Author Archives: Sara L. Uckelman

Throwback Thursday: Estonian nicknames

Back in December 2015 our editor-in-chief, Sara L. Uckelman, asked why was it in the Estonian name data, that “the nickname forms were more common than full forms”? For Throwback Thursday today, we’re revisiting this topic with some research that partially addresses the question:

The short answer is that it is an artefact a lot of our name data coming from sources that focus on Wackenbücher. These are socage registers that not only record the obligations of peasants to their manors, but also details such as the names of the heads of the peasant households. So a lot of the examples of names of Estonians in the Dictionary belonged to the indigenous peasants, as well as wealthier Europeans who had settled in the territory.

In Anti Selart (2016:182)’s article on the adoption of Christian given names in the Baltics, he argues that the form that a name took in medieval Estonia indicated social status:

For instance, when a merchant became a member of the City Council, Hans became her Johann (“Master Johann”). In the sixteenth century Estonia (no earlier records are available), a social gradation of certain peasant name forms is visible. For example, Hans has a higher status than Hannos, Jaagup is finer than Jaak and Peeter is better than Peep.

And the names we have listed in the DMNES seems to reflect reflect this hierarchy. The urban members of the Tallinn Table Guild (Tafelgilde), part of the Great Guild established by the German merchants of the city (Mänd 2017), are called names like Peter, Jakop, Johan or Hans, while those associated with rural manors on the island of Hiiumaa recorded with names like Peep, or Jake.

While the Dictionary aims to record given names used in Europe between 500 and 1600, it does not include biographical information about individuals like a prosopographical database. But once you start trying to answer the question of “why” diminutives and hypocoristics were so popular in medieval Estonia, the answers you find are fascinating.

(Many thanks to Rebecca Le Get, whose many year’s study in Baltic names resulted in this info.)

References and Further Reading:

Mänd, A. 2017. “Table Guilds and Urban Space: Charitable, Devotional, and Ritual Practices in Late Medieval Tallinn” In: Space, place, and motion. Locating confraternities in the late medieval and early modern city: 21-46.

Palli, H. 1961. “Eesti isikunimede kasutamisest meie rahva vanema ajaloo (XII–XVI saj.) uurimisel.” Eesti NSV Teaduste Akadeemia Toimetised. Ühiskonnateaduste. 10: 132–142.

Selart, A. 2016. “A new faith and a new name? Crusades, conversion, and baptismal names in medieval Baltics”, Journal of Baltic Studies 47(2): 179-196.

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Announcing Edition 2021!

2021 was a long year. While everyone here at DMNES central has so far weathered the pandemic unscathed, much of our energy has been dedicated to simply surviving, with not much left for working on this project.

Nevertheless, we published our 2021 edition last night, with new entries and new citations across old entries. For once, we finalised more entries for feminine names than for masculine names!

New masculine names

Ansgil
Celso
Odelgar
Volkleib
Volknand
Wigrad

Feminine names

Balsama
Bernwis
Celsa
Semperbella
Semperbona
Theodwalda
Volkwich
Warnburg
Warnhild
Warntrude

Semperbella “always beautiful” and Semperbona “always good” definitely win the prize for “prettiest names of the edition”!

This brings us to a total of 941 entries for feminine names, 1665 entries for masculine names, 3 three for names of unknown gender, and across those entries, we have 78094 citations!


In the last two weeks or so, you may have occasionally gotten a 500 internal server error when attempting to access dmnes.org; our technical guru has identified the cause of this, and it is a bug in the newest version of Python, i.e., something beyond our control. He is confident that the bug will be fixed and a patch released in the next few weeks, at which point he can upgrade the webserver to the latest version and the access problems will go away.

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Mystery Monday: Blendumen

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 name is the name of an 8th C Dutch abbess; she shows up in a variety of historical records, but as far as we can tell she is the sole example of this name. Hapax legomena are always tricky to determine etymologies for, but it’s always worth asking in case there’s an expert out there who has a suggestion!

Blendumen

Do you recognize the name? Or know of any other examples of it? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Alsarember

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.

Early 13th-century France is not a place where you expect to find quirky, unusual names. And yet, take a look at this:
Alsarember
It’s from a Latin document but the nominative spelling is Alsarembers — not a typical Latin case-ending! Could it be influence of the Old French vernacular poking through? A typo in the edition? A manuscript error? Who knows!

But solving that question won’t address the deeper one, which is: What kind of a name is this? It’s certainly not your ordinary dithematic Germanic name, nor is it an easily identifiable Latin/Christian name. If anything the Al- feels Arabic.

We’d love to know if you have any thoughts. Please share in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Zauist

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.

It’s always fun to come back to “Z” in our trips through the alphabet! We’ve got more Z-names than you might think.

This one is found in Mecklenburg in the 13th C. The context doesn’t make it 100% certain that it’s a given name, rather than a byname, but on balance it’s more likely to be a given name than not, and that’s why we have it included in a provisional entry in the Dictionary. Someday we may learn more info that means we’ll jettison it — perhaps even from this post! — but we’d always rather collect more false positives rather than miss out on tasty tasty name gobbits.

Zauist

So, what are your thoughts? Do you recognise it? Is it a given name or a byname? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear.

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Mystery Monday: Yuwage

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.

How about a very strange name from 13th century Latvia? In the Rigische Schuldbuch (1286-1352), a man named “Yuwage” was recorded in 1290.
Yuwage
A lot of the names in this register are ordinary German names, easily recognisable underneath their Latinization. But this is an exciting source precisely because so many of the names in it are not ordinary German names, or are significantly masked by their Latinization — and this name is one of them.

