Denmark with the name Christian. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_(name). – Zoredache Jan 12 '12 at 19:03
Not sure that would make sense since Christian isn't an English name. – Zoredache Jan 12 '12 at 19:50
@Zor you mean it's not an English name since you think it was imported from Denmark almost a millennium before Bunyan? What give a name its national character anyway? – Peter Turner Jan 13 '12 at 14:14
Well, Christian Fletcher was English, and born in 1764. – kiamlaluno Jan 13 '12 at 16:38
Uhm, no the name isn't natively Danish either. As that wikipedia article I linked to it is based on the Latin word Christianus (Christ follower). Given that the Roman Catholic was both widespread and performed a large portion of their services in Latin, it is unsurprising that the word was used, just like the names of many other biblical characters. – Zoredache Jan 14 '12 at 3:29
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Behind The Name says it was in use in the Middle Ages, but didn't become popular until the 17th century, so the rise in popularity could conceivably be tied to Pilgrim's Progress.

There were also 10 Danish kings with the name Christian, the first born in 1426. So definitely the use of the name predates Bunyan.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.