The Name David

Everyone Else Thinks It Means ‘Beloved’…

From: The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, by Donald Attwater. Thanks to Jim Higgins for forwarding this info.

DAVID, or DEWI, abbot-bishop. Sixth century; f.d. 1 March. The name of the patron saint of Wales was Dewi, of which David is the English approximation. According to his legend he was son of a Cardigan chieftain, Sant, and a St Non; he founded twelve monasteries, from Croyland to Pembrokeshire; he went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and was there consecrated bishop; he took a principal part in two councils, at Brefi in Cardigan and at Caerleon; at the first of these he was recognized as primate of Wales in place of St Dubricius, and moved the see from Caerleon to Mynyw (Menevia, Saint David’s), where he died. Most of this, and more, depends on a Life written c. 1090, whose author was concerned to uphold the claim of the Welsh bishopric to be independent of Canterbury; very little reliance can be put on the document.

St David may have been born at Henfynw in Cardigan; his principal monastery, where he presided as abbot-bishop, was certainly at the place now called Saint David’s in Pembrokeshire. The community was extremely strict, and David was known traditionally as `the Waterman’, meaning perhaps that he and his monks were teetotallers. There are over fifty ancient David dedications and place names, all in South Wales and very numerous in the south-west corner; there are also dedications in Devon, Cornwall, and Brittany. Several Irish saints are stated to have been pupils of St David or to have visited Mynyw, and he seems to have had some influence on monastic developments in Ireland. The association of leeks with St David’s day (e.g. in Shakespeare’s Henry V, IV, 1) has not been satisfactorily explained; his emblem is a dove.

A. W, Wade-Evens, Life of St David (1923).