- 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.
Tag Archives: Joan
While the top 100 boy’s names were all relative homogeneous amongst the groups that we looked at, the girl’s names are much more varied. We’ve noted in the previous groupings how rare names of Biblical origin are compared to the boy’s names; that’s not the case for this group of names in which names of Biblical origin are equal first with names deriving from surnames. This just goes to reinforce the great diversity in feminine names!
So let’s look at those Biblical names first. Sadie (52) is of American origin, originally a nickname of Sarah (58). Sarah itself is a relatively late spelling; the intrusive -h wasn’t found before the 16th C in England. Gabriella (54) is not a Biblical name, but it is a feminine form of one. While it’s masculine counterpart was used moderately commonly, the feminine form was rare outside of Spain and Italy in the Middle Ages. Madelyn (59) and Madeline (90) are two of the many variant spellings of Magdalene, originally a byname meaning ‘from Magdala’. One might view Madelyn as a prototypical ‘modern’ spelling with the y replacing i-e. And yet, Madelyn can be found in England in 1598. It’s actually Madeline that would be an atypical spelling, medievally! We include Genesis (65) in this list not because it is a Biblical name but because it is a name with Biblical origins. The penchant for naming children after book chapters is definitely a modern one! Returning to more traditional names, Eva (75) is a Latinized form of the name; it was never especially common, but it can be found in the Czech Republic, England, France, and Italy. The spelling Naomi is a post-medieval one; before the 17th C, the usual English (and French) form was Noemy or Noemi (77). Lydia (81), like Magdalene, could also be classified as a surname, given that it was originally a locative byname referring to a kingdom in Asia Minor. The name has historically been quite popular amongst Dutch-speaking communities, particularly Protestant ones. Isabelle (94) could also perhaps go into the names of French origin; you’ll struggle to find any Isabelle in the Old or New Testaments — but you’ll find plenty of Elizabeth‘s, and Isabelle derives from an Old Provençal form of that name. Similarly, one might expect to find Gianna (96) under the Italian names, but we have included it here as it is a feminine form of John. Both it and Giana can be found from the 13th C on.
It’s an eclectic group of surnames that turn up in this group. First we have the locatives: Kaylee (61) can be from either the French Cailly or the Lancashire Cayley. Hailey (64) is either from Hailey in Oxfordshire, or a descriptive for anyone who lives near a clearing filled with hay. Peyton (72) is the name of cities in both Essex and Suffolk, and Ashley (85) ‘clearing filled with ashes’ is the name of many medieval English placenames. In this subgroup we can perhaps also include Kylie (66). The origin of this name is disputed, and certainly we have no evidence that it was used in the Middle Ages. However, it is sometimes considered to be a feminine form of Kyle, which itself was a medieval placename, in Scotland. Next we have the occupationals, with Piper (68), of Old English origin and found from at least the 12th C on, and Taylor (76), of French origin, and also found from the 12th C on. The last four are all Irish patronymics in origin. Kennedy (57) is a an English form of Cennétig or Cinnéide, a rare name in Ireland used in the 12th and 14th C, and which first shows up in Scotland in the reign of William the Lion (1165-1214). Mackenzie (73) is an English or Scottish form of the patronymic byname mac Coinnich ‘son of Coinneach’. An earlier form of Coinneach, Cainnech, was used in Ireland between the 6th and 11th C. Quinn (97) is an English form of Irish Cuinn, the genitive (possessive) form of Conn, a masculine name used from the 10th to 16th C. Reagan (99) is also an anglicized form, of the masculine name Riacán used from the 9th to 12th C.
The next two biggest groups are those of Latin and Greek origin. The former kicks off with a name we’ve discussed before: Despite what many modern baby name websites nad books might say, Stella (51) is not a modern name, but can be found in 15th and 16th C Italy. Lucy (55) is a vernacular English form of a popular saint’s name, Lucia, though even in England Luce was the more typical form than Lucy. Bella (74) can be a pet form of any of various names including Isabella and Jacobella, but it can also be simply the Latin word for ‘beautiful’. The root of Ruby (83) is the gemstone name, but the name of the gem itself derives from Latin rubeus, rubea ‘red’. This is another name which many people consider to be a modern coinage which is not. With imperial roots, it is no surprise that Julia (89) has had a long history of use from classical Rome to the modern era. Some people credit Shakespeare with the introduction of the name into England, but this is false; the name was already in use there by the 13th C. Vivian (95) as the name of two early saints, but despite this the name was rarely used by women medieval. We have one late-period Italian example. Clara (98), on the other hand, enjoyed steady, if not excessively popular, usage throughout Europe.
