A guide to some Estonian naming patterns.
Compiled by ffrw ffride wlffsdotter, July 2021.
- Locative bynames.
- Marital bynames.
- Occupational bynames.
- Descriptive bynames.
- Patterns in Estonian names, and how to use them.
In the 13th century, the Northern Crusades reached the modern-day territories of Estonia and Latvia, and the names and languages of the inhabitants of this region, called Livonia, started to be recorded (Sutorp 2015:15). Although Finnic names used by various groups in Estonia were regularly written down from this period onwards, the majority of the examples used to illustrate the naming patterns discussed below are from the 15th and 16th centuries. This is primarily due to sources from this time period being the most accessible online. But this emphasis on 15th and 16th century names is also because it is when the greatest diversity of naming patterns in the SCA's timeframe of interest were recorded, as bynames were increasingly used in Estonian areas from the 14th century onward (Estonica, 2021).
While this page focuses on the structure of names, rather than the name elements themselves, it is important to briefly touch on the types of names that utilised these patterns. Palli (1961: 137-8), Selart (2016: 4), and Saar (2017: 242) highlight how names, particularly in northern Livonia (the region of present-day Estonia), were inherently connected with sociocultural factors. Personal names that were popular in the rural areas where the majority of the population spoke various Finnic languages differed from the popular choices in towns that were influenced by the Hanseatic, German-speaking urban culture (Selart 2016: 4). The form that your name took could also reflect ones position in society, with Low German masculine names like Hans, Jacob, and Peter having a higher status than forms such as Hannos, Jack, or Peep (Palli 1961: 137). In turn, Johann, the more learned form of the name Hans or Hannos, was of an even higher status (Selart 2016: 4). The form that your name took would not only reflect how you wanted to be perceived by others, but also influenced how others saw you.
This applied to the name as a whole. In Selart's research into how names in the territory of Estonia changed over time, they note that Finnic names were only used by Finnic language speakers, but that Germanic names could be used by indigenous Estonians or more recent migrants. "As the medieval immigrants did not adopt" Finnic-language names, "they generally make it possible to establish the ethnicity of the bearers" (Selart 2015: 3). However, at the same time, "Germanic and Christian names do not denote ethnic identity, especially as they were spelled in accordance with the tradition of the language (Latin, Low German)" in which the records were written (ibid.). Simply because a name was recorded with Germanic name elements, does not necessarily mean that the name's bearer can definitively be identified as being a particular ethnicity.
Although the Germanic names appear to be strongly gendered, Raunamaa in a discussion of pre-Christian Finnic personal names, notes that other researchers have suggested "that men and women used the same names in medieval Estonia" (Raag and Vanags 2010, as cited in Raunamaa 2020: 75). These Finnic names "were still in widespread use right through to the 15th century" but only a handful of examples have been identified as not being borne by men (Raunamaa 2020: 89). Further research on pre-Christian Finnic personal names in Estonia, and how they were used, is clearly needed.
Due to the focus of the available literature, on records from northern Estonia, the other Finnic languages spoken in the territory of Estonia such as Livonian, and the Southern Estonian languages Seto, and Võro, are not covered by this guide (Saar 2017).
Most of the patterns discussed below were accepted for inclusion in SENA Appendix A on the April 2021 Letter of Acceptances and Returns, and do not require additional documentation to use in your name submission. However the individual elements will need to be documented.
Please keep in mind that this document may be static, but research is constantly evolving. The patterns that were accepted in April 2021 may have changed in the interim, and this page includes patterns that were not part of the original proposal, so be sure to double check!
2. Locative bynames.
Locative bynames seem to have been used to describe an individual in terms of their place of birth, or their current or former place of residence. These can be derived from named locations (such as towns, or manors), or from generic topographical features. The majority of the examples that have been found to-date are bynames borne by men.
2.1 «Given name» «Unmarked placename».
In the 15th, 16th, and early-17th centuries, examples of men, and one woman, with post-pended unmarked bynames are found in the Eesti kohanimeraamat (Dictionary of Estonian Place names) database. The identification of these bynames with their respective places is also taken from this database.
