Mystery Monday: All the A-names

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.

And…we’re back to the beginning of the alphabet again! One of the most interesting things about doing large-scale, cross-temporal and -cultural data collection as we’re doing for the Dictionary is seeing certain types of trends. It probably isn’t surprising to find out that we have very few entries in K-, Q-, X-, Y-, and Z-, as these letters are systemically less common across Europe (blame Latinisation for the comparative lack of ‘k’ in western Europe, as all the Greek kappas were converted into ‘c’s). Many people have probably also encountered the phenomenon whereby it seems like, modernly, there are disproportionately many names beginning with “A”. One explanation for this seeming phenomenon that is often offered is that expecting parents start at the beginning of the baby name book, and work their way through until they find a name they like, which is why we have so many Alexas and Alexandras and Amelias and Amalias and Abigails and Avas and Ashleys and Amandas and Amys.

But while there may be a lot of truth to that explanation, it isn’t the only confounding factor. There simple were a lot more names beginning with “A” than other letters, historically. (Only B-, S-, T-, and W- come anywhere close.) So it’s good when we come back around to the beginning of the alphabet, because the truth is, we have a lot of unidentified A-names. In fact, we thought that this week it would be fun to give a snapshot of the internal version of the Dictionary, with all the “A” entries both published, to be published, and unpublished. Maybe there’ll be a particular name in the list that our readers would be interested in knowing more about, and we can make that next week’s mystery name.

In the meantime, we have so many A- names, we can’t even get them all in one screen shot, or even two!

Now, not all of the names in yellow are true “mystery” names. Some of the entries are duplicates (with slightly different choice of header spelling), and simply need to be combined (for instances, we suspect that Ascherich and Ascrich are variants). Some of them are diminutives of other names, where the relationship hasn’t yet been identified. Some may turn out not to be given names, but rather place names or bynames mistakenly identified as given names. But when we say things like “we have 2317 entries published, and 3811 entries unpublished”, this gives you a sense of the data that we haven’t that isn’t. yet available, but will — hopefully, eventually — be.


Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

4 responses to “Mystery Monday: All the A-names

  1. Brian M. Scott

    I was struck by the name Abadengo; is it from Iberia? Spanish abadengo is ‘abbatial, belonging to an abbot’, so we may have a byname here.

    Some of those names can be fairly safely etymologized even without their provenance, and I did a few for fun. Some pretty clearly go with names already in the dictionary:

    AglindeAclinde; however, I very much doubt that the prototheme is the l-extension Agil-. It appears to have the unextended prototheme from PGmc *agjō ‘edge’, here presumably in the sense ‘edge of a blade’. (I would replace agio throughout with agjō and change the gloss as well.)

    It’s not clear whether Agilo is a simplex name from the l-extension Agil- or a diminutive from Ago, but it’s pretty clearly part of the *agjō family.

    Adalchard is pretty clearly from PGmc *aþalaz ‘noble’ and *harduz ‘hard, brave’, as is Adalmod from PGmc *aþalaz ‘noble’ and *mōdaz ‘mind; courage; anger’. The deuterotheme of Adabert is clearly from PGmc *berhtaz ‘bright, shining’; the prototheme is most likely reduced from Adal-, from PGmc *aþalaz

    If the following four names are from English sources, they are also quite straightforward: Ailbrich would be from OE Æþelbeorht, from PGmc *aþalaz ‘noble’ and *berhtaz `bright, shining’; Aileva (fem.) from OE Æþelgi(e)fu, from PGmc *aþalaz and *gebō ‘gift’; Ailnoth from OE Æþelnōþ, from PGmc *aþalaz and *nanþaz ‘daring, bold’; and Ailwi from OE Æþelwīg, from PGmc *aþalaz and *wīgą ‘war, battle’.

    Along the way I noticed a few minor or potential problems with existing entries. First, though it’s taken from Cleasby & Vigfússon, the gloss for
    OIc sumarliði is a bit misleading as it stands. The second element, liði, is either ‘follower’, making sumarliði literally ‘summer-follower’ (following a captain/leader), or, as C&V suggest, a derivative of líða ‘to go, pass, glide’, making sumarliði literally ‘summer-glider (through the water)’.

    DMNES derives Adberg from OHG ōt, OSax ōd ‘wealth, riches’ and OHG berg ‘mountain, hill’. The former may well be correct for this particular instance of the name, since the
    PDF here (p. 276) seems to indicate that the same person also appears in record as Autberga. It is unlikely to be correct for all instances of the name, however: in at least some cases a reduced form of Adil- seems likely.

    The latter is definitely incorrect, as it is also in the entries for Altberga, Amalberg, Frodeberga, Frotberga, Gerberg, Humberga, Imberg, Nadalberga, Odelberga, Ratberga, Reinberga, Richberg, Theodeberg, and Wineberg. Rather, the deuterotheme is from a nominal akin to PGmc *berganą ‘to
    protect, keep, preserve’, presumably *bergō ‘protection, shelter’.

    Finally, assigning the prototheme of Aicard to *aiganą may not be correct in all cases: from the Abbey of Saint-Étienne de Baigne we have an example (see result 2 of 3) of the same person being recorded both as Aicardus and as Achardus, the latter on the face of it having a prototheme from PGmc *agjō.

  2. Pingback: Mystery Monday: Adoma | Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources

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