Mystery Monday: Hanwetta

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.

If anyone ever thought the penchant for Anglo-American parents to randomly make up names for their children was a modern one, then they’ve never looked at medieval names. There are some times when you’ve got a hapax legomenon where you wonder if you’ll ever be able to do anything more than shrug your shoulders and write “Obscure” for the etymology.

Today’s name is definitely one of those. So obscure, it doesn’t look or sound like anything else that we have in our data; so obscure, if you google four it, you get five hits, of which one is a false positive (googlebooks has misread some 17th C German fraktur), two are 18th C London newspapers that you have to create an account to log in to see, one is a login website, and the final one actually contains the name but in an entirely obscure way. (At least, this is what happens when we google: Maybe you’ll find something else! If you do! Please share with us!

The name is Hanwetta, and it’s a 14th C name found in an English poll tax. There’s always the possibility that the name has been mistakenly transcribed from the original manuscript, but it’s hard to even think of what it might possibly be an error for.


So what do you think? Are we doomed to obscurity? Or do you have any light to shed? Please share in the comments!



Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

4 responses to “Mystery Monday: Hanwetta

  1. Jörg Knappen

    Switching my search engine to Google, I got the four non-hits you had, but not the fifth one (instead, I got some ad for “Hanwella”, irrelevant here).

    My best guess is a misreading for “Hannetta” (a name form that is somewhere in the middle of Annette, Agnete, and Hanna, but much more plausible than Hanwetta).

    • Brian M. Scott

      One big problem with that idea is that w is a very distinctive letter in the hands likely to have been used in the documents that Fenwick was transcribing, one that is almost impossible to confuse with anything else (and vice versa).

  2. Could it have a connection to Henrietta? That would be an easy transcription error to make.

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