Harold Name Meaning: Origin, History, and Significance

Origins of Harold

If you’re curious about the meaning and origins of the name Harold, you’ve come to the right place. In this section, we’ll explore the various roots and influences that have shaped this popular name over time.

Old English Roots

The name Harold has its roots in Old English, which was spoken in England from the 5th to the 11th centuries. The Old English name Hereweald, which means “army ruler,” eventually evolved into Harold. This name was prevalent in Anglo-Saxon England and was borne by several notable figures, including King Harold II, who famously lost the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Scandinavian Influence

In addition to its Old English roots, the name Harold also has ties to Scandinavian culture. The Old Norse cognate of Harold is Haraldr, which was a common name among Scandinavian settlers in England. This name has a similar meaning to its Old English counterpart, with “hara” meaning “army” and “valdr” meaning “ruler.”

Germanic Connections

Like many Old English and Scandinavian names, Harold has its origins in the Germanic language family. The Proto-Germanic root of the name is *harja-waldaz, which means “military power” or “army ruler.” This root is composed of two elements: “harja” (meaning “army”) and “waldaz” (meaning “powerful” or “ruler”). The name also has connections to Old Saxon and Old High German, which had similar words for “army” and “ruler.”

Overall, the name Harold has a rich and varied history, with roots in Old English, Scandinavian, and Germanic cultures. Whether you’re looking to name a new baby or simply curious about the origins of this name, understanding its history can provide valuable insight into its meaning and significance.

Historical Figures Named Harold

If you’re interested in the name Harold, you might be curious about some of the most notable historical figures who have borne this name. Here are a few of the most significant:

British Monarchs

There have been several British monarchs named Harold throughout history. Harold Godwinson, also known as Harold II, was the last Anglo-Saxon king of England before the Norman Conquest. He famously died at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Harold Harefoot, or Harold I, was another Anglo-Saxon king who ruled England from 1035 to 1040.

Prime Ministers

Two British Prime Ministers have been named Harold. Harold Macmillan served as Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963, while Harold Wilson held the office twice, from 1964 to 1970 and from 1974 to 1976.

Military Leaders

Harold Alexander, also known as the 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis, was a British military leader who served in both World War I and World War II. He was the field marshal who led the Allied forces in the Italian Campaign during World War II.

Literary Figures

Harold Bloom was an American literary critic and scholar who is best known for his work on Shakespeare and the Western literary canon. Harold Norse was an American poet and writer who was associated with the Beat Generation.

Overall, the name Harold has been borne by a diverse group of historical figures, including kings, prime ministers, military leaders, and literary figures. Whether you’re interested in history, politics, or literature, there’s sure to be a Harold who piques your interest.

Popularity of the Name Harold

If you’re considering naming your baby boy Harold, you may be wondering how popular the name is. Here’s a breakdown of the name’s popularity in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.

In the United States

According to the United States Social Security Administration, the name Harold was most popular in the 1920s and 1930s. It ranked in the top 20 most popular names for boys in the US from 1915 to 1935. Since then, its popularity has steadily declined. In 2022, it ranked as the 925th most popular name for boys in the US, with 610 babies being given the name.

In the United Kingdom

In England, Harold was a popular name in the early 20th century. It was the 20th most popular name for boys in 1914 and remained in the top 100 names until the 1950s. However, its popularity has since declined, and it is now a relatively uncommon name. In 2023, it is projected to be the 936th most popular name for boys in England.

In Australia

Harold is not a very common name in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it did not rank in the top 100 most popular names for boys in any year between 1900 and 2020. However, it is worth noting that the name may have been more popular in certain regions of the country or among certain ethnic groups.

Overall, while Harold was a very popular name in the past, it is now considered a relatively uncommon name. However, if you’re looking for a classic name with a long history, Harold may be a great choice for your baby boy.