Turning now to the Greek names, we’ve see two variants of Arianna (56), as well as one of Khloe (100). Maya (69) and Aurora (79) are two names of Greek origin (though Maya actually has more than one origin!) for which we have not yet found any evidence of medieval usage — though this is not to say that we won’t! Melanie (80) has also already shown up on this blog before, when we discussed names deriving from the color black. It was only rarely used medievally, in significant contrast to Katherine (84), one of the most popular women’s names of all time. Next, we have Alexis (86); a name which was found in the Middle Ages, but which was exclusively masculine. Its use as a feminine name is modern. Finally, we have Cora (88); we haven’t yet found an instance of the root name, but it gave rise to diminutive forms which are witnessed, including Corella and Corina.
There is but a handful of names of German origin. Mila (53) is a feminine form of Milo. The masculine form was quite common, but the feminine form was almost unused. Caroline (62) is a diminutive of Carol, a feminine form of Charles. We haven’t found any medieval examples of Caroline, but the diminutive forms were much more common than any of the full forms, with both French Charlotte and Italian Carlutia found in the late period. French-influenced Aubree (78) does not have the same origin that Aubrey has; the root name is Germanic Alberada or Alberadis. Alice (87) is an English form of a name that was popular throughout Europe in many different variants and diminutives; Alyssa (93) is one such, and while we haven’t yet found an explicit medieval instance of it, we would not be surprised to do so.
Next we have a group of names which have medieval roots as words, but were not used as names before the 19th C. The word Hazel (63) is Old English in origin, and you can read the entry for it in the Middle English Dictionary here. Autumn (67), on the other hand, is from an Old French word, used in Middle English from the 14th C. Medieval names were not generally taken from the stock of ordinary words; but one exception to this is the rise of virtue names such as Faith (91) in the 16th C. Serenity (71) is a modern coinage (it derives from Latin Serena); this word was not used in Middle English and only imported into English later.
Two names have long historical lineages but need to be classified as uncertain in origin. The usual tale of Eleanor (60) is that it’s from the phrase alia Aenor ‘another Aenor’, but this is unlikely given the early examples of the name, many of which include a -d-. Annabelle (92) has been in use in Scotland since the 12th C, and appears to be either a variant of or a misspelling of Amabel.
Brianna (82) is a feminine form of Irish Brian, and another name people point to as a modern coinage. However, Briana occurs as a name of a character in a 16th C Spanish romance, Espejo de Principe y Cavalleros. This poem was translated into English in 1578 and published under the title of The mirrour of princely deedes and knighthood: wherein is shewed the worthinesse of the Knight of the Sunne, and his brother Rosicleer, sonnes to the great Emperour Trebetio: with the strange loue of the beautifull and excellent princesse Briana, and the valiant actes of other noble princes and knightes. Now newly translated out of Spanish into our vulgar English tongue, by M.T. On an onomastically unrelated note, the “M.T.” here is one Margaret Taylor, the first woman to translate a Spanish romance into English and the first woman to have published a romance in English.
As the month draws to a close this is probably our last post in this series (perhaps until next year?), and it only seems fitting that we end with a name which in a sense epitomizes modern-day American naming practices, and which has no medieval roots whatsoever: Nevaeh (70), which is simply ‘heaven’ spelled backwards.
We hope you enjoyed this tour of the medieval roots of popular modern names!
We mentioned in our previous post how Latin records are so nice for uniquely identifying the gender of the bearer of names — someone who is filius Edwini is the son of a man named Edwin, while if he were filius Edwine he’d be the some of a woman called Edwina.
But how often is this merely a requirement of Latin grammar, that every word have one of three grammatical genders, and how often is this reflective of the underlying vernacular practice? Naturally, this depends on what the vernaculars are, and those which descended from Latin (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese) are much more likely to keep an explicit grammatical distinction in the names. In Iberia, that shows up in the preponderance of women’s names ending in -a (though, of course, there are exceptions, such as Spanish and Catalan forms of Beatrice). In Italy, you see the same marking of feminine names, but often paired with a distinctive masculine ending in -o (as can be seen in the list of masculine/feminine pairs in 15th C Florence). In France, southern dialects tend towards Iberian practices, while in northern dialects, masculine names are generally unmarked, while feminine forms are derived by adding an -e (earlier) or doubling the final consonant and then adding an -e (later).
