Tag Archives: Herois

Nature names: Trees, forests, and woods

Nature names are a popular choice of names in contemporary Anglo naming practices, so we thought it would be interesting to see what sort of nature names can be found in medieval Europe. The answer is “Not many” — of all the inspirations that there were for coining or constructing new names in the Middle Ages, the option of taking as a name some nature-related word was very rarely exercised.

In this post, we look at names deriving from elements related to trees, forests, woods, etc.

Romance

Masc. Sylvius and fem. Sylvia derive from the Latin word silva ‘woodland, forest’. From this word we also have the masc./fem. pair Sylvester and Sylvestra.

The other class of forest/tree/wood names deriving from Latin origins are those which are the names of specific types of trees. Laurence and Laurencia both derive from a Roman cognomen itself derived from Latin laurus ‘laurel, bay-tree’. The masc./fem. pair Palm and Palma derive from Latin palma, which can either refer to the palm of the hand or to the branch of a palm tree. This name became popular in the Middle Ages as a name for people born or christened on Palm Sunday. The final tree-type name that we have instances of was also influenced, in its use, by its significance to Christianity, namely, Olive, from Latin oliva ‘olive tree’. (It is often hypothesized that Oliver also derives from this word; but in truth, the origin of this name is uncertain.)

Germanic

Old Saxon widu, wido,Old High German witu ‘wood, woods, forest’ was moderately common in compound names, both masculine and feminine. In men’s names, it’s almost exclusively used as a prototheme, as illustrated in the names Guiart, Guither, Witugis, and Wedekind; the one exception is the simplex name Guy.

In contrast, our only example of the element in women’s names is as a deuterotheme, in the names Alvice, Ansois, Eloise, Hawise, Herois, and Hildois.

The Old Icelandic cognate viĆ°r can be found in the name Arvid.

Hybrid

The final name is a curious one. Modern French bois ‘woodland, woods’ can be traced back to Old French bois, from Latin boscus, but a Latin origin is not enough to put this element under the ‘Romance’ category; for boscus is actually a vulgar Latin development, a Latinization of Frankish busc or busk, and this Frankish word in turn developed from Proto-Germanic buskaz ‘bush, thicket’. So it can be considered as either a Romance element or a Germanic one!

The name we have that includes this element is itself a curious one, because it was not a given name in origin. Tallboys was originally a French nickname for a wood-cutter, or anyone who cuts wood; but in the 16th century in England, there developed a pattern of using surnames as given names (no, this isn’t a modern naming pattern as some people might think!). We have one example of Tallboys used as a given name, and it occurs in England.

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Publication of Edition 2016 no. 4

We’re pleased to announce that Edition 2016, No. 4, went live last night. We didn’t quite hit our (admittedly ambitious) goal of reaching 50,000 citations, but with 48,862 in this edition, we’ll surely pass it in the next!

We also crossed the 2100 threshold for number of entries, coming in to a total of 2108. There are 86 new masculine names:

Adalsad
Adegar
Aderich
Adrewic
Aginbert
Agenteus
Agino
Albulf
Alcteus
Alfgar
Alker
Allegro
Ambrich
Arcwin
Autlaic
Baldbert
Baldwar
Baltad
Benegar
Berengaud
Berlwin
Bernhaus
Bertgaud
Bertier
Bertingaud
Bertleis
Blither
Blithewine
Bonadeus
Brightnod
Candid
Carlfrid
Dodeus
Dructbald
Dructbert
Drudmund
Drudo
Dulcedram
Edwy
Einarr
Electulf
Ephraim
Erchamar
Erchamold
Erchamrad
Erlulf
Ermengod
Ermenulf
Everbald
Everbert
Expert
Farolf
Felician
Felicio
Fergal
Framwin
Gammo
Gerich
Gisfrid
Hadward
Haelnou
Haeloc
Hakon
Haldor
Hartmar
Hartrich
Harwich
Heidenrich
Helmold
Hemard
Herwin
Herulf
Hildulf
Hugier
Hugran
Hywel
Jaromir
John-Alphonse
John-Dominic
John-Francis
John-Jacob
John-Paul
Nivard
Tanculf
Walateus
Winulf

And 58 new feminine names:

Adalginde
Adalgisdis
Adaly
Agina
Albilde
Alctrude
Ansois
April
Arnberta
Arngilde
Autlinde
Balda
Balsinde
Bertegilde
Bertiere
Bertisma
Blathilde
Blitgilde
Brunissende
Doctrama
Douglass
Elisaria
Erchamilde
Esther
Eugenia
Eusebia
Fionnghuala
Frambalda
Frotberga
Gislilde
Gontarde
Haburg
Hadena
Harda
Hartgilde
Hartois
Heidentrude
Henarda
Herilde
Herois
Hildesinde
Hildois
Honorata
Honoria
Jocosa
Jonilde
Liutisma
Liutlinde
Liutrada
Luceria
Luthera
Madalberta
Nadalinde
Natalisma
Primavera
Reina
Stabilia
Vera

Enjoy!

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