Inside DMNES from the Perspective of an Intern

I can’t believe I’m at the end of my six-month internship with DMNES! On one hand, it feels like the time has flown by in an instant, but on the other hand, it seems like I’ve learned more than could possibly fit within half a year. 

I wanted to take this time to write one last blog post and share the most interesting behind-the-scenes details I’ll be taking away from my internship.

Coming into this opportunity, I knew absolutely nothing about onomastics. I had to google what the word meant before I applied to the internship. When I found out it was the study of names, I was very intrigued, but it still made the most sense for me to begin my internship in a familiar field: research. 

One research tool we use at DMNES that I had never used before is Google Trends. Trends goes back through paper records digitized by Google, allowing you to track trends from long before the internet was invented. I learned to use Trends to analyze the occurrence of various names in the parish registers available to Google’s algorithms. I knew Trends could analyze web trends, but I had no idea you could use them to analyze naming trends in the 1500s!

Google Trends analyzing the occurrences of the same name spelled different ways in the 1500-1700s

Having dipped my toes in the onomastic name pool, I was eager to learn more. My next project involved finding the etymologies of names. At DMNES, every instance of a name is recorded with a VNF file in GitHub. That means, there could be tons of different VNF files, all for the same name, if we have records of it from a lot of different sources in different places and times. (You would not believe how many VNFs we have for “John.”)

Then, each VNF is linked to a CNF, which is the most basic version of the name. Each CNF contains the etymology. My job was to look up the etymologies for CNFs that didn’t have any. For some, this was easy. I would be able to find the exact name in a dictionary with the themes spelled out.

Other times, though, I wouldn’t be able to find the exact name I was looking for, or the etymology would be in a different format than we use here at DMNES. Then, I would have to figure out the etymology based on what I know about similar names. 

For example, one name I needed to find the etymology for was “Almodi.”

The first thing I had to do was find the most basic form of the name, which turned out to be “Alimold.” Next, I needed to find the basic themes that make up the name, which turned out to be ADAL- and MUOT-. “Adalmuot” sounds nothing like “Almodi,” but it turns out that’s what “Almodi” means! All I had to do was insert the meanings for those two themes (“noble” and “courage”) into the etymology spot for “Alimold.” Since “Almodi” is linked to “Alimold,” now we know the etymology for “Almodi.” 

Coming into this, I didn’t know what “onomastics” meant, but suddenly, I was piecing together the etymologies of names I had never even heard before! At the beginning, I would have to look up and triple check every name, but by the end, I could often predict what themes would comprise a name before I even checked our sources. 

Still, I have to say that the most educational part of my internship would have to be this, right here: blogging and social media. I had never used WordPress or Twitter for academic purposes before this internship, and it was so interesting to see how you can use these tools to share research and connect with likeminded academics from around the world! 

I also learned a lot about research and writing by doing this. When I found a relevant article in college, I just analyzed it in an academic paper. When I found a relevant article in this internship, I would write up a summary for this blog that makes the academic article into something you could read on your phone during a bus ride! 

Thinking about the same information in different ways really helped me engage with the onomastics. You can’t blog about something unless you really understand it. There’s no hiding behind fancy words or long quotes. You have to know what you’re talking about.

And, I can’t believe it, but I really feel like I do! I feel confident enough to use platforms I’d never used before to share information I never knew before that I found through sources I’d never heard of before. I learned so much over the course of this internship and had an amazing time doing it. I’ll never look at names the same way again.

~Adelia (a one-theme named from theme ADAL-, meaning noble), signing off.


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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.


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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Mystery Monday: Teagaton

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.

The hardest of names are those that are from one language, rendered into another, often by a scribe that doesn’t know anything about the original language.

One source that we’ve been working through for awhile (it’s one that has to be taken in small chunks, due to the heavy nature of the subject matter) is a register of enslaved people in Florence in the middle of the 14th century. This is a fascinating source from an onomastic point of view because so many of the people were renamed when they were enslaved — and yet, despite this, the notarial records relating to them often include their previous name, as well as the “language” it was in. I put “language” in scare-quotes because most of the time, the recording simply gives the person’s name “in the Tartar language”, and this is not really a single language at all.

