Tag Archives: Provençal

Mystery Monday: Gignosa/Ginnosa

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 12th C France, and was one that, before we wrote this post, was utterly opaque to us:
Researching it for this post, though, led us to two more examples. One is a woman named “Barisia, cognomento Ginnosa”, wife of Rainald cognomento Barbatus, who gave money to a monastery in 1139, and another is a Gignosa, one of three daughters of Petrus Simonis (the entire family has lovely names; his wife is Helisabeth, Gignosa’s sisters are Laurentia and Aldeburgis, and their brother is Aimericus), who made a donation around 1120.

Two other relevant pieces of information that we turned up: First is the Greek word ιννος or γιννος ‘mule’, found in Chambers’s Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. The other is the occurrence of the word ginnosa in 13th-century Provencal literature, in the Romance of Flamenca, and in the Cort D’Amor. So! Do we have any southern French scholars amongst our readers? Do you recognise this word? Know what it means? Know what its root might be? Please share in the comments!


Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

Color names: Brown

If we were following the colors of the rainbow, after doing red, we’d next do orange. But, not surprisingly given that words referring to that color are relatively late developers, we don’t have any names involving words meaning ‘orange’. So today we’ll look at a closely related color — brown.

There are two elements with this meaning that primarily contribute to names. The first is Old English dunn ‘brown, dun’, which can be found in the names Dunstan and Dunwine. The Old Irish cognate, donn, with the same meaning, also appears in names, most famously in Duncan.

The other element is of Germanic origin, and the origin of the modern English word ‘brown’: Old English brún, Old Frisian and Old High German brûn, Old Icelandic brún, adopted into medieval Latin as brunus, becoming bruno in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, and brun in French and Provençal. The word meant not only ‘brown’ but also ‘burnished’ and hence ‘shining’ — so it’s not nearly as dull a color as one might think to use in a name! This color term was used as a standalone name, both in masculine Brun and in feminine Bruna, as well as in compounds such as Brunhard.


Filed under dictionary entries, monthly topic