Tag Archives: Hugh

Kings, Queens, and Bible Figures…or Not

It’s very easy for people with a dabbling interest in modern baby names to look at recent trends in Anglo-American naming practices (e.g., in the last century or so), compare them with what they know of modern-but-not-so-recent trends (e.g., in the 19th C or so), often taken from their own genealogical history, and then make sweeping pronouncements about “how people chose names for their children” or “what names people could name their children” before modern times. Sometimes these claims are influenced by data going even further back; everyone who knows a bit about names knows about Puritanisms like “Fly-Fornication” and “Bestiality” (oops, wait, that one’s a Pratchettism, not a Puritanism).

But it’s a mistake to think that because things changed between the 19th and the later 20th C, that everything before the 19th C was the same. Or even that because things changed in the 16th C, everything from the 16th to the 19th C was the same, and that everything before the 16th C was the same.

Today I came across someone claiming that in historical England, the only options were to name kids after kings, queens, and Bible figures. While it’s certainly true that some popular names were also the names of kings and queens (but there, the other of influence probably goes the other way: Kings and queens were given the names they were because they were common/popular, not that those names became common/popular because they were born by a king or queen) and that some popular names were also the names of important Biblical figures, this claim is problematic in a number of ways.

The first is that it overlooks a substantially-sized group of names that were quite common throughout English history: Names of non-Biblical saints, like Agnes, Margaret, Ursula, Katherine, and Cecilia, which were a particularly generative source of names for women. But even if we include that under “Bible names” (interpreting that to broadly cover “religious” names in general, rather than strictly to narrowly cover only names found in the bible), there are still numerous names — some enormously popular — that do not fit any of these categories.

Some years ago, now, we did two posts on the “most popular” women’s names and men’s names; now, these posts covered not only England, but all the names found on these lists were quite common in England. Let’s take a look at them.

Amongst the feminine names, Alice is a standout counterexample. While there were a few minor continental saints with this name, as well as an empress and a queen consort of Cyprus, these saints were not venerated in England and there’s no reason to think that the two royal women would have had any influence on the popularity of the name outside of their own lands. Yet, Alice was, and continues to be, enormously popular in England, with examples from as early as the second half of the 12th century. Another name on the list, Ellen, shows a similar trajectory: A handful of minor saints with local influence, none of whom were English, and one minor queen consort of a country other than England. And yet, we see this name in England from the early 12th C as well, it’s popularity influenced by the appearance of the name in medieval Arthurian romances (yes, medieval people named their children after literary characters, just as modern people do!).

Turning to the masculine names, Charles was never as popular in England as it was on the continent prior to the post-medieval English kings named Charles, but the name was used, despite there being no biblical, royal, or saintly connection. Another name that cannot be called biblical, royal, or saintly in England is Robert, a name whose popularity in England was driven by the Norman conquest. Sometimes, people just adopted names because they were a part of the changing cultures/fashions/fads of the times. Now, there was a minor (non-Biblical) 13th C English saint named Roger, and that might have contributed to an increase in the popularity of that name, at least in the region where the saint lived. But the name was already in use a century earlier, so the saint cannot have been the driving force (and, again, it’s more likely that a saint has a name because it was popular, rather than that the name was popular because it was given to a saint). A curious name is Walter: It is perhaps the most popular name in medieval Europe (not just medieval England) which was never the name of a saint or a ruler. This didn’t prevent it from often being in the top 5 most popular men’s names in 16th C English parish registers.

Now, these are just some of the most popular names, across all of Europe and a thousand-year-plus timespam. If we look more specifically just at England, and to some of the “not amazingly popular, but not totally unique” names, what we find there is that the number of non-religious, non-royal names proliferates. Such names include:

Feminine

Masculine

If we moved on to names that are found rarely, we’d have an even larger swathe of names to pick from.

So, yes, certainly names of kings and queens and saints (saints more so than Bible figures more generally) were popular names in England; but they were by no means the only choice of names available to medieval English people.

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Latin vs. Vernacular Forms, Part 1

Two common types of requests that we get are (1) how to construct hypothetical vernacular forms of names when our only evidence is Latin documentary forms, and (2) the other way around: How to construct a plausible Latinized form of a name in a vernacular. In this post, we provide some background for answering both of these questions in the form of some basic Latin grammar recap.

