Category Archives: dictionary entries

Mystery Monday: Lancenna

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 feminine name found in France in the first half of the 12th century. We have a number of examples (all in reference to the same woman as far as we can tell) between around 1147 and 1179, all spelled Lancenna or Lanscenna. It is probably of Germanic origin, with the most likely candidate for the prototheme being Old High German lant, Old Saxon land ‘land’, which becomes lanzo, lanc- in hypocoristics.

But the deuterotheme? We have no idea.

Do you have any thoughts? Have you seen this name before? Please share in the comments!

Lancenna

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How medieval is “Your Medieval Name”?

There’s a meme (due to www.abbeytournament.com) that’s been circulating around Facebook sporadically recently, allowing people to generate their “medieval name” according to their day. You’ve probably seen it:
Your Medieval Name
The first time it came up in a group that a couple DMNES staff are members of — a group not devoted to either the Middle Ages or to names — one editorial assistant put out a cry for “HALP”, and another swooped in with documentation. Now every time that meme comes around, we’re reminded of that thread, and finally decided to make a blog post out of it!

So, how medieval is “Your Medieval Name”? Actually, pretty medieval!

The feminine names are almost all good solid choices for late medieval England or France:

  • Milicent – Yes, medieval!
  • Alianor – Yes, medieval!
  • Ellyn – Yes, medieval!
  • Sybbyl – Yes, medieval!
  • Jacquelyn – Yes, medieval!
  • Catherine – Yes, medieval!
  • Elizabeth – Yes, medieval!
  • Thea – Possibly medieval but we’ve not found any evidence for it yet.
  • Lucilla – Sort of medieval: R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright, The Roman Inscriptions of Britain I: Inscriptions on Stone — Epigraphic Indexes (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1983), RIB 1288 and 1271, note one Iulia Lucilla in a first- to fourth-century British inscription (in this name, Lucilla appears as a cognomen), and another Romano-British inscription mentioning a woman known only as [L]ucilla.
  • Mary – Yes, medieval!
  • Arabella – Yes, medieval: E.G. Withycombe, The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988). s.n. Arabel(la) has a 13th C Latin example of the name.
  • Muriel – Yes, medieval: A variety of forms can be found in P.H. Reaney & R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames (London: Routledge, 1991).
  • Isabel – Yes, medieval!
  • Angmar – Um, no.
  • Isolde – Yes, medieval!
  • Eleanor – Yes, medieval!
  • Josselyn – Yes, medieval, but not as a feminine name.
  • Margaret – Yes, medieval!
  • Luanda – Um, no.
  • Ariana – Not medieval: It’s a modern Italian form of the Greek name Ariadne, found in mythology, and in the Greek and Byzantine empires.
  • Clarice – Yes, medieval!
  • Idla – Possibly medieval. It appears that this googlebook has a Polish example of the name, but we have not been able to get more than a snippet view, to be able to confirm the date and context.
  • Claire – Yes, medieval!
  • Rya – Um, no.
  • Joan – Yes, medieval!
  • Clemence – Yes, medieval!
  • Morgaine – Yes, medieval, but only used in literature, and not by real people.
  • Edith – Yes, medieval!
  • Nerida – Definitely not.
  • Ysmay – Yes, medieval: Withycombe (op. cit.) has an example of this spelling.

The masculine names don’t fare quite so well.

  • Ulric – Yes, medieval!
  • Baird – Yes, medieval, but only as a surname, not as a given name. It is derived from Old French baiard or baiard ‘bay-colored’.
  • Henry – Yes, medieval!
  • Oliver – Yes, medieval
  • Fraden – Possibly medieval, but only as a surname, not as a given name.
  • John – Yes, medieval!
  • Geoffrey – Yes, medieval!
  • Francis – Yes, medieval!
  • Simon – Yes, medieval!
  • Fendel – Not medieval to my knowledge, either as a given name or a surname.
  • Frederick – Yes, medieval!
  • Thomas – Yes, medieval!
  • Arthur – Yes, medieval!
  • Cassius – More Roman than medieval.
  • Richard – Yes, medieval!
  • Matthew – Yes, medieval!
  • Charles – Yes, medieval!
  • Reynard – Yes, medieval!
  • Favian – Sort of medieval, if you take it as a variant of Fabian.
  • Philip – Yes, medieval!
  • Zoricus – Not medieval to our knowledge, but it could possibly turn up at some point in future research.
  • Carac – Not medieval
  • Sadon – Not medieval
  • Alistair – Medieval, but not as the nominative form of the name, only as the genitive.
  • Caine – Yes, medieval, but only as a surname, not as a given name.
  • Gawain – Yes, medieval!
  • Godfrey – Yes, medieval!
  • Mericus – More Roman than medieval.
  • Rowley – Yes, medieval, but only as a surname, not as a given name.
  • Brom – Yes, medieval, but only as a surname, not as a given name.
  • Cornell – Yes, medieval, but only as a surname, not as a given name.

