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King Charlemagne (742–814) of the Franks
French: [ʃaʁl]
Name dayNovember 4
Word/nameFrench, from Germanic
MeaningFree man
Other names
Variant form(s)Carl, Karl, Carlo, Carlos, Carolus
Related namesFeminine: Caroline, Charlotte, Charlene

Charles is a masculine given name predominantly found in English and French speaking countries.[1] It is from the French form Charles of the Proto-Germanic name ᚲᚨᚱᛁᛚᚨᛉ (in runic alphabet) or *karilaz (in Latin alphabet), whose meaning was "free man". The Old English descendant of this word was Ċearl or Ċeorl, as the name of King Cearl of Mercia, that disappeared after the Norman conquest of England.

The name was notably borne by Charlemagne (Charles the Great), and was at the time Latinized as Karolus (as in Vita Karoli Magni), later also as Carolus.


The name's etymology is a Common Germanic noun *karilaz meaning "free man", which survives in English as churl (< Old English ċeorl),[2] which developed its deprecating sense in the Middle English period.

Some Germanic languages, for example Dutch and German, have retained the word in two separate senses. In the particular case of Dutch, Karel refers to the given name, whereas the noun kerel means "a bloke, fellow, man".[citation needed]

In the form Charles, the initial spelling ch- corresponds to the palatalization of the Latin group ca- to [tʃa] in Central Old French (Francien) and the final -s to the former subjective case (cas sujet) of masculine names in Old French like in Giles or James (< Latin -us, see Spanish/ Portuguese Carlos).

According to Julius Pokorny, the historical linguist and Indo-Europeanist, the root meaning of Charles is "old man", from Indo-European *ĝer-, where the ĝ is a palatal consonant, meaning "to rub; to be old; grain." An old man has been worn away and is now grey with age.[clarification needed][3]

In some Slavic languages, the name Drago (and variants: Dragomir, Dragoslav, etc., all based on the root drag 'dear') has been used as an equivalent for Charles (Karel, etc.). This is based on the false etymology deriving Carl from Latin carus 'dear'.[4] Examples are the Slovene politician Karel Dežman (1821–1889), also known as Dragotin Dežman, and the Slovene historian Dragotin Lončar (1876–1954), baptized Carl.[5]


Early Middle Ages

The name is atypical for Germanic names as it is not composed of two elements, but simply a noun meaning "(free) man". This meaning of ceorl contrasts with eorl (Old Norse jarl) "nobleman" on one hand and with þeow (Old Norse þræll) "bondsman, slave" on the other. As such it would not seem a likely candidate for the name of a Germanic king, but it is attested as such with Cearl of Mercia (fl. 620), the first Mercian king mentioned by Bede in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. It is a peculiarity of the Anglo-Saxon royal names that many of the rulers of the earliest period (6th to 7th centuries) have monothematic (simplex) names, while the standard dithematic (compounded) names become almost universal from the 8th century. Compare the name of King Mul of Kent (7th century) which simply translates to "mule".

Charles Martel, the son of Pepin of Herstal and Alpaida, was either illegitimate or the product of a bigamous marriage, and therefore indeed a "free man", but not of noble rank. After his victory at the Battle of Soissons (718), Charles Martel styled himself Duke of the Franks. Charles' eldest son was named Carloman (c. 710 – 754), a rare example of the element carl- occurring in a compound name. The Chronicle of Fredegar names an earlier Carloman as the father of Pepin of Landen, and thus the great-great-grandfather of the Charles Martel. This would place the name Carloman in the 6th century, and open the possibility that the Frankish name Carl may originate as a short form of Carloman. The only other compound name with the Carl- prefix is Carlofred (Carlefred), attested in the 7th century; as a suffix, it occurs in the rare names Altcarl and Gundecarl (9th and 11th centuries, respectively).[6]

Charlemagne (742–814) was Charles Martel's grandson. After Charlemagne's reign, the name became irrevocably connected with him and his Carolingian dynasty. After Charlemagne, the name Charles (Karol) became even the standard word for "king" in Slavic (Czech and Slovak král, Polish król; South Slavic kral крал, krȃlj краљ; Russian король), Baltic (Latvian karalis, Lithuanian karalius) and Hungarian (király).

Charlemagne's son Charles the Younger died without issue, but the name resurfaces repeatedly within the 9th-century Carolingian family tree, so with Charles the Bald (823–877), Charles the Fat (839–888) Charles of Provence (845–863), Charles the Child (847/848–866) and Charles the Simple (879–929).

