Mystery Monday: Three Cuen- 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.

Today we’re giving you not one, not two, but three mystery names! Why three? Because there might be a chance that they are related to each other. All are masculine names found Switzerland in the 14th-15th C; one is recorded in Old French, one in Latin, one in Middle French; all start with Cuen-.




Of the three, Cuenod is the easiest one to analyse: The -od suffix is a common Swiss diminutive suffix (cf. Perrod, Johannod, and others). If we take -in and -zy as diminutive suffixes (plausible in the case of -in, as it shows up in French; -zy is otherwise unfamiliar to us), then the root is Cuen- — possibly from Cuno or Conrad?

What do you think? Are we barking up the right tree? Have you any other examples of these names, or of names that might be related? Have you ever seen -zy as a diminutive suffix before, in Switzerland or elsewhere? Please share in the comments!


Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

7 responses to “Mystery Monday: Three Cuen- Names

  1. Brian M. Scott

    Both Cuenin and Cuenod produced surnames, Cuénin and Cuénod. Albert Dauzat, Dictionnaire étymologique des noms et prénoms de France s.n. Cuénin derives from German Kühn via Swiss and Alsatian form Kuen, with French suffixes. The German name is a hypocoristic form of Konrad. This is consistent with data from Basel in Adolf Socin, Mittelhochdeutsches Namenbuch, p. 9, which include Cuenzinus 1283 as a variant of, e.g., Chůncinus, a diminutive of Chůnce, another pet form of Konrad; several of the people named Chůncinus also appear as Conradus, Chůnrat, or the like.

    For a little more data, this document has a Cuenodus 1432. This page has a Cuenin 1324 with what appears to be a legitimate citation. It’s not clear that the spelling is that of the original document, but this page has a Cuenin 1272. It would be nice to get hold of this book, Documents linguistiques de la Suisse romande I, Documents en langue française antérieurs à la fin du XIVe siècle conservés dans les cantons du Jura et de Berne: it appears that there was probably quite a variety of such names.

    Cuenzy may be a variant of Chůnce (noted above).

  2. Brian M. Scott

    Having now found numerous instances of Cuenzi, I am now pretty sure that these and Cuenzy are indeed variants of Kunze (from Konrad). And I suspect that the Cuenzi bastardus de Nydoa in this snippet is in fact our Cuenzy, given the last line of the snippet (Während er im Jahre 1354 mit Graf Rudolf IV das Testament).

    Here we have Cuenzi ze der Burg 1299. Statistique de la ville et banlieue de Neuchâtel en 1353 has two mentions of a Cuenzi, pp. 14, 21; it’s not clear whether they are the same person. The Cuenzinus dictus Holtzman 1357 on p. 199, line 11 of Fontes rerum bernensium: Berns Geschichtsquellen, Vol. 8, is indexed as Holtzman, Cuenzi gen.. Finally, in 1413 we find Cuenzi Weltschis, Cuenzi Wisso, Cuenzi Hidler, Cuenzi Murris, Cuenzi Schoris, Cuenzi Hurins, Cuenzi Teck, Cuenzi Goiderma, and Cuenzi von Salvisberg here.

  3. Jörg Knappen

    Yes, those names are surely derived from the prototheme kuoni “daring” occurring in the name Conrad, and they may well be just short forms and diminutives of Conrad itself, since it was the name of a popular Saint and bishop of Konstanz. It is not kuni “kin, family” from names like Cunigunde because of the ue vowel probably denoting a diphthong given the region of origin.

    The ending -zy appears to be a double diminutive, composed of the frequent Old High German diminutive z (cf. Kunz and the modern German phrase Hinz und Kunz “everyone”) and an additional diminutive ending i.

    • Brian M. Scott

      Yes, from PGmc. *kōniz, an adjective derived from the verb *kunnaną ‘to know; to know how (to do something), to be able’. It retained these senses in its Old Norse reflex kœnn ‘wise; skilful, expert’, but in Burgundian *konis ‘bold’ and the West Gmc. languages (OE cēne ‘keen, fierce, bold’; MLG kōne ‘valiant, brazen’; OHG kuoni ‘valiant, brave, strong’) the ‘able to do’ sense developed into something more like ‘eager/willing to do dangerous deeds’.

      And yes, Kunz is from earlier Kuonizo, with the OHG hypocoristic suffix -izo, here with an additional suffix.

      • Jörg Knappen

        BTW, Brian, I am not ignoring you. It is just the fact that it takes some time until your contributions are publically visible that causes me to write as if no previous replies were here: I just do not see them at the time of writing.

  4. Paul Cuenin

    Very interesting. I knew it had a swiss origin but this is very interesting information thanks for sharing!

  5. Aléna J Ingle

    Cuenzy is super cute! How would it be pronounced?

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