Vortigern is the name of a British warlord in 5th century Britain, though he’s an obscure figure and there’s not much known about him. He did invite the Saxons (Hengist and Horsa) to Britain in order to fight against the Picts and the Scots, eventually leading to the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain; there have been various portrayals of him as a villain, a weak-willed man unable to stop the Saxon invasion from occurring, and routinely depicted as a villainous figure; however, it seems these accounts were written by his enemies so whether they are true or not, or how much of those stories are true, is up for debate.
Vortigern also features in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s accounts of The History of the Kings of Britain, a supposed history of the kings of Britain beginning with the Trojan hero Brutus (the great grandson of the Greek hero Aeneas) leading up to the coming of King Arthur. Although Vortigern is dead by the time of Arthur’s appearance, modern interpretations of the Arthurian stories occasionally portray him as an enemy of Arthur and Merlin.
As for the name itself, it seems to have been used as a title or byname rather than his actual given name. The second element of the name comes from Proto-Celtic *tigernos (lord, ruler, master, chief) while the first part of the name seems to come from Proto-Celtic *uɸor-, *wor- meaning “over, super”, so Vortigern would essentially mean “chief lord” or “supreme ruler”.
Origin: Proto-Indo-European, proto-Celtic
- Gwrtheyrn (Welsh)
- Foirtchern (Irish)
- Vortigernus (Latin)
- Vertigernus (Latin)
- Guorthigirn (Old Welsh)
- Guorthegern (Old Welsh)