About Names: Walter weathers name’s ebbs, flows

Walt and Lillian Disney departing from Kastrup Airport CPH, Copenhagen 1959

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his December 5th column, he looks at the history of the name Walter.

Walt Disney (1901-1966) was born Walter Elias Disney 116 years ago. After creating Mickey in 1928, he made “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), the first successful animated feature. He won 22 Academy Awards, the most by one person, and created the theme parks Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

The name Walter comes from an ancient Germanic name combining “wald” (ruler) with “hari” (army). The form Walter was brought to England by Norman conquerors in 1066. Around 1380, Walter ranked eighth for English men. It was especially common in Devonshire. There, Walter of Cowick, a 12th century monk who had visions of purgatory and wore bearskins, was revered as a saint. Back then, Walter was pronounced “Water,” and its nickname was Wat. Family names Walters, Watt, Watts, Watkins, Waters and Waterson show descent from Walter. After 1600, as literacy increased, people started pronouncing the “l.”

With such a long stretch of popularity, there are scores of famous Walters besides Disney. Poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and basketball star Walt Frazier (1945) are two known by the nickname.


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