Tag Archives: Italian

Mystery Monday: Inoffio

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 Italian, from late 14th century Genoa.

Inoffio

It sort of feels like a variant of Onofrio (one of the coolest names in the DMNES — it’s of ancient Egyptian origin!), but “sort of feels like” doesn’t explain where the \r\ has gone, or the change in initial vowel. We’d love to have something more reliable than “sort of feels like”! Do you have any info on the origin of this name? Other examples of it? Please share in the comments!

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Looking into history: Unexpected finds

In this post, we take a look at some of the names in the ONS girls’ names data from England and Wales (up through the first 300) which may surprise some people by turning up in the Middle Ages.

First up is no. 41 Imogen — historically thought to have first appeared post-1600 as a typo in a Shakespearean play, the name has an alternative history, dating back to medieval Germany.

Ancient Greek name Penelope (no. 48) came into use in England in the 16th, part of a fad for classical names. (Nickname Penny (no. 198) is more modern, though.)

No. 65 Ada has an old-fashioned feel to it — but did you know it’s roots go back at least to the 9th C in France?

Biblical names Lydia (no. 130), Leah (no. 136), Esther (no. 173), Naomi (no. 178), Rebecca (no. 186), Tabitha (no. 204), Lois (no. 215), and Rachel (no. 323) became popular amongst French, Dutch, and English Protestants in the 16th C, as did virtue names like Faith (no. 135). Interestingly, Hope (no. 139) is a virtue name that we haven’t yet found any pre-1600 examples of, though Esperanza from Latin sperantia ‘hope’ is found in 15th-16h C Spain and Italy (but not in the ONS data!)

Modern name Ottilie (no. 164) is a variant of medieval Odile, popular in France especially in the diminutive form Odelina.

No. 169 Laura first became popular after Petrarch as the poetic name for his love; it spread from Italy to France, Italy, and England over the 14th and 15th centuries.

Here’s a surprising one: Maia (no. 176). The DMNES entry is still in draft form, but we have two Low German examples from the 16th century; variant Maja (no. 192) is not an unreasonable alternative medieval spelling.

French-origin name Amy (no. 189) was popular in England from the 14th C onwards.

No. 196 Alba occurs in Catalan in the early 16th C.

Golden name Aurelia (no. 212) was used in Renaissance Italy. While name no. 361 Sapphire is generally interpreted as a gem name, when the medieval form Sapphira was used in 16th C England, it was more likely in reference to the New Testament character.

Did you know that Alana (no. 216) is a medieval name? It’s the Latin feminine form of Alan, and appears rarely. (Variants that add extra ls or ns or hs, such as Alannah (no. 472), Alanna (no. 650), Allana (no. 1788), Alanah (no. 1887), and Allanah (no. 3178) and compounds like Alana-Rose (no. 2901) and Alana-Rae (no. 5666) are not generally medieval.)

Nickname Effie (no. 236), usually a pet form of Euphemia (no. 4684), shows up in 16th C England (as does the full name itself) — a rare instance of an -ie or -y diminutive ending in medieval England!

Name no. 243, Talia we have examples of in 13th and 16th C Italy; there’s no entry for the name yet, as the etymological origin of the name is uncertain.

Names of classical gods and goddesses became popular in the Renaissance, including Diana (no. 275) found in both England and Italy (Diane (no. 3178) is a French form; Dianna (no. 3985) and Dyana (no. 48684) are modern forms). In general, the Latin names were preferred over the Greek — which means while we don’t have Athena (no. 239), Atene (no. 5666), Athene (no. 5666) (or the compound Athena-Rose, no. 4684) in the DMNES data, we do have Minerva (no. 2187). (The compound Diana-Elena (no. 5666) is also modern.)

Modern-day Melody (no. 312) is found in the Latin form Melodia in England during the fad for fanciful Latinate names in the 13th C. It’s during this period that we also find Amanda (no. 602).

Name no. 213 Remi shows up in medieval France — but as a masculine name, not a feminine name. Similarly, Alexis (no. 323) can be found right across Europe, but only as a man’s name.

