Statue of King Arthur, designed by Albrecht Dürer and cast by Peter Vischer the Elder, early 16th century[1]
German: [ˈaʁtʊʁ]
Dutch: [ˈɑrtyːr]
Language(s)Welsh, Old Breton
Other names
See alsoArtur, Art (short form), Arturo, Arttu or/and Artturi (Finnish variant)
Arthur pronunciation
Anglicised pronunciation of Arthur

Arthur is a very common Welsh masculine given name. Its etymology is disputed, but its popularity derives from it being the name of the legendary hero King Arthur.

Diminutive forms of the name include Art and Artie. A common spelling variant used in many Slavic, Romance, and Germanic languages is Artur. In Spanish and Italian is Arturo.


The earliest datable attestation of the name Arthur is in the early 9th century Welsh-Latin text Historia Brittonum, where it refers to a circa 5th to 6th-century Briton general who fought against the invading Saxons, and who later gave rise to the famous King Arthur of medieval legend and literature. A possible earlier mention of the same man is to be found in the epic Welsh poem Y Gododdin by Aneirin, which some scholars assign to the late 6th century, though this is still a matter of debate and the poem only survives in a late 13th century manuscript entitled the Book of Aneirin.[2][3] A 9th-century Breton landowner named Arthur witnessed several charters collected in the Cartulary of Redon.[4]

The Irish borrowed the name by the late 6th century (either from an early Archaic Welsh or Cumbric form Artur), producing Old Irish Artúr (Latinized as Arturius by Adomnán in his Life of St. Columba, written circa 697–700),[3][5] The earliest historically attested bearer of the name is a son or grandson of Áedán mac Gabráin (died 609).[6]

The exact origins of the name Arthur remains a matter of debate. The most widely accepted etymology derives it from the Roman nomen gentile (family name) Artorius.[3] Artorius is of obscure and contested etymology,[7] but is possibly of Messapic[8][9][10] or Etruscan origin.[11][12][13] According to the linguist and Celticist Stefan Zimmer, it is possible that Artorius has a Celtic origin, being a Latinization of the hypothetical name *Artorījos, derived from the patronym *Arto-rīg-ios, meaning "Son of the Bear/Warrior-King". *Arto-rīg-ios is unattested, but the root, *arto-rīg, "bear/warrior-king", is the source of the Old Irish personal name Artrí, while the similar *Arto-maglos, "bear-prince", produced names in several Brittonic languages. According to Zimmer's etymology, the Celtic short compositional vowel -o- was lengthened and the long -ī- in the second element of the compound -rījos was shortened by Latin speakers, under the influence of Latin agent nouns ending in -tōr (and their derivatives in -tōrius).[14] Some scholars have noted that the legendary King Arthur's name only appears as Arthur, Arthurus, or Arturus in early Latin Arthurian texts, never as Artōrius (although the Classical Latin Artōrius became Arturius in some Vulgar Latin dialects). However, this may not say anything about the origin of the name Arthur, as Artōrius would regularly become Art(h)ur when borrowed into Welsh.[15]

The commonly proposed derivation from Welsh arth "bear" + (g)wr "man" (earlier *Arto-uiros in Brittonic) is not possible for phonological and orthographic reasons; notably that a Brittonic compound name *Arto-uiros should produce Old Welsh *Artgur (where -u- represents the short vowel /u/) and Middle/Modern Welsh *Arthwr and not Arthur (where -u- is a long vowel /ʉː/) In Welsh poetry the name is always spelled Arthur and is exclusively rhymed with words ending in -ur—never words ending in -wr—which confirms that the second element cannot be [g]wr "man").[16][17]

An alternative theory, which has only gained limited acceptance among scholars,[18][19][20][21][22][23] derives the name Arthur from the Latin Arcturus (the brightest star in the constellation Boötes, near Ursa Major or the Great Bear[24]), which is the latinisation of the Greek Ἀρκτοῦρος (Arktouros)[25] and means Bear Guardian from ἄρκτος (arktos "bear")[26] and οὖρος (ouros "watcher/guardian").[27] This form, Arcturus would have become Art(h)ur when borrowed into Welsh, and its brightness and position in the sky led people to regard it as the "guardian of the bear" and the "leader" of the other stars in Boötes.[28]

Avestan aṣ̌a/arta and its Vedic equivalent ṛtá both derive from Proto-Indo-Iranian *ṛtá- "truth",[29] which in turn continues Proto-Indo-European *h2r-to- "properly joined, right, true", from the root *h2ar. The word is attested in Old Persian as arta.

