Tag Archives: Greek

Mystery Monday: Zira/Ziros

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 we’re looking at a pair of names, because given where they are both found, and the similarity in their sound/spelling, we’re wondering if they aren’t perhaps related.

Zira

Ziros

So we’ve got two examples, both from 13th C Poland, both recorded in Latin, both masculine nominative; one Zira, one Ziros. Neither of these is in a usual masculine Latin nominative format, which is a strong clue that both names are not native Latin names, and thus we should (or at least, could) look for Slavic roots. Given that neither was Latinized in the expected way (Zirus), this makes us think that the name which is being both of these instances is possibly the same name, one which does not lend itself to Latinization well, so whatever scribe is rendering it must take a stab at Latinizing it himself.

Now, the -os ending smacks very strongly of Greek declensions, which is one possible route into the Slavic name pool; however, Ziros is not itself an immediately identifiable Greek personal name — though it is the name of a lake (and of a newly formed municipality that takes its name from the lake). So that doesn’t help us very much.

Stretching out further afar, and quite a bit more tangentially, there is a modern Armenian masculine name Ժիրայր, which has a nickname Ժիրո or Žiro. Could this be related?

We’d love to know your thoughts, especially if you’ve got more expertise in Slavic names than we (currently) have!

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Mystery Monday: Uliana

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 especially interesting one because of the complicated context in which it is found. We have recently been working through a collection of notarial documents relating to enslaved pepole in Florence from the early 1360s on. The documents are fascinating for the wealth of data that they provide, not only on Florentine slave-owner names and the names of the people that they enslaved, but also the cultural and geographical origins of the enslaved people, their ages, and their physical characteristics. Reading through the records is sobering business: It is hard not to feel the weight of the unhappy story behind each entry. Most of the enslaved people are women; many of them are still children.

Most of the people were renamed after they were enslaved, with the documents often saying that someone was so named “in lingua latina”; a handful include the name the person was previously known by, “in lingua sua” or “in lingua tartare” (most frequently). Both data sets provide interesting material: On the side of the new names, certain classic Italian names are vastly over represented — probably 1/3 to 1/2 of the enslaved women were renamed some variant of Caterina or Margarita — both popular names in Italy in the 14th century, but not that popular. And on the side of the people’s original names, we get intriguing glimpses as to how names in Greek, Slavic, and Turkic languages were rendered into Latin. (For instance, the two Greek women who were named Cali or Chali in their original language may have in fact been named from καλή, the Greek word for ‘beautiful’).

What’s also interesting is that the pool of “Latin” names that were given to the enslaved people is not merely a subset of the names born by Florentines. Today’s mystery name is one that was the “new” name of two enslaved women (one of Tartar origin, the other not specified), and which we have not otherwise seen in Italy: Uliana.

Is it a form of Juliana/Iuliana? Is it a variant of Eliana (which itself may be a form of Juliana, or possibly a form of Ellen)? Is it distinct from either of these? We don’t know. We hope you might have some thoughts. Please share in the comments!

And if you are interested in knowing more about the enslaved people in 14th-century Florence, we are tweeting the names from the records on the anniversaries, at @FlorentineSlave.

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Mystery Monday: Gignosa/Ginnosa

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 from 12th C France, and was one that, before we wrote this post, was utterly opaque to us:
Ginnosa
Researching it for this post, though, led us to two more examples. One is a woman named “Barisia, cognomento Ginnosa”, wife of Rainald cognomento Barbatus, who gave money to a monastery in 1139, and another is a Gignosa, one of three daughters of Petrus Simonis (the entire family has lovely names; his wife is Helisabeth, Gignosa’s sisters are Laurentia and Aldeburgis, and their brother is Aimericus), who made a donation around 1120.

Two other relevant pieces of information that we turned up: First is the Greek word ιννος or γιννος ‘mule’, found in Chambers’s Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. The other is the occurrence of the word ginnosa in 13th-century Provencal literature, in the Romance of Flamenca, and in the Cort D’Amor. So! Do we have any southern French scholars amongst our readers? Do you recognise this word? Know what it means? Know what its root might be? Please share in the comments!

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The ‘elements’ of names: Earth (part 2!)

So after we posted our first post in what was to be a four-part series (one for each element) on names involving the four elements (read Part 1: Earth), a number of people pointed out that we totally overlooked a candidate for “earth”: ‘rock, stone’!

Well, rather than feeling too sheepish and embarrassed about such an oversight, we figured we’d simply fix this by making a follow-up post. So in Earth-Part-Two we’re going to look at all the names we have that derive from an element meaning ‘rock’ or stone’.