Latin is a case-based language, meaning that a single word can occur in different grammatical forms depending on how it is used in a sentence. (English used to be a case-based language, but it has lost many of the distinctions of case over time. A few remain: The difference between, e.g., the standard form “John” and the possessive form “John’s”, or the difference between, e.g., ‘she’, ‘her’, and ‘hers’.) The six cases, and the grammatical contexts in which they are used, are:

  • Nominative: Used for the subject of a sentence.
  • Genitive: Used to indicate ownership or possession.
  • Dative: Used for indirect objects, and with certain prepositions.
  • Accusative: Used for direct objects.
  • Ablative: Used with certain prepositions, usually ones indicating movement ‘away’ or ‘from’.
  • Vocative: Used when identifying a person or thing being addressed.

Note that we are vastly oversimplifying here: In particular, the oblique forms (that is, the non-nominative ones) are much more complex in when and how they are used.

Because names can be found in any of these six different grammatical contexts, they can be found in any of these cases. The case that a word (including names) is in can be determined by a combination of the ending of the word and the grammatical context it is in. (For example, when the dative and the ablative forms of a word are identical, the presence of a preposition used with the ablative case can identify which case the word is.) The case endings generally follow a reliable pattern depending on which declension a word is in, and the part of the word to which the case ending is added is called the stem. Latin has five declensions, of which most names fall in the first three, so they’re the ones we’ll focus on:

Words in the first declension have fixed stems and the following case endings (in the singular):

Case Ending
Nom. -a
Gen. -ae/-e [1]
Dat. -ae/-e [1]
Acc. -am
Abl. -a
Voc. -a

Most feminine names are in the first declension.

Words in the second declension have fixed stems and the following case endings (in the masculine singular):

Case Ending
Nom. -us
Gen. -i
Dat. -o
Acc. -um
Abl. -o
Voc. -e

Most masculine names are in the second declension. (The second declension also contains words of neuter gender, which have the ending -um in the nominative, but they are not relevant for our purposes: Personal names in medieval records are always either masculine or feminine in grammatical gender.)

Words in the third declension have stems that change when an oblique case ending is added. Typically, these case endings are:

Case Ending
Nom.
Gen. -is
Dat. -i
Acc. -em
Abl. -e
Voc.

However, in some cases, the accusative form of a third declension name is identical with the nominative; and there are a variety of other slight variations amongst third declension names. Many masculine names whose nominative form ends in -o Hugo) are third declension.

In part 2 of this series, we’ll look at how one can take a name in Latin, whether nominative or oblique, and, comparing it with other Latin-vernacular pairs of similar declension and case, hypothesize plausible vernacular forms.

Notes

[1] Classical Latin -ae often was reduced to -e in medieval Latin.

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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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Nicknames of Richard (in English)

In our recent post on Peggy we gestured that you could derive Dick from Richard by a similar process. But we received a request to expand on this, so, here we are!

We’re focusing on English nicknames in this post, but you can see a selection of diminutive forms in other languages in the entry for the name. For as popular the name was, it was surprisingly nickname free, in comparison with other names of similar popularity where we have many different and disparate diminutive and hypocoristic forms attested.

So, you start off Richard and lop off the end, to create the hypocoristic form Rich. The Middle English pronunciations of the root name encompassed a pronunciation with a hard \k\, which is how you get Rick as well as Rich. Since Dick is the one we’re interested in, we’ll set aside Rich and all the diminutive forms we can get from that.

The step from Rick to Dick and Hick comes easily, as they are rhyming forms. In fact, Withycombe, s.n. Richard, notes that these were “among the earliest of this kind of rhyming nickname, the first example noted being a record in 1220 ‘quidam Dicke Smith. Dick itself was sometimes augmented with a diminutive suffix, such as -el, -et, or -on, as found in, e.g., Dicun 1206, Dycket 1296, 1219 (and it’s diminutive Dikelin 1275), all from Reaney & Wilson s.nn. Dicken, Dicketts, Diggle. Similar diminutives of Rick can also be found, with Rikelot 1191-2, Ricot 1327, and Ricun 1274 (R&W s.nn. Richard, Richings).

We will end with a curiosity: A nickname that we know is a form of Richard but which we don’t really know how it came to be such, is Hud(de). Both Withycombe and Reaney & Wilson (s.n. Hudd) reference Bardsley’s examples of one Ricardus dictus Hudde de Walkden 1346 and another Ricardus de Knapton et Cristiana hud-wyf 1379. Hudd is usually more often a nickname of Hugh.

