Category Archives: announcements

Mystery Monday: Robasona

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 so mysterious, we don’t even know (a) whether it is in fact a name or (b) if it is, what gender it is.


It shows up in notarial records from Tirol in contexts that make it look like a name — e.g., all the other records follow the same structure, and in the place were “Robasone” and “Robasonam” appear, the other records have identifiable given names — but it is also not entirely clear whether it’s a given name or a byname. If it is a given name, by the grammar one would expect it to be feminine, but that’s the only clear indication — and almost all of the other people mentioned in these records are men. Hence, our uncertainty.

The word ‘robasona/robesone’ shows up in a few places on googlebooks (distinct from our instances), but unfortunately only in ones that don’t give a big enough snippet to be able to read the context, so that doesn’t help.

Do you have any thoughts? Access to different parts of googlebooks than we do? Please share what you find in the comments!

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The DMNES at Dublin 2019 An Irish WorldCon

Our editor in chief, Dr. Sara L. Uckelman, is currently at Dublin 2019 An Irish WorldCon, where this morning she gave a talk on “Names: Form and Function in Worldbuilding and Conlangs”, with a specific focus on medieval-ish/oid European fantasies and alternate medieval European histories. Much of the talk drew on a couple of posts on this blog from a few years ago, but you can also check out the slides if you’re interested!

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Publication announcement: “Names Shakespeare Didn’t Invent: Imogen, Olivia, and Viola Revisited”

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new paper by a member of our team. Our editor-in-chief Dr. Sara L. Uckelman’s paper “Names Shakespeare Didn’t Invent: Imogen, Olivia, and Viola Revisited” is now available online from Names. Here’s the abstract:

Just as Shakespeare’s plays left their indelible stamp on the English language, so too did his names influence the naming pool in England at the beginning of the 17th century and beyond, and certain popular modern names are often described as inventions of Shakespeare. In this article, we revisit three names which are often listed as coinages of Shakespeare’s and show that this received wisdom, though oft-repeated, is in fact incorrect. The three names are Imogen, the heroine of Cymbeline; and Olivia and Viola, the heroines of Twelfth Night. All three of these names pre-date Shakespeare’s use. Further, we show in two of the three cases that it is plausible that Shakespeare was familiar with this earlier usage. We conclude by briefly discussing why these names are commonly mistakenly attributed to Shakespeare’s imagination, and the weaker, but not mistaken, claims which may underlie these attributions.

This paper shows the benefit of a large-scale cross-cultural data like the Dictionary collects and publishes; it is easy to be mislead by the data when you focus only on a single culture, resulting in the drawing of incorrect conclusions. When the net is cast wider, then we can obtain a more accurate picture about which names Shakespeare actually coined, which he merely introduced into England, and which were already in use in England before him, but were, perhaps, popularised by his use of them.


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Outage update + Mystery Monday: Wurgitan

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.

But first! A huge shout-out to our technical guru, Dr. Joel Uckelman, who got the site back up and running again Saturday evening. What should have been a simple server upgrade turned into a whole row of dominoes collapsing; first, it turned out that our original hosting service was not equipped to handle the upgrade, and the first we knew of this was when we tried rebooting the machine and it wouldn’t. We switched providers, he set up an entirely new virtual machine and server, only time find that when he tried to restore all the data via rsync, the connection kept getting dropped after 10-15 seconds, making it completely impossible to rebuild the site. After a couple of rounds with customer service, which regularly got escalated up to the next level, it became clear that (a) it was a network issue on their end, not our end and (b) they weren’t interested in doing the legwork to find out what the issue was and fix it. So, bye-bye hoster 2, on to hoster 3. He set up a new virtual machine Friday night, and thankfully by the end of Saturday we were able to have the entire site restored. If you’ve ever benefited from the DMNES and would like a way to say thanks, feel free to buy him a beer or a coffee if you’re ever in the area. The hard work of the editorial team would be nothing without the technical infrastructure to make the data available to the world.

Today’s Mystery Monday name is from the Redon cartularies, a dithematic Breton name where we’ve identified the prototheme but not the deuterotheme:


Our resources for Breton names are, unfortunately, rather limited; so if an element or name doesn’t appear in what we have, we’re generally pretty much at a loss. If any of you, dear readers, have better Breton resources than we do, we’d love to know what you have to say about this name! Please share in the comments.

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DMNES outage: longer the planned

Unfortunately, what should’ve been an easily fixed upgrade problem has snowballed and we’re trouble shooting with the company that is hosting the virtual machine that runs the website concerning a networking problem that is preventing us from being able to restore from backup. It’s not clear whether they’ll be able to figure out what the networking problem is, or whether we’ll have to switch to a different hosting company.

We hope it won’t be too much longer before we’re back up!

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DMNES temporarily down

After a server upgrade this afternoon, the machine that runs that DMNES website didn’t reboot. We’re troubleshooting now and when the site is back up and running we’ll announce this on Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for your patience!

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Announcement: Publication of Edition 2018, no. 1

We’re pleased to announce the publication of our first edition of 2018, now available (well, available since last night, but we’ve been traveling since then!) at This edition has 21 new masculine names and 14 new feminine names (the full list of new entries in this edition is below), as well as many revised and updated entries – a total of 2267 entries with 56889 citations between them.

We haven’t pushed the temporal boundaries at all – no new citations earlier than our current earliest citation – but we’ve pushed the geographical ones: This edition is the first one to have any examples of European names from North Africa! (We talked about them in a post here). We’ve also increased our representation of names from Switzerland, with a selection of 15th century charters in Latin, French, and German, showing the same count of Gruyère being recorded variously as Franciscus, Francey, and Frantz. The French form is particularly interesting, because it is not a typical French spelling (that would be Francois); it clearly is showing the influence of the Swiss German diminutive construction in -i.

Thanks to the dedication of our Hungarian expert, we’ve added many more citations from Hungary, including many interesting diminutive forms, while another of our editorial team has been working through the registers of the Walloon Church at Canterbury, providing another dimension to the multiculuturalism of 16th century England.

So here are the new names in this edition! Have a fun browsing them, and the rest of the names, here. Let us know in the comments which of the new names is your favorite!

Masculine names


Feminine names



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