Tag Archives: Czech

Publication of Edition 2016 no. 3

We’re pleased to announce the publication of edition 2016 no. 3 of the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources, after a slight delay caused by needing to switch servers as we used all 1.2m inodes on our previous virtual machine. (If you notice any issues with the new website, please let us know.)

The new edition contains 1974 entries with 47392 citations (an average of 24 per entry, but of course this doesn’t reflect the actual distribution, which is closer to Zipf’s Law). This edition contains 55 new masculine names: Alfsy, Barnabas, Conbert, Erasmus, Eyvind, Finnian, Frederius, Frotmund, Giambono, Herrich, Hippolytus, Honest, Honor, Honorat, Humiliosus, Isbrand, Isnard, Lamond, Landbald, Langward, Lauger, Lautard, Leander, Lefchild, Lefsy, Lefward, Leif, Lelio, Lothar, Mirko, Osulf, Peter-Anthony, Procopius, Reinulf, Santiago, Sasso, Saulf, Savaric, Seaborn, Sforza, Siclebert, Siclebald, Tudor, Vigil, Volkward, Walerard, Walrich, Werwald, Willo, Winsy, Wulfbald, Wulfgis, Wulfrich, Wulfsy, and Zawissius; and 26 new feminine names: Amelia, Chloe, Guimar, Hesperia, Hildegilde, Hildelinde, Jocosa, Laria, Lautilde, Leah, Lella, Odine, Ottabona, Proxima, Samanilde, Sassa, Seconda, Sehild, Sica, Siclebalda, Siclehilde, Sicleramna, Sicletrude, Sidonia, Willberna, and Zbincza.

With this edition we have greatly expanded our coverage of Wales, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, adding many new sources and many new names for each of these countries. We have also added our first citations from Romania (an example of Charles) and Slovenia (examples of Berthold, Conrad, Reynard, Rudolf, and William).

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Medieval roots of modern names: The US 2015 top 51-100 for girls

While the top 100 boy’s names were all relative homogeneous amongst the groups that we looked at, the girl’s names are much more varied. We’ve noted in the previous groupings how rare names of Biblical origin are compared to the boy’s names; that’s not the case for this group of names in which names of Biblical origin are equal first with names deriving from surnames. This just goes to reinforce the great diversity in feminine names!

So let’s look at those Biblical names first. Sadie (52) is of American origin, originally a nickname of Sarah (58). Sarah itself is a relatively late spelling; the intrusive -h wasn’t found before the 16th C in England. Gabriella (54) is not a Biblical name, but it is a feminine form of one. While it’s masculine counterpart was used moderately commonly, the feminine form was rare outside of Spain and Italy in the Middle Ages. Madelyn (59) and Madeline (90) are two of the many variant spellings of Magdalene, originally a byname meaning ‘from Magdala’. One might view Madelyn as a prototypical ‘modern’ spelling with the y replacing i-e. And yet, Madelyn can be found in England in 1598. It’s actually Madeline that would be an atypical spelling, medievally! We include Genesis (65) in this list not because it is a Biblical name but because it is a name with Biblical origins. The penchant for naming children after book chapters is definitely a modern one! Returning to more traditional names, Eva (75) is a Latinized form of the name; it was never especially common, but it can be found in the Czech Republic, England, France, and Italy. The spelling Naomi is a post-medieval one; before the 17th C, the usual English (and French) form was Noemy or Noemi (77). Lydia (81), like Magdalene, could also be classified as a surname, given that it was originally a locative byname referring to a kingdom in Asia Minor. The name has historically been quite popular amongst Dutch-speaking communities, particularly Protestant ones. Isabelle (94) could also perhaps go into the names of French origin; you’ll struggle to find any Isabelle in the Old or New Testaments — but you’ll find plenty of Elizabeth‘s, and Isabelle derives from an Old Provençal form of that name. Similarly, one might expect to find Gianna (96) under the Italian names, but we have included it here as it is a feminine form of John. Both it and Giana can be found from the 13th C on.