These bynames are are formed from the name of a vilage or manor, rather than a generic topographical feature. However, this may simply be due to the inherent bias of relying on the Eesti kohanimeraamat dictionary that focuses on town, farm and manor names. Eduard Roos (1976) gives one example of a byname that apparently derived from generic topographical feature:
- Marten Muddenkull - 1453. From Mujaste, Saare County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Mujaste).
- Hinrick Pagenkurgell - 1453. From Paju-Kurdla, Saare County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Paju-Kurdla).
- Martt Janick - 1565. From Jaanika, Harju County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Jaanika).
- Anna Vrküll - 1645. From Üru, Saare County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Üru).
The Eesti kohanimeraamat database also has examples of bynames that may be generic toponyms:
- Rebene Metsz - 1519. From mets, a forest. Roos notes that this may be a personal name, or the first element may be a personal name, from rebane, fox (Stackelberg 1926: 170).
- Hinke Mege - 1356. From mägi, a mountain, or derived from a personal name (see Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Meegomäe).
- Bengtt Kwrisw - 1565. From kurisu, a sinkhole, which is the namesake of the village Emmaste-Kurisu, in Hiiu County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Kurisu).
2.2 «Unmarked placename» «Given name».
Much more frequently encountered in the literature, are examples of men with pre-pended bynames, where their names are recorded in the form «Unmarked placename» «Given name». Arnek (2019:394) points out these pre-pended placenames are generally recorded in the genitive (possessive) case, so placenames may still need to be modified to match the grammar, even if they do not use any suffixes or prepositions. For instance, the Eesti kohanimeraamat database has examples such as:
- Korakuyla Iuri - 1543. From Koeri, Pärnu County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Koeri).
- Kullesme Ahndreß - 1570. From Külasema, Saare County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Külasema).
- Quottista Matz - 1599. From Kodeste, Hiiumaa County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Kodeste).
Like above, there are some examples of bynames apparently derived from generic topographical features, using the same pattern. Eduard Roos (1976) gives the following two examples:
- Sallo Andres - 1618. From salu, a old word that could mean a forest swamp, or an island. (see Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Salu).
- Kosken Mehle - 1624. From kosk (using an older, Finnic genitive case ending that is not used in modern Estonian (Arnek 2019:397)), a waterfall.
2.3 «Given name» «Patronymic» «Unmarked placename»
Men were also recorded with the pattern «Given name» «Patronymic» «Unmarked placename», using a form of the patronymic marker poeg:
- Andreus Koppen pocke Mussekulle - 1512. Andreus "ladle's" son, from Mõisaküla, Viljandi County (note that this name is also using the older Finnic genitive -n ending that is not used in modern Estonian (Arnek 2019:397)) (Stackelberg 1926: 206; Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Mõisaküla5).
- Jacob Korse pockke Moussekulle - 1512. Jacob [unknown] son, from Mõisaküla, Viljandi County (Stackelberg 1926: 206; Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Mõisaküla5).
- Mattyes Wylmepockke Wekulle - 1514. Mattyes Wyl(lia)m's son, from Vee village, Pärnu County (Stackelberg 1926: 207; Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Vee).
- Peter Janspockke Kottesme - 1515. Peter Jan's son, from Kodesmaa, Pärnu County (Stackelberg 1926: 208; Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Kodesmaa).
2.4 «Given name» «Marked placename» using de, van and i.
Not explicitly currently included in Appendix A, are marked locative bynames (bynames using a preposition) from records in Latin, Low German, and Swedish (after 1561 when the Duchy of Swedish Estonia was established). They use the prepositions de, van, and i respectively. All of these examples are taken from the Eesti kohanimeraamat database.
2.4a «Given name» de «Placename».
Marked placenames using de are found in Latin-language contexts.
- Tidemannus de Toyvele - 1274. From the former Parish of Sangaste (German: Theal), today Otepää Parish, Valga County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Sangaste).
- Robertus de Engdis - 1277. From Äntu, Lääne-Viru County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Äntu).
