Mystery Monday: Cassabai

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.

We seem to be following an Italian trend lately! But this name is only Italian obliquely. One source we’ve been working through (we mentioned it before, in a Mystery Monday post on Uliana) is notarial records from mid-14th century Florence, which records the names of many enslaved men, women, and children, most of “Tartar” origin. These names are sometimes noted as “in lingua latina” and sometimes “in lingua tartarorum” or “tartaresche”.

Today’s name is (an Italian scribe’s attempt to render) a Tartar name (in Latin), the name of an enslaved Tartar woman:


Many of the Tartar names resemble Turkic or Turkish names and words (unsurprisingly), and our gut feeling is that this name, too, is an attempt to render a Turkish name according to Latin or Italian orthography. The question, then, is — what name? Does anyone have any thoughts? Please share in the comments!


Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

3 responses to “Mystery Monday: Cassabai

  1. Brian M. Scott

    For what little it may be worth, I note Turkish kasaba ‘town’, definite accusative kasabayɪ, from Arabic قَصَبَة (qaṣaba) in its sense ‘fortified borough of a city; the fort itself’ (whence English casbah).

  2. Jörg Knappen

    The phonetically closests name in a modern Turkic language that I could find is Kaskyrbai from Kazakh, the meaning is explained as ‘Combination of Kazakh қасқыр (qasqyr) meaning “wolf” and бай (bay) meaning “rich, wealthy”‘. It is a masculine name in modern Kazakh. Don’t know how it relates to the name in the records (that can be arbitrarily distorted, anyway, since no one knows how to write it correctly)

    • Jörg Knappen

      Although the name is labelled “Tartar” we cannot exclude a Slavonic origin … here is another near match: The Ukrainian-Russian surname Kochubey. Maybe it can be explained than as “from Kashubia”, a geographical region west of Danzig, where a unique Slavonic language is spoken.

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