Well, we’ve been busy! Some of it has been non-Dictionary stuff, some of it has been Dictionary stuff. In any case, with a new year and a new school term starting, we hope to get back to our usual posting schedule. Without any further ado, time to get back to our Mystery Monday series!
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 have a pair of names — masculine/feminine counterparts that are both recorded in the south of France in 814 in the same source. They could be compounds of Old High German megin, magan ‘strength, might, power’, as this theme often turns up as magin- in France, but if so, what is -ca/-cus? A diminutive suffix? But that would be a very strange one to find in France at this time.
If you have any speculations, please share with us!
In this, our first post on our monthly topic of color names, we look at names deriving from words for ‘red’.
Old High German rōt, Old Saxon rōd ‘red’ is occurs as a prototheme in a handful of Germanic names, including Rothard and Rothward.
Two Latin words meaning ‘red’ both gave rise to names: Latin rubeus (the same root as the English word ‘ruby’) was used as a masculine given name in Italy, while russa was occasionally used as a feminine name.
One interesting pair of names derive from a word referring to a bright red tincture, while the root of that word is in fact a Latin word meaning ‘little worm’: Vermilia and Vermilius come from Old French vermeillon ‘vermillion, bright red’, because of the bright red dye or paint that could be made from the small insect Kermes vermilio (note that the other word in the Latin name, kermes is cognate to the word ‘crimson’!)
Recently there has been significant interest in compiling word dictionaries of various medieval languages, cf., e.g., the Middle English Dictionary, various dictionaries of Old French such as those found here, the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources, the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources, the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, the Dictionary of the Scots Language, the Dictionnaire Étymologique de l’Ancien Français, etc., and here we can count even the Oxford English Dictionary.
These dictionaries, however, do not include given names in their citations, except incidentally (cf., e.g., personal names where the bynames are used as attestations of Middle English words in the MED). The DMNES will fill this lacuna, providing examples of words (names) which are not otherwise included in these historical dictionaries.
There are a number of disparate audiences for whom filling this lacuna can be beneficial. In the next parts of this series, we will discuss the various target audiences of the Dictionary.
Today, the creation of dictionary entries began in earnest. While the details of the database back-end are still to be hammered out, the structure of the entries is now sufficiently settled that the editorial team is able to begin the process of collecting the information that will go into the entry for each header name, and to create the files for those entries. With an extensive list of possibilities to choose from, since we are drawing our initial data from Dr. Uckelman’s Database of Medieval Names, it’s hard to decide where to begin. For my own part, I decided to begin with three lovely and moderately unusual names which are linked through their meanings: Old French (and also Middle English) Douce, Italian Soave, and Dutch Zoete, all of which mean ‘sweet’. I also decided it was only right and proper that I at least begin to write the entry on Sara; I expect most of the rest of the editorial team will also be keen to write the entries on their own names!