masc. proper name, from Latin Stephanus, from Greek Stephanos, from stephanos "crown, wreath, garland, chaplet; crown of victory," hence "victory, prize, honor, glory," properly "that which surrounds;" also used of the ring of spectators around a fight or the wall of a town, from stephein "to encircle, crown, wreathe, tie around," from PIE root *stebh- "post, stem; place firmly on, fasten" (see step (v.)).
Exclusively a monk's name in Old English, it became common after the Conquest. Saint Stephen, stoned to death, was said to be Christianity's first martyr. Stephen (and the older pronunciation of nephew, still maintained) were said to be the only cases where English -ph- isn't pronounced as /f/.
updated on May 18, 2019