Mystery Monday: Jorath

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 from Switzerland, where we have a few examples from a single source. Anyone come across this name before? Have any thoughts on its origin?
Jorath

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Mystery Monday: Jorath

  1. Dutch

    Yes, I once came across this name, written as Yorath. It is Welsh. The meaning is ‘handsome lord; handsome prince.’

  2. Jörg Knappen

    I doubt that the Anglised form of a Welsh name suddenly can pop up in medieval Switzerland. As far as I know the name did not show up in Arthurian Romance type of fiction that could be a medium of transport for rare names.

    It is plausible to assume a Germanic origin. The deuterotheme RATH is related to anglo-saxon RÆD/RED (as in Alfred). There are some candiates for protothemes to be mangled to Jo-; Foerstemann (1900, column 980 under Jo) including AIVA “law” and IVO “yew (tree)”. Also, EBUR be transformed to Jor-.

    • Yeah, it would be astonishing to see the Welsh name in Switzerland!

      Do you have examples of ebur becoming jor-? That would certainly be an unusual development.

      • Jörg Knappen

        The development is not that unheard of: The Ancient Roman city Eburacum (with a different name element Ebur- derived from Ancient Celtic meaning something like “gorge, ravine”) is called York today. The Germanic name element EBUR became Jörr in Old Norse. The general path of evolution is ebur > evur > eor > jor.

  3. Brian M. Scott

    The Petrus filius Jorat of Nr. 6 is presumably the same as Petrus, filius Joreth of Nr. 19 amongst the undated charters, and his father is apparently the Jurat de Lustrei of Nr. 5 (n.d.), the Jorez de Lustrey or Nr. 13 (n.d.), and the Joret de Lustrei of Nr. 71 (n.d.).

    It is probably worth noting that in some of these charters we also have the toponym Jorat (e.g., Nr. 68, 1271), formerly known in German as the Jurten. Hubschmied derived this from a Celtic topographic element, and it appears that his etymology (with minor variations) was quite widely accepted, but none of modern material on Continental Celtic place-name elements or Proto-Celtic mentions this element, so I don’t know the current thinking.

    Is there any evidence for the personal name anywhere else? Is it possible that we’re actually dealing with an original byname?

    I am skeptical of a derivation from OHG eβur (PGmc. eburaz); I’d want to see some parallel examples from the same linguistic area. It’s true that the corresponding ON prototheme is Jór- (though the noun itself became jǫfurr, a poetic term for ‘king, prince, chief’), but this is a characteristically North Gmc. development, and the sequence is something like *eβur- > *jovur- > jǫvur- > jór-, the first step being u-fracture of *e before *u in the next syllable. Back umlaut in OE produced the initial diphthong of OE eofor, but it was a falling diphthong, in contrast to the rising diphthong resulting from ON u-breaking. I’ve seen evidence of an occasional shift from falling to rising diphthong in some ME dialects (e.g., the Yorkshire place-name Yearsley, Eureslage 1086, Euereslei, -ley(a) 1176-1303, Euersle(gh), -ley 1204-1304, Yever(e)sley(e) 14th century, from *eoforeslēah), but this is too late and in the wrong place to be relevant. I can’t rule out a Gmc. etymology, but I’d want a different prototheme.

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