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Family trees deep and broad

Most of the entries of the Polyptyque mentioned in an earlier post have, as noted, the names of parents and children, and that is it. However, a few of the entries give us more information, allowing us to reconstruct family trees of three generations, or spreading out to siblings of the parents. Sadly, these are not ones that give us much information in terms of patterns of names, but simply because they are cool, we have reconstructed three of them here:

Family tree 1

    (not named)
   ______|_____
   |          |
Hermenalda  Odila   
   |____________________________________
   |            |         |             |
Hildeardis  Willermus  Hermenalda  Hildeburgis
   |
   |
Gunterius

Hermenalda (sen.), Odila, Hildeardis, and Gunterius all live together in one household, while Willermus lives with his other two sisters, and a further crop of daughters (unnamed, and it is not clear which sibling(s) are the parents). It’s also ambiguous whether Odila is Hermenalda (sen.)’s sister or Hildeardis’s.

Family tree 2

                (not named)
          ___________|___________
          |                     |
       Waldrea             Laurentius
  ________|___________          |
  |          |        |    (unnamed sons)
Guntardus  Hugo  Richildis

This family tree is unambiguous from the information, but what is interesting here (and is also true of the previous one) is that it is the woman who is the first-named person of the household. When in the later Middle Ages it often feels like very woman is “uxor ejus” some man, it’s always nice to see a few men who are important because of their mothers, sisters, or wives!

Family tree 3

    Alburgis
   ____|____
   |       |
Alburgis  Eva
           |
       Josemberga

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An onomastic calendar: July

  • July 1: Feast day of Saint Aaron.
  • July 2: Elizabeth Tudor was born in 1492.
  • July 3: Hugh Capet was crowned king of the Franks in 987.
  • July 4: Saint Ulrich of Augsburg died in 974.
  • July 5: Joan of the Tower, queen consort of Scotland, was born in 1321.
  • July 6: Richard the Lion-Heart ascended the throne of England in 1189.
  • July 7: Madeleine of Valois died in 1537.
  • July 8: Saint Grimbald died in 903.
  • July 9: Dorothea of Saxe-Lauenburg was born in 1511.
  • July 10: Emperor Hadrian died in 138.
  • July 11: Martin Frobisher sights Greenland in 1576.
  • July 12: Hartmann Schedel’s Nuremberg Chronicle is printed in 1493.
  • July 13: Alexander III is crowned king of the Scots.
  • July 14: Louis VIII became king of France in 1223.
  • July 15: Saint Bonaventure died in 1274.
  • July 16: Saint Clare of Assisi was born in 1194.
  • July 17: Count Baldwin VI of Flanders died in 1070.
  • July 18: Godfrey de Bouillon, crusader knight, died in 1100.
  • July 19: Philipa of Lancaster died in 1415.
  • July 20: Claude, queen of France, died in 1524.
  • July 21: Feast day of Saint Victor of Marseilles.
  • July 22: William Wallace is defeated at the Battle of Falkirk.
  • July 23: Saint Bridget of Sweden died in 1373.
  • July 24: Mathilda of Tuscany died in 1115.
  • July 25: Casimir I the Restorer was born in 1016.
  • July 26: Pope Celestine died in 432.
  • July 27: Conrad II of Italy died in 1101.
  • July 28: Rodrigo de Bastedas, conquistador and explorer, died in 1527.
  • July 29: Olaf II of Norway died in 1030.
  • July 30: Italian painter Giorgio Vasari was born in 1511.
  • July 31: Ignatius of Loyola died in 1556.

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

At this rate, we’re probably going to only make it through the top 100 before the month is out. One thing that has been interesting about each group of names that we’ve looked at is how consistent the relative popularities of different name types have been, with Biblical names being the most common amongst the boys’, and relatively unrepresented amongst the girls. We’ll see that trend continue as we move down to the top 51-100 of the boy’s names, and thus even if we don’t investigate any further, we would not be surprised to see this trend trickle even further down the list. But let’s see what else we can find!

As we noted, the Biblical again dominate this group, but this time we start to see the influence of non-English spellings on American names. Firs we have two variants of John: Evan (67), a medieval Welsh form, and Ian (76), modernly generally treated as a Scottish form but medievally actually found in the Low Countries, Germany, and Eastern Eruope. Then we have two Spanish forms: Jose (80) and Mateo (85) (this is, of course, also an Italian form!). Amongst the standard English forms of the names we have but two New Testament names — Thomas (no. 51) Nathaniel (97) — compared to a wide range of Old Testament names: Aaron (52); Eli (53); Jeremiah (55); Josiah (57); Jordan (60); Adam (73); Asher (83); Zachary (88); Ezra (92); and Elias (100).