It’s an eclectic group of surnames that turn up in this group. First we have the locatives: Kaylee (61) can be from either the French Cailly or the Lancashire Cayley. Hailey (64) is either from Hailey in Oxfordshire, or a descriptive for anyone who lives near a clearing filled with hay. Peyton (72) is the name of cities in both Essex and Suffolk, and Ashley (85) ‘clearing filled with ashes’ is the name of many medieval English placenames. In this subgroup we can perhaps also include Kylie (66). The origin of this name is disputed, and certainly we have no evidence that it was used in the Middle Ages. However, it is sometimes considered to be a feminine form of Kyle, which itself was a medieval placename, in Scotland. Next we have the occupationals, with Piper (68), of Old English origin and found from at least the 12th C on, and Taylor (76), of French origin, and also found from the 12th C on. The last four are all Irish patronymics in origin. Kennedy (57) is a an English form of Cennétig or Cinnéide, a rare name in Ireland used in the 12th and 14th C, and which first shows up in Scotland in the reign of William the Lion (1165-1214). Mackenzie (73) is an English or Scottish form of the patronymic byname mac Coinnich ‘son of Coinneach’. An earlier form of Coinneach, Cainnech, was used in Ireland between the 6th and 11th C. Quinn (97) is an English form of Irish Cuinn, the genitive (possessive) form of Conn, a masculine name used from the 10th to 16th C. Reagan (99) is also an anglicized form, of the masculine name Riacán used from the 9th to 12th C.

The next two biggest groups are those of Latin and Greek origin. The former kicks off with a name we’ve discussed before: Despite what many modern baby name websites nad books might say, Stella (51) is not a modern name, but can be found in 15th and 16th C Italy. Lucy (55) is a vernacular English form of a popular saint’s name, Lucia, though even in England Luce was the more typical form than Lucy. Bella (74) can be a pet form of any of various names including Isabella and Jacobella, but it can also be simply the Latin word for ‘beautiful’. The root of Ruby (83) is the gemstone name, but the name of the gem itself derives from Latin rubeus, rubea ‘red’. This is another name which many people consider to be a modern coinage which is not. With imperial roots, it is no surprise that Julia (89) has had a long history of use from classical Rome to the modern era. Some people credit Shakespeare with the introduction of the name into England, but this is false; the name was already in use there by the 13th C. Vivian (95) as the name of two early saints, but despite this the name was rarely used by women medieval. We have one late-period Italian example. Clara (98), on the other hand, enjoyed steady, if not excessively popular, usage throughout Europe.

Turning now to the Greek names, we’ve see two variants of Arianna (56), as well as one of Khloe (100). Maya (69) and Aurora (79) are two names of Greek origin (though Maya actually has more than one origin!) for which we have not yet found any evidence of medieval usage — though this is not to say that we won’t! Melanie (80) has also already shown up on this blog before, when we discussed names deriving from the color black. It was only rarely used medievally, in significant contrast to Katherine (84), one of the most popular women’s names of all time. Next, we have Alexis (86); a name which was found in the Middle Ages, but which was exclusively masculine. Its use as a feminine name is modern. Finally, we have Cora (88); we haven’t yet found an instance of the root name, but it gave rise to diminutive forms which are witnessed, including Corella and Corina.

There is but a handful of names of German origin. Mila (53) is a feminine form of Milo. The masculine form was quite common, but the feminine form was almost unused. Caroline (62) is a diminutive of Carol, a feminine form of Charles. We haven’t found any medieval examples of Caroline, but the diminutive forms were much more common than any of the full forms, with both French Charlotte and Italian Carlutia found in the late period. French-influenced Aubree (78) does not have the same origin that Aubrey has; the root name is Germanic Alberada or Alberadis. Alice (87) is an English form of a name that was popular throughout Europe in many different variants and diminutives; Alyssa (93) is one such, and while we haven’t yet found an explicit medieval instance of it, we would not be surprised to do so.

Next we have a group of names which have medieval roots as words, but were not used as names before the 19th C. The word Hazel (63) is Old English in origin, and you can read the entry for it in the Middle English Dictionary here. Autumn (67), on the other hand, is from an Old French word, used in Middle English from the 14th C. Medieval names were not generally taken from the stock of ordinary words; but one exception to this is the rise of virtue names such as Faith (91) in the 16th C. Serenity (71) is a modern coinage (it derives from Latin Serena); this word was not used in Middle English and only imported into English later.

Two names have long historical lineages but need to be classified as uncertain in origin. The usual tale of Eleanor (60) is that it’s from the phrase alia Aenor ‘another Aenor’, but this is unlikely given the early examples of the name, many of which include a -d-. Annabelle (92) has been in use in Scotland since the 12th C, and appears to be either a variant of or a misspelling of Amabel.