The most classic example is, of course, Peter, deriving from Greek πέτρος ‘rock’. The most well-known bearer of the name, Peter the first Catholic pope (at least from the medieval point of view!), was given his name as a metaphor for the foundation of the church itself. As the Wycliffite translation of the Bible (1395) puts it:

And Y seie to thee, that thou art Petre, and on this stoon Y schal bilde my chirche, and the yatis of helle schulen not haue miyt ayens it. (Matthew 16:18)

As the name of a disciple and pope, Peter was enormously popular in Europe. Our earliest citation is from the end of the 7th C in Germany, and by the time we hit 1600, you can’t turn around without bumping into a Peter or three. Geographically, almost every country that has citations in the database has an example of Peter — it’s even one of the three names we find in Algeria. The popularity of the name is reflected in the diversity and quantity of pet forms witnessed:

Pär, Peczold, Peep, Peireto, Per, Pere, Pereto, Perin, Perino, Perkyn, Perocto, Peron, Perono, Peronet, Perot, Perreau, Perrecars, Perrenet, Perresson, Perreset, Perret, Perrichon, Perrin, Perrinet, Perrod, Perron, Perronet, Perrono, Perrot, Perrotin, Perrusson, Pers, Perucho, Peschel, Peschil, Peschlin, Pescho, Peschyl, Pesco, Pesko, Pesold, Pessek, Pessel, Pesshico, Pessico, Pessko, Pesslin, Pesyco, Peterl, Pethe, Peto, Petrecono, Petreman, Petrezolo, Petricono, Petrin, Petrino, Petriolo, Petrocho, Petrocino, Petrono, Petrosino, Petrussio, Petruche, Petrucio, Petrutio, Piep, Pierel, Pieren, Pieret, Pierozo Pierren, Pierron, Pierrot, Pyotrussa

Of course, given the popularity of the masculine name, it’s no surprise that the feminine form, Petra was also relatively widespread throughout medieval Europe (although it was rare before the late 13th C). What might be surprising is that with one exception, all of our examples are of diminutive forms — too many to list here. Another name that needs to be mentioned in this context is the feminine name Petronilla. The root of this name is the Roman nomen Petronius. Petronius itself may possibly derive from the same Greek root; but it is not clear that it does. Nevertheless, medievally the name was treated as a feminine form of Peter, and it was moderately popular throughout England, France, and the Low Countries, with a handful of examples also turning up in Germany, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland.

But Greek isn’t the only language to have given us rocky names! We also have two Germanic/Scandinavian elements meaning ‘rock ” or ‘stone’ that were used in monothematic and dithematic names: Old Icelandic hallr ‘rock, stone’, found in the compound Haldor; and Proto-Germanic *stainaz ‘stone’, which gave rise to Old Icelandic steinn, Old English stān, Old Frisian, Old Saxon, and Old Dutch stēn, and Old High German stein.

This latter element was quite a popular element, both as a prototheme and as a deuterotheme:

Country Prototheme Deuterotheme
England Alfstan, Brihtstan, Dunstan, Goldstone, Thorsten, Wulfstan
Estonia Thorsten
France Steinhard Thorsten
Germany Steinhard
Iceland Thorsten
Ireland Dunstan, Thorsten
Norway Thorsten
Scotland Thorsten
Sweden Steinarr Holmsten, Thorsten

The element itself was also used as a standalone, monothematic name: Sten. We have examples from Finland, France, and Sweden.

We could also stretch the definition of “earth” as far as names derived from precious stones, but perhaps we’ll draw the line here and save those for another post on their own sometime!

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Book haul!

We were back at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds this last week, and came away with a book haul that is worth devoting a post to:
books

The Assize of Bread Book, 1477-1517 is a record from Southampton regarding fines related to selling poor-quality bread. It’s a mix of Latin, (Anglo-)French, and Middle/Early Modern English — sometimes all in the same entry so that we get to play “What’s the matrix language?” with records such as this:

Alysawne Chayne vendyt a John Debarde xxviij die ffebr’

(In passing, isn’t Alysawne an absolutely delicious form of Alison?)

Not directly onomastics, but welcome for background research, is Glossaire de la Langue d’Oïl (XIe-XIV siècles), published in France in 1891. It’s been rebound in a beautiful tooled leather binding, and we are not above noting that this played a role in our choice to acquire it!

What do Anschetillus, Daniel, Wimundus, Aelais, Evardus, Hugo, Tustinus, Serlo, Gauterius, and Regnarius all have in common? They’re all Norman names found in the late 12th C, in the Charters and Custumals of the Abbey of Holy Trinity, Caen: Part 2, the French Estates.

From a century later and across the channel, we have The Warwickshire Hundred Rolls of 1279-80: Stoneleigh and Kineton Hundreds. The late 13th century isn’t the most exciting of times, onomastically, in England, but we look forward to a good crop of solid names.

One of the fascinating things about looking at early records is watching Latin develop into vernaculars; sometimes you can be reading a charter for awhile before realizing “hey, wait, I’m not exactly sure WHICH language this is in.” Such is the case for many of the charters in Foundations of Crusader Valencia, Revolt & Recovery, 1257-1263: Diplomatarium of the Crusader Kingdom of Valencia, where Latin bleeds into Spanish and the documents will fill a gap we have in terms of names from 13th C Iberia.

