Mystery Monday: Josiere

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.

The registers of the Walloon church in Canterbury in the second half of the sixteenth century are full of wonderful names — names reflecting the Protestant sensibilities of the immigrant community, names that reflect the specifics of the Walloon dialect, names that show how the immigrants integrated with the local community (many of the baptismal witnesses are local Englishmen and women). They are also full of names that we haven’t come across before, and can’t easily identify, such as today’s mystery monday name:


It’s a feminine name, both from its grammatical form and from the fact that it shows up in a baptismal record where the gender of the child is indicated explicitly. It has the form of a femininization of a masculine name, with the hypothetical masculine name being Josier, but this is not a name we’ve come across before. Have you, either the feminine or the hypothetical masculine form? Have any thoughts about its origin? Please share in the comments!


Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

4 responses to “Mystery Monday: Josiere

  1. Brian M. Scott

    A Germanic source is possible, if the name is a feminization of Josier. A Cluny charter of c.950 has a Jotzerius, and from Paris, also in the 10th century, we have Jozerus levita. In both cases the underlying Germanic name would be *Gauthari, from PGmc. *Gautaz ‘Geat’ and *harjaz ‘army’. (That last source is Louis Guinet, Les emprunts gallo-romans au germanique, Paris, Klincksieck, 1982.) From Cluny we also have Jocerius 1261. From … we have ante domum domini Jocerii (gen.) 1304 from Clamecy, département Nièvres. from Gruyère we have Iocerio (dat.) de Orons 1344/5. A French Josier is consistent with these forms.

    Sometime during the reign of Henri IV (1589-1610) we have Etienne Aubert, dit Josier; conceivably this could be an unrelated byname of some kind, though the one possible source that I’ve found so far seems fairly unlikely. (See below.)

    Josier does appear as a surname in the Registers of the French Church, Threadneedle Street, London, albeit rather later: on 20 May 1655 a Judit Josier witnessed the baptism of Jacob du Moulin, son of Jean du M[oulin] and his wife Elisabeth. This seems very likely to be a patronymic.

    The forename Josier can be found quite a bit later in America. A Josier Woodard is recorded as a head of family in Princess Anne County, Virginia, in 1783. Assuming that this is an accurate copy (with conjectured modern surnames added), we have Josier Higbee and Josier Booin in New Jersey in 1793. These are enough instances that I’m not inclined to take them as odd variants of some other, more familiar name, though I can’t exclude the possibility.

    One even later oddity: if this source is accurate, in 1902 a Joserius Martinsen Hansvik came to America from Norway. That is almost certainly this person, full name Joserius Endorf Martinsen Hansvik, whose birth was recorded here (second entry); the name Joserius is entirely legible.

    I mentioned a possible source for a byname Josier: there was apparently an Old French josier ‘windpipe, gullet’, the same word as French gosier.

  2. Mark

    Could it be a diminutive of Josephine? Josiane is a French diminutive and seems similar.

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