Brianna (82) is a feminine form of Irish Brian, and another name people point to as a modern coinage. However, Briana occurs as a name of a character in a 16th C Spanish romance, Espejo de Principe y Cavalleros. This poem was translated into English in 1578 and published under the title of The mirrour of princely deedes and knighthood: wherein is shewed the worthinesse of the Knight of the Sunne, and his brother Rosicleer, sonnes to the great Emperour Trebetio: with the strange loue of the beautifull and excellent princesse Briana, and the valiant actes of other noble princes and knightes. Now newly translated out of Spanish into our vulgar English tongue, by M.T. On an onomastically unrelated note, the “M.T.” here is one Margaret Taylor, the first woman to translate a Spanish romance into English and the first woman to have published a romance in English.

As the month draws to a close this is probably our last post in this series (perhaps until next year?), and it only seems fitting that we end with a name which in a sense epitomizes modern-day American naming practices, and which has no medieval roots whatsoever: Nevaeh (70), which is simply ‘heaven’ spelled backwards.

We hope you enjoyed this tour of the medieval roots of popular modern names!

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Mystery Monday: Nahrad

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 another one from the Czech Republic. (This is not a coincidence. We’d love to get a Czech expert onto our team to fill our current gap.) We have two 14th C citations of it from Latin records. Do you recognize the name? Do you have any other examples of it?



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Mystery Monday: Lowko

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 another Czech name, and the -ko ending indicates it is likely a diminutive. But what is the root name? Possibly some form of Louis? We’d be happier with that identification if we had forms of Louis beginning with Low- in this linguistic area. Do you have any to share?


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Mystery Monday: Kadold

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 has citations from Austria and the Czech Republic, and is a rare example of a name spelled with K- in Latin. The deuterotheme may be related to Old High German hold ‘friendly, comely, graceful’, but the prototheme is opaque. Do you have any thoughts?


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Mystery Monday: Hablo

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 mystery name is another name from Moravia: Any Czech scholars have any thoughts?


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You want nicknames? We got nicknames!

In dictionary entries, we sort our citations by modern day country borders (because trying to ascertain which country certain towns were in at which period is quite a bit of work — especially when ‘country’ isn’t a viable geographic category for much of the Middle Ages!). One particularly interesting aspect of the multi-cultural/cross-geographic data that we have is that it allows us to trace certain patterns or trends across these boundaries, and one such pattern is the prolificness (or not) of diminutives. We touched on this in the previous post when we briefly commented on the percentage of names that are diminutives in any given era. In this post, we thought we’d explore this further, with some stats and some bar graphs; it’s been too long since we’ve had a nice graph!

Table of diminutive numbers and percentages

Country No. of dims. No. of non-dims. Percentage
Austria 0 60 0%
Brabant 18 191 8.6%
Czech Republic 241 912 18.5%
England 554 15457 3.4%
Estonia 612 905 40.3%
Finland 58 205 22%
France 1181 11744 9.1%
Germany 153 3973 3.7%
Iceland 0 63 0%
Ireland 12 294 3.9%
Italy 525 2387 18%
Latvia 201 1079 15.7%
Malta 0 10 0%
The Netherlands 36 862 4%
Norway 0 3 0%
Poland 21 123 14.5%
Portugal 2 384 .5%
Scotland 47 824 5.3%
Spain 62 1556 3.8%
Sweden 27 589 4.3%
Switzerland 102 543 15.8%
Ukraine 6 82 6.8%
Wales 46 391 10.5%

In some contexts, it is clear that we don’t have enough data to draw any sort of robust conclusions — Austria, Iceland, Malta, Norway, the Ukraine. But omitting these from discussion (and also omitting England, second from the bottom, and France, no. 8, since their much larger numbers make the graph inelegant), we are left with an interesting picture of the relative percentages of nicknames and diminutives across different geographical areas:

The four outstanding areas are Estonia, the Czech Republic, Finland, and Italy. We’ve already discussed the nicknames in Estonia and the Czech Republic when we covered German and Slavic forms; so next up, we will explore diminutive and nicknames forms in Finland and Italy.


