Concerning the Name

by Josh Mittleman
known in the SCA as Arval Benicoeur

Last updated 13 Jun 2005  

We have not found the feminine name Megan, in that spelling, used before 1600. The spelling Megen first appears in 16th century records. It is a Welsh name, probably a pet form of Margaret derived from the much older English pet form Megge plus the common Welsh feminine diminutive ending -en. It is recorded in 1547 as Megen [5]. It has been spelled variously -- and incorrectly -- Meghan, Meagan, Meaghan, Meegan, Maygan.

The name became popular in Britain in the early 20th century when Lloyd-George became Prime Minister. Lloyd-George named his daughter Megan, and this is the first example of the name recorded in the standard references [1, 2]. It is worth noting that Lloyd-George was Welsh; Megan may well have been in informal use in Wales from the mid-16th century onward and simply escaped recognition by researchers.

The name is distinct from Meg, a Middle English pet form of Margaret, recorded in 1254 as Megge. The similar Magge is recorded as early as 1246, and Magg or Mag probably existed by 1200 [3].

The modern existence of Megan has inspired some attempts to back-form Welsh forms. This process has led to such names as Megwyn, Megwynne, Mægwynn. These are not valid Welsh names. There is no prototheme Meg- in Welsh, and -wyn is a masculine deuterotheme.

Coincidentally, Mægwyn is probably an Old English name: Several other feminine compounds in Mæg- are attested (Mægburh, Mæsuith), and -wyn or -wynn is a common feminine theme. The surname Maywen, recorded in 1332, is most likely derived from Mægwynn. [4, 7] Most Old English given names were not used after the 13th century, and there is no evidence that this one survived as a given name.

Several variants in modern use are widely believed to be Irish names: Meaghan, Meghan, Meegan. At least one of these variants may have originated from a misinterpretation of an Irish surname, O'Meegan. This name is an anglicization of the Irish ó Miadhagáin [8]; Meegan itself was not used on its own as a given name until modern times. The other variants are modern inventions, probably originating in Australia or Canada [6].

To summarize: Megen (pronounced \MEG-en\) is a Welsh feminine pet form of Margaret first noted in the 16th century, but not popular until modern times. Mægwynn (pronounced \MAY-win\) is an Old English feminine name probably used occasionally in England from the 8th century to the 13th century. These are the only variants of Megan which have been supported as pre-1600 names.


Pronunciation guides appear between backslash brackets, \ \, and are intended to be read as if they were modern standard American English with the emphasis placed on the capitalized syllable.


[1] Leslie Dunkling and William Gosling, The New American Dictionary of First Names (New York: Signet, 1983).

[2] E. G. Withycombe, The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977).

[3] Talan Gwynek, "Feminine Given Names in A Dictionary of English Surnames" (WWW:, 1996)

[4] Maria Boehler. Die altenglischen Frauenamen (Nendlem, Liechtenstine: Krauss Reprint, 1967).

[5] Wyllyam Salesbury, A Dictionary in Englyshe and Welshe (London: John Waley, 1547).

[6] Patrick Hanks & Flavia Hodges, A Dictionary of First Names, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).

[7] Bo Seltén, The Anglo-Saxon Heritage in Middle English Personal Names (Lund, Sweden: Royal Society of Letters at Lund, 1979).

[8] Edward MacLysaght, The Surnames of Ireland, 6th ed. (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1964).