People and characters with the given name Arthur

Kings and princes



Great Britain

Famous people

Fictional characters

Main article: Arthur (disambiguation) § Characters

In many languages

See also


  1. ^ Barber 1986, p. 141
  2. ^ Koch, John T., The Gododdin of Aneirin, University of Wales Press, 1997, pp. xi, xxii, 22, 147, 148.
  3. ^ a b c Koch, John T, ed. (2006). Celtic culture: A historical encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. pp. 121–122. ISBN 1-85109-440-7.
  4. ^ de Courson, A. (ed.), Cartulaire de Redon, Paris, 1863, pp. 19, 42, 60, 76, 183.
  5. ^ * Jaski, Bart, Early Irish examples of the name Arthur, Z.C.P. band 56, 2004.
  6. ^ Adomnán, I, 8–9 and translator's note 81; Bannerman, pp. 82–83. Bannerman, pp. 90–91, notes that Artúr is the son of Conaing, son of Áedán in the Senchus fer n-Alban.
  7. ^ Malone 1925
  8. ^ Marcella Chelotti, Vincenza Morizio, Marina Silvestrini, Le epigrafi romane di Canosa, Volume 1, Edipuglia srl, 1990, pg. 261, 264.
  9. ^ Ciro Santoro, "Per la nuova iscrizione messapica di Oria", La Zagaglia, A. VII, n. 27, 1965, P. 271-293.
  10. ^ Ciro Santoro, La Nuova Epigrafe Messapica "IM 4. 16, I-III" di Ostuni ed nomi in Art-, Ricerche e Studi, Volume 12, 1979, p. 45-60
  11. ^ Wilhelm Schulze, Zur Geschichte lateinischer Eigennamen (Volume 5, Issue 2 of Abhandlungen der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Philologisch-Historische Klasse, Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften Göttingen Philologisch-Historische Klasse), 2nd Edition, Weidmann, 1966, p. 72, pp. 333–338
  12. ^ Olli Salomies: Die römischen Vornamen. Studien zur römischen Namengebung. Helsinki 1987, p. 68
  13. ^ Herbig, Gust., "Falisca", Glotta, Band II, Göttingen, 1910, p. 98
  14. ^ Zimmer 2009
  15. ^ Koch 1996, p. 253
  16. ^ See Higham 2002, p. 74.
  17. ^ See Higham 2002, p. 80.
  18. ^ Bromwich, Rachel, Trioedd ynys Prydein: the Welsh triads, University of Wales Press, 1978, p. 544
  19. ^ Zimmer, Stefan, Die keltischen Wurzeln der Artussage: mit einer vollständigen Übersetzung der ältesten Artuserzählung Culhwch und Olwen, Winter, 2006, p. 37
  20. ^ Zimmer, Stefan, "The Name of Arthur – A New Etymology ", Journal of Celtic Linguistics, Volume 13, Number 1, March 2009, University of Wales Press, pp. 131–136.
  21. ^ Walter, Philippe, Faccia M. (trans.), Artù. L'orso e il re, Edizioni Arkeios, 2005, p. 74.
  22. ^ Johnson, Flint, The British sources of the abduction and Grail romances, University Press of America, 2002, pp. 38–39.
  23. ^ Chambers, Edmund Kerchever, Arthur of Britain, Speculum Historiale, 1964, p. 170
  24. ^ arctūrus, Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, on Perseus
  25. ^ [1], Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon.
  26. ^ [2], Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon.
  27. ^ [3], Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon.
  28. ^ Anderson 2004, pp. 28–29; Green 2007b, pp. 191–4.
  29. ^ "AṦA (Asha "Truth") – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2013-02-21.


  • Anderson, Graham (2004), King Arthur in Antiquity, London: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-31714-6.
  • Barber, Richard (1986), King Arthur: Hero and Legend, Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, ISBN 0-85115-254-6.
  • Green, Thomas (August 2007a), "Tom Thumb and Jack the Giant Killer: Two Arthurian Fairytales?", Folklore, 118 (2): 123–40, doi:10.1080/00155870701337296. (EBSCO subscription required for online access.)
  • Green, Thomas (2007b), Concepts of Arthur, Stroud: Tempus, ISBN 978-0-7524-4461-1.
  • Higham, N. J. (2002), King Arthur, Myth-Making and History, London: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-21305-9.
  • Koch, John T. (1996), "The Celtic Lands", in Lacy, Norris J. (ed.), Medieval Arthurian Literature: A Guide to Recent Research, New York: Garland, pp. 239–322, ISBN 978-0-8153-2160-6.
  • Koch, John T. (1994), Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1851094407
  • Koch, John T.; Carey, John (1994), The Celtic Heroic Age: Literary Sources for Ancient Celtic Europe and Early Ireland and Wales, Malden, MA: Celtic Studies Publications, ISBN 978-0-9642446-2-7.
  • Malone, Kemp (May 1925), "Artorius", Modern Philology, 22 (4): 367–74, doi:10.1086/387553, JSTOR 433555. (JSTOR subscription required for online access.)
  • Jaski, Bart, Early Irish examples of the name Arthur, Z.C.P. band 56, 2004
  • Zimmer, Stefan (2009), "The Name of Arthur — A New Etymology", Journal of Celtic Linguistics, University of Wales Press, 13 (1): 131–136