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Nicknames: Slavic diminutives

What is fascinating about diminutive suffixes is how you can trace linguistic contact and language relationships through diminutive forms. We saw that in our previous post, with the similarity between German and Dutch diminutives, and we will see it again when we look at the French diminutives -el and -in. In this post, we look at Slavic diminutives — suffixes used in Poland, the Ukraine, and the Czech Republic — which share a clear relationship with Low German -ke(n). We concentrate on the two most common suffix types: -ko and -ek for men and -ka and -ek(a) for women.

As with the German suffixes, these show up in Latin contexts at least as early as the 13th C. [1,2] But unlike some of the German diminutive forms, which for the most part were rarer than the root names, Slavic diminutives often eclipsed the root name in popularity — for example, in the Czech Republic, diminutive forms of Judith far outstrip the full form.

In what is now modern-day Czech Republic, the suffix -ka was often spelled -ca (especially in Latin contexts where k was often avoided) or with an added sibilant, either before or after the \k\, resulting in -zca, -zka, -kza, etc. Examples of this include Anka (from Anne) and Elsca, Elzca, and Elzka (from Elizabeth). Often, this suffix was added not to the full form of the name, but to a hypocoristic from — as in the forms of Elizabeth just noted. In particular, native Slavic names were often truncated before the diminutive suffix was added, as we see in the names Sdynka, Zdincza, Zdinka (from Zdeslava) and Budka, Budcza (from Budislava). As a result, it can be often difficult to identify what the root name is, which is the case with many of the masculine examples we currently have. Given their linguistic and geographic context, masculine names such as Boczko, Czenko, Daszko, Luczko, Parcko, Raczko, Steczko, and Wyrsko are almost all certainly diminutives, though as of yet we haven’t yet confidently identified the root names.

Our data from Poland, at this point, is still relatively limited, but even amongst the handful of diminutive forms that we have, we can see the influence of the Slavic construction in forms such as Ludeko (from Louis), another example of which we find in Lübeck a few years later. What we tend to see more in our limited Polish data is similarity with German suffixes, in particular one which we didn’t discuss in our previous post: -el. When we discuss German masculine diminutive suffixes, we’ll return to this!

Finally, let’s look at Ukraine. As with Poland, our data from the Ukraine is still quite limited, and yet, even amongst that limited data we have a surprisingly large percentage of diminutive forms (making up nearly 7%!) [3]. We see both the -(z)ko and -ek suffixes in this data, as witnessed by Iaczko (from Jacob), Iwanko (from John), and Muszyk (root name not yet identified), on the masculine side, and Marsucha (from Mary) on the feminine side.

One must be leery of drawing any strong conclusions from the limited data that we’ve gathered so far. Nevertheless, even in this small data set we have ample illustration of the variety of ways in which diminutives could be formed, and evidence of their popularity.


[1] Artsikhovskii, A. V., et al. Novgorodskie gramoty na bereste, Vols I-VII. Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1953-78, no. 348.

[2] Moroshkin, Mikhail. Slavianskii imenoslov ili sobranie slavianskikh lichnykh imen. Saint Petersburg: n.p., 1867, p. 124.

[3] Compare that with, say, England or Spain, where diminutives make up 3%, or Sweden, where it is 4%.


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Statistics from the other side

The last few months we’ve been posting statistics about how things look with a view towards the first edition of the Dictionary, but today I wanted to say a little bit about the other side of the statistics, all the data that we’ve collected that is not yet ready for publication.

Compared to the 480+ entries that are ready for publication, we have 1580+ that have been created but are still in the drafting/research phase — nearly four times as many. These entries are sitting unfinished for any number of various reasons:

