The ‘elements’ of names: Earth

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a set of themed posts on this blog! They’re a lot of fun to write, but sometimes less fun to think up themes for (hint, hint, if you have any suggestions, leave them in a comment and we’ll see what we can do!). But we recently thought of a neat theme — the four elements! Earth, air, fire, water, the foundations of medieval metaphysical and physical theories…In what ways do they turn up in personal names?

The element for this post is ‘earth’: Earth, dust, dirt, ground, mud, clay, soil, etc. While we do not want to argue in this series of posts that medieval metaphysical and physical theories had any influence on what peopled named their children — that is almost certainly not the case — the one name that we can showcase for this element is actually one with a connection to the element itself: Adam derives from a Hebrew word for red clay or soil, which is purportedly what God made the first man from. Adam was never an exceptionally popular name in medieval Europe; but it was also never an entirely unpopular name. We have examples of it from the Czech Republic, England (from the 12th C on; it predates the later fads for Biblical names), Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Low Countries, Scotland, Sweden, Ukraine, and Wales — a pretty widespread distribution geographically, and also temporally as our examples range from the 8th to the 16th C. (Many of the early examples are the names of priests.)

Next post: air!

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Mystery Monday: Nemfidius

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 a masculine name from 11th C France, recorded in Latin. The Latin form of the name makes it tempting to render the second half of it as relating to Latin fidius ‘more faithful’; but that leaves us without any way of explaining nem, which makes it rather wishful thinking.

Nemfidius

Do you have any thoughts about the origin of the name? Any other examples of it? Please share in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Masoeytta

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 a feminine name recorded in Latin in late 13th or early 14th C Bergamo. It’s a strange name because that central vowel cluster — oey — is definitely atypical. (In our 66,000+ citations, we have only one other instance of this cluster, in an Old French form of Louis). But the rest of the name doesn’t give us many clues to go on either — -etta is an Italian hypocoristic suffix, found in Angeletta and Bonetta, and more commonly in the masculine form -etto; and Italian forms of Thomas and Thomasse can be truncated to Maso- or Masa-, with further diminutive suffices added. So it’s possibly that Masoeytta is the result of truncating Thomasia or Thomasa and then adding -etta, but where is the -y- coming from? And why is it -o- instead of -a-?

We have no idea. Do you? Got any hypotheses about how to explain these interloping vowels? Please share in the comments!

Masoeytta

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Announcement: Publication of Edition 2018, no. 1

We’re pleased to announce the publication of our first edition of 2018, now available (well, available since last night, but we’ve been traveling since then!) at www.dmnes.org. This edition has 21 new masculine names and 14 new feminine names (the full list of new entries in this edition is below), as well as many revised and updated entries – a total of 2267 entries with 56889 citations between them.

We haven’t pushed the temporal boundaries at all – no new citations earlier than our current earliest citation – but we’ve pushed the geographical ones: This edition is the first one to have any examples of European names from North Africa! (We talked about them in a post here). We’ve also increased our representation of names from Switzerland, with a selection of 15th century charters in Latin, French, and German, showing the same count of Gruyère being recorded variously as Franciscus, Francey, and Frantz. The French form is particularly interesting, because it is not a typical French spelling (that would be Francois); it clearly is showing the influence of the Swiss German diminutive construction in -i.

Thanks to the dedication of our Hungarian expert, we’ve added many more citations from Hungary, including many interesting diminutive forms, while another of our editorial team has been working through the registers of the Walloon Church at Canterbury, providing another dimension to the multiculuturalism of 16th century England.

So here are the new names in this edition! Have a fun browsing them, and the rest of the names, here. Let us know in the comments which of the new names is your favorite!

Masculine names

Adalward
Ado
Ago
Alinbert
Betto
Bonjohn
Contaminat
Crispus
Gibeon
Giselfrid
Giso
Helmbert
Peter-Angel
Peter-Paul
Reinbrand
Rene
Sichaus
Theodram
Waldefrid
Waldegaud
Waldeger

Feminine names

Alinhilde
Cassia
Dada
Gaucia
Gerhelma
Hartois
Hessa
Lena
Malitia
Paloma
Renee
Severina
Waldegilde
Waldehilde

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Mystery Monday: Lancenna

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 a feminine name found in France in the first half of the 12th century. We have a number of examples (all in reference to the same woman as far as we can tell) between around 1147 and 1179, all spelled Lancenna or Lanscenna. It is probably of Germanic origin, with the most likely candidate for the prototheme being Old High German lant, Old Saxon land ‘land’, which becomes lanzo, lanc- in hypocoristics.

But the deuterotheme? We have no idea.

Do you have any thoughts? Have you seen this name before? Please share in the comments!

Lancenna

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How medieval is “Your Medieval Name”?