- Hennekinus de Wakka - 1325. From Vao, Lääne-Viru County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Vao).
2.4b «Given name» van «Placename».
These marked placenames, using van, are found in Low German contexts.
- Hans van Tackever - 1453. From Tagavere, Saare County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Tagavere2).
- Hans van Thomall - 1453. From Tumala, Saare County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Tumala).
- Meles van Keikus - 1453. From Kõiguste, Saare County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Kõiguste).
2.4c «Given name» i «Placename».
These marked placenames, using i, are found in Swedish language contexts.
- Anders i Sakalä - 1564. From Sakla, Hiiu County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Sakla).
- Mårten i Pardas - 1564. From Partsi, Hiiu County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Partsi).
- Matz i Palada - 1565. From Palade, Hiiu County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Palade).
- Thonius i Löppenpell - 1565. From Lõbembe, Hiiu County (Eesti kohanimeraamat sn. Lõbembe).
Patronymic bynames describe a person as their father's son, or father's daughter. There is a greater variety of patronymic patterns recorded with masculine names, particularly when compared to the relative scarcity of examples of feminine patronyms. The following patterns are briefly mentioned below:
- 3.1 Marked patronymics for women.
- 3.1a «Given name» «Father's name» tüttar.
- 3.1b «Given name» «Father's name» dochter.
- 3.2 Marked patronymics for men.
- 3.2a «Given name» «Father's name» poick/poyck.
- 3.2b «Given name» «Father's name» son.
- 3.2c «Father's name» poick/poyck «Given name».
- 3.2d «Father's name» son «Given name».
- 3.2e «Given name» «Father's occupational byname» poick/poyck.
- 3.2f Marked patronymics with unclear name elements.
- 3.3 Unmarked patronymics for men.
- 3.3a «Father's name» «Given name».
3.1 Marked patronymics for women.
3.1a «Given name» «Father's name» tüttar.
Like in the examples of locative bynames, the majority of records that mention Estonians, are discussing individuals with masculine names.
It is possible to suggest how an Estonian-language feminine patronymic could have appeared in the 16th century, using some form of the word tütar, or daughter. In the 16th and early 17th centuries, translations of a bible passage from northern and southern Estonia use the spelling tüttar. These two works were written down by German speakers who wrote in such a way that "the Germans were able to read texts out loud so that Estonians more or less understood what they heard", particularly for church sermons (Põldvee 2011; 367-8). The earlier work, Evangelia und Episteln [Gospels and Epistles] by Joachim Rossihnius, dated 1632 translates part of the Book of Luke, chapter 2, into southern Estonian as "Hanna, ütz tütter Phanuel" [Hanna, one daughter of Phanuel] (Vana kirjakeele korpus 2021a).
The later 1641 work, Leyen Spiegel [The layman's mirror] by Heinrich Stahl, translates the same chapter in northern Estonian, and provides a gloss in Low German; "Hanna üx tüttar Phanuel," and "Hanna ein Tochter Phanuel" respectively (Vana kirjakeele korpus 2021b).
The word, also spelled tüttar, also appears in two early German-Estonian dictionaries. The earliest known Estonian dictionary, Stahl's 1637 northern Estonian Anführung zu der Esthnischen Sprach [Introduction to the Estonian language], has:
- Dochter / Tüttar (Vana kirjakeele korpus 2021c).
Similarly, Johann Gutslaff's Low German-Southern Estonian dictionary Observationes Grammaticae circa linguam Esthonicam [Grammatical observations about the Estonian language] lists:
- Tochter / Tüttar (Gutslaff 1648:136).
On this basis, along with the exaples of men bearing patronymics ending in the equivalent of modern Estonian poeg, and the below examples of women with patronymics in Low German contexts in the territory of Estonia, the pattern «Given name» «Father's name» tüttar has been accepted for inclusion into SENA Appendix A.
3.1b «Given name» «Father's name» dochter.
