After the Norman Conquest the personal names that had been popular with the Anglo‐Saxons and the Vikings fell out of favour. Some of the names favoured by the Normans were female equivalents of male names, e.g. Joan, Jane, Janet from John, or Patricia, Petra, and Paula from Patrick, Peter, and Paul. Others were biblical names or the names of saints. Joan and Agnes were first recorded in England in 1189, Catherine in 1196, Mary in 1203, Elizabeth in 1205, and Anne in 1218. Folk culture widely accepted that Anne was the mother of St Mary, though the New Testament is silent on the matter. The influence of the mystery plays helps to explain why Old Testament names such as Eve, Hester, Judith, Sarah, and Susanna became popular in the Middle Ages. Rebecca, Ruth, and Deborah are other Old Testament names which are still in use, while the New Testament was the source of such names as Julia and Lydia, which remain popular, of Lois, Priscilla, and Rhoda, which now sound old‐fashioned, and of Berenice, Dorcas, and Drusilla, which are now hardly used at all, if ever. Some biblical names, including Abigail, were revived by 19th‐century fundamentalists. The 19th century also saw a revival of 17th‐century Puritan names such as Faith, Hope, Charity, Joy, Patience, and Prudence. The names of martyred saints that were once common include Agatha, Agnes, Anastasia, Lucilla, and Lucia. The mystic Teresa and the Lourdes girl Bernadette remain popular models for Catholic families.
In the 18th century a fashion arose for Latin forms of women's names, e.g. Anna or Maria, especially among the upper class. Some medieval names such as Alice, Amy, Edith, Emma, Mabel, and Matilda were revived in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly under the influence of the Romantics, Tennyson, and the Pre‐Raphaelites. The influence of literature is seen in such Shakespearian names as Juliet and Rosalind, while novels and films have been the main source of such names as Pamela, Amelia, Justine, Shirley, Janice, Tracy, and Kylie. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the range of sources was extended to include precious stones (Beryl and Ruby), flowers (Daisy and Primrose), and former pet names (Peggy and Sally), which became first names in their own right. The family historian should note that in early parish registers names such as Anne and Agnes, Hester and Esther, Joan and Jane were used interchangeably, and that in Victorian times pet forms such as Nancy for Anne or Polly for Mary may not be immediately obvious.
The study of both male and female first names has been advanced enormously by Scott Smith‐Bannister, Names and Naming Patterns in England, 1538–1700 (1997), and George Redmonds, Christian Names in Local and Family History (2004). See also Christian names; godparent.
The 20th century has seen the adoption of foreign names, such as the Russian Natasha and Tanya, or the Swedish Astrid and Ingrid, and the introduction of many new names by immigrants. Meanwhile, Gaelic and Welsh names have been consciously preserved and many have undergone a revival. See Patrick Hanks, Kate Hardcastle, and Flavia Hodges, A Dictionary of First Names (2007), which deals with names from all over the world.