All the surnames are fine for 14th-16th C English, except these:

  • Cabrera – This is Spanish, and would only have been used by women; the masculine form is Cabrero.
  • Coastillon – Not quite sure what this is but it looks like a misspelling of some French place name.

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Names of twins in a 16th C French register from Canterbury

One of the most fun things about baptismal registers is getting to see the patterns of names that parents choose for multiple children — both singleton kids over a period of years, and multiples in the sense of twins (I’m not sure I’ve ever come across any baptisms of triplets or higher; unsurprisingly). We’re currently working through a 16th C register from the Walloon Church at Canterbury, containing births, marriages, and burials, and have found two examples of twins in the data, one female and one male. In both cases, the twins are given names which are clearly associated with each other/related to each other. On February 19, 1582/3, Rachel and Lea were baptised, and on September 26, 1594, Isaac and Jacob. Isaac was the father of Jacob in the Old Testament, and Jacob’s two wives were sisters, Rachel and Leah — thus, a clear connection between the two names chosen to give to the twins. (Though it would have been even neater if Jacob’s twin had been named Esau instead of Isaac, to directly mirror the Biblical story!)

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Mystery Monday: Iesmonda/Jesmonda

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 found in early 16th C Italy, in a taxation record for one “Faustina cortesana in casa di madona Iesmonda”:
Jesmonda
It’s a particularly vexing name, because for more than a year now there has been some clue about its origin hovering just outside of ready access memory, and no matter how ingenious we’ve been in our searching, we just can’t figure it out. So we’re tapping in to the collective knowledge of the internet: What is the very-similar-but-not-quite identical word that we haven’t been able to think of that is the likely candidate for this name’s origin? If you know, or have a thought, please share in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Iran/Yran

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 an odd little one. We’ve got four different grammatical forms of the name, which all occur in the same charter in reference to the same person. All the documented forms spell it with initial Y-, but since Y forms are always atypical we have hypothesized a standardized form with I- — but it is definitely nothing more than hypothesized!

Iran

The record comes from Tirol, and many of the other names in the same source show distinct Germanic influences, so it would be reasonable to look to Germanic origins as well as to Romance. On the Germanic side, the name could be related to Old Saxon, Old High German īsarn ‘iron’, which does show up in names in the form iren. But is yran a reasonable extrapolation from iren? We’re really not sure.

And we’re even less sure what a possible Romance origin of the name could be.

Do you have any thoughts? Seen any other examples of this name? Please share in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Hoccadei

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.

Here’s a fun one! It’s from a survey of Glastonbury Abbey in 1189. The 12th C is a fascinating transition period in onomastics in the Isles, as one sees the Old English names fall in popularity, and the new Norman names come rushing up to fill the void. But of course it’s not just a matter of Old English versus Norman; one can’t forget the other native Celtic names some of which managed to hang on, or the rising popularity of Greek and Hebrew saints’ names, or the developments towards the 13th C fad for fantastically lyrical names of Latin origin. Of all of these interplaying factors, today’s name can possibly be fit onto the last.
Hoccadei
The form Hoccadei is itself in the nominative (given the context it occurs in), which means the most likely interpretation of -dei, (gen. of Lat. deus ‘God’), is that this is a phrase-name, akin to Donadei, Gratiadei, and Homodeus/Homodei. But then the mystery is: What is Hocca? It’s not in our Latin dictionaries, even if we drop the possibly excrescent ‘h’. (Well, occa is a Latin word, but not one relevant to the present contexts; it’s an imperative verb form, which we do not find in personal names.)

What could it be? Do you have any suggestions? Or have we been mislead by the -dei, and this isn’t a Latin phrase name after all? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Goluli

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.

Some of the names we have, we simply haven’t any idea whatsoever what their origins might be. Eventually, we will probably give up on some of them, and enter them into the Dictionary with “origin unknown”, but we don’t want to do that, and always hope that somewhere, sometime, someone might have a clue that will help us puzzleout the name.

Today’s name is one of those. It’s recorded in a Latin document from 13th C Poland, and we’re forced to admit, we haven’t a clue. Do you? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments!

Goluli

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