Mystery Monday: Zozbald

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

Today’s name feels like it comes straight out of Dr. Seuss, but in fact it comes from 9th C Hamburg. The deuterotheme is easily enough identifiable — Old High German/Old Saxon bald ‘bold’. But does anyone recognize the prototheme? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Zozbald

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Publication of Edition 2016 no. 3

We’re pleased to announce the publication of edition 2016 no. 3 of the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources, after a slight delay caused by needing to switch servers as we used all 1.2m inodes on our previous virtual machine. (If you notice any issues with the new website, please let us know.)

The new edition contains 1974 entries with 47392 citations (an average of 24 per entry, but of course this doesn’t reflect the actual distribution, which is closer to Zipf’s Law). This edition contains 55 new masculine names: Alfsy, Barnabas, Conbert, Erasmus, Eyvind, Finnian, Frederius, Frotmund, Giambono, Herrich, Hippolytus, Honest, Honor, Honorat, Humiliosus, Isbrand, Isnard, Lamond, Landbald, Langward, Lauger, Lautard, Leander, Lefchild, Lefsy, Lefward, Leif, Lelio, Lothar, Mirko, Osulf, Peter-Anthony, Procopius, Reinulf, Santiago, Sasso, Saulf, Savaric, Seaborn, Sforza, Siclebert, Siclebald, Tudor, Vigil, Volkward, Walerard, Walrich, Werwald, Willo, Winsy, Wulfbald, Wulfgis, Wulfrich, Wulfsy, and Zawissius; and 26 new feminine names: Amelia, Chloe, Guimar, Hesperia, Hildegilde, Hildelinde, Jocosa, Laria, Lautilde, Leah, Lella, Odine, Ottabona, Proxima, Samanilde, Sassa, Seconda, Sehild, Sica, Siclebalda, Siclehilde, Sicleramna, Sicletrude, Sidonia, Willberna, and Zbincza.

With this edition we have greatly expanded our coverage of Wales, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, adding many new sources and many new names for each of these countries. We have also added our first citations from Romania (an example of Charles) and Slovenia (examples of Berthold, Conrad, Reynard, Rudolf, and William).

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Aristotle on the meaning of proper names

One perhaps conspicuous absence in any Dictionary entry is the ‘meaning’ of the name. Instead, we provide a linguistic etymology, identifying the root words or elements that were used in constructing the name. This is because, semantically, proper names do not function in the same way that ordinary nouns do. What, exactly, is the semantic function of proper names, and how this function develops and differs from ordinary nouns, is something that interests linguists and philosophers alike, and the answers are by no means clear. What is clear is that the semantic function of proper nouns does differ from that of common names, and this is clear by looking at how one and the same string of sounds is understood in different ways whether it is used as a name or a noun. We do not expect every Heather we meet to be green and bushy, nor every Thomas to be a twin, despite the linguistic etymologies of both these names, and even the current use of the word heather in English to refer to a green, bushy plant.

This fact — that the semantic origins of the elements do not carry over to the semantic meaning of the compound — is articulated at least as far back as Aristotle. In On Interpretation, Aristotle considers the case of the proper name Κάλλιππος, a crasis of Ancient Greek καλός ‘beautiful, fair’ and ἵππος ‘horse’. He points out that:

In fact, in ‘Κάλλιππος’, ‘ἵππος’ indicates nothing by itself, as it does in the phrase ‘καλός ἵππος’ [1].

Thus, “evidently what is indicated by ‘ἵππος’ does not contribute directly to the signification of the word ‘Κάλλιππος’; for, when someone does makes an assertion about ‘Κάλλιππος’, she only has a man — Κάλλιππος — in mind and nothing related to horses or fairness” [2].

For modern parents, the semantic meanings of the linguistic elements that contribute to a proper name are often an important factor in the choice of name — which is why every baby name book you pick up lists each name’s “meaning”. But this emphasis on the importance of the meanings of the linguistic roots of proper names is a relatively modern feature. The medieval parents of Hildefrid wouldn’t have chosen the name because it derives from Germanic elements meaning “battle” and “peace” (a nearly nonsensical combination!). Names were generally given to honor a saint or a relative, because they recombine elements of the parents’ name, because of local practices, rather than because of the semantic origins of the elements from which the name is constructed [3].

