Mystery Monday: Orlofia

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 mystery name is a lovely Italian feminine name:


We have one example of the name from late 13th/early 14th century Bergamo — other than that, we’ve found found in the name in the 18th century. We would love to know if you have any other examples of the names, or any suggestions concerning its etymology. Please share your thoughts in the comments!


Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

3 responses to “Mystery Monday: Orlofia

  1. Jörg Knappen

    This looks like a feminine form of the well-attested Germanic name Orlof (listed in Förstemann 1900 under the theme AUS and lemma Auriulf with variants Aurulf, Oriulf, and Orulf, annotating anglo-saxon Earvulf). The prototheme AUS has the meaning “to light; to burn”, with Old Norse usli “fire”.

    • Brian M. Scott

      So far as I can tell, Orlof is not well-attested, and in a literal sense is not attested at all. Förstemann’s source is apparently Codex principis olim Laureshamensis abbatiae diplomaticus: ex aevo maxime Carolingico diu multumque desideratus (Band 2), p. 297, Nr. MDCCXC [emphasis added]:

      In Christi nomine, complacuit atque convenit inter venerabilem Adalungum, abbatem monasterii sancti Nazarii, & virum quendam Orlofum, ut partem de rebus suis inter se commutarent. Dedit igitur præfatus abba in pago Wormat. in Frimersheimer marca j jurnalem, rebus sancti Nazarii contiguum, e contra dedit præfatus vir in eadem marca unum mansum stipulatione subnixa. Actum in monasterio Laurisham, anno XVII Ludowici inperatoris.

      (That date, by the way, is 830 or 831 CE.) Even if Förstemann’s conjecture that the name belongs with Or(i)ulf is correct, it is by no means clear that we aren’t simply dealing with a scribal error for Orolfum, or even some editor’s misreading of the original document.

      Since it’s a long way in space and time from Lorsch Abbey (Laureshamense Monasterium) c.830 to Bergamo c.1300, and so far I can find no evidence for an Italian masculine counterpart to Orlofia, I cannot justify treating the proposed etymology as anything more than a very tentative conjecture. (And it might also be noted that Orlofa, which I’ve not yet found, is a more natural feminization.)

      • Jörg Knappen

        Of course you can challenge the attestation of Orlof as a German name, however, the metathesis olf/lof also occurs in other names like Adlof (from Adolf) of Ortlof (from Ortolf). The latter cases are clearer because they are preserved in German surnames. Orlof is not a good witness here because as a surname it comes mostly from Russian Orlov “Eagle”. But arguing for a Russian influence in 14th century Bergamo is probably far-fetched.

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