Like all names, Walter and Bernhard have a meaning and a history, and it would be lazy not to explore them here! Much of this information is from Behind the Name, my favorite name site. The picture? Walter's introducing himself. :D
usage: English, German, Scandinavian, Polish
pronounced: WAWL-ter (English), VAHL-ter (German, Polish)
The name Walter comes from a Germanic name meaning ruler of the army, composed of the elements wald rule and heri army.
With his proud speech and strong presence, it's certainly possible to believe that Walter was a warrior of significant rank in life. Even as an undead, he wears heavy bronze armor (probably not what he used in life, considering the bat wing design), which would be an odd habit for a non-military man to adopt. At the very least, Walter has become the leader of an army of sorts, master of all the strange and dangerous creatures that inhabit the castle in Eternal Night.
In Poland, three name days are celebrated for the name Walter: May 2, June 5, November 29. The traditional feast day for the Catholic saint Walter of Pointoise is April 8. Incidentally, this is also my younger brother's birthday. :p
In many cultures there are first names associated with the days of the year. The associations between the days and the names have arisen through many reasons, but primarily because the church held a festival for a saint of that name on that day. [...] In some countries one's nameday is more important than one's birthday, and sometimes gifts are given. - from Behind the Name
Interestingly enough, the French-born saint Walter of Pointoise lived during the time period that Lament is set in; he died of natural causes in 1095, making it quite possible that he was alive in 1044. Pure coincidence, but still interesting. Walter was a reluctant abbot of the monastery at Pointoise; he fled twice, seeking a life of solitude, and even went to Rome to ask Pope Gregory VII for release from his position. He was advised to stay on and use his talents to help others, and obediently returned to his post. Walter is the patron saint of job-related stress, wine merchants, and prisoners.
The popularity of the name Walter in the USA has declined steadily since the beginning of the 20th century. Between 1900 and 1909, it was the 12th most popular name for boys; compare to 2007, where it is ranked 378. Interestingly enough, the name was popular for girls in the early 20th century, reaching a peak of rank 778 for births between 1920 and 1929!
Visitors of Behind the Name have assigned these traits to the name Walter: classic, mature, formal, upperclass, strong, refined, serious. These traits may supply a hint to the decline in the name's popularity, as many of today's popular masculine names in the USA are either edgy (Logan, Jayden, Tyler) or Biblical (Joshua, Noah, Jacob) in nature. Names that seem stuffy are out, at least for the moment. However, rank 378 for new births in a country as large as the US means there's still a LOT of Walters out there!
The name Bernhard is the German variant of the name Bernard, which is composed of two parts: bern bear and hard brave, hardy. This information is for the first name, but can be applied to the last name as well; the last name Bernard is simply a repurposing of the first name, so it seems reasonable to assume that we can apply the same rule to Bernhard.
Walter's armor and clothing are bold and make him appear large and imposing, especially the large shoulder "wings" and high collar. While this isn't exactly bearlike in appearance, we still get a sense of a powerful and intimidating man, almost larger than life. Walter appears to be a tall man (taller than Leon, anyway), which just adds to his presence.
As for bravery, if we assume that he was a military man in life, bravery is a natural part of the package. If we take the meaning "hardy" instead, it's interesting to note that one definition is "too bold" or "rash" - and Walter was quite bold in playing his cat-and-mouse game with humans, and rash in his decision to accept Mathias' suggestion of luring Leon into the game, a mistake which cost him his soul.
In Estonia and Sweden, August 20 is the name day for the first name Bernhard. The variant Bernard is also celebrated on August 20 in the Czech Republic and France, and on about ten other days in Poland. The name is shared by at least ten saints and may be most famous as the middle name of playwright George Bernard Shaw.
According to US census records, the popularity of the first name Bernhard is quite low; less than 1600 people in the US share this first name. Bernhard is slightly more "popular" as a last name, with just under 2800 people sharing the name.
If we cheat and look at the name Bernard instead, we find the same decline in popularity that the name Walter has suffered in the US since 1900. Peak popularity was as the 47th most popular name between 1920 and 1929, compared to rank 943 in 2007.