Richard has been a popular boys name for centuries. It has been on the top ten names list since at least the 1300s.1
Being so old, Richard has picked up a long history of nicknames and perversions. It's best-known forms are Rich, Rick2 (or Ric) and Dick. In the 1200 through the 1400s, rhyming nicknames were common, so in addition to Dick we were also saddled with Hick -- now no longer in use as a nickname, but still present in our language as a term for an unworldly, back-country rube. Other forms of Richard have also been made into generic terms -- we have Richard Roe (the counterpart to John Doe), the phrase 'every Tom, Dick, and Harry', and Dick has become synonymous with 'jerk'.
Richard also gained the nickname Hudde (from the second syllable) in the north of England, which eventually gained the the suffix -son, becoming the source for the popular surname Hudson ('the son of Mr. Hudde'), and the related surnames of Hudd, Huddeson, Huddson, Hudeson, Hudsone, Huddy, and Hutson.
Originally, the name Richard came to Britain from France, entering Middle English as Rycharde. Following it back to Proto-Germanic it has its roots in rik, meaning "ruler" and harthu, meaning "hard." In modern times, this is usually translated as 'brave ruler' or 'strong ruler'.
1. In Europe in the 1300s, as far as we have recorded, the top ten boys names were: John, William, Richard, Robert, Thomas, Walter, Roger, Geoffrey, Henry, and Adam. Not much has changed over the centuries.
2. Rick is also a nickname for the unrelated name Eric.