Later Middle Ages and Early Modern history

The name survives into the High Middle Ages (Charles, Duke of Lower Lorraine; Charles, Count of Valois; Charles I, Count of Flanders (Charles the Good, beatified in 1882); Charles I of Naples; Charles I of Hungary). Karl Sverkersson was a king of Sweden in the 12th century, counted as "Charles VII" due to a genealogical fiction of the 17th century by Charles "IX", but actually the first king of Sweden with this name.

Charles resurfaces as a royal name in Germany with Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor (1316–1378, counted as "the fourth" after Charlemagne, Charles the Bald and Charles the Fat) and in France with Charles IV of France (1294–1328, "the fourth" after Charlemagne, Charles the Bald and Charles the Simple), and becomes comparatively widespread in the Late Middle Ages (Charles I, Duke of Savoy, Charles III, Duke of Savoy).

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (1500–1558) gives rise to a tradition of Charlses in Habsburg Spain (Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, Charles II of Spain, Charles III of Spain, Charles IV of Spain).

The numbering scheme for the kings of Sweden was continued in modern times with Charles X, Charles XI, Charles XII, Charles XIII, Charles XIV and Charles XV.

Charles I of England (1600–1649) is followed by Charles II of England (1630–1685). The Province of Carolina is named during the rule of Charles II, after Charles I.

Charles III Philip, Elector Palatine (1661–1742).

Modern history

Carlism is a political movement in Spain seeking the establishment of a separate line of the Bourbon family on the Spanish throne. This line descended from Infante Carlos, Count of Molina (1788–1855), and was founded due to dispute over the succession laws and widespread dissatisfaction with the Alfonsine line of the House of Bourbon. The movement was at its strongest in the 1830s, causing the Carlist Wars, and had a revival following Spain's defeat in the Spanish–American War in 1898, and lasted until the end of the Franco regime in 1975 as a social and political force

Charles Floyd (1782–1804) was the only casualty in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Charles DeRudio (1832–1910) was an Italian aristocrat, would-be assassin of Napoleon III, and later a career U.S. Army officer who fought in the 7th U.S. Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Charles Albert Varnum (1849–1936) was the commander of the scouts in the Little Bighorn Campaign and received the Medal of Honor for his actions in a conflict following the Battle of Wounded Knee. "Lonesome" Charley Reynolds (1842–1876) was a scout in the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment who was killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Carl has been a very popular male given name in the United States during the late 19th to early 20th centuries, consistently ranking in the top 30 male given names in the US from 1887 to 1938, and remaining among the top 100 until the 1980s, but since declining below rank 500. Charles has always been among the top 100 names in the U.S. since records started in 1880.[7] In addition, it is among the top 100 names given in England and Wales; the current King of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms, Charles III, is a notable bearer of the name.

Derived feminine names

Caroline and Charlotte are feminine given names derived from Carl.[8][9][10]

Charlotte is late medieval, e.g. Charlotte of Savoy (1441–1483), Charlotte of Cyprus (1444–1487). It was introduced to Britain in the 17th century, and gave rise to hypocorisms such as Lottie, Tottie, Totty.

Caroline is early modern, e.g. Caroline of Ansbach (1683–1737). It has given rise to numerous variations, such as Carlyn, Carolina, Carolyn, Karolyn, Carolin, Karolina, Karoline, Karolina, Carolien, as well as hypocorisms, such as Callie, Carol, Carrie, etc.

Another derived feminine name is Carla (Bulgarian, Catalan, Dutch, English, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish), a name which dates from early Italy.[11]

Regional forms:

    • Carolina (Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Bulgarian)
    • Caroline (English, French, Swedish, Danish, Dutch)
    • Carolyn (English)
    • Carlijn (Dutch)
    • Karoliina (Finnish)
    • Karolina (Bulgarian, Polish, Swedish)
    • Karolína (Czech)
    • Karoline (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish)
    • Karolina (Каролина) (Russian)
    • Keraleyn (קעראַליין) (Yiddish)
    • Carly (American)
    • Carol (English)
  • Carola (German, Swedish)
    • Carole (English, French, Portuguese)
    • Karol (קאַראָל) (Yiddish)
    • Kyārōla (क्यारोल) (Nepali)
    • Kerol (Керол) (Serbian), (Russian)
  • Charlotte (English, French, German, Swedish, Danish, Dutch)
    • Carlota (Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan)
    • Carlotta (Italian)
    • Charlotta (Swedish)
  • Carla
    • Charla (English)
    • Karla (Bulgarian, German, Scandinavian, Serbian, Czech, Croatian)
    • Карла (Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian)
  • Charlene (given name), Charlène

