What are some of the biggest differences in naming patterns between two periods in the history of English?
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Perhaps the greatest shift in English naming patterns, as with the English language as a whole, occurred in the wake of the Norman conquests. With the Battle of Hasting in 1066, French speaking conquerers became the rulers of Germanic speaking (Anglo-Saxon) Britain, and brought with them a series of French names for both people and things. Many of the new French aristocrats brought with them French first names and family names. William, Robert, and Richard are among the French first names that become common in England after the Norman conquest. The typically Scottish family name Sinclair, for example, is a contract of the French Saint Clair.
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