Mystery Monday: Islana

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 an unusual one — a feminine name found in 14th C Münster, Germany, which is not an immediately recognizable saint’s name or clearly of Germanic origin. We have also extrapolated the header form, working from the general principle that “I” is more common than “Y”. Nevertheless, this is just a hypothesis at the moment, and we would welcome evidence showing that Yslana is a more suitable standardized form — or indeed, any information or further evidence concerning this name.


Do you recognize the name? Have any thoughts about it? Please share in the comments!


Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

4 responses to “Mystery Monday: Islana

  1. Brian M. Scott

    The name isn’t from Germany: it’s from the small community of Münster in Tirol, Austria.

    I can see only snippets via Google Books, but Robert von Planta & Andrea Schorta, Rätisches Namenbuch: Materialien, p. 171, has an entry for Islana with citations Jacobus domine Ysulane 1304, bonum domine Yslane1394, and coheret in bonis domine Islane 1418. Karl Finsterwalder, Tiroler Namenkunde: Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte von Personen-, Familien- und Hofnamen: mit einem Namenlexikon, p. 102, has what appears to be a discussion of an onomastic suffix -an-; I’ll quote what I can track down by creative snippeting:

    Die Flexion weiblicher Namen zeigt die gleiche Gestalt wie die Vorstufe der afrz. Formen auf -ain, die für FrNen und weibliche Lebewesen vorkommt, nämlich -anis, -ane, Gamillscheg RG, Bd. 1, S. 277, Bd. 2, S. 291. In den rätischen Urkunden sind nach Planta bei Helbok, S. 83, die Formen -anis, -ani, -anem für den 2., 3. und 4. Fall belegt (Kuen, Fs. für Jaberg 1937, 498). Noch bei Jecklin 1369 Letan filia = „Tochter der Aleta“ (Adelheid), Betan (Elisabeth) S. 66 und öfter; in den Quartinusurkunden von 827 (SlS 30, 162) wird der Frauenname Clauz (Claudia) als Clauzane gebeugt; „matri Kailane“ neben dem Frauennamen Keila i. J. 818 bei Schatz, Ab. Gr., S. 240; „domina Yslane“ FrN Ysla, bei GoC S. 177; bei Schorta, Müstair S. 8 der Name Barbla(= Barbara) flektiert als Barblane.

    It appears that Finsterwalder takes Yslane to be a Latin dative (3. Fall) from a name Ysla. Snippet view of Medieval Prosopography, Volume 6, Issue 1 – Volume 7, Issue 1, mentions an Islus, bishop of Toulouse, and indicates that this is a Latinization of a name Islo that was very rare in Aquitaine. He died in 986, and according to du Mège, Histoire des institutions religieuses, politiques, judiciaires et littéraires de la ville do Toulouse, vol. 3, p. 60, his name also appears as Isolus and Issolus. Wikipedia (with reference) notes another Islo, bishop of Saintes from 1000 to 1031. Claire Taylor, Heresy in Medieval France: Dualism in Aquitaine and the Agenais, 1000-1249, p. 39, mentions an Islo who was archbishop of Bordeaux from 1024 to 1027. Southern France is a long way from Austria, but the existence of a masculine Islo does support the possibility of a feminine Isla, and indeed Morlet I:148a has Isla from the Polyptyche d’Irminon, IX, 115. From BnF Gallica: Anstasius de precaria Acleverti, et uxor ejus colona, nomina Isla. She lists it and dithematic names in Is- under the prototheme ISARN ‘iron’. Of course -la and masculine -lo are diminutive suffixes.

  2. David V Houston

    Could it be a variant of G(h)islaine?

    • Jörg Knappen

      No, there is no reason for an initial G- to just disappear in a continental context. I agree that the prototheme is related to either IS “ice” or ISARN “iron”.

  3. Pingback: Looking into history: The ONS baby names data for Wales/England 2018 | Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources

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