Regional forms of the name

Language Formal name Informal name
Armenian Կարլոս (Karlos)
Basque Karlos
Bulgarian Карл (Karl)
Belarusian Чарльз (Čarĺz)
Catalan Carles
Chinese 查尔斯 (simplified), 查爾斯 (traditional) (Chá'ěrsī)
Croatian Karlo
Czech Karel
Danish Karl, Carl
Dutch Karel
English Charles Charlie/Charley, Chuck, Chucky, Chaz/Chas, Chad, Chip
Estonian Kaarel, Kaarli, Kaaro, Kalle
Faroese Karl
Finnish Kaarlo, Kaarle, Kalle, Karl
French Charles Charlot
German Karl, Carl
Georgian კარლო (Karlo)
Greek Κάρολος (Károlos)
Hungarian Károly Karcsi
Hawaiian Kale
Icelandic Karl
Irish Carlus, Séarlas, Cathal
Italian Carlo
Japanese チャールズ (Chāruzu)
Korean 찰스 (chalseu)
Latin Carolus
Latvian Kārlis
Limburgish Sjarel
Lithuanian Karolis
Norwegian Karl, Carl
Polish Karol
Portuguese Carlos Carlinhos
Romanian Carol
Russian Карл (Karl)
Scottish Gaelic Teàrlach
Serbian Карло (Karlo)
Slovak Karol
Slovene Karel
Spanish Carlos Carlito, Carlitos, Caloy (Philippines)
Swedish Karl, Carl, Kalle
Welsh Siarl

List of notable people

Media, arts and entertainment

In literature
Name Description
Charles Baudelaire French poet
Charles Bukowski American poet and novelist
Charles Dickens English novelist
Charles Dodgson (pen-name Lewis Carroll) English clergyman, writer and mathematician
Charles Edwards Canadian journalist and news agency executive
Charles Henri Ford American poet, photographer and writer
Charles Fort American writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena
Charles L. Grant American science-fiction author
Charles Roger Hargreaves Children's author who wrote the Mr. Men and Little Miss series.
Charles Lewinsky Swiss screenwriter, dramatist and playwright
Charles Lummis American journalist, poet, historian; founder of the Southwest Museum
Charles Mayer Canadian journalist, sportsperson and politician
Charles Olson American poet
Charles O'Rear American photographer known for taking Bliss
Charles Jacobs Peterson American author, editor and publisher
Charles G.D. Roberts Canadian poet
Charles Webb (author) American author of The Graduate
In music
Name Description
Charles Aznavour French-Armenian singer
Chuck Berry American guitarist, singer, and composer
Charlie Daniels American country music figure
Charles Gavin Brazilian rock drummer/producer
Charlie Haden American Jazz bassist and composer
Charles Ives American composer
Chuck Mangione American jazz artist
Charles Mingus American Jazz bassist and composer
Charles E. Moody American gospel songwriter and performer
Charlie Parker American Jazz saxophonist
Charlie Simpson British musician and singer
Charles Davis Tillman (1861–1943) pioneer of southern gospel music
Charlie Watts English drummer for the rock group The Rolling Stones
In film
Name Description
Charles Bowers American cartoonist and early filmmaker
Charles Boyer French-American actor
Charles Bronson American actor
Sebastian Cabot (born Charles Sebastian Thomas Cabot) English actor
Charlie Chaplin English comedy actor, famous for silent film acting
Charley Chase American silent film comedian and writer
Charles Dance English actor
Charles Durning American actor
Charles Gray English actor
Charles Grodin American actor and cable talk show host
Charles Herbert American child actor of the '50s and '60s
Charlton Heston (born John Charles Carter) American actor
Lionel Jeffries (born Lionel Charles Jeffries) English actor
Charles Laughton English actor
Chas Licciardello Australian comedian and a member of The Chaser
Charles Stanton Ogle silent film actor
Charles Nelson Reilly American comic actor and game show regular
Charles Reisner American actor and film director
In television
Name Description
Charles Gibson American television journalist
Charles Kuralt American television journalist
Charlie Rose American host of a television interview show
In visual arts
Name Description
Charles Addams American cartoonist known for his particularly black humor and macabre characters
Charles Dellschau Prussian-American outsider artist
Charles Eyck Dutch visual artist
Chuck Jones American animator
Charles Martinet American actor known for playing the voice as Mario and other characters
Charles R. Knight wildlife artist, known for prehistoric restorations
Charles Prendergast Canadian-American artist
Charles Schulz creator of the comic strip Peanuts
Other areas of media, arts and entertainment
Name Description
Charles White (YouTuber) American YouTuber and Twitch streamer