  • Time. When entering individual citations (VNFs in editor-speak), when a new name is reached that doesn’t yet have an entry associated with its canonical form (CNF in editor-speak), we simply create a CNF file which is empty other than the name form itself, and continue entering data. Depending on the data set being transcribed, over the course of an afternoon, 25+ such entries could be generated. Then, someone has to sit down, compare them to the CNF files already in existence (to make sure that it isn’t actually a duplicate of something, just in a different spelling), collect etymological and usage information, review everything to make sure it’s accurate, there are no typos, the XML formatting is correct, etc.
  • Etymology. A lot of the names we deal with are ‘known’ quantities; their origin has been well established, and thus it’s just a matter of writing up the etymological information correctly. Others, though, are unique and puzzling, and a single citation or two is not sufficient for positive identification. For this, I can offer examples the names Pelejana (Valencia, 1510), Persla (Brno, 1349), and Pevernel (Devon, 1599) (yes, I was working in “Pe-” last night…). These are likely tractable cases, but need to wait until further examples are collected before we can make headway with identification.
  • The intractable ones. Some, however, are going to be intractable: We fully expect that there will be names where all we can say is “This unique name of uncertain origin is found only in Italy in the early 14th C”, or the like. But, as with the names of (currently) uncertain origin noted above, we can’t make such a decision about a name too quickly.
  • Non-Latin alphabets (other than Greek). The Dictionary currently has no ready-for-publication entries which involve names of Hebrew origin, because we are still determining the best way to handle words written in that alphabet, in particular how to store the data and how to make sure it displays properly on the website. This means that, right now, a tremendously large number of names of Biblical origin are not yet ready.
  • Complex developments. In many cases, it’s rather straightforward to trace the development of a name through different time-periods and cultures, to confidently say, e.g., that Giovanni is a form of John. Other names are not so straightforward: Are Randal, Randolph, and Ranulph all distinct names? They are of the same etymological origin, which normally would cause us to group them together; but would someone looking for Ranulph think to look under Randal?
  • Names of cultural importance. For many names, providing the etymological information and some information about the use of the name by important royalty, saints, or popes is sufficient: The citations then speak for themselves in illustrating the spread of usage over time and space. But some names are, through their widespread use, important from a ‘cultural’ perspective, i.e., the perspective of anyone who is interested in the relationship between onomastics and social and personal identities. These names deserve greater comment, which, in turn, takes time to adequately compile, collate, and present. An example of such a name is John, whose popularity in pretty much every western European culture from the early 13th C on strips that of almost every other masculine name. (It is rare to find a data set where John and variants are not the most common name by a significant margin. I’ve always wondered about Ormskirk, Lancashire; in their 16th C baptismal register, Thomas just barely squeaks past John to be the most popular name.)

So what does all this mean? It means that the first edition is not going to contain a lot of names that people might expect to be in there (John very most likely being one of them). But it also means that there is always place for further research, and that we are unlikely to reach the end of potential new entries any time soon. It also means that at some point down the line, we’ll be able to put together a “Does Anyone Know This Name?” page where lay users of the Dictionary as well as onomastic specialists can contribute their knowledge regarding identification and etymology of rare and unusual names.

It also means that we could stop collecting data now (though we won’t!) and spend the next two months solely doing research, and there’d still be potentially nearly 10,000 VNFs that could end up in an upcoming edition, since that is the number we correctly have waiting for review by one of the editors, to ensure that the entry details are correct and that the entry for the corresponding CNF is ready for publication. And this is just a scratch on the surface: There are hundreds of thousands of names out there waiting for us to catalogue them.

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Taking stock

Though, as noted earlier, we will be unable to release the first edition of the Dictionary at the end of this month as originally planned, nevertheless we are continuing to make good progress on the data-collection and -entry side of things. I thought it would be fun to take stock of things as they stand, and put up a few teaser statistics.

There are currently 297 entries ready for publication: Each of these entries includes the etymological derivation of the name; brief notes about any major royalty (kings/queens; emperors/empresses), popes, or saints who bore the name; and any other relevant information concerning the linguistic development of the name, references to secondary literature, or cross-references to other application dictionary entries. 176 of the entries are masculine names, ranging from Adolf to Zdyslav, and the remaining 121 are feminine, ranging from Accorsa to Zoete.

There are 3880 citations distributed over these 297 entries, making an average of just over 13 citations per entry. Of course, the reality is much different: Many of the entries have only a single citation, and a bare handful of entries have hundreds. Such minimal data is already indicative of the larger sample being confirmative of Zipf’s Law; one exciting consequence of the Dictionary is that research concerning empirical matters such as Zipf’s Law will be much easier to undertake as a huge body of data will all be gathered in a single place.

The citations are taken from records from the Czech Republic, Germany, England, France, Italy, Scotland, Spain, and Sweden. The earliest citations are from 779, a handful of masculine names from a Carolingian charter; the latest are from 1600 and are drawn from English parish records. Approximately 1850 citations are from Latin-language records; the remainder are from various vernaculars.

I rather like nice little statistics: Maybe we’ll do updates like this the beginning of every month!


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