We have no idea, not even a guess, about what the underlying name is. We’d love to know if you have any thoughts! Please share them in the comments.

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Mystery Monday: Wrana

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 names is a 14th C Czech masculine name:

Wrana

As with many names from this particular source (and from this period more generally), this specific instance is recorded in Latin, which may disguise the underlying Czech form to some degree. (“Wr-” is not a common combination in Latin, so it’s definitely representing something foreign!) No obvious candidates come up in our searching, so we’re hoping that someone out there has a guess as to what name this might be representing! If you have any thoughts, please share them in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Vyrzbantha

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 name is a mysterious Polish/Ukrainian name, Vyrzbantha.

Our example comes from Latin records in the Ukraine, in the 15th C; but a google search shows another Vyrzbantha who was “castellanus Poznaniens” in 1306, so just over the border in Poland.

The context of both instances makes it pretty clear that it’s a personal name, but it’s not one that we’re familiar with at all; and it may be a byname element rather than a given name. We’re hoping someone who specialises in Slavic languages might recognise this and give us some pointers! Please share in a comment any thoughts you might have.

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Announcing Edition 2020!

With about 40 minutes to spare, we did manage to get a new edition out in 2020!

2020 was a tough year for everyone, and things have been alternating really quiet and super productive here at DMNES central. If there’s one thing that was a pure, unalloyed joy and benefit of the upheaval of the pandemic, it was joining Mt. Holyoke’s internship scheme which facilitated the joining of four interns on our staff over summer, with one continuing on through the fall term as well. Much of what’s in this new edition — new names, new citations, updated info on Biblical and literary forms — is due to their hard work; and while some of their other work isn’t yet reflected in published editions, it’s laid the foundations for some exciting projects in the future.

So, on to some stats! The new edition has 2592 entries, with 77,248 citations distributed across those entries. (The entry with the most citations remains John, 4533 citations! That’s nearly 6% of all citations in the Dictionary in that single entry.) (Hah, as I was writing this up, our technical guru asked whether the numbers for Mary were comparable. I laughed, and said “no way, that name was never as popular, and he wanted to know the details. So: we have 832 citations for Mary, accounting for 1% of our data. Compare this to three other popular feminine names — Katherine, with 775 citations; Elizabeth, with 1159; and Margaret, with 1281 citations.)

This edition has a total of 931 distinct feminine names, 1658 masculine names, and 3 where the gender is uncertain. Of these, 44 of the feminine entries are new to this edition:

Women’s names
Agtrude
Albina
Ansilde
Aurofina
Baltrude
Bellabona
Benenata
Berna
Bernswith
Bernwara
Bertlinde
Desideria
Dominilde
Durande
Dutberta
Ermenalda
Fortuna
Gendrada
Godberg
Grimberg
Gundberg
Heilsinde
Lautrude
Lea
Lefhild
Liutwarde
Lodberta
Madalgarde
Maga
Maira
Meinfrida
Merberta
Novella
Odelrada
Oteria
Othilde
Percipia
Polemia
Radwise
Rolande
Sighilde
Warntrude
Wendelbalda
Zenobia

And there’s 98 new masculine names in this edition:

Men’s names
Adald
Adebert
Adegrim
Aitfrid
Aldebert
Amaro
Andger
Arner
Arno
Austrulf
Bago
Baldrad
Baldwald
Benenat
Benno
Bernulf
Bertbert
Bertmar
Bertram-Robert
Bertrick
Bodo
Bonald
Charles-Emmanuel
Cuthred
Dadmar
Daghard
Dodbert
Dominic-Amicus
Drutrich
Eckbald
Erchambert
Ermenald
Ermo
Everald
Folobert
Fortune
Fredebald
Gardulf
Gardwin
Gelbald
Gerhard
Gislold
Gordian
Hartnich
Helmger
Hemlwich
Hemlwin
Herger
Hildegrim
Hundolf
Hungrim
Isenbald
Isenbern
Isengrim
John-Andrew
John-Angel
John-Charles
John-Peter
Lantgrim
Liberat
Liebizo
Liutgard
Liutrad
Lodbald
Lodwin
Madaler
Madalrich
Marcrad
Marcrich
Merard
Merbod
Nantwin
Norwin
Noto
Odelrad
Otbald
Otgisl
Otrad
Peter-Andrew
Polydorus
Radger
Reinrich
Richbert
Richbod
Richsind
Rother
Sigwald
Sinbald
Sinbert
Theodeger
Waldemar
Waldemund
Wendelbald
Wilbald
Wildrad
Wineger
Witbert
Witrich

May your 2021 be filled with wonderful names! (Like Bertbert. Bertbert is such a great name.)

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Mystery Monday: Uideal

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 figure the odds are pretty high that if you were presented with the name “Uideal”, you’d have no guess about it’s gender, language/culture, or time period; it is a remarkably peculiar little name.

Uideal

To answer those questions exhausts what we know about this name: It’s the name of a man, recorded in a document written in Italy, in 827.

Early Italian names are remarkably recalcitrant to identify; often, they’re too late to show a clear connection with Latin vocabulary, but too early to reflect the influence of the Germanic naming practices. That’s exactly where this name falls: There’s nothing about it that gives us an “in” into understanding it.

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions? Have you seen this name — or something like it — before? Please share in the comments if you have!

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