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This article is missing information about the etymology of "Bill". Please expand the article to include this information. Further details may exist on the talk page.(October 2015)
William is related to the given name Wilhelm (cf. Proto-Germanic*Wiljahelmaz > German Wilhelm and Old NorseVilhjálmr). By regular sound changes, the native, inherited English form of the name should be *Wilhelm as well (although the name is not actually attested in the history of English, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers to William the Conqueror as Willelm). That is a compound of two distinct elements : wil = "will or desire"; helm; Old English helm "helmet, protection"; > English helm "knight's large helmet".
In fact, the form William is from the Old Norman form Williame, because the English language should have retained helm. The development to -iam is the result of the diphthongation [ia?] + [m] in Old Norman-French, quite similar in Old Central French [ea?] + [m] from an early Gallo-Romance form WILLELMU. This development can be followed in the different versions of the name in the Wace's Roman de Rou.
The spelling and phonetics Wi- [wi] is a characteristic trait of the Northern French dialects, but the pronunciation changed in Norman from [wi] to [vi] in the 12th century (cf. the Norman surnames Villon and Villamaux "little William"), unlike the Central French and Southern Norman that turned the Germanic Wi- into Gui- [gwi] > [gi]. The Modern French spelling is Guillaume.
The first well-known carrier of the name was Charlemagne's cousin William of Gellone, a.k.a. Guilhelm, William of Orange, Guillaume Fierabrace, or William Short-Nose (755-812). This William is immortalized in the Chanson de Guillaume and his esteem may account for the name's subsequent popularity among European nobility.
According to Dutch legend, as recorded by Verstegan (1550 - 1640), William is originally derived from the Germanic name Gildhelm, meaning "golden helmet" and dates to Roman times. The name was later adapted as the more well known forms of "Wilhelm", and "Guillaume". Verstegen states that Gildhelm was a title of bravery awarded to a German for killing Roman soldiers in battle. The honored soldier was lifted on a shield and a golden helmet of a dead Roman soldier was placed upon his head, and the soldier was honored with the title "Gildhelm", or "golden helmet". With the French the title was Guildhaume, and Since Guillaume. Latin Guielmus "Helm" could also refer to the golden diadem or crown of a king as was common in the later days of the Roman empire.
The English "William" is taken from the Anglo-Norman language and was transmitted to England after the Norman Conquest in the 11th Century, and soon became the most popular name in England, along with other Norman names such as Robert (the English cognate was Hr?odbeorht), Richard, Roger (the English cognate was Hroðgar), Henry and Hugh (all of Germanic origin, transmitted through the Normans' use of Old French).
The name Wilkin is also of medieval origin taken from the shortened version of William (Will) with the suffix "kin" added.[better source needed]