Mystery Monday: Masoeytta

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 a feminine name recorded in Latin in late 13th or early 14th C Bergamo. It’s a strange name because that central vowel cluster — oey — is definitely atypical. (In our 66,000+ citations, we have only one other instance of this cluster, in an Old French form of Louis). But the rest of the name doesn’t give us many clues to go on either — -etta is an Italian hypocoristic suffix, found in Angeletta and Bonetta, and more commonly in the masculine form -etto; and Italian forms of Thomas and Thomasse can be truncated to Maso- or Masa-, with further diminutive suffices added. So it’s possibly that Masoeytta is the result of truncating Thomasia or Thomasa and then adding -etta, but where is the -y- coming from? And why is it -o- instead of -a-?

We have no idea. Do you? Got any hypotheses about how to explain these interloping vowels? Please share in the comments!



Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

2 responses to “Mystery Monday: Masoeytta

  1. Brian M. Scott

    The available snippet views of La Matricola femminile della Misericordia di Bergamo: 1265-1339 show just one instance of Masoeytta and seven of Masoeyta, so I’m inclined to take the latter as the ‘standard’ form for this time and place.

    There is a Roman cognomen Masueta that is a variant of Mansueta, from Latin mansuēta ‘tame; mild, gentle’. (See also the entry for Mansuētus here.) A. Mussafia, Darstellung der altmailändischen Mundart nach Bonvesin’s Schriften, 1868, p. 11, gives mansoeta as an example of the lowering of short u to o in the writings of the Lombard poet Bonvesin de la Riva, c.1240 – c.1313; his is the right period and dialect region for the Bergamo data. I think it more likely that the o is simply an alternative representation of pre-vocalic [w], however. Finally, Nigel Vincent’s chapter on Latin in The Romance Languages, Martin Harris and Nigel Vincent, eds., OUP, 1988, notes that northern Italian dialects, like Rhaeto-Romance and French, developed falling diphthongs from Latin stressed /ē/ and /ō/; if the o of Masoeyta is actually represents [w], ey may be a local representation of a diphthong [ej] or [εj] from Latin /ē/.

    In short, we may have Masoeyta as a local development of Latin Masueta from Latin Mansueta. For what it’s worth, a Mansueta de Carpionibus is recorded in 1310 in monasterio Sancte Grate in Bergamo.

    • Brian M. Scott

      Oops; I evidently loused up the HTML; the third link should be just from Bonvesin de la Riva, and there are no further links in that paragraph. The only link in the last paragraph should be the one at recorded.

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