There’s a meme (due to www.abbeytournament.com) that’s been circulating around Facebook sporadically recently, allowing people to generate their “medieval name” according to their day. You’ve probably seen it:
Your Medieval Name
The first time it came up in a group that a couple DMNES staff are members of — a group not devoted to either the Middle Ages or to names — one editorial assistant put out a cry for “HALP”, and another swooped in with documentation. Now every time that meme comes around, we’re reminded of that thread, and finally decided to make a blog post out of it!

So, how medieval is “Your Medieval Name”? Actually, pretty medieval!

The feminine names are almost all good solid choices for late medieval England or France:

  • Milicent – Yes, medieval!
  • Alianor – Yes, medieval!
  • Ellyn – Yes, medieval!
  • Sybbyl – Yes, medieval!
  • Jacquelyn – Yes, medieval!
  • Catherine – Yes, medieval!
  • Elizabeth – Yes, medieval!
  • Thea – Possibly medieval but we’ve not found any evidence for it yet.
  • Lucilla – Sort of medieval: R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright, The Roman Inscriptions of Britain I: Inscriptions on Stone — Epigraphic Indexes (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1983), RIB 1288 and 1271, note one Iulia Lucilla in a first- to fourth-century British inscription (in this name, Lucilla appears as a cognomen), and another Romano-British inscription mentioning a woman known only as [L]ucilla.
  • Mary – Yes, medieval!
  • Arabella – Yes, medieval: E.G. Withycombe, The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988). s.n. Arabel(la) has a 13th C Latin example of the name.
  • Muriel – Yes, medieval: A variety of forms can be found in P.H. Reaney & R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames (London: Routledge, 1991).
  • Isabel – Yes, medieval!
  • Angmar – Um, no.
  • Isolde – Yes, medieval!
  • Eleanor – Yes, medieval!
  • Josselyn – Yes, medieval, but not as a feminine name.
  • Margaret – Yes, medieval!
  • Luanda – Um, no.
  • Ariana – Not medieval: It’s a modern Italian form of the Greek name Ariadne, found in mythology, and in the Greek and Byzantine empires.
  • Clarice – Yes, medieval!
  • Idla – Possibly medieval. It appears that this googlebook has a Polish example of the name, but we have not been able to get more than a snippet view, to be able to confirm the date and context.
  • Claire – Yes, medieval!
  • Rya – Um, no.
  • Joan – Yes, medieval!
  • Clemence – Yes, medieval!
  • Morgaine – Yes, medieval, but only used in literature, and not by real people.
  • Edith – Yes, medieval!
  • Nerida – Definitely not.
  • Ysmay – Yes, medieval: Withycombe (op. cit.) has an example of this spelling.

The masculine names don’t fare quite so well.

  • Ulric – Yes, medieval!
  • Baird – Yes, medieval, but only as a surname, not as a given name. It is derived from Old French baiard or baiard ‘bay-colored’.
  • Henry – Yes, medieval!
  • Oliver – Yes, medieval
  • Fraden – Possibly medieval, but only as a surname, not as a given name.
  • John – Yes, medieval!
  • Geoffrey – Yes, medieval!
  • Francis – Yes, medieval!
  • Simon – Yes, medieval!
  • Fendel – Not medieval to my knowledge, either as a given name or a surname.
  • Frederick – Yes, medieval!
  • Thomas – Yes, medieval!
  • Arthur – Yes, medieval!
  • Cassius – More Roman than medieval.
  • Richard – Yes, medieval!
  • Matthew – Yes, medieval!
  • Charles – Yes, medieval!
  • Reynard – Yes, medieval!
  • Favian – Sort of medieval, if you take it as a variant of Fabian.
  • Philip – Yes, medieval!
  • Zoricus – Not medieval to our knowledge, but it could possibly turn up at some point in future research.
  • Carac – Not medieval
  • Sadon – Not medieval
  • Alistair – Medieval, but not as the nominative form of the name, only as the genitive.
  • Caine – Yes, medieval, but only as a surname, not as a given name.
  • Gawain – Yes, medieval!
  • Godfrey – Yes, medieval!
  • Mericus – More Roman than medieval.
  • Rowley – Yes, medieval, but only as a surname, not as a given name.
  • Brom – Yes, medieval, but only as a surname, not as a given name.
  • Cornell – Yes, medieval, but only as a surname, not as a given name.

All the surnames are fine for 14th-16th C English, except these:

  • Cabrera – This is Spanish, and would only have been used by women; the masculine form is Cabrero.
  • Coastillon – Not quite sure what this is but it looks like a misspelling of some French place name.

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Mystery Monday: Kolda

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 a 14th C feminine name found in the Czech Republic. These names are always fun because the open up possible Slavic influences — either at the level of influencing the spelling of Germanic-based names, or in providing names native to the Slavic name stock. We’re not sure which is the case here:

Kolda

Do you have any thoughts about its origin? Any other examples of the name? Please share in the comments!

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