Notes

[1] Cited in Ana-María Mora-Márquez, The Thirteenth-Century Notion of Signification: The Discussions and Their Origin and Development, (Leiden: Brill, 2015), p. 119.

[2] ibid.

[3] The rise of virtue names in the 16th C is a distinct and noteworthy exception to this general rule.

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Mystery Monday: Yentadona

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

Today our name is a feminine Italian name:
Yentadona
We actually have a number of examples of this name from this particular source, but haven’t found it in any other context. Do you recognize it? Have you found any other examples? Let us know!

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Mystery Monday: Wikerun

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

Today’s name is one for the Anglo-Saxonists — what is the Old English root of this Latinized Middle English name? And do we have the right standardized form (which, at this point, is pretty much just a guess based on gut feeling and intuition, and not anything substantive).
Wikerun
Let us know what you think!

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Gearing up for the next edition

Things have been quiet around here on the blog as we’ve spent much of June gearing up for the next edition, which we hope to have out any day now. Frustratingly, something that used to work — Punic and Phoenician fonts — now no longer seems to work across all browsers and platforms, so our technical guru has been working on trouble shooting this, and we will delay the next edition until we have things sorted out.

Recently we did a bit of number crunching looking at the distribution of citations across centuries, to see where our sources skew towards. Not surprisingly, the bulk of our citations come from the 16th century, and for the most part, the earlier you go, the fewer citations we have. One curious exception is the 15th century: For reasons we don’t entirely understand yet, we have fewer 15th C citations than from each of the three preceding centuries. Here you can take a look at the numbers:
century stats
The blocks in blue indicate the number of citations from that century which will be included in the next edition; the pink blocks indicate the number of citations that still need to be reviewed for inclusion (most of them are currently omitted due to the entries that they would be included in needing to be written). Our database currently has over 55,000 entries, and it’s pleasing to see that the vast majority of them we have successfully identified. The remainder, though, are often hapax legomena, and some of them may prove to be intractable. The etymological origins of ordinary hapax legomena can often be at least partially determined with the help of context; the special semantic status of proper names means that that technique is not available. We will try to be as optimistic about these names as we can, but at some point we are going to have to start putting entries into the dictionary whose etymology is “uncertain” or in worse cases “unknown”. Luckily, with publishing online, we are always able to revise in the future when new information comes to light!

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An onomastic calendar: June

  • June 1: Anne Boleyn was crowned queen of England in 1533.
  • June 2: Richilda of Provence died in 910.
  • June 3: Peter Abelard was condemned as a heretic in 1141.
  • June 4: Adela of Champagne died in 1206.
  • June 5: Saint Boniface was murdered in Frisia in 754.
  • June 6: Gustav I of Sweden was elected king in 1523.
  • June 7: Robert the Bruce died in 1329.
  • June 8: Italian poet Gabriello Chiabrera was born in 1552.
  • June 9: Irish saint and missionary Columba died in 597.
  • June 10: Frederick Barbarossa drowned crossing a river in 1190.
  • June 11: Blessed Yolanda of Poland died in 1298.
  • June 12: Cosimo dei Medici was born in 1519.
  • June 13: Wat Tyler led the Peasant’s Revolt into London in 1381.
  • June 14: Orlande de Lassus, Flemish painter, died in 1594.
  • June 15: Lisa del Giocondo was born in 1479.
  • June 16: Saint Lutgardis died in 1246.
  • June 17: Bolesław I the Brave died in 1025.
  • June 18: Painter Rogier van der Weyden died in 1464.
  • June 19: Saint Juliana Falconieri died in 1341.
  • June 20: Blessed Margareta Ebner died in 1351.
  • June 21: Leonhard Rauwolf was born in 1535 and Leonardo Loredan died in 1521.
  • June 22: Saint Alban was martyred, in an uncertain year between around 209 and 304.
  • June 23: Saint Æþelðryþe died in 679.
  • June 24: Philippa Hainault was born in 1314.
  • June 25: Eleanor of Provence died in 1291.
  • June 26: Roman emperor Julian died in 363.
  • June 27: The martyrdom of Crescens is celebrated.
  • June 28: Charlotte queen of Cyprus was born in 1444.
  • June 29: Abel, king of Denmark, died in 1252.
  • June 30: Saint Theobald of Provins died in 1066.

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