In Low German records discussing the German elite in the towns, women are mentioned in various ways. This could include descriptions that may have functioned as patronymics, using their father's given name, or their father's full name, with the suffix «dochter» (modern High German Tochter). These patronymic patterns are also seen elsewhere in Low German speaking areas, including Bremen, in northwestern Germany (Micheel 2017:28-9). For instance, Tallinna pärgamentne rendiseraamat: 1382-1518 [The Tallinn Parchment Book of Rents: 1382-1518] has the following examples, where the father's name is usually recorded in the German genitive (Plaesterer 1930: 28, 65, 72, 145, 171, 229):
- «Given name» «Father's given name» dochter
- Taleken, Clawes dochter, 1388
- Elzeben, hern Hermens dochter, 1393
- Elzeben, hern Johans dochter, 1423
- «Given name» «Father's given name and byname» dochter
- Ghertrudis, Hermen Droghen dochter, 1394
- Gretiken, Hinrik wantsniders dochter, 1416
- Katerineken, Lambert Berberges dochter, 1437
3.2 Marked patronymics for men.
Patronymics for men can be pre-pended or post-pended, using poick, or variants (modern Estonian poeg), or Low German son (modern High German Sohn).
The following patterns, ca. 1518-1544, are all taken from Stackelberg (1929: 115, 125, 149, 162, 165, 170, 199)'s transcription of the Wackenbuch from Wiek County, which was formerly located in north-western Estonia.
Wackenbücher were manorial inventories. Information in these books could include the name of the head of a farmstead's household (generally male), the number of people living on a particular farmstead, the household’s status, and their livestock.
3.2a «Given name» «Father's name» poick/poyck.
Patterns recorded in Wiek County included «Given name» «Father's name» poick/poyck, with the father's given name in the Estonian genitive case:
- Pe[t]er Koltipoick - Mägiste (1929: 32) glosses the father's name as Kolt.
- Thomas Melnepoick - Mägiste (1929: 38) glosses the father's name as Meel.
- Janus Petripoick - this is the name Peeter, genitive Peetri.
- Perth Meeldepoyck - Mägiste (1929: 37) glosses the father's name as Meeldo. (Note that this name is also using the older Finnic genitive -n ending that is not used in modern Estonian (Arnek 2019:397).)
3.2b «Given name» «Father's name» son.
Similarly, men were also recorded with the pattern «Given name» «Father's name» son, where the father's name is also in the German genitive case:
- Ian Meldonßon - Mägiste (1929: 37) glosses the father's name as Meeldo. (Note that this name is also using the older Finnic genitive -n ending that is not used in modern Estonian (Arnek 2019:397).)
- Mart Hanusßon - the father's name is Hanus, from Low German Hans (Rätsep, 2011: 25-6).
- Maddi Nicholasßon - the father's name is Nicholas.
- Tito Jurgenssone - the father's name is Jurgen.
3.2c «Father's name» poick/poyck «Given name».
Alongside the above patterns, there is also evidence for the name order to be reversed, with the patronymic as the first element of the name. Examples of «Father's name» poick/poyck «Given name», with the father's name in the genitive case include:
- Hinkepoick Peter - Hinke is a Low German diminutive of Heinrich (Mägiste 1929: 25).
- Asopoick Hanno - Mägiste (1929: 23) glosses the father's name as Aso.
- Nenepoick Thomas - Mägiste (1929: 40) glosses the father's name as Neeno.
3.2d «Father's name» son «Given name».
Examples of «Father's name» son «Given name», with the father's name in the genitive case include:
- Aßonßon Peter - Mägiste (1929: 23) glosses the father's name as Aso. (Note that this name is also using the older Finnic genitive -n ending that is not used in modern Estonian (Arnek 2019:397).)
- Johanneßon Peter - the father's name is Johannes (Rätsep, 2011: 23-4).
- Ianusßoenn Iacob - Janus is a diminutive of Johannes (Rätsep, 2011: 24).
3.2e «Given name» «Father's occupational byname» poick/poyck.
