About Names: From Welsh roots, Gladys has worked its way through the grapevine

Gladys Knight

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his October 9th column, he looks at the history of the name Gladys.

Gladys is the modern form of Welsh Gwladus. Medieval records in Latin used “Claudia” as its equivalent. Experts disagree on whether Gwladus was just the Welsh form of Claudia or from Welsh gwlad, “countryside.” The first historical Gwladus was St. Gwladus, a princess of Brycheiniog. Kidnapped by Gwynllyw, king of Gwynllwg, she became his queen.

The modern form was spread by the novels “Gladys of Harlech” (1858) by Louisa M. Spooner and “Gladys the Reaper” (1860) by Anne Beale. Both authors were English women living in Wales. Spooner’s tale features a medieval noblewoman and Beale’s a simple country girl. Both show the Welsh as good people oppressed by corrupt Englishmen. The 1870 census includes 128 Gladyses, almost all born during the 1860s in the North. (Perhaps the novels didn’t make it to the South during the Civil War.)

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Gladyses in American history!