So this means we have a large number of likely-Turkic-origin names being rendered in Latin by an Italian speaker — that’s many many layers of obscurity to poke through.

A lot of these names, we’ll probably never known what their actual origin is. But that makes them perfect candidates for Mystery Monday, and it’s why we’ve chosen one such name for today’s post:


We know that Teagaton was of Tartar descent, and that this is a representation of her name in her original language/culture. We haven’t the faintest idea what that original name might have been, and would love to know if you have any thoughts or suggestions. Please share in the comments if you do!


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Solution Saturday: Bulrebecca

Every Saturday, we will revisit one of our Mystery Monday names that we have solved. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed their knowledge and expertise, whether commenting here or on twitter or via email. You’ve all helped solve a mystery!

Today’s name is Bulrebecca, and it highlights one of the difficulties we face when going through medieval documents, and that’s: How do you identify a given name as a given name? When faced with a bunch of words, there are a number of clues one can use to identify what kind of a word it is (noun, verb; Latin, German, English; given name, not a name) — clues from semantics, syntax, morphology, grammar, context, etc. Because personal names don’t function in the same way that significative nouns and adjectives do, we often have fewer clues, which means that even if you can confidently identify a word as part of a name, it’s not always clear whether it’s a given name or part of a byname.

In the case of this particular name, we were mislead by the superficial similarity between -rebeke and the personal name Rebecca, and thus originally identified Bulrebeke as a given name (the context not making it clear which it was). However, the origin of this mysterious name is solved by noting that it’s actually a place name, not a personal name. Alas, this means we’ll remove this record from our database (flagging up why, of course, so that the information isn’t lost forever!) and you’ll see no entry for Bulrebeke or Bulrebecca in future editions of the Dictionary.

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Skaldic Poetry and The Skaldic Project

Although my internship is over, I couldn’t resist sharing this new site I found with the rest of you. While looking for Arthurian manuscripts, I stumbled across a website called The Skaldic Project. On their homepage, they describe themselves as “an international project to edit the corpus of medieval Norse-Icelandic skaldic poetry.” They are also the writers of the series Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages, a nine-volume compilation of Skaldic poetry. Five of those nine volumes have been published, and three are available on their website.

Now some of you are presumably thinking, “But wait. What is skaldic poetry?” I’m glad you asked! This is actually the topic of one of the pages on the website, linked here if you want to read more. In general, early Scandinavian poetry can be split into eddic and skaldic poetry. However, both these are modern terms.

There are several different ways to find what you’re looking for on the website. First, there’s an index of first lines.

The first lines are categorized by the first letter of the first line. The letters are on the left, and the number of first lines are on the right. If you click on a letter, it then brings you to a page where you can see all the first lines under each letter. An important note is that most letters with accent marks such as “a” and “á” are considered separate letters and lead to separate pages.

Once you go to each page, it brings you to a handy listing of all first lines starting with that letter. And if you accidentally clicked on the wrong letter, no worries! Simply click on the words next to the arrow up top that read “first lines,” and you’ll go back to the list of first letters.

Say you’re looking for all the poetry by a specific skald. There’s another directory listing all skalds alphabetically. Like the previous directory, you have to be careful about any accents on the name.

Also like the previous directory, you can see that the righthand column lists how many poems in the corpus are attributed to each skald.

If you click on the name of a skald, it redirects you to a page with additional information on the skald and poetry. If the skald’s poems are included in multiple different texts, these are all listed as collapsible headers. As always, on the righthand side there is a number of how many poems are included in each. At the bottom is any other relevant information about the skald.

There are additional directories for Manuscripts, Poems (including only named poems), Prose Works, and Runic Poetry. The first three are lists, just like the lists of First lines and Skalds. The latter, however, is split into several different sections.

If you are looking for any runic poetry, you can search based on period, region, siglum, or place.

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Mystery Monday: Stenent

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.

Sometimes it feels like obscure 16th C English names are the most obscure of all, their obscurity magnified by our familiarity with the language and context in which they occur. Such a name is today’s mystery name:


Just, what, uh, hmm? Is it a scribal error? An editorial error? A weird made-up name? A transferred surname? (would be very odd, that). We have zero idea, which makes this a perfect mystery to include in our list. If you have any thoughts, please share in the comments! We’d love to know.


