Mystery Monday: Ottolengo

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 of those names where it feels like we should recognize it, but we don’t. We’ve got two examples (two different variant spellings) of it from the same collection of Latin records from Genoa in 1376, and a bit of sleuthing around reveals it also as the surname of a German rabbi,
Joseph Ottolengo, who was given permission in 1558 by Cardinal Madruzzo to print Hebrew books in Trento (neat!). The prototheme Otto is well-known; but just what is the deuterotheme?


If you have any thoughts or ideas, or any other neat stories about German Jewish printers, please share in the comments!



Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

4 responses to “Mystery Monday: Ottolengo

  1. Brian M. Scott

    According to various sources, Joseph Ottolengo’s surname also appears in the forms Otolengo, Ottling, Oetling, Otelingo, Ettllingen, and Ettling. According to the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia he was from Ettlingen in Germany, and I expect that Ottolengo is an Italian adaptation of the German place-name.

    Otolengo also appears in a number of early modern accounts as the name of a place in Brescia; it appears that this is the comune Gottolengo, whose name is Otalènch in the local dialect.

    While the idionym of Otolengo de Auria could conceivably derive from the Brescian place-name, that’s not the most attractive kind of explanation. My first thought on seeing the name was the Italian camerlengo ‘chamberlain’, which is ultimately from a compound of Latin camera ‘room, chamber’ and the Gmc. nominal suffix -ling. Similarly, Ot(t)olengo could easily be a northern Italian form of a Gmc. Otto diminutive in -ling.

    My only concern is that I found two other people named Ot(t)orengo, Ottorengo Doria in 1335 and an undated Otorengo from documents of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the archives of the archbishop of Ravenna, and I have no idea whether rhotacization of /l/ is attested in that dialect area.

  2. Jörg Knappen

    I’d analyse the name as follows: Otto+ l (extension) + ing (patronymic suffix)

    The older name form Odeling (9th century) is noted with this analysis in Förstemann (1900).

  3. In Galicia and Portugal there is a name attested until the 12th century, Froaringus/Fralengo, which Piel & Kremmer (Hispano-gotisches Namenbuch §104.4, §398) interpret as a composite of *frawjô- (lord) + *hringaz (ring).

  4. There seems to be decent evidence for -ling being a suffix in its own right in some Germanic languages. According to an entry on page 267 of The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (which I happen to have to hand!), in OE it was used ‘to denote a person concerned with’ or ‘a person having the quality implied’. Perhaps more relevant here is that in ME -ling often had a diminutive force, perhaps stemming from the sense of the ON suffix -lingr. So, building on Jörg’s suggestion, maybe the recorded names goes back to one meaning “little Otto”?

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