Who were the Catholic popes before the current Francis I who used names not of Latin, Greek or Jewish origin? Particularly, names of Germanic origin, like Francis.

  • just curious, which popes have Jewish names?
    – Louis Rhys
    Mar 15, 2013 at 17:13
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    @LouisRhys: John, for example. Mar 16, 2013 at 16:15
  • Yarbut yarbut ... just because a name was Latin, Greek or Jewish doesn't mean it originated in those cultures. Every culture evolves, absorbing other influences, and eventually becoming something new.
    – andy256
    Apr 21, 2014 at 1:38

3 Answers 3


T.E.D.'s answer (despite its to date 7 up-votes) is wrong on two counts. First, Hormisdas is definitely Persian (Hormizd is a Middle Persian form of the divine name Ahura Mazda), as has been mentioned by choster. Second, “etymonline” says only that the English name Francis is borrowed in the first instance from French. Ultimately it is of Germanic origin.


Hormisdas is of Persian origin, and he possibly took the name to honor a Persian noble named Hormizd.

In the tenth century we had a Pope Landus, or Lando, and various sources say that this name is of Anglo-Saxon origin. Lando was also his given name, however, and I find it unlikely than an Italian from Sabina would have been given an Anglo-Saxon name. What can be said is that he was the last pope to have taken an original name, until Francis.

Incidentally, francis seems to have been the Latin name for the Celts or the Suebi, and not Germanic as you suggest.

  • 5
    Damn, George Lucas had his long grubby licensing arms even there!!!
    – DVK
    Mar 15, 2013 at 15:55
  • 2
    Bet his Popemobile was the fastest hunkajunk in the Sistine Chapel! Mar 16, 2013 at 0:14
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    @mh01 She'll make the Castel run in less than 12 piedi. And yes, I know the pied is a unit of distance.
    – choster
    Mar 16, 2013 at 17:55
  • @choster - I would have expected nothing else. :) Mar 16, 2013 at 18:08

Wikipedia has a complete list of Papal names. Counting this week's Francis, 81 different names have been used. There are some names that arguably may be Italian rather than Latin (eg:Lando), but none with undisputed roots outside of those three languages.

Note that etymology Online actually lists Francis as French in origin, which would make it of Romantic (ultimiately Roman) origin, not Germanic.

masc. proper name, from French François, from Old French Franceis, from Late Latin Franciscus, literally "Frankish;" cognate with French and frank.

Thus Francis might not count either.

  • 1
    While we are vaguely on the subject, I have to make note of my all-time favorite Pope name: Pope Hilarious If Father Guido Sarducci is ever elected Pope, he should take Pope Hilarious II.
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 15, 2013 at 15:34
  • +1, I was in the middle of writing similar answer with a mention of Lando. I believe all the rest are Latin, Greek or Hebrew, with Lando falling into Latin category, as he was also known as Landus. Mar 15, 2013 at 15:38
  • @DarekWędrychowski - There were actually a few others I could mention. Almost all are Italians who kept their birth names. The further you go back the more debatable the difference between Latin and Italian is though.
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 15, 2013 at 15:40
  • The Franks from which the cognate names Frank and Francis derive were a Germanic tribe that invaded and conquered Gaul during the death throes of the Western Empire. This clearly makes the name Germanic in ultimate source. It is a common male name throughout much of Central Europe. Apr 21, 2014 at 3:38
  • From the OED [1928]: It is usually believed that the Franks were named for their national weapon, OE *franca*, javelin; [as the Saxons were named for theirs, the *seax* or knife]. The notion that the name derived from the adj. meaning 'free' ... was already current in the 10th century; but the real relation between the words seems to be the reverse of this. Apr 21, 2014 at 3:51

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