Tag Archives: German

Mystery Monday: Fisa

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.

12th-century France is full of lovely, unusual feminine names, and one of them is today’s Mystery Monday name.

There is a Latin explanation for what it might be: fisa is a perfect passive participle of Latin fido ‘trust, have confidence (in)’. It is possible that this is the root of the name, but it would certainly be an unusual construction.

Does anyone have any thoughts? Any alternative explanations (probably, Germanic)? Please share in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Elisagar

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.

Elisagar

Here’s a poser! By the 13th century, there aren’t that many names of Germanic origin where the root themes are obscure. And yet, this appears to be what we have here. This masculine name found in 13th C Switzerland is probably of Germanic origin, with the final element being Old High German, Old Saxon gēr ‘spear’. But what on earth could Elisa- be? This is one of those names that is quite opaque to use, and we would love any insights or thoughts you might have. Please share in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Wexbert

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 most fun medieval names are the ones that look like they are made-up. Like, someone who doesn’t know much about medieval names looked at some names, and then decided to make up their own, but they didn’t really quite get how to do it right, so you end up with some laughably funny options.

Today’s mystery monday name is one of those: Doesn’t Wexbert sound like it’s someone’s idea of what a medieval name is, rather than being an actual medieval name? We have a 12th C Latinised example from Germany, so the deuterotheme is obvious — it has to be from Proto-Germanic *berhtaz ‘bright’. But Wex-? What’s that?!

Wexbert

Have you got any thoughts? Know of any other examples of names with this prototheme? Please share in the comments!

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Archie and Harrison: Royal baby names?!

Whether or not you’re a fan of the British monarchy, if you’re a fan of names, it’s hard not to get excited about the announcement of the name of the Queen’s new great-grandson.

But when the news came out yesterday afternoon that the new royal baby is named Archie Harrison (not even Archibald!), many of the conversations I overheard, online and in person, were uncertain. Americans find Archie/Archibald fusty and old-fashioned (it’s much less so in Britain!); Brits find Archie unendurably diminutive — what’s wrong with good old Archibald?! Others felt that Harrison was a bit too en pointe for a son of Harry.

One advantage of dealing with names of historical people is that all the people whose names we discuss in this blog are dead — if we poke a bit of sly fun, no one will be hurt. It’s different went the names being analysed are the names of actual, living people, with parents who chose that name with care and with love. So I don’t want to get into any analysis of whether Archie Harrison is a “good” or a “bad” name for royal baby (or any baby) — that’s none of our business.

But what we can do is talk about the names themselves! Archibald is a curious name in that it’s most iconic spelling is actually its most idiosyncratic, if you look at its origins. The name is a dithematic Germanic name, with the root themes being Old High German erchan ‘sublime, special; chief; genuine, true’ and Old High German bald ‘bold’. (For Tolkien fans, the prototheme is a cognate with Old English eorc(n)an, as in the Arkenstone.) The -n often turned to -m before -b (which was sometimes also spelled -p), and a variety of spellings retaining that nasal consonant can be found in Austria, France, Germany, and Poland between the mid 9th century and the early 13th century; in the latter Middle Ages, the name was increasingly less popular on the continent.

This can be contrasted with the rise of the name in the British Isles, and particularly in Scotland. Scottish Latinisations tended to drop the -n- or -m-, as well as to shift the initial vowel from E- to A-, which is how we get the familiar (in English-speaking countries) spelling Archibald or Archibold. The name was common amongst the earls and dukes of Douglas, Moray, Argyll, and Angus from the 13th century onwards; it was its popularity amongst Scottish nobility that eventually caused the name to spread southwards, with examples occurring in England in the 16th century.

One question is — how did the name get to Scotland? It first shows up at the end of the 12th/beginning of the 13th century, which is around the time that it is fallen out of popularity on the continent, so a continental explanation seems unlikely. There was a corresponding Old English cognate, Eorc(n)anb(e)ald [1]; but this native name appears to have fallen out of use in England after the Conquest, so is also not a clear candidate for migrating up north. There is one other twist to the story: Often, in Scotland, Archibald wasn’t really Archibald — it was a way that Latin-writing scribes rendered the Gaelic name Giolla Easpuig!