Some men were recorded with patronymics that use their father's occupational byname. Examples of «Given name» «Father's occupational byname» poick/poyck, with the occupational byname in the genitive case include:
- Nhaen Sundiapoyck - ca. 1524 – 1532 (Saareste 1923: 138). Sõnaveeb glosses sundija as a peasant in service to a manor, who led and supervised the manor's workers. Blokland (2005: 376) glosses the byname as meaning a judge.
- Jan Puseppepoyck - 1534 (Otsmaa 1963: 49). A puusepp is a carpenter.
- Jurgen Wabbeme poick - 1549 (Essen and Johansen 1939: 142). A vabamees is a freeman.
- Simon Kubiepoick - 16th century (Otsmaa 1963: 49). A kubjas is an overseer.
3.2f Marked patronymics with unclear name elements.
There is a sixth pattern, that has multiple interpretations. One interpretation is that these bynames are patronymics derived from their father's given name, that is identical to the name of an animal or other concept (Nissilä 1965, as cited in Saar 2017: 243; Roos 1976). Alternatively, these are patronymics derived from a descriptive byname:
- Andres lutzw poyck - ca. 1524 - 1532 (Saareste 1923: 138). A luts, genitive lutsu is a burbot.
- Mick Kauripoick - 1522 (Stackelberg 1929; 134). A kaur is a loon, a bird in the genus Gavia.
- Simon Kurke poyke - 1541 (Essen and Johansen 1939; 98). A kurk is a crane or stork.
- Piep Wanapoik - 1594 (Jakubowski and Kordzikowski 1915; 279). A vana is an old person.
Examples of the pattern with the patronymic as the first element include:
- Reime poicke Jack - 1582 (Essen and Johansen 1939:244). A räim is the Baltic herring.
- Poneme poick Tonnies - 1549 (Essen and Johansen 1939:143). Roos suggests that this is the verb punama "to appear red."
- Ponepepoick Peter - 16th century (Stackelberg 1929:189). Punapea means readhead, a person with red hair.
As well as one example marked with -son:
- Kyw son Andres - 16th century (Johansen 1930:210) a kiivitaja or kiiv is a lacewing or pyewipe.
3.3 Unmarked patronymics for men.
Unmarked patronymics borne by male peasants are summarised by Saar (2017:242-3):
"In the 16th century, when Low German had replaced Latin as the written language in use in Livonia, peasants’ names were written with a byname preceding the forename, linguistically an attribute, for example Hento Jurgi ‘Hento’s Jurgi’....I consider the forename to be Jurgi... that is, the person’s baptismal name. However, it is not always clear which name is the baptismal name."
Examples from Saaremaa, in western Estonia, of this naming pattern include:
- Laur Philip - 1592 (Tiik 1977:286).
- Jeronimus Peep - 1617/18 (Tiik 1977:286).
- Cordt Wilhelm - 1618/19 (Tiik 1977:288).
- Hans Wentzell - 1622 (Tiik 1977:288).
- Wentzell Matz - 1627 (Tiik 1977:288).
4. Marital bynames.
This section include the following patterns used by women:
- 4.1 «Given name» «Husband's name» nayne.
- 4.2 «Given name» «Husband's name» wif.
- 4.3 «Given name» «Husband's name»-sche.
4.1 «Given name» «Husband's name» nayne.
In Põltsam-Jürjo's (2011) discussion of 16th century Livonian society, they mention women recorded in Kullamaa, formerly part of the Bishopric of Ösel–Wiek and today in the county of Läänemaa, Estonia. Põltsam-Jürjo suggests that this type of byname was recorded when widows were managing a farmstead until their children came of age. As probable widows, they are therefore described as a man's naine (literally 'woman' but meaning wife). Two of these three women are not recorded with a given name, but their bynames were being used in a similar way to the more common bynames ending in poeg, that utilised occupational bynames, descriptive bynames, and personal names. Like in other patronymics, the byname has been put into the Estonian genitive case:
- Barbar[a] Szuͤndya nayne - ca. 1524 – 1532 (Saareste 1923: 138, 147). Sõnaveeb glosses sundija as a peasant in service to a manor, who led and supervised the manor's workers. Blokland (2005: 376) glosses the byname as meaning a judge.
