Doing research (question was also asked on The Latin StackExchange Website) I came across the name having a French origin meaning "bald". However, I also came across that the name has a connection to the word/name "Chauvin". Does the name Calvin etymology just mean bald as in, balding of the hair? Is/was there a deeper meaning such as being empty, bereft, or lacking substance? How does the name/word relate and/or manifest into Chauvin?

1 Answer 1


Calvin is indeed from the French, or further back from Latin calvus of the same meaning (cognate with calva skull as in "Calvary").

This epithet ended up becoming a family name. Family names in Europe started as a means to discriminate between different individuals of the same given name, and physical characteristics were one of the features used for that purpose. So "bald", "short", "long", "black" (referring to hair colour) are attributes used for this, and the bynames later became fixed family names. Those attributes are usually very plain and obvious; there is no need to interpret them in a deep way.

In French, the Latin root had changed pronunciation. The words are related to Chauvin by regular sound shifts in the French language (ka→tʃa→ʃa and alC→aʊC→oC→o). So Latin calv- had become French chauv- by John Calvin's time, but when the name was imported to English, the classical sounds were restored. They are etymologically the same word.

Of course, they have acquired rather different modern connotations: Calvinism is something completely different than chauvinism. And both Calvin Klein and Calvin and Hobbes have shaped a modern conception of "Calvin", maybe even more than the historical reformer.

  • Appreciate the response. I'm not too well versed in European Family name origins but was being bald considered an honor (in France, England, Ancient Rome)? Like would a family internally dub themselves "the balds" or "the family of "bald ones" or was that externally thrown on them, like a diss?
    – יהודה
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 11:11
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    They were mostly externally thrown on them, they are nicknames that stuck. Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 11:16
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    Calvus is also attested as a cognomen from the time of the Roman Republic, so I'd say "in Rome" rather than "in Europe" for that.
    – Draconis
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 14:51
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    Yes, but there is no direct line from Roman names to modern European names, in between was a period where people had only a single given name and no family name. Ah, we had a question related to that some time ago: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/29276/… Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 15:10

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