Mystery Monday: Rabela

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.

There aren’t many names where we have so little information we don’t even have a guess about gender. One advantage of Latin records is that quite often one can identify the gender of a person from the (linguistic) gender of their name; but this is not a fool-proof process since sometimes you get a man with a name that declines along feminine lines (and much much more rarely, the other way around). Today’s name is one that is linguistically feminine, but from the context it was not otherwise clear that the person bearing the name, recorded in 14th C Genoa, was a woman:


Do you have any thoughts? Please share in the comments!



Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

2 responses to “Mystery Monday: Rabela

  1. Brian M. Scott

    It’s a masculine name, at least in the case of Rabel(l)a de Grimaldis: I found this Acte de cession de biens féodaux entre le Seigneur Rabella de Grimaldis et le Seigneur Charles de Grimaldis, fait et redigé par M. Jacob de Laneriis de Castro, Notaire du S. R. Empire à Gênes, le quatorze mai mil trois cent quarante un. After a brief invocation it begins Dominus Rabella de Grimaldis natus q.m Domini Gabriellis, Militis, … .

    I suspect that the name is a variant of Rebella and is cognate with English rebel. Such names were definitely used in the Iberian peninsula: I was able to view a relevant entry in Lidia Becker, Hispano-romanisches Namenbuch: Untersuchung der Personnennamen vorrömischer, Griechischer und lateinisch-romanischer Etymologie auf der Iberischen Halbinsel im Mittelalter (6.-12. Jahrhundert). In her data Latin Rebellis appears as Reuel, Reuelle, Reuelli, etc.; refashioned as an o-stem Rebellus, it appears as Revello, Revellus, etc.; and the feminine Rebella appears as Ravella and Revella.

    I don’t know why an apparently feminine form would appear as a masculine name; perhaps it reflects a dialectal development.

    It’s not relevant here, but I was mildly amused to note that Rebella ~ Rabella ~ Rabellah appears as a feminine name in a 1678 deed; she and her husband were then resident in Boston.

    • Jörg Knappen

      The name form Reuel rings a bell, of course because of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien: In his case, Reuel is a Biblical Hebrew name with the meaning “friend of god”. It is an alternate name of Jethro.

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