Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 3rd column, he looks at the history of the name Maud.
Maud is a medieval form of Matilda, a Germanic name linking words for “power” and “battle.” Brought to England by Norman conquerors, it was best known through Empress Matilda (1102-1167), daughter of King Henry I, whose title came from her first marriage to Holy Roman Emperor Henry V.
When Henry I died in 1135, he wanted his daughter to be Queen. The English weren’t ready to accept a woman monarch, so a civil war between Matilda and her cousin Stephen ensued. This was settled in 1153 by declaring Stephen king, but making Matilda’s son Henry Plantagenet his heir. Though official records called her Matilda, in everyday English she was Empress Maud. Around 1380, “Matilda” was the fourth commonest woman’s name in English records, but was still “Maud” in spoken English.
Tennyson and Whittier made Maud popular, though by 1875 Americans preferred the spelling “Maude.” The first nationwide baby name lists in 1880 showed Maude ranking 21st and Maud 70th. Combined they would have been 13th.