- Lutzw nayne - ca. 1524 – 1532 (Saareste 1923: 138). A luts, genitive lutsu is a burbot.
- Manthu nayne - ca. 1524 – 1532 (Põltsam-Jürjo 2011: 32). This is derived from a personal name.
4.2 «Given name» «Husband's name» wif.
Women were also described as being someone's wife in Low German-language records, where the suffix was wif (modern High German Weib). These relationshi bynames patterns are also seen elsewhere in Low German speaking areas, such as Bremen, in northwestern Germany (Micheel 2017:27-8).
Women could also be described using their husband's given name and byname, with no personal name of their own recorded:
- Johan[s] wif Greteke - 1396 (Plaesterer 1930: 15).
- Ertmers wif - 1403 (Plaesterer 1930: 105). This woman is not mentioned by a given name, and is described as a widow.
- Len[n]eke Kalleviers wif - 1390 (Kaplinski 1975:687). Kaplinski interprets Leneke as a feminine given name, and her husband's byname as indicating that he had originated in Kallevere.
- Coukemelen wif - 1374 (Kaplinski 1975:687). This may be "Kaukemele's wife," using the older Finnic genitive -n ending that is not used in modern Estonian (Arnek 2019:397).
- Narwe viff Greth - 1390 (Kaplinski 1975:690). This appears to be a personal name, "Narwe's wife, Greth."
- Henne Czeppe[n] wif - 1390 (Kaplinski 1975:685). Kaplinski interprets Henne's byname as sepp, Estonian for a smith. (Note that this name is also using the older Finnic genitive -n ending that is not used in modern Estonian (Arnek 2019:397).)
- Hen[n]e Huken wiff - 1385 (Kaplinski 1975:685). Roos (1976) lists an instance of Nano Hukensoene; this may be from Estonian huik, a spotted crake, with the Finnic genitive -n ending.
- Peter Veppes wiff - 1390 (Kaplinski 1975:692). "Vepsian Peter's wife."
4.3 «Given name» «Husband's name»-sche.
Currently not listed in Appendix A, but also seen in Low German language records, is the use of the diminutive suffix -sche. Kaplinski (1975) has interpreted this type of byname as indicating that the woman is married. Werth (2015:54,57) says that the Low German feminine suffix -sche was added to a family name to indicate a woman's affiliation with her husband or father. Often women were referred to by their byname alone, but when given names are recorded the pattern appears to use the German-language name order, with the given name in front, and a byname following.
Examples of bynames using Middle Low German words in bynames from Tallinn include:
- Kunne klederscellersche - 1369 (Kaplinski 1975:688). A Kleidersellersche is a female clothing or haberdashery shop keeper.
- Kunne Kopperkuttesche - 1369 (Kaplinski 1975:688). Kaplinski implies this may be from a Low German term for a copper-caster.
- Kunne Swartesche - 1374 (Kaplinski 1975:691). The Low German adjective swatt or swart means black.
Examples of bynames using Finnic words and names from Tallinn include:
- Catharina Lemmetowesche - 1368 (Kaplinski 1975:688). "Catharina, Lemmit's wife," from the personal name Lemmit (Mägiste 1929:35).
- Kangeresch - 1392 (Kaplinski 1975:688). A kangur is a weaver.
- Mustesche - 1399 (Kaplinski 1975:690). Must is an adjective meaning "black."
- Siggesche - 1372 (Kaplinski 1975:691). Kaplinski says that she was the widow of Johannes Sigge (1369), and interprets the name as siga, a pig.
- Hawe[n]pesche, Hauwe[n]pesche - 1372, 1385 (Kaplinski 1975:685). A havipea is the head of a pike or luce.
5. Occupational bynames.
This category of bynames describe an individual in terms of their occupation. There have been more examples found of unmarked occupational bynames recorded with masculine names, than with feminine names.
- 5.1 «Given name» «Occupational byname».
- 5.2 «Occupational byname» «Given name».
5.1 «Given name» «Occupational byname».