In England, however, the Latin forms often introduced distinctions not present in the vernacular. Withycombe, p. xxxv notes that:
Latin records of the 12th to 15th centuries show that the custom of giving masculine names to girls was also common in England; they appear in Latin with feminine endings, e.g., Philippa, Nicholaa, Alexandra, Jacoba, but it is clear that girls so named were in fact baptized and called Philip, Nicholas, Alexander, James, etc….Other names which were commonly used for girls were Gilbert, Aubrey, Reynold, Basil, Eustace, Giles, Edmund, Simon, Florence.
When the only references we have are in Latin, it is difficult to obtain evidence via which to test Withycombe’s assertion about the vernacular. However, once we start seeing records in Middle English and Early Modern English, then it is possible to see to what extent the feminine vernacular forms resemble the masculine.
The majority of our examples of Philipa in England are from the 16th C, and the majority of these are variants without the terminal – (in fact, most of the examples with the -a are restricted to Devon, suggesting a regional early adoption of the Latin form as the vernacular.)
Feminine forms of Nicholas were never very common in England, and inspection of the entry for Nicole is only partly confirmatory of what Withycombe says. The vernacular forms have all lost the -a, but none of them have the -as. Instead, vernacular forms like Nichol and Nycoll look much more like the French feminine form of the name (and the spelling we took as the header name). This makes it more likely that girls named Nichol in the vernacular were named in accordance with the imported French form than simply given the masculine English form.
We don’t yet have any examples of Alexandra in England; Withycombe herself has only two early 13th C examples, adding that
Alexandra is found in England in 1205 and Alexandria in 1218, and these may have been named after a 4th-C martyr, though they are more likely to be mere latinizations of Alexander used as a girl’s name….Lyford 1655 gives Alexander as a f. name, and an early-14th-C English legendary gives Alisaundre as the name of the mother of St. Thomas of Canterbury
Further data will need to be collected to see more clearly how this feminine name appears in the vernacular.
Similarly, we have very few examples of Jacoba in English contexts, and curiously, all of them are diminutive forms: Jacobin, Jackett, and Jakett, all of which could equally easily be used by men.
Of the other names Withycombe mentions, only three of them do we have feminine examples from England. We have a handful of 12th-14th C examples of Basile in its Latin form Basilia, but our only vernacular example, in the 16th C, is not Basil but Basile, the usual French form. Eustacia in the vernacular is Eustice. The third name, Florence, is curious in that we have plenty of vernacular feminine examples of this spelling, — but no masculine ones! In fact, vernacular forms of the masculine version tend to end in -t, e.g., Florent.
It wasn’t until the end of the 16th C that you regularly start seeing Latinate forms, like Olivia, Isabella, Joanna, etc., instead of Olive, Isabel, Joan, etc., used in the vernacular. This is due in no small part to the influence of Shakespeare on English naming patterns at the turn of the 17th C, as he preferred Italian or Latinate forms of names in many cases. This penchant for the Latin -a ending can still be seen today, with the preponderance of feminine names given in English-speaking countries being ones ending with that letter or sound.
Having completed the Old Testament, we now move on to the New Testament. When Bardsley discusses the rise of what he identifies as a specifically Puritan naming system (though we have already begun to argue against this in our first post on the topic), he labels the trend “the Hebrew invasion” , giving the impression that it was names of Hebrew origin, specifically, that were being taken from the Bible. When we look to the New Testament, we see that this is not the case: Plenty of Greek and Aramaic names were first adopted in the second half of the 16th C. Accordingly, we divide the women’s names that we look at into those of Hebrew origin and those not.
Names of Hebrew origin
Anne: This name could be classified as either an Old Testament name or a New Testament name. In the OT, this was the name of the mother of Samuel (more often modernly transliterated as Hannah); in the apocrypha, Anne is usually identified as the mother of Mary, though she is not named explicitly in the NT. Whatever the origin and whatever the spelling, this name was always common; it was, in fact, one of the most common feminine names throughout all of Europe throughout the Middle Ages, due primarily to the early veneration of the mother of Mary. The name was so well entrenched that the Protestant turning away from the veneration of the saints did not cause any reduction in its popularity.
Elizabeth: The name of Mary’s cousin, this name, too, was popular throughout the Middle Ages. In England, the popularity of the name was maintained in the latter part of the 16th C, with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Joan: Many people may not realize that this is in fact a Biblical name, the name of a woman healed by Jesus and who later accompanied him as a disciple. She was later venerated as a saint, but it was the use of this name by many medieval queens, in addition to the “Maid of Orleans”, Joan of Arc, that helped the name maintain its place as one of the most popular women’s names throughout history.
