10th Century Cornish Women's Names
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10th Century Cornish Women's Names

by Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn
(Heather Rose Jones, contact@heatherrosejones.com)
© 1999 by Heather Rose Jones; all rights reserved.


The Bodmin Manumissions are 10-12th century (mostly 10th) records written in the margins of a gospel book, recording the freeing or manumission of slaves. Most of the entries are in a format along the lines of so-and-so, for the sake of his soul, frees the following people: (names); witnessed by (names). The majority of people are identified by only a given name. Most of the witnesses were church personnel, and have a Latin occupational title following their name (e.g., episcopus, presbiter, diaconus). Some people are identified in terms of their relationship to others (e.g. fili[us] Catgustel). There are only one or two examples of what may be personal nicknames or locative bynames.

About half the manumissions are written in Latin and half in Anglo-Saxon -- none are in Cornish. The Latin-language ones tend to write Cornish names according to the practices found in other early Brythonic language records. The Anglo-Saxon records use A.S. spelling conventions to render the assumed pronunciation of the name. So, for example, the same (woman's) name appears in a Latin record as Oncenedl but in an Anglo-Saxon record as Ongynþel.

The gender of the people involved (and thus the names) is not always clear from the text. Since the names are often given in batches, the text may refer to the following people using a word that, like modern English people, does not indicate gender (e.g., Latin homines). In contrast, some people are identified with words that do clearly indicate gender, such as Latin vir (man), mulieris (woman), or Anglo-Saxon wif (woman). Anglo-Saxon records mostly use manna/menn, applying either to male individuals or to a mixed-gender group. An additional clue to gender is that people with church-related occupational bynames are all men. Many names are also used (in slightly different form) in Welsh or Breton, and a clue about gender can be taken from those languages.


The following names are definitely (or almost certainly) female, and are linguistically Cornish. Most of them are found in Latin-language records -- I have marked the ones from Anglo-Saxon records with (AS). The simple list is followed by a discussion of pronunciation and construction.

Guenguiu , Wenwiu (AS)
Wuennmon (AS)
Medguistyl, Medwuistel (AS)
Moruiw (AS)
Oncenedl, Ongynþel (AS)
Tancwoystel, Tancwuestel (AS)
Proswetel (AS)

Anaguistl - Probably pronounced AH-nah-WISS-tell with the last syllable being very short. I haven't found this name elsewhere, but there are many Old Breton given names beginning with Anau-, probably the same element, and the -guistl part is found in several Welsh given names, as well as three other names in this list.

Arganteilin - Probably pronounced AR-yahn-HEY-linn. There is an Old Breton Arganthael (not sure if it's male or female) which is probably related.

Ceenguled - Probably pronounced KAIN-ool-ith. The gender of this name is not certain, however the only other name I've seen with an ending like -guled is a Welsh feminine name, and Brythonic names beginning with variants of Ceen- (beautiful, fair) are more often than not feminine.

Gluiucen - Probably pronounced GLOO-yoo-gen. I haven't found this exact name elsewhere.

Guene - Probably pronounced GWEN. This appears to be the same as the Welsh feminine name Gwen.

Guenguiu , (AS) Wenwiu - Probably pronounced GWEN-wee-oo. This name appears three times in some form, the most of any of the Cornish women's names. This is apparently the same name as Welsh Gwynfyw, which is a man's name.

Wenceneðel - Probably pronounced gwen-KEN-ed-ell with the last syllable very short. I haven't found this name elsewhere, however the initial element (Gwen-) is common in all Brythonic languages, and the second element (-cenedl) is found in the Welsh feminine name Enghenedl.

(AS) Wuennmon - Probably pronounced GWEN-vohn. I haven't found this name elsewhere. The initial element is Gwen- however the second isn't familiar.

Wuencen - Probably pronounced GWEN-gen. I haven't found this name elsewhere. The second element may appear in some Welsh names.

Illcum - Probably pronounced ILL-keev. I haven't found this name elsewhere, however the first (Ill-) and second (-cum) elements appear in names in all the Brythonic languages.