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Solution Saturday: Dywa

Every Saturday, we will revisit one of our Mystery Monday names that we have solved. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed their knowledge and expertise, whether commenting here or on twitter or via email. You’ve all helped solve a mystery!

Today’s name is one that we’d originally identified as feminine, but turns out to be masculine! The name is Dywa, and our thanks to Brian M. Scott who connected the dots from Dywa to Tiva to Protiva, a name which we also had an entry for, under the less-Latin/more-Czech spelling Protywa.

So there we have a part-solution, at least — we can combine the entries for Dywa and Protywa. In the comments on the post linked above, a suggestion is given for the origin of Protiva, which we will file away and follow up on and hopefully in the future an entry for Protiva will debut on the Dictionary.

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Hello, I’m Zeal-of-the-land Busy: Satire and Puritan Names

Earlier this summer, I did a lot of research with Dr. Uckelman about Protestant names and Puritan names. Much of the evidence supported Dr. Uckelman’s theory that Puritan names were less common than many believe, and definitely less common than the more general Protestant names that appeared across many countries. It seems England simply didn’t transform its naming pattern much more than any other Reformed country.

But why then, did these “Puritan” names leave such a distinctive mark on onomastic impressions? Certainly, they are distinctive enough to stand out in a person’s memory, but every culture has some proportion of distinctive names. Not every culture warrants books discussing the strangeness of their names, as in C. W. Bardsley’s The Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. 

Percy Scholes provides his interpretation of this phenomenon in his book, The Puritans and Music in England and New England.  

“I should suppose that the whole of this legend about Puritan names comes from the public’s acquaintance with that popular figure Praise-God Barebone plus dim recollections of Mr. Zeal-of-the-Land Busy in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair and perhaps one or two other characters of pre-and-post-Commonwealth plays” (115). 

“Praise-God Barebone,” one of the few real occurrences we can evidence of a Puritan name, is distinctive, but fairly tame in comparison to the over-the-top names people seem to associate with Puritans. This suggests to me that Scholes is more on the money with the influence of satire. He minimizes his interpretation of its influence, pointing to “dim recollections” of two or three plays, but we have evidence that Puritan names were mocked in satire much more frequently than this. 

Stephen Wilson also discusses satire against Puritans in The Means of Naming, and quotes Bardsley’s own discussion of plays by “Ben Jonson, Cowley, and Beaumont” (Wilson 195),  but Bardsley positions these satires as an effect of the Puritan naming trend, rather than a cause of its perceived prevalence. 

Bardsley suggests hypothetical names that probably inspired the satirists, such as “Search the Scriptures Robinson” (185), but provides no evidence that such names actually existed. Was Bardsley misled by the very satire he sought to study?

Let’s take a look at the plays Bardsley mentions. He interprets them as evidence for actual Puritan naming trends, but satire intentionally distorts and exaggerates the features of its targets. I think we should consider these plays as a possible explanation for why Bardsley and others could mistakenly see Puritan naming trends as more prevalent than they really were. 

Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist— “Tribulation Wholesome, our very zealous pastor” (Wilson 195)

Here, the inclusion of the epithet “our very zealous pastor” clarifies Jonson’s strong satiric intent. Pairing the name with an obviously satiric and exaggerated epithet– (I doubt any Puritans literally referred to their pastors this way)– indicates that the name is likely also exaggerated for satire.

Additionally, “Tribulation” is overtly negative, a common trait of Puritan names as defined by Bardsley; however, many recorded Puritan names were fairly positive, including “Believe, Increase, [and] Remember” (Wilson 194). These positive Puritan names rarely come up in discussions of Puritan strangeness, and tellingly, they rarely come up in satire either. 

Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair— “Zeal-of-the-land Busy” and child “Win-the-Fight” (Wilson 195)

These names sound like real Puritan names with their dashes and prescriptive sentiments, but they connote more power and initiative than many actual Puritan names do. They encourage their bearers to fight and work hard, whereas most recorded Puritan names focused on obedience to God. The closest real name I could find was “Fight-the-good-fight-of-faith” (Wilson 194), which emphasizes the religious nature of the fight with two words, “good” and “faith,” notably missing from the satiric version.