Providing us with a wealth of Scottish material is the two-volume Liber Protocollorum with the Rental Book of Diocese of Glasgow. Did you know that the most typical Scots spelling of John was Jhon? It will be fun to see this book give up its treasures — quite literally, as many of the pages in these volumes haven’t been cut!

The last book is truly amazing — a very detailed edition and commentary on A Sixth-century Tax Register from the Hermpololite Nome — aka Coptic/Greek names from Egypt! Look for this in a Dictionary edition coming soon (just as soon as we figure out the most efficient way to enter names in a non-Roman alphabet!)

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‘Love’-ly Names for Valentine’s Day

Today is an good excuse to take a tour through names in the Dictionary that derive from words related to love.

Latin

Latin amo “I love” gives us a wealth of names, both masculine and feminine. The participle amandus/amanda ‘meant to be loved’ becomes Amant and Amanda, and the adjective amatus/amata ‘loved, beloved’ gives rise to Amat and Amata. On the active side of things, amator ‘lover’ turns into the name Amadore. From the Old French development of the Latin root, we have Ami and Amy, and then finally there are the compounds: Amadeus ‘beloved by God’ is wholly Latin, while the lovely Amadilde displays the unusual combination of a Latin prototheme with a Germanic deuterotheme.

Latin carus/cara ‘dear, beloved, loved’ was popular in Italian developments, including Caro and Cara simpliciter, and the compounds Bellacara, Carabella, Caradonna, and Deocar. The superlative form of the adjective is found in Carissima.

Finally, the Latin goddess name Venus is the root of the name Venerio (and also the word ‘venereal’, so we wouldn’t recommend this option to anyone seeking a name for their baby.)

Celtic

The root of the romantic Welsh name Angharad is a Proto-Celtic word for ‘love’.

The Old Breton word cum can mean both ‘gentle’ and ‘beloved’, and appears in the name Iarncum.

Hebrew

In rare cases, the name Dodo can derive from a Hebrew word meaning ‘beloved’. A more well-known Hebrew name with this meaning is David.

Slavic

The Slavic element drag, drog, drah ‘precious, beloved’ is a popular theme, found in Dragoslav.

Germanic

Old English is where we must turn for names of deriving from a Germanic element meaning love, specifically, lēof ‘dear, loved’. Here on the feminine side we have Loveday as well as, possibly, Lovewell, though the origin of the latter is uncertain, and on the masculine side Lefchild, Lefsy, Lefward, and Lefwin.

Greek

Finally, we have two names incorporating Greek φίλος ‘dear, loved, loving’: Philip and Theophilus.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Aristotle on the meaning of proper names

One perhaps conspicuous absence in any Dictionary entry is the ‘meaning’ of the name. Instead, we provide a linguistic etymology, identifying the root words or elements that were used in constructing the name. This is because, semantically, proper names do not function in the same way that ordinary nouns do. What, exactly, is the semantic function of proper names, and how this function develops and differs from ordinary nouns, is something that interests linguists and philosophers alike, and the answers are by no means clear. What is clear is that the semantic function of proper nouns does differ from that of common names, and this is clear by looking at how one and the same string of sounds is understood in different ways whether it is used as a name or a noun. We do not expect every Heather we meet to be green and bushy, nor every Thomas to be a twin, despite the linguistic etymologies of both these names, and even the current use of the word heather in English to refer to a green, bushy plant.

This fact — that the semantic origins of the elements do not carry over to the semantic meaning of the compound — is articulated at least as far back as Aristotle. In On Interpretation, Aristotle considers the case of the proper name Κάλλιππος, a crasis of Ancient Greek καλός ‘beautiful, fair’ and ἵππος ‘horse’. He points out that:

In fact, in ‘Κάλλιππος’, ‘ἵππος’ indicates nothing by itself, as it does in the phrase ‘καλός ἵππος’ [1].

Thus, “evidently what is indicated by ‘ἵππος’ does not contribute directly to the signification of the word ‘Κάλλιππος’; for, when someone does makes an assertion about ‘Κάλλιππος’, she only has a man — Κάλλιππος — in mind and nothing related to horses or fairness” [2].

For modern parents, the semantic meanings of the linguistic elements that contribute to a proper name are often an important factor in the choice of name — which is why every baby name book you pick up lists each name’s “meaning”. But this emphasis on the importance of the meanings of the linguistic roots of proper names is a relatively modern feature. The medieval parents of Hildefrid wouldn’t have chosen the name because it derives from Germanic elements meaning “battle” and “peace” (a nearly nonsensical combination!). Names were generally given to honor a saint or a relative, because they recombine elements of the parents’ name, because of local practices, rather than because of the semantic origins of the elements from which the name is constructed [3].

Notes

[1] Cited in Ana-María Mora-Márquez, The Thirteenth-Century Notion of Signification: The Discussions and Their Origin and Development, (Leiden: Brill, 2015), p. 119.

[2] ibid.

[3] The rise of virtue names in the 16th C is a distinct and noteworthy exception to this general rule.

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