masc. proper name, from German Bernhard, literally "bold as a bear," from Old High German bero "bear" (see bear (n.)) + harti "hard, bold, strong" (from PIE root *kar- "hard"). Saint Bernard (1091-1153) was the famous Cistercian monk; the breed of Alpine mastiff dogs is said to have been so called from early 18c. (in English by 1839), because the monks of the hospice named for him in the pass of St. Bernard (between Italy and Switzerland) sent them to rescue snowbound travelers.
updated on November 19, 2021