Name Description
Charlie Austin English footballer
Charles Aránguiz Chilean professional footballer
Charles Barkley former NBA forward and a current NBA color commentator for TNT
Chuck Bednarik NFL player, 1967, Philadelphia Eagles
Charles Betts American professional wrestler
Charles Cornelius NFL and CFL player
Charles Daniels (1885–1973) American freestyle swimmer
Charley Diamond American football player
Charlie Fleming Scottish footballer
Charles "Buckets" Goldenberg American All-Pro football player
Charles Green (disambiguation) multiple people
Charles Harris American football player
Chuck Hayes American basketball player who currently plays for the Houston Rockets
Charles Horton American football player
Charles Jenkins (disambiguation) multiple people
Charles Leclerc Monégasque racing driver
Charles Lefrançois Canadian high jumper
Charlie McCarthy Irish hurler
Charles Myer American major league baseball All Star second baseman
Charles Oakley American basketball forward
Charles O'Bannon American basketball player
Charles Radbourn early Major League Baseball pitcher
Charles Ramsdell Malagasy athlete
Charlie Reiter American professional soccer player
Charles Fernando Basílio da Silva Brazilian midfielder
Charles Sifford first African American golfer to play in a PGA tour
Charles Washington American football player

In politics

Name Description
Charles "Bubba" Chaney Louisiana politician
Charles Francis Adams Sr. American congressman and ambassador, grandson of John Adams
Charles Edward Bennett Democratic U.S. Congressman from Florida
Charles Bent first Governor of New Mexico Territory, assassinated in 1847
Charles Joseph Bonaparte former U. S. Attorney General
Charles Bradlaugh British political activist and militant atheist, founder of the National Secular Society
Charles Q. Brown Jr. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Charles Carroll of Carrollton last living signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence (died 1832)
Charles Colson U.S. Richard Nixon's Chief Counsel, involved in the Watergate scandal
Charles Magill Conrad former American Secretary of War
Charles Edward Bandaranaike Corea Sri Lankan Sinhala lawyer
Charles Curtis 31st American Vice President, under Herbert Hoover
Charles G. Dawes 30th American Vice President, under Calvin Coolidge
Charles Devens former U.S. Attorney General
Charles de Gaulle French military leader and statesman
Charles Edward Perry de Silva Sri Lankan Sinhala lawyer and politician
Charles Percival de Silva Sri Lankan civil servant and politician
Charles de Silva Batuwantudawe Sri Lankan Sinhala lawyer and politician
Charles Edirisuriya Sri Lankan Sinhala Member of Parliament for Hambanthota
Charlie Elphicke British politician
James Charles Evers civil rights activist, older brother of Medgar Evers
Charles W. Fairbanks 26th American Vice President, under Theodore Roosevelt
Charles Hubert Zaleski Fernando Sri Lankan Sinhala businessman, lawyer, and member of the Legislative Council of Ceylon
Charles Matthew Fernando Sri Lankan Sinhala lawyer and scholar, first Sri Lankan Crown Counsel
Charles A. Ford American diplomat
Charles Gibbs Canadian politician
Charles Harper Australian politician
Charles Alwis Hewavitharana Sri Lankan Sinhala independence activist
Charles Evans Hughes former U.S. Secretary of State
Charles Humphreys Pennsylvania delegate to Continental Congress; refused to sign Declaration of Independence due to his Quaker beliefs
Charles Y. Kaneshiro American politician
Charles Kennedy British politician
Charles Lapointe Canadian politician
Chuck Larson former U.S. ambassador to Latvia
Charles Lee former U. S. Attorney General
Charles Ambrose Lorensz Sri Lankan Burgher lawyer, legislator, and journalist
Charles Mathias (1922–2010) American politician
Charles Naylor (1806–1872) American politician
Karolos Papoulias former President of Greece
Charles Stewart Parnell Irish political leader
Charles Sheedy West Virginian politician
Charles Pasqua French businessman and politician
Charles Pearson former Solicitor for The City of London and early railway advocate
Chuck Robb former Governor of Virginia and U.S. Senator
Charlie Rose American congressman (Democrat from N.C.)
Charles Scott Governor of Kentucky; also George Washington's Chief of Intelligence during the American Revolution
Charles Harding Smith Irish politician
Charles G. Taylor former President of Liberia
Charles Thomson secretary of the Continental Congress
Charles Townsend British politician
Charles Wilson Texas congressman, subject of 2007 movie Charlie Wilson's War

