Mystery Monday: Damiata/Dameta

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(s) we are not actually sure are variants of the same name or if they are distinct. On the one hand, in early 12th C France we have a number of examples (referring to the same woman) of the name Dameta. On the other hand, in Spain a few centuries later we have two examples of the name Damiata in distinct geographical contexts (Aragon and Valencia) as well as the possible diminutive form Miata.


Now, the latter form certainly brings to mind the important Egyptian city known medievally as both Damiata and Damietta. It’s unlikely that the personal name is taken directly from the place name (the pattern of naming children directly after cities or locations is a relatively modern pattern!), but is there possibly a connection between the two? Is Miata a pet form of Damiata or a different name? Is Dameta a variant, or entirely independent? Does the name appear anywhere else? (It’d be really cool to find it in Italy.) If you have any thoughts or further examples, please share them with us in the comments!

1 Comment

Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

One response to “Mystery Monday: Damiata/Dameta

  1. Brian M. Scott

    I’ve a bit more data. First, an Italian example of Miata: Lo statuto suntuario Bolognese del 1401 e il registro delle vesti bollate in Atti e memorie della R. Deputazione di storia patria per le provincie di Romagna, Terza Serie, Vol. VII, 1889, has as Nr. 201 in the register the following entry:

    D. Antonia de Fantucijs capelle S. Micaelis de Lebroseto, presentavit duas vestes ad turlos cum folietis argenteis super ipsas, deputatas usuj Manotie et Miate suarum filiarum.

    Next, an 1180 example of Damata (Latin) from Pesmes in eastern France: Guillermus dominus de Pasmes et Damata uxor ejus 1180, in E. Perchet, Recherches sur Pesmes, 1896, p. 462.

    MS. Egerton 2849, the mortuary roll of Lucy, foundress and first prioress of the Benedictine nunnery of Castle Hedingham, c. 1225 – c. 1230, is headed by three pictures. The second shows two angels carrying the soul of the dead prioress, Lucy de Vere, up to heaven, and above it is written (once the abbreviations are expanded):

    Anima domine Lucie Priorisse prime et fundatricis Ecclesie Sancte Crucis et Sancte Marie de Hengam et anime Ricardi et Sare, Galfridi et Damatte et Helene, et anime omnium fidelium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei requiscant in pace. Amen.

    The third picture shows the funeral and has the caption:

    III idus julii. E. pie memorie Lucia, priorissa prima et fundatrix ecclesie Sancte Crucis et Sancte Marie de Hengeham, Ricardus, Sara, Galfridus, Damatta, Helena, famuli.

    (Here I am partly relying on this snippet view.) In short, it appears that Lucy de Vere had a servant named Damatta.

    The French name Damette is found in 1328 in Basel. (She had brothers Jehannenez, Henriez, Perrenez, and Jehans and sisters Jehannette and Ythenez, and a husband Watherins. The final -s is probably still the Old French nominative marker, the final -z representing -ts with the same marker, so these names are probably better viewed as Jehannenet, Henriet, Perrenet, Damette, Jehannette, Ythenet, and Watherin. I’m rather curious about Ythenet.)

    Alexis Roulet, Statistique de la ville et banlieue de Neuchatel en 1353 [PDF] has Jehan le moneyer, Damete sa fille (p. 24) and Jeaninod Dameta (p. 22) in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

    A bit to the north a document of 1270 from Lorraine has dame Damete, wife of sires Adans chivaliers fis Herbin de Sausures (Saulxures-lès-Vannes).

    From yet further north, in the neighborhood of Provins, the Cartulary of Renier Acorre [PDF] from the second half of the 13th century yields another woman Damete (p. 326).

    One more example, this time from the Pays de Dol in Brittany: Charte n°35 (1147, Latin) here has Dameta (nom.) and Damete (gen.).

    We clearly have a French name Damet(t)e, Latinized Dameta, possibly with a concentration in east central France and spilling over into Switzerland. I can’t help wondering if it’s simply a dminutive of dame ‘lady’ in origin. However, I note that Reaney & Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames s.n. Damet, say that the name is of unknown origin.

    I am not convinced that it’s the same name as Damiata. A Greek, Christophorus Damiatus, was consecrated bishop of Olivolo at the end of the 8th century, and Damiatus has the look of a Latinized Greek name, of which Damiata would be the feminine form. One might guess at a relationship with δαμάζω (damázō) ‘to tame; of women, to give in marriage’ (and other senses), perhaps with a sense along the lines of ‘tamed’ (since the Latin resembles a perfect participle), but that would be very much just a guess.

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