Rhiannon Name Meaning & Origin


Pronunciation: ree-AH-nən (key)

Origin of the name Rhiannon:

Borrowed from the Welsh, Rhiannon is an ancient Celtic name of uncertain derivation. Some believe it to be derived from the Old Celtic Rigantona (great queen). The name, which is borne in Celtic Mythology by a goddess of fertility, was not used as a given name until the 20th century. Its popularity outside Wales is due in large part to the song "Rhiannon" by the rock group Fleetwood Mac.

From A World of Baby Names by Teresa Norman.

Related Names:

Rhi, Rhian, Riannon

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Meanings and history of the name Rhiannon

Rhiannon means “Divine Queen.” (NOT “Great Queen”)
Rhi / Ri= ruler, queen, king. The suffix –on = divinity, is found in other names.

Name day/ festival: May Eve, April 31 - May 1st, festival of lovers, unions, contracts.

There are two older goddesses associated with Rhiannon. Both have the divine ending -on.
1) Rigantona. Her name has the same two elements. Old Celtic. No other info.
2) Epona. She, like Rhiannon, has images of riding calmly on a large horse, or mothering young horses. Epona also carries a basket of food (fruits) which links to Rhiannon’s story.
Her festival is Dec. 18 (note Rhiannon is linked to May Day).
Epona was unusual as Celtic deities were normally local only, but she spread right across Europe, with the Roman cavalry, who were mainly Celts.
Rhiannon can also be linked with the Irish Macha, and the Morrigan.

Rhiannon is NOT a “goddess of fertility” as she does not link to farming or harvest. She is the Sun, arrayed in blazing gold. She loves money, she is generous with her gifts, and also gives great parties (feasts) with an abundance of good food. She was famous for patronising poets, musicians, and entertainers; her Birds (Adar Rhiannon) were the sweetest singers ever heard.
Rhiannon loves all lovers, strongly supporting women's freedom to choose in all ways, and she makes careful, wise choices in her men. She strengthens loyal marriages, and loves all family celebrations. She understands widows as she was one, and she supports the challenges and delights of second marriage. She got on well with her daughter-in law.
Rhiannon is an expert adviser on the law, and contracts, a ruthless negotiator.
She is a powerful Mother Goddess, of human and animal young, especially horses, mares, foals. Her own horse is large and shining pale: she rides calmly and slowly like a meditation, not allowing any rush and bustle to harass her.
Through her three Birds (Adar Rhiannon) she is a healer especially PTSD, bringing peace of mind, or waking the depressed to active life.

The song "Rhiannon" is by Stevie Nix, 1975, who sang it with the rock group Fleetwood Mac. It is through this song that the name spread outside Wales.


Rhiannon rode past the ancient mound of Arberth, a mysterious veiled woman on a great noble, pale horse. Neither the mighty Prince of Dyfed nor his men on the best horses could reach her although she rode calmly and slowly.Eventually he begged her to stop for him and she did, telling him she loved him. At their wedding he mistakenly agreed to a newcomer’s request for a favour; but the man was Rhiannon’s previous betrothed and promptly demanded her back! To preserve honour the prince had to agree, but by following Rhiannon’s clever plan, they avoided disaster, and were happily married. The tale is clear that Rhiannon enjoyed her wedding night.
They had a baby son, but the infant disappeared that night. Rhiannon’s maids, terrified of blame, smeared her with puppy blood in her sleep, and said she killed her own child. Rhiannon did years of penance. She had to tell her story to all strangers at the gates of Arberth, and offer to carry them on her back as a horse - something that made people talk about her story. Her husband always stood by her loyally as she sat by him as queen in the royal hal each night.
Spreading the tale was good publicity as the child was found (another great story); and the family reunited. Rhiannon named him Pryderi meanng her anxiety.
The great prince Pwyll in due course died peacefully, and Pryderi the son became prince. Rhiannon chose to marry his best friend Manawydan, a clever man who extricated her and her son, from the revenge of Rhiannon’s old lover.
Rhiannon has three birds, Adar Rhiannon, who may be far away, but will seem nearby. They can wake the dead (dawn chorus?) and usefully for mothers, sing the living to sleep. She sent them to comfort her son when he was returning from a ghastly war when almost everyone he knew had died. He stayed in this healing enchantment with a few friends, and her Birds for seven years.

Famous real-life people named Rhiannon

Rhiannon Lassiter, English writer
Rhiannon Leigh Wryn, American child actress
Rhiannon Elizabeth Rodriguez, daughter of director Robert Rodriguez
Rhiannon Fish, Australian Actress
Rhiannon Giddens, Ireland singer

Rhiannon in song, story & screen

# c1100, Rhiannon's story compiled as part of the Mabinogi, the earliest prose stories of Britain (probably Europe). The tales were drawn from oral tradition.
# c1250, Rhiannon in mediaeval manuscript, the earliest known. Her full story in two more, c1350, c1400. Can be found online to look at the manuscript.
# 1799, Rhiannon in print for the first time, in the 'Cambrian Register.' Part story only. Can be found online see the Mabinogi Bibliography.
# READ 1838-49 "The Mabinogion" Rhiannon's story published in full for the first time in modern book form by an astounding Victorian lady Charlotte Guest. Illustrated. Online text see the Mabinogi Bibliography.
# 1930 "Birds of Rhiannon: A Grove Play," Waldemar Young.
# 1953 "Rhiannon" academic mythology book, William John Gruffydd. Muddled, illogical, but interesting in places.
# LISTEN 1976 "Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win)," song by Stevie Nix, Fleetwood Mac. Stevie has said she knew nothing of the real Rhiannon when she made her extraordinary song, but it expresses Rhiannon very well. On youtube.
# READ 1972 "The Song of Rhiannon, novel by Evangeline Walton, feminist fantasy interpretation. Republished in "The Mabinogion Tetralogy" 2012.
# WATCH/ LISTEN 1983 "The Mabinogi" play staged outdoors at Caernarvon Castle, Moving Being: with music by Robin Williamson (Incredible String Band) See excellent video youtube posted by Kington Steve, followed by Pryderi's Lament (her son) which also includes a little view of Rhiannon.
# 2008 "The Magnificent Mabinogi" play by Manon Eames, superb, but sadly no video.

-Rhiannon is a 16-year-old main character in the novel 'Every Day', by David Levithan.

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