Meaning and Origin of the Name Bernard

Bernard is a very strong masculine name that comes from Germany. Roughly translated the meaning of Bernard is bear-hardy which is actually interpreted to mean brave as a bear. Today it is largely translated as strong and brave. The first part of the name, Bern, actually is the old West Germanic word for bear.

The Normans originally used the name, but when they immigrated into England they brought the name with them. Soon thereafter the name Bernard replaced the Old English name Beornheard which was used similarly.

Famous People with the Name

Throughout history many saints were given the name Bernard including Saint Bernard of Clairvaux who was a Doctor of the Church and theologian in the 12th century. Another famous saint was Saint Bernard of Menthon who constructed Swiss Alps hospices during the 10th century. Irish essayist George Bernard Shaw also holds the name.

Other famous Bernards include Bernard Gallacher (the Scottish Golfer), Bernard Manning (English comedian), and Bernard Cornwell (English author).

Variation in the name Bernard

Common nicknames for the name Bernard include Bernie, Barney, and Berny.


The popularity of Bernard over the past few decades has fallen and is now not one of the top 100 baby boy names in England.

Useful Resources

  • See meaning and popularity of other boys’ names on our website