Geoffrey (name)

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Region of originFrancia, medieval France, Norman England
Other names
DerivedGodfried, Gottfried, Godfrey
Related namesJeffrey, Geoff, Jeff

Geoffrey (/ˈɛfri/) is a French and English masculine given name. It is the Anglo-Norman form of the Germanic compound *gudą 'god' and *friþuz 'peace'.[1] It is a cognate of Dutch Godfried and German Gottfried.

It was introduced to Norman England alongside the form Godfrey. It was also Anglicised as Jeffrey from an early time. Popularity of the name declined after the medieval period, but it was revived in the 20th century. Modern hypocorisms include Geoff, Jeff, or ned.

Jeffrey and its variants are found as surnames, usually as a patronymic ending in -s (eg Jefferies, Jaffrays); The surname Jefferson is also a patronymic version of the given name.


The Old French form of the name was Geoffrei ([dʒɔfrej]), which developed into West Middle French Geoffrey and East Middle French Geoffroy.

Latinised forms include Jotfredus, Jozsfredus, Josfredus (10th century) and Jof[f]redus, Jofridus, Jaufredus, Geffredus (11th century).[2]

The original spelling with Jo- was modified in Geo-. The graphic e after G is used in French to avoid the pronunciation [go], but [ʒɔ] instead. The spelling Geo- is probably due to the influence of the first name Georges, derived from Old French Jorre, Joire.

The Old Frankish name Godefrid itself is from the Germanic elements god- and frid-. The Middle Latin form is Godefridus (whence also Godfrey). The second element is widely used in Germanic names, and has a meaning of "peace, protection". The first element god- is conflated from two, or possibly three, distinct roots, ie got and possibly *gaut, in origin a tribal name (Geats, Goths) or a theonym (a byname of Wotan).[3]

Albert Dauzat (1951, rev. ed. 1980) followed by others, argued that the Middle French name Geoffrey in fact retains a distinction between two Germanic names which became conflated in the Middle Ages. According to this argument, Godfrey continues *goda-friþu-, while Geoffroy continues *gaut-friþu-.[4] If a strictly phonetic development is assumed, Geoffrey cannot be derived from Godfrid, as *go- would result in Old French go- ([gɔ]) and not geo- (jo-, [dʒɔ]), ie goda-fridu would yield Godefroy [godfrwa] but not Geoffroy. On the other hand, *gau- [gaw] would regularly result in jo- (geo- [dʒɔ]),[5] i.e *gaut-fridu- would regularly result in Geoffroy [dʒɔf:rwa].

Alternative suggestions which would derive the first element from Germanic gisal- 'hostage', or w(e)alah 'Gallo-Roman; stranger' are also rejected by Dauzat as phonetically impossible: gi would have resulted in Old French [dʒi] (Modern French [ʒi]), as in Gisalbert > Gilbert (ie *Gisalfrid > *Giffrey), and *w(e)alh- would have resulted in *gaul- [gol] (ie *Wealhfrid > *Gaulfrey, *Gauffrey).

List of people called Geoffrey[edit]

In television and film[edit]

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In politics[edit]

  • Geoffrey Howe, British Conservative politician and former Deputy Prime Minister

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  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Louis Guinet, Les emprunts gallo-romans au germanique (du Ier siècle à la fin du Ve siècle), Éditions Klincksieck, 1982.
  3. ^ Ernst Förstemann, Altdeutsches Namenbuch (1856), 533.
  4. ^ Albert Dauzat, Noms et prénoms de France, édition revue et commentée par Marie-Thérèse Morlet, Librairie Larousse 1980, pp. 287b - 288a - 296ab.
  5. ^ for example, Late Latin *gauta gave Old French jöe and Modern French joue "cheek", and Latin gaudia gave French joie "joy". . In the history of the French language, there is a regular palatalisation of [g] > [dʒ] > [ʒ], before [a], [ɛ], [e], [i], but not before [o], [u], where [g] was maintained.