Harold in Fiction and Media

Film and Television

Harold has been a popular name in the film and television industry. The name has been used for various characters in movies and TV shows. For example, Harold Chasen is the protagonist in the 1971 movie “Harold and Maude,” directed by Hal Ashby. Harold Perrineau is an American film actor who is best known for his role in the TV series “Lost” and the movie “The Matrix Reloaded.” Harold Saxon, also known as the Master, is a fictional character in the British TV series “Doctor Who.”


The name Harold has also been used in literature. Crockett Johnson’s children’s book “Harold and the Purple Crayon” is a classic that has been enjoyed by generations of children. In the book, Harold uses his purple crayon to create a world of his own. Harold Pinter was a British playwright, screenwriter, director, and actor who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005. His plays, such as “The Birthday Party” and “The Caretaker,” are known for their dark humor and existential themes.


Harold has also been used in the music industry. Harold Hill is the protagonist in the musical “The Music Man” by Meredith Willson. The musical follows Harold Hill, a traveling salesman, as he tries to con the people of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band that he never intends to form. Harold Arlen was an American composer who wrote many popular songs, including “Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz.” Harold Faltermeyer is a German composer who is best known for his work on the soundtrack for the movie “Top Gun.”

Overall, the name Harold has been used in various forms of fiction and media, including movies, TV shows, literature, and music. The name has been associated with a diverse range of characters and personalities, from the lovable Harold and the Purple Crayon to the conniving Harold Hill.

Variations and Nicknames for Harold

Harold is a name with a rich history and many variations and nicknames across different cultures. In this section, we will explore some of the most common variations and nicknames for Harold.

In Different Languages

Harold has variations in different languages. For example, in Icelandic, the name is spelled Haraldr. In Spanish and Portuguese, the name is spelled Haroldo. In Italian, the name is spelled Aroldo or Aroldino. In German, the name is spelled Harald or Arnold.

Common Nicknames

Harold has a variety of nicknames that have been popular over the years. Some of the most common nicknames for Harold include:

  • Harry: This is a popular nickname for Harold that has been in use for many years.
  • Hal: Hal is a short and sweet nickname for Harold that is easy to remember.
  • Aro: Aro is a modern and trendy nickname for Harold that has become popular in recent years.
  • Arnie: Arnie is a common nickname for Harold that has been used for many years.
  • H: Some people simply go by the initial “H” as a nickname for Harold.

Other unique and creative nicknames for Harold include Rollie, Roro, Halley, and Hodd. These nicknames are fun and playful and can help to add personality to the name Harold.

In conclusion, Harold is a versatile name with many variations and nicknames that have been used across different cultures and time periods. Whether you prefer a traditional or modern nickname, there are many options to choose from when it comes to this classic name.

Historical Events and Harold

Harold is an Old English name that has a rich history in England. The name has been associated with several historical events, including the Viking Age, Norman Conquest, and Danelaw.

Viking Age

During the Viking Age, England was invaded by Scandinavian warriors, including the Vikings. The Vikings established settlements in England and had a significant impact on the country’s culture and language. The Old Norse cognate Haraldr was a common name among Scandinavian settlers in England, and it is believed that the name Harold may have originated from this.

Norman Conquest

In 1066, England was invaded by William, Duke of Normandy, who defeated King Harold II in the Battle of Hastings. The Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman Conquest, shows a figure named Harold, who is believed to be Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. The defeat of Harold II marked the end of the Anglo-Saxon era in England and the beginning of Norman rule.


During the Danelaw period, which lasted from the late 9th century to the mid-11th century, large parts of England were under Danish rule. The name Harold was common among the Danes who settled in England during this period. The name is believed to have originated from the Old English words here, meaning “army,” and weald, meaning “ruler,” which reflects the military power of the Danes who ruled over England during this time.

Overall, the name Harold has a long and fascinating history in England, with connections to the Viking Age, Norman Conquest, and Danelaw. Whether you are named Harold or simply interested in the history of names, the story of Harold is a fascinating one that reflects the rich cultural and historical heritage of England.

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