Mystery Monday: Belerius

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 found in two instances in Clairvaux in the late 12th century (both records refer to the same man). The name is not obviously of Germanic origin, unless we interpret the prototheme as Latin bellus ‘beautiful, handsome’ and the deuterotheme as a Latinisation of Old High German heri ‘host, army’. There are other Romance/Germanic compounds in France, albeit they tend to develop at an earlier period and not remain in use very long.


It’s also tempting to see this as a variant of Latin Valerius, but that would involve providing an explanation of the vowel shift in the first syllable (as well as the consonant shift, but that is less tricky).

Do you have any examples of the name? Other thoughts concerning its origin? Please share in the comments!



Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

4 responses to “Mystery Monday: Belerius

  1. onomastodon

    Probably a silly question, but could it be a scribal or transcription error for Belenus, or connected to Belerion (Cornwall)?

  2. Diego Segui

    (Sorry if this comes through twice.)
    Belerius (so written) appears in at least two other text from that period: see L.-M. Duru, “Bibliotheque Historique de L’Yonne” vol. II, 1863 p. 566 (Belerium acc., 1103), and Ch. Lalore, “Collection des principaux cartulaires du diocèse de Troyes” vol. I, 1875 p. 93 (Belerius nom., 1179). I think that may rule out the possibility of a transcription error. The name reappears in later texts (14th century and on).
    There is also one Bellerius, Bellirius or Berlerius mentioned as a disciple of St. Ghislain (7th century). The earliest source texts as far as I can see are from the 11th century, so it might be worth checking. See AB VI (1887) pp. 209ss, and BHL s.v.
    From a Google search I see that the name has been discussed by M. Buchmüller-Pfaff, “Siedlungsnamen zwischen Spätantike und frühem Mittelalter”, 1990 p. 89, and F.R. Hamlin, “Le suffix -acum dans la toponymie de l’Herault: contribution à l’étude des noms de lieux du Languedoc”, 1959 p. 45, but I don’t have access to those.

    • Brian M. Scott

      I was able to extract a bit more of the Buchmüller-Pfaff discussion from Google search returns:

      Quellennachweis: MG DD H. II Nr. 340; DD Konr. II Nr. 166; DD H. III Nr. 72 (Roussel II Nr. 8: Ballereys); Roussel II Nr. 4, Meinen Nr. 22; APL 2 III A Nr. 73; Prost, Metz 189; Amod Nr. 128; DT Me. B. < »Balheriacas (-iacum?), zum germ. PN Baiher (FöP 243; Ka. Erg. 53 f.). DR 49 sowie Morlet III 31 deuten Belleray als -acum-Ableitung vom PN Balaros (H. I 335 [lx als lusitanischer Eigenname in einer literarischen Quelle bezeugt] ; Morlet a.a.O.: Balaras, Bailaras); vgl. Balleray, F, Nièvre, 1287 Ballere; Balayrac, F, Hérault (DR 49). Kaspers, Nordfrankreich Nr. 44, nennt keine historischen Belege und vermutet eine Ableitung von einem PN *Bellar[i]us, *Belerius. Die Vielzahl der Belege mit , legt die Annahme einer -iacas-Ableitung von einem germ. PN nahe (man beachte den Nachweis frk. Gräber bei Toussaint, Question franque 44!). Zum frühen Schwund von [h-] im Anlaut des 2. PN-Gliedes s.; Ka. RufN. 196. Zum Wechsel des Stammvokals ([a] > [e]; vgl. Baillerey in einer frz. Urkunde) s. 3.2.4; vgl. H. Stark 79 ff.; Risch, in : ZONF 11, 127; Horning, Grenzdialekte, 14 f.

      Between what’s in Morlet (which I have) and this, especially the comments on loss of initial [h-] in the deuterotheme and change of vowel, I can with some confidence guess that she’s suggesting that the place-name Belleray (Meuse) is from a Gmc. masculine name with deuterotheme -hari (*harjaz). While this could also suggest at least part of an etymology for Belerius, it doesn’t directly bear on that name.

      According to the 1858 Vollständiges Heiligen-Lexikon, J.E. Stadler, F.J. Heim, and J.N. Ginal, eds., s.n. Lambertus, SS. (6), the name of Lambert’s fellow disciple (of St. Gislenus) appears as Belliricus, Bellivius, and Valerius in addition to the forms that you gave. The variety may suggest that the name, whatever it was, was unfamiliar to some copyists, who then tried to rationalize it.

  3. Jörg Knappen

    The prototheme could be bili with main meaning “softness, mildness, placidity”, or, using different Germanic roots, “sword” or “secure”

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