In religion


There are a number of historical figures known as "Saint Charles", although few are recognized across confessions. In the context of English and British history, "Saint Charles" is typically Charles I of England, recognized as a saint in the Anglican confession only. In Roman Catholicism, the best known Saint Charles is Charles Borromeo (1538–1584), an Italian cardinal, canonized by Pope Paul V in 1606. Charles, Duke of Brittany (1319–1364) had been canonized after his death, but Pope Gregory XI annulled this. Charles the Good (died 1127) is sometimes referred to as a saint, but while he was beatified in 1904, he has not been canonized.

Other Saints of the Roman Catholic Church, canonized after 1900:


Church leaders


See #History above for medieval and early modern royalty and nobility. This section lists noblemen born after 1700.


Name Description
Charles Babbage English mathematician, philosopher, mechanical engineer and computer scientist
Charles L. Bennett American astrophysicist
Charles Thomas Bolton astronomer who proved the existence of black holes
Charles Bouman American engineering professor
Charles W. Curtis American mathematician
Charles Darwin British naturalist
Charles Dawson English archaeologist, involved in the Piltdown Man hoax
Charles Dupin French mathematician, engineer, economist, and politician
Charles Ehresmann French mathematician
Charles Fleming (ornithologist) New Zealand ornithologist
Charles Godakumbura Sri Lankan Sinhala archaeologist
Charles Hermite French mathematician
Charles Thomas Jackson American geologist
Charles T. Kowal American astronomer, discoverer of Chiron and 2 moons of Jupiter
Charles Newton Little American mathematician and civil engineer
Charles Lyell Scottish scientist, founder of modern geology
Charles Delucena Meigs American obstetrician
Charles Karsner Mills American neurologist
Charles Wright Mills American sociologist
Charles Sanders Peirce American chemist, mathematician, philosopher,
Charles E. de M. Sajous American endocrinologist and laryngologist
Charles Sims (mathematician) American mathematician
Charles Hazelius Sternberg American fossil collector, involved in the Bone Wars
Charles Mortram Sternberg son of above, also a fossil collector and paleontologist
Charles Tilly American sociologist
Charles Doolittle Walcott American paleontologist and Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
Charles E. Wyman Chair of the Ford Motor Company and professor of chemistry
Charles Thomson Rees Wilson Scottish physicist


Aviation and Aerospace
  • Charles Lindbergh, first person to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean
  • Chuck Yeager, American test pilot and first man to break the sound barrier
Entrepreneurs and businessmen
Military personnel
  • Charles Upham, most-decorated Commonwealth serviceman of World War Two

Fictional characters

  • Charles "Chuck" Bass, a character in the American television series Gossip Girl
  • Charles Deetz, a character in the 1988 American fantasy comedy movie Beetlejuice
  • Charles "Chuck" McGill, a character in the American television series Better Call Saul
  • Charles “Charlie” St. George, a character in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why
  • Charles "Monty" Burns, a character in the animated television series The Simpsons
  • Charles, the main character in the American sitcom television series Charles in Charge
  • Dr. Charles Lowell, a character in the American sitcom television series Kate & Allie
  • Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, a character in the TV series M*A*S*H

Other uses of the name

See also


  1. ^ "Charles". Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  2. ^ T. F. Hoad, English Etymology, Oxford University Press, 1993 (ISBN 0-19-283098-8). p. 76.
  3. ^ Pokorny, Julius; G. Starotsin; A. Lubotsky (2007). Proto-Indo-European Etymological Dictionary: a Revised Edition of Julius Pokorny's Indogermanicshes Etymologisches Wörterbuch. Indo-European Language Association. pp. 1192–1193.
  4. ^ Keber, janez (1988). Leksikon imen. Celje: Mohorjeva družba. p. 152.
  5. ^ Taufbuch. Brdo. 1862–1886. p. 34. Retrieved November 10, 2022.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  6. ^ E. Förstemann, Altdeutsches Namenbuch (1856), s.v. 'Carl' (303).
  7. ^ "Charles". Behind the Name. Retrieved 16 February 2023.
  8. ^ "Caroline". Behind the Name. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Charlotte". Behind the Name. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  10. ^ Hanks, Patrick; Hardcastle, Kate; Hodges, Flavia (2006). "Caroline". Oxford Reference. Oxford. doi:10.1093/acref/9780198610601.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-861060-1. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Carla". Behind the Name. Retrieved 12 April 2017.