So much for Archibald — which, after all, isn’t even the new baby’s name! What about the diminutive Archie? Well, we haven’t yet found any examples of this form in the data we’ve surveyed. This is due in large part to the fact that diminutives are, across the board, less well represented in documentary forms, so, just as modernly, medieval people recorded as Archibald in a formal charter or a birth certificate may very well have been called Archie by their friends and parents. Diminutive forms are not excluded from formal documents, so we may still yet find evidence for this specific form before 1600.

The curious thing is that Harry, the root of Harrison and Archie’s father’s name, is sometimes itself considered a diminutive! Whether it’s a nickname or just a variant form of Henry depends on your ontology of nicknames, and is not a question we want to answer decidedly here. Harry simply represents how the French forms Henry and Henri were pronounced, with the nasalisation of the first vowel very light, and we can see Harry being used in English contexts as an alternative to Henry from the early 15th C onwards (as well as other variants such as Hare, Harre, Harri, and Harrie.) Such was the prevalence of the -n-less forms and pronunciations in England, that the surname Harrison was far more popular than, e.g., Henrison. (And one should of course not forget the vast number of Henrys that have sat upon the English or British throne!)

So while neither element of the name is classically medieval, both have a strong traditional history specific to Britain, making them perfect choices for a British royal baby.

Notes

[1] Found in the Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England.

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Mystery Monday: Trebeiza

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 11th C Austria, in a list of witnesses to a charter, and is of uncertain gender (but, given that it’s in a list of witnesses to a charter, is probably masculine). We’ve found a lot of names from modern-day Austria that have proven to be trickier than expected to identify — it’s fascinating to see the strength of the Germanic influence on the naming pool waning the further east and south we go.

Trebeiza

This name, however, isn’t a complete mystery! Our “throw the name at google, see what comes up” method of researching tricky names led us to Christa Hlawinka’s MagPhil diploma Slawische Sprachspuren im Mühlviertel, which discusses this name on pp. 96-97:

Triefhaider: Der Hof Triefhaider liegt in der Rotte Dörfl, Gemeinde Kefermarkt, GB und PB Freistadt.

1115 F 13. JhA ist in einer lateinischen Urkunde […] predium Marchuardi Threbeia erwähnt; 1125 predium Marcwardi Trebeie und Trebeię, 1230 Witigo de Treveie, 1418 Trefay.

Ein slawischer Personenname *Trěbějь zu *trěb- ‘bedürftig, geeignet, würdig sein’ könnte namengebend gewesen sein. (HOHENSINNER 2003a:164-165). *Trěbějь findet
sich ebenfalls im Verzeichnis der alpenslawischen Personennamen, dazu ist in der Steiermark 1030 die weibliche Form Trebeiza (< *Trěbějica) belegt (KRONSTEINER 1975:76,167). Vgl. sln. treba ‘notwendig’ und tschech. třeba ‘vielleicht’; entsprechendes ursl. *terba könnte von *terbiti ‘reinigen, roden’ abgeleitet sein im Sinne von ‘opfern’ (aksl. trěba ‘Opfer’) (REJZEK 2001:679).

We wouldn’t mind at all, though, some help translating this, particularly the Slavic elements and the abbreviations! If you can help, please let us know in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Sarges

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 weird little Low German name found in Estonia in the 14th C. By context it’s masculine, but other than that, we have don’t really have any clue — not even a gut feeling or a hunch. It doesn’t resemble anything we’ve see before!

Sarges

Have you seen this name before? Have any thoughts to its origin? Please share in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Quant

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 rather-modern sounding late 16th C Swedish name — or, at least, a name found in Sweden. Between 1591 and 1597, in a list of innkeepers from Stockholm, the same man shows up named Quant, Quante, and Qwant. While it’s reasonable to assume that most of Stockholm’s innkeepers were Swedish, there are other names in the list that show distinctly non-Swedish (generally more German) influences, so it’s entirely possible that Mr. Quant is not Swedish himself.

Quant

What this means is that we could be looking beyond Sweden for the origin of the name. There is an older Danish word qvant ‘young child’ mentioned in Wiktionary’s entry for the Westrobothnian word ‘gwadd’ (we’ll wait while you go and look up “Westrobothnian” — you wouldn’t be the only one to admi that they’d never heard of that language before this post!) — however, there’s no evidence to back up the existence of this word, so we’re quite reasonably leery of taking this as the root without further support.

Have you got any support to lend to us? Or other suggestions as to the origin of the name? Please share in the comments!

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