Of these names, a few deserve extra note. First, neither Jeremiah nor Josiah are typical medieval spellings: before 1600, both were more commonly spelled with the Greek influenced form -ias. This is exactly where Elias (as opposed to Elijah) comes from, and if you check out the variants of Zachary, you’ll find -ias forms there as well. Second, we lack entries for Eli, Ezra, and Asher: This is a reflection of the fact that these names were rarely used by Christians until the 17th C, being more commonly used by Jews — and so far, our coverage has a distinct dearth of Jewish records. Third, it is debatable whether Jordan should be considered in this list. Certainly, most people associate the name with the Biblical river Jordan. And this association is ancient and honorable: The name was popular in the Middle Ages particularly amongst those who had been on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and brought back water from the Jordan River to baptise their children. However, it is unlikely that this was the original root of the name; instead, the root appears to be an Old German name Jordanes. (The complications surrounding the name are why we don’t yet have an entry for it, despite the fact that we have examples from England, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, from the 11th C to the 16th!)

We then have a slew of given names that were not originally given names, but surnames — and if we collect all four groups, locative, occupational, patronymic, and descriptive, together, they outnumber the Biblical names. The place names are almost all English in origin: Colton (59), Brayden (61), Lincoln (66), Easton (78), Brandon (82), and Bentley (93). The one exception is Xavier (90), an Old Spanish form of a Basque place name deriving from etxe berri ‘new house’ or ‘new home’. The occupationals are all medieval English: a Parker (72) maintained a park or game preserve; Chase (74) was a name for a hunter, someone who chases; a Cooper (77) made barrels while a Tyler (81) lay tiles and a Sawyer (94) sawed wood. A Ryder (98) is one who rides out, and this specific spelling is not modern, but can be found in the 16th C. In our patronymics group we have already seen a variant of Jaxson (84) in an earlier post. Hudson (65) is ‘son of Hudd‘ — a pet form of either Hugh or Richard. Nolan (71) could also be put under the “Irish” heading below: It derives from the Irish clan byname Ó Nualláin, which in turn derives from Irish nuall ‘noble, famous’. There are two descriptive: Cameron (56), from Irish camshron ‘bent nose’ and Blake (96), which has two equally plausible, and contradictory origins: It can be from both Old English blǣċ ‘pale, bright, shining’ and blæc ‘black, dark’. Finally we have Carson (89), a Scottish surname of uncertain origin. Early forms include Carsan, Acarson, and Corsan, and it may have been originally a place name.

The next biggest groups are the names of Greek and Latin origin. For the former, there is Nicholas (62), popular throughout Europe; Angel (64), concentrated in Italy and Iberia; Jason (86) and its nickname Jace (75), which we could also place in the Biblical names category above, and if we had any medieval examples of the name we probably would have — modernly, the Greek hero rather than the obscure New Testament character is the more likely root of the name; and Theodore (99), a rare name medievally and one easily confused with forms of Theodoric. In the second group, we have the imperial Adrian (58), especially popular in the Low Countries; lordly Dominic (68), also spread throughout Europe; saintly Austin (69), this form an English contraction of the larger Augustine; and Leo (91), which is equally derivable from the Latin and the Greek.

This leaves us with six names, half of which are Irish: Connor (54) is an English form of the Irish name Conchobhar, which was popular in Ireland from the 8th to the 16th C; Kevin (79) is an English form of the early Irish saint’s name Cáemgen used in the 6th and 7th C. The name was not otherwise used, until it was revived in the modern period, but the place name Caisleáin Caoimhghin was recorded in English in a variety of spellings throughout the Middle ages, including Castelkevyn in 1308 and 1547, Castle Kevin in 1590, Castlekevin in 1542, and Castrum Kevini in 1343; and Ayden (87) is a variant of Aiden, which we’ve discussed earlier in this series.

What is most surprising about this group of names is that we have but one name of German: Robert (63), which had held sway for centuries as one of the most popular names. We also have a name of Welsh that we discussed in detail a few months ago as part of our Arthurian names series: Gavin (70). Last in the group we have one name which is purely modern: Kayden (95). The most tenuous connection that we can make from this name to the Middle Ages is via the Scottish surname Cadenhead, originally the name of a place at the head of the Caldon or Cadon Water in Selkirkshire. But this is at best a retrospective connection.

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