Martha: This is the first of the names in this post which was not already in common currency by the 16th C. The name was used occasionally throughout Europe, but it shows a sharp increase in use in England and France in the 16th C.
Mary: The name of the mother of Jesus, Mary was one of the earliest adopted of all the Christian names; examples can be found in France as early as the beginning of the 9th C. The same root which gave rise to Mary is also found in the Old Testament, in the name of the sister of Moses, modernly usually spelled Miriam. While the use of Mary cannot be used to differentiate Catholics from Protestants in the 16th C, the single example of Mariam (used as a nominative form, and not to be confused with Mariam, the Latin accusative of Maria) that we have is from England in 1573.
Salome: A derivative of the same root as Solomon, Salome is a curious name to be used in any sort of venerative contexts, given that the best-known historical Salome was the cause of the death of John the Baptist. The name was never common, but we do have a single example in Dutch from 1592.
Names of other origin
The remainder of our NT feminine names are all of non-Hebrew origin.
Lois: The name of the grandmother of Timothy, the eponymous character of one of the NT books, her name was occasionally used in England after the Reformation. We have, so far, not found any non-English examples.
Lydia (entry available in next edition): Lydia, also spelled Lidia, became common in Dutch contexts in the latter part of the 16th C, but was rare in England before the 17th C.
Magdalene: Magdalene, like Lydia, was originally a locative byname, not a given name, the most famous bearer being Mary Magdalene in the NT. The name was used in German from the 15th C, but otherwise it first reaches predominance in the 16th C, with a huge upswing in popularity in French, Dutch, and English.
Phoebe: The name of a minor character in the book of Romans, Withycombe’s earliest instance of Phoebe in England is from 1566 , and our earliest instance in France is from two years later.
Priscilla: Our sole example of an NT name with a Latin origin, Priscilla was used by both the English and the Dutch.
Sapphira: Like Salome above, the use of Sapphira may be surprising, given the negative light in which she is found in the NT. Bardsley highlights her name, along with that of her husband Ananias, as “New Testament names, whose associations are of evil repute” (pp. 72-73), noting that “Ananias had become so closely associated with Puritanism, that not only did Dryden poke fun at the relationship in the ‘Alchemist’, but Ananias Dulman became the cant term for a long-winded zealot preacher” (p. 73). Despite these unpleasant associations, we’ll see this name again when we discuss the New Testament influence on men’s names, in our next posts.
 Bardsley, C.W., Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature (London: Chatto & Windus, 1880).
 Withycombe, E.G., Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, 3rd ed., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), s.n. Phoebe.
Here’s the full monthly calendar of our #OnThisDay posts on twitter:
- November 1: Empress Mathilda was deposed as Lady of the English in 1141.
- November 2: Emma of France died in 934.
- November 3: Benvenuto Celllini, Italian artist, was born in 1500.
- November 4: Sophia of Bavaria, queen consort of the Romans and Bohemia, died in 1428.
- November 5: The feast day of St. Felix of Valois.
- November 6: Juana la Loca was born in 1479.
- November 7: Constans II was born in 630.
- November 8: Julian of Norwich was born in 1342.
- November 9: Sancha of Castille died in 1208.
- November 10: Bridget of York was born in 1480.
- November 11: Mathilda of Scotland was crowned queen of England in 1100.
- November 12: Cnut the Dane died in 1035.
- November 13: St. Augustine of Hippo was born in 354.
- November 14: Maurice, prince of Orange, was born in 1567.
- November 15: Justin II becomes emperor of Byzantium in 565.
- November 16: Edward I becomes king of England in 1272.
- November 17: Elizabeth I becomes queen of England in 1558.
- November 18: Antipope Sylvester IV was enthroned in 11015.
- November 19: Pope Anastasius II died in 498.
- November 20: Edmund the Martyr dies in 869 (or 870).
- November 21: García, king of Navarre, died in 1150.
- November 22: Erik V of Denmark died in 1286
- November 23: Ferdinand III conquered Seville in 1248
- November 24: Joan of Arc beseiged La Charite in 1429.
- November 25: Malcolm II of Scotland died in 1034.
- November 26: Infanta Catarina of Portugal was born in 1436.
- November 27: Byzantine Emperor Maurice died in 602.
- November 28: Pope Gregory III died in 741.