Jonson uses names that sound to the ear like Puritan names but lack the spiritually meaningful content. This allows him to show the ridiculousness of the Puritan’s seemingly grand and prescriptive names once religion is removed from the equation. But if the author intends to portray the names as ridiculous, we should hesitate to consider them indicative of real Puritan names. 

Abraham Cowley’s The Cutter of Coleman Street— “Fear-the-Lord Barebottle” based on the real “Praise-God Barebone” (Bardsley 190)

Cowley provides perhaps the most obvious evidence that satire greatly exaggerated Puritan naming customs by including a name based on a specific real one with comical exaggeration. “Praise-God Barebone” becomes “Fear-the-Lord Barebottle,” a name that more aptly demonstrates supposed Puritan naming customs than the real inspiration. The name is longer, now with the word “the,” better fulfilling the wordy nature often attributed to Puritan names. The sentiment also turns from positive and reverential to prescriptive and intimidating, indicating the harsh and severe nature people often assume in Puritan names. 

Here, a satiric, fictional version of a Puritan name better matches the Puritan name stereotype than the real Puritan name does. To me, that suggests that the cultural conception of Puritan names stemmed from the satire written about them rather than the other way around. Perhaps we would not consider Puritan names so onomastically significant and distinct from other Protestant names if not for the likes of Jonson and Cowley. 

Bonus question

John Fletcher’s Women Pleased— “Hope-on-High Bomby” (Bardsley 189)

Bardsley considers this play very strong evidence of Puritan naming trends.

“[There] is no exaggeration of name, for we have Help-on-High Foxe to face Hope-on-High Bomby. The Rector of Lydney would be about twenty-five when this play was written, and may have suggested himself the sobriquet. The names are all but identical” (189). 

I would disagree with this last point, as “Bomby” has arguably more comedic value than “Foxe,” but otherwise this is indeed an example of satire including a realistic Puritan name. Unfortunately, I am having trouble finding evidence of a real  “Help-on-High.” Has anyone found record of a person with such a name? If so, I would love to hear about it in the comments!


  • Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell. Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. London, Chatto and Windus, 1888. Accessed via Internet Archive.
  • Scholes, Percy Alfred. The Puritans And Music In England And New England: a Contribution to the Cultural History of Two Nations. London, Oxford University Press, H. Milford, 1934. Accessed via HathiTrust.
  • Wilson, Stephen. “First Names 1500– 1900: I.” The Means of Naming. UCL Place, 1998, pp. 185-214. Accessed via ProQuest Ebook Central.


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Farewell to our interns!

September is here, summer is over, and we must now say farewell to our wonderful interns, Sidney, Adelia, Juliet, and K.J. Over the last couple of months, they have looked up etymologies, created place-holder entries, updated the Mystery Monday index and also went through ALL the comments that these posts have received either on the blog or on twitter and made a list of possibly-solved names for me to go through and review, converted all my random notes about possible sources into a Zotero library, made an extensive list of names found in Arthurian literature AND a list of the manuscripts that the various pieces of literature occur in, made a list of where in the Bible all our Biblical names are found, and looked up the spellings of those names in the Vulgate and in the Wycliffite translation, updated our list of events pages, read and summarised articles on Portestant and Puritan names, took over our social media accounts, wrote blog posts, adapted to remote working during a pandemic (and at least two multi-day power/internet outages), and took on the challenge of doing a research internship in a field about which none of them knew much at all before the beginning of the summer. There’s probably more that I’m not remembering at the moment!

It’s been truly great having them, and we wish all four the best of luck in their future endeavours. We are also super pleased that Adelia will be staying on at least through fall term, so look out for more posts from her!

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Mystery Monday: Raczko

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 masculine diminutive found in the Czech Republic:

But what is it a diminutive of? One possibility is Radoslav, a moderately popular name throughout Eastern Europe. But perhaps something else that we haven’t thought of — do you have a suggestion? Please share in the comments!


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