An occupational byname describes an individual in terms of their job. They include the pattern «Given name» «Occupational byname» such as:
- Thideke Seppe - 1392 (Kaplinski 1975:691). A sepp is a smith.
- Lembe kangur - 1564 (Kaplinski 1975:688). A kangur is a weaver.
- Hans Karethurre, Mick Karethurre - 1537 (Essen and Johansen 1939:72). Roos (1976) glosses this name as karjaturve, a cowherd?
And one example with a feminine name:
Anne Rattcep - 1589 (Arnek 2014: 38-9). This may be ratasepp, a weelwight.
5.2 «Occupational byname» «Given name».
The name order can also be reversed:
- Rautzepp Thomas - ca. 1518-1544 (Stackelberg 1929:148). A raudsepp is a blacksmith.
- Pusepp Ianus - ca. 1518-1544 (Stackelberg 1929:155). A puusepp is a carpenter.
- Kuuesepp Tito - ca. 1518-1544 (Stackelberg 1929:189). A kuuesepp is a tailor. The term is derived from kuub, genitive kuue, a jacket (Saari 1997).
6. Descriptive bynames.
Descriptive bynames attempt to describe an individual, often in terms of their appearance of temperament. They follow a similar pattern to occupational bynames, and so far the only examples found describe men.
- 6.1 «Given name» «Descriptive byname».
- 6.2 «Descriptive byname» «Given name».
6.1 «Given name» Descriptive byname».
- Nicol[aus] Heryenpe - 1372 (Kaplinski 1975:685). Härjapea could have multiple meanings. It can mean a bull's head, the plant clover, or refer to the Härjapea River of Tallinn.
- Paul Tarck - 1575 (Essen and Johansen 1939:257). A tark is a smart, knowledgeable person (Roos 1976).
- Hinke Muste - 1372 (Kaplinski 1975:690). Must means black.
6.2 «Descriptive byname» «Given name».
There are also examples of names recorded with the descriptive byname at the front:
- Karope Iuri - 1541 (KNR sn. Karuba). A karupea is a bear's head. It could also refer to the marsh lousewort, or is from the name of a farm (Kolosova et al. 2017).
- Keel Heyckt - 1533 (Essen and Johansen 1939:52). The word keel can mean the tongue (body part), but also means tongue (language).
- Muste Laurentius, Muste Mychel - 1372, 1399 (Kaplinski 1975:690). Must means black.
7. Patterns in Estonian names, and how to use them.
Very broadly, the patterns that have have been documented are:
We can use these patterns to construct new names. For instance, the feminine name Barbara (Saareste 1923: 138, 147), and the masculine patronymic Petripoick (Stackelberg 1929: 199), then a plausible construction could be Barbara Petrinayne. The occupational byname Kuuesepp (Stackelberg 1929:189) could be used to form a masculine patronymic with the personal name Jan (Otsmaa 1963: 49) such as Kuueseppepoyck Jan. The personal name Lembe (Kaplinski 1975:688) could be combined with the personal name Piep to create a new name with an unmarked patronymic, such as Piep Lembe. If you want to check the (modern) Estonian genitive form of a word, that is used in a lot of these bynames, the Sõnaveeb database will often give you the inflection table -- look for omastav (genitive) and ainsus (singular) in the table to find the expected form.
- given + byname
- byname + given
- given + patronymic + locative
There does not currently appear to be an easily-accessible online source, for dated personal names from Estonia, that can be recommended for further name research. The Eesti kohanimeraamat [The Estonian Place Name Book] database does include examples of personal names, but it is not the primary focus of the database. The Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources does contain personal names from the territory of Estonia, but it is not currently possible to filter results by country. The Academy of Saint Gabriel does have a small section on names of people and places from Estonia.
I am grateful for the time that Birgitta Lulli, Þóra Sharptooth, and Scholastica la souriete took in reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this guide. Thanks must also go to The National Library of Estonia and the University of Tartu in particular for hosting so many digital resources, that can be accessed from a computer in another hemisphere. All errors in intepretation of the above data are entirely my own.
All website addresses were checked 1st July 2021.
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