- November 29: Joachim Viadan, Swiss Humanist, was born in 1484.
- November 30: Saint Gregory of Tours was born c538.
One of the highlights of the onomastic year is when various governments publish name popularity data for babies born in the previous year (such as the US Social Security data and the registries for England and Wales). There is something about finding out which name occupies the no. 1 spot, and obtaining another data point in a trend. Is the name becoming more popular? Is it becoming less? Can we predict what the next top-10 names will be? Which names are destined for obscurity? What makes a name like Gary seem dated?
With few exceptions , it is sort of popularity/trend data is difficult to come by for medieval names. In any given collection of documents, it can be impossible, sometimes, to tell when the same person is being mentioned more than once, thus making individual occurrences of a name a poor guide to the name’s popularity. (It is for this reason that we include usage info in our entries; otherwise, one might think that, e.g., Innocent was a far more popular name than it actually was.) On the other hand, even factoring in the same person being referred to on multiple occasions, or the skewing introduced by kings, saints, and popes bearing a particular name, it is still possible to get a sense of which names, overall, are more popular than others (John, we’re looking at you), and which names were rare (one single 9th C example of Ermengaude: Not a popular name).
Because new citations are entered into the database on an ongoing basis, the process of reviewing them and marking them for inclusion in an upcoming edition is also ongoing. To facilitate this, we have a script which looks at all of the entries marked as “live”, and then returns a list of those which have unreviewed citations in them. On a daily basis we run the script and review (a portion of) the entries it returns, usually between 150 and 250. We programmed this script so that when we have a new citation of a relatively rare name, we are alerted to this without having to find it by hand. On the other hand, there are certain names which one hardly needs this script to find, for they are the ones that, on the whole, are likely to have new citations every time we sit down to review for inclusion. This names, by some qualitative rather than quantitative measure, are the “most popular” ones — the ones which have the broadest spread over language, geography, and time, which come in many spelling variants or with many diminutive forms. Most of them are ones you’d expect; a few of them are perhaps unexpected — at least, they probably don’t spring to mind if you asked yourself “What are the top 10-20 medieval given names?”
So, what are these popular names? We’ll discuss the women’s names in this post, and men’s names in an upcoming post. For women, there are seven names that I check on a daily basis, regardless of whether I am working in that part of the alphabet that day or not. They are:
 English parish registers from the 16th C are one. Because of the detailed birth/christening info they provide over a multi-decade span, it is possible to do trend analyses of name popularity. Scott Smith-Bannister, Names and Naming Patterns in England 1538-1700 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997) is an excellent example of this, for those who are interested.
I was going to stop doing these monthly recaps with January, because after that you could see first hand what was new and improved. Alas, we haven’t quite made the Jan. 31 goal, so you get one more month’s worth of stats and graphs. We’re up to 16030 individual citations (up from 10288, an increase of nearly 56%!) distributed over 764 entries (up from 639 last month, a 19.5% increase), resulting in an average of 21 citations per name (up from 16 last month, no doubt due to the completion of the extremely popular names John and Joan, both of which have hundreds of citations.)
There are 463 men’s names and 278 women’s, and, excitingly, for the first time in months, our ‘earliest/latest in the alphabet’ names have changed! The alphabetically foremost masculine name is now Achard, of Germanic origin and with French citations, and the alphabetically hindmost name is now Zwentibold, of Slavic origin but influence, in its Latin form, by Germanic elements.
7174 of the citations are from Latin records, that is, around 44.7%, a significant decrease from last month, due no doubt to the large number of 16th C English parish registers that we’ve been working through. Here’s the breakdown for all the languages:
When it comes to citations per country, we’ve now reached the point where we’re constrained by the number of slices we can put into our pie chart (on the free online automatic pie-chart generator we’re using), which means neither Brabant nor Malta show up on the below, despite now having sizeable showings:
Lastly, this month the Dictionary welcomed a new assistant to the editorial team: Dr. Mariann Slíz is a member of the Institute of Hungarian Linguistics and Finno-Ugric Studies at Eötvös Loránd University, specializing in Onomastics, Cultural History, Historical Linguistics, Medieval History, Literature, Magical Realism, History of Hungary, Medieval Hungary, Hungarian linguistics, and Anthropology of Personal Names. We are very grateful to have an expert on Hungarian names joining us, in part because it means we can move Hungarian from the second phase to the first phase! So keep a look out for Hungarian citations and citations from Hungary in upcoming editions of the Dictionary.