Ric and Wald are both name elements that are quite common in Old English names — for example, Eadric and Eadwald — and both seem to mean ruler or power or authority or might.

Are there however more nuanced differences between the two in their respective meanings and usage?

1 Answer 1


Both relate to wealth or power, the two being often strongly associated. Here are two of several sources:

From Middle English walden, from Old English wealdan (“to rule, control, determine, direct, command, govern, possess, wield, exercise, cause, bring about”), from Proto-West Germanic *waldan, from Proto-Germanic *waldaną (“to reign”), from Proto-Indo-European *waldʰ- (“to be strong, be powerful, prevail, possess”).

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In Anglo-Saxon Baby Names the meaning of the name Edric is: Wealthy ruler.

In general, the suffix -ric denotes an area within which power is exercised:

From Northern Middle English -rike (Southern -riche), from Old English -rīċe (“-ric”), from rīċe (“realm, domain, jurisdiction”), from Proto-Germanic *rīkiją (“realm, power”). Cognate with Dutch -rijk, German -reich.

For example, a bishopric is the administrative region of a bishop, FrankReich is (present German word for France) the region of the Franks.

Hence -ric seems to have an association with both wealth and power.

There may be similar associations for -wald, because it refers to an area of land, and in earlier times, ownership of land was associated with wealth and power.,

From Middle English wald, from Old English weald (“high land covered with wood, woods, forest”), from Proto-West Germanic *walþu, from Proto-Germanic *walþuz, whence also Old High German wald (German Wald) and Old Norse vǫllr (Faroese vøllur, Norwegian voll, Icelandic völlur).

In summary, both are associated with wealth and with power but the balances between wealth and power in each term are not easy to know.

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    Note that the two walds you mention have completely different etymologies. It's not obvious to me from the sources you quote whether they were sufficiently merged by the time these names were coined for both meanings to possibly have been relevant, but my guess would be that the names are far older than the merger (and that the one alluded to in personal rather than place names is the one meaning "power, authority" rather than "forest"). Jan 15, 2023 at 2:54

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