The roots of Christmas name Natalie (no. 354) go all the way back to the early Middle Ages — it shows up multiple times in the 9th C, which makes it an incredibly well-witnessed early French feminine name!

We’ll tackle names from no. 400 down in a future post.

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Mystery Monday: Hengelestas

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 mouthful of an early Italian feminine name:
Hengelestas

Context makes it clear that it is a feminine name, but beyond that, we’re stumped. There’s nothing quite like plugging something into a search engine and getting exactly zero hits — on top of not finding it in any of the standard resources! (Unfortunately, the “standard” sources on Italian are patchy in their historic coverage, so the latter is at least unsurprising.)

We’re happy to entertain any suggestions! Let us know in the comments if you’ve got any ideas.

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Mystery Monday: Dolzera

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 lovely late 13th/early 14th C Italian feminine name.

Dolzera

The name shows up a couple of times in our source — Dolzera de Cremona, Dolzera de Pigenzollis, Dolzera uxor domini Perini, domina Dolzera uxor Otteboni ser Casari — but we haven’t found the name in any other context. One possibility is that it is related to Dulce, as variations of that name occur with both u and o, and the swap of c and z is not uncommon at all in Latinate Italian names. This would leave unexplained the -(e)ra ending, though, and this isn’t straigtforwardly a simple diminutive suffix.

Have you come across this name before? Have any thoughts what its origin might be? Please share in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Cassabai

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.

We seem to be following an Italian trend lately! But this name is only Italian obliquely. One source we’ve been working through (we mentioned it before, in a Mystery Monday post on Uliana) is notarial records from mid-14th century Florence, which records the names of many enslaved men, women, and children, most of “Tartar” origin. These names are sometimes noted as “in lingua latina” and sometimes “in lingua tartarorum” or “tartaresche”.

Today’s name is (an Italian scribe’s attempt to render) a Tartar name (in Latin), the name of an enslaved Tartar woman:

Cassabai

Many of the Tartar names resemble Turkic or Turkish names and words (unsurprisingly), and our gut feeling is that this name, too, is an attempt to render a Turkish name according to Latin or Italian orthography. The question, then, is — what name? Does anyone have any thoughts? Please share in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Biondillo

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 early 16th C Italy:

Biondillo

Generally Italian names ending in -ello (or -ellus in the Latin) are diminutive forms — that’s a typical suffix to add. The variant -illo is less common, but still occasionally found. So when hypothesizing about this name, the immediate first step is to strip away the suffix and get a potential root form: Biondo. Often when we do that, it turns out we already have examples of the non-augmented form, so that’s a confirmation of the identification. In this case, we have no examples of Biondo or Biondus (yet), so no help there.

Another easy step to take when trying to pin down the origin of a name is to stick the name (in a variety of spellings) into googlebooks and see what comes up. There are three hits for Biondillus — one which is post-1600, so of no help; one is a reference to a Dauid Biondellus from 1628; and the last occurs on a comment on a blog post from 2010, discussing a fantasy saga!

Has anyone else ever come across this name before? Or even Biondo/Biondus? If you have any thoughts on the origin of this name, please share in the comments!

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Mystery Monday: Adoma

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.

Roughly 6 months ago we were back to the beginning of the alphabet, and instead of picking one name beginning with A- to pose as our mystery, we listed them all. Now we’ve rolled around to the beginning of the alphabet again, and comparing what we had then with what we have now…well, if we haven’t made as much progress as we might have liked, we can at least blame it on the fact that there are so many names, and we often create new entries for the Dictionary as quickly as we finalise old ones!

This week’s Mystery is an Italian feminine name from the early 16th C.

Adoma

While many Italian names come in masculine/feminine pairs, which provides a great springboard for research, we don’t know of any masculine Italian name Adomo — it’s tempting to connect the name to Adam, but the vowel shift is otherwise unwitnessed. So we’re looking for clues to help resolve two names: The actual Adoma and the potential Adomo. Have you found either of these before? Do you have any thoughts about their origins? Please share in the comments!

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