Medhuil - Probably pronounced METH-will or METH-vill. This name is found in Welsh records for both men and women.

Medguistyl, (AS) Medwuistel - Probably pronounced med-WISS-tell with very short last syllable. I haven't found this name elsewhere, but see the other -guistyl names. The first element may be the same as Old Welsh and Breton Mat-, which appears in a number of names.

(AS) Moruiw - Probably pronounced MOHR-view. I have not found this name elsewhere. The first element is common in names in all the Brythonic languages, and the second is probably the same as in Guenguiu above.

Oncenedl, (AS) Ongynþel -  Probably pronounced ohn-GEN-ed-ell with the last syllable very short. I haven't found this name elsewhere, however the first element is probably the same as in Welsh Onbrawst (and the following), and for the second see Wenceneðel above.

Onncum - Probably pronounced OHN-keev. I haven't found this name elsewhere, but for the elements see the preceding and Illcum.

Ourdylyc - Probably pronounced or-DILL-ig. The first element is probably the same as in the Old Welsh feminine name Ourdilat, and the second may be identical with that in the Welsh masculine given name Cynddelig.

Ogurcen - Possibly pronounced OR-gen. The first element may be the same as the preceding. The second is as in Gluiucen above.

Tancwoystel, (AS) Tancwuestel - Probably pronounced TANG-wiss-tell with the last syllable very short. This corresponds to the Welsh feminine name Tangwystl.

Proscen - Probably pronounced PROSS-gen. The first element of this and the following name may be the same as prawst appearing in several Welsh feminine names (e.g., Onbraust, Prawstudd. For the second element, see Gluiucen above.

(AS) Proswetel - Probably pronounced PROSS-wed-ell with the last syllable very short. See the preceding for the first element. The second may be related to the Welsh feminine name Medlan but this is uncertain. (I have a memory of seeing the second element elsewhere but can't find it at the moment.)

Name Structures

Nearly 30 of the people with Cornish names have some sort of byname, although none of them are women. (Some appear in the entries more than once, particularly the church personnel serving as witnesses.) The largest group (three fifths) have an occupational byname related to the church. Since these occupations were not open to women, this type of byname is irrelevant for the present purpose.

The remainder are divided fairly evenly between non-clerical occupations and patronyms. Some of the occupations are directly related to the function of the document, e.g. teste (witness) or laicus (lay-person, as contrasted with the clerical witnesses). Only two remain after eliminating these: praepositus (which may be another clerical title, but was also used similarly to steward or reeve) and consul (which seems to refer to some sort of quasi-governmental position, perhaps in town administration). It's worth noting that all the occupational bynames refer to hierarchical positions, rather than crafts. (This holds true for the non-Cornish names in the document as well.)

The patronymic bynames are found in both Latin and Anglo-Saxon. The Latin ones place filius (son -- it would be filia for daughter in women's names) before the father's name, but don't give the father's name a Latin inflectional suffix (as is often found). E.g., Aedoc fili[us] Caatgustel, Wurgent filius Samuel. The one Anglo-Saxon example places sunu (son) after the father's name and gives the father's name an Anglo-Saxon posessive form: Tedhion Modredis sunu (i.e., Modred's son).

The one remaining example of a possible byname attached to a Cornish name is for Ungust Cilifri. Some interpreters of the text consider this a name and byname, however at least one reliable editor inserts a comma and considers both to be given names. My initial tendency is to lean towards the former, as I know of no other Cornish given names that begin with this sound and as a place-name it could represent either Cil- (corner, nook) or Cili- (grove).

Based on the above, I'd say the best choice for a Cornish woman's byname at this period would be a patronym (which then involves choosing a father's name).


The primary text used for the manumissions was Max Foerster's Die Freilassungsurkunden des Bodmin-Evangeliars in A Grammatical Miscellany offered to Otto Jespersen (Copenhagen, 1930). Breton material is cited from the Redon Cartularies of the 9-12th centuries. Welsh comparative material comes primarily from Peter C. Bartrum's Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts and the Book of Llan Dav.