Naming Construction and Patterns
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Naming Construction and Patterns

From Laurel staff

This article covers the construction and patterns in names for the vast majority of European languages.  In some cases, the best we can do is provide links to other articles that discuss these language in detail.  However, for most of these languages, this article is an easy, no-photocopy reference for how to put together the name elements you may find in other articles or books into a well-formed, period name.  It also gives a comprehensive overview of the types of bynames that are known in each language.

Bynames in many of these languages require grammatical changes to elements. Those changes are not explained here; refer to the listed sources for instructions on creating the correct forms. Each element within this construction must still be documented.  Any grammatical changes must be documented as well.

A note on using these tables:

In the tables below, name patterns are written using a consistent system:

  • N is the given name of the person bearing the name in the nominative case.
  • B, C, etc. are the given names of relatives or ancestors of the person bearing the name.
  • X is used to indicate a place name or region; Y is used to indicate a generic toponym (e.g., 'the woods' or 'the dell'); Z is used to indicate the charge or other name in an inn-sign type location (e.g., star or lion).
  • Unmarked means "using the element – location, father's name, etc. – in an unmodified form as a byname;" marked for bynames means using a term such as "son" or "daughter" often with a modified form of the father's name.  Using a modified form of the father's name without any other marker is labeled as "genitive alone."
  • In "order," byname means "any byname described to the left." Pat =  patronymic byname; Loc = locative byname

For example, N filius B would be 'N, the son of B' or 'N, B's son'. N de X would be "N from X".
Boxes that are unmarked or patterns not listed require further documentation to use that pattern.  "Rare" means that such names are sufficiently rare that a constructed, as opposed to attested version, of such a byname generally requires the help of an expert in that language to determine if it is plausible.

Arabic

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Arabic

No

Adjectival;al-[adjectival form of place name].

For men ibn B "son of B"
For women bint B "daughter of B"

Multi-generational patronymics; Abū B and Umm B (where B is the child’s name)

al-[occupation or description or ethnic group]

No

Yes

Multiple possible variations; see articles below for more information

Notes:

Locative and descriptive bynames must match the gender of the person described; see articles below for more details.

Diacritics (long marks, emphatic marks, etc.) may be used or omitted as long as it is done consistently.

Additional Information: Juliana de Luna, "Arabic Names from al-Andalus" (http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/juliana/alandalus/) and Da'ud ibn Auda, "Period Arabic Names and Naming Practices" (http://heraldry.sca.org/names/arabic-naming2.htm)

Baltic

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Lithuanian, Latvian, etc.

Late; 14th cen. and after

 

Yes; N Bsūnus

 

 

Late; 14th cen. and after

 

given+patronymic
given+alias+given
given+alias+given+pat

Note: In late period, some other family names are found, are beyond the scope of this article, and so must be documented individually.

Dutch

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Dutch, Frisian, etc.

No

Phrase; van X, van den Y or van derY,  

Marked;
genitive alone, or unmarked (see notes)

Brother, wife

May use articlede/den/der/dieor may omit it

Early (see Latinized names for details)

Yes; second byname usually a locative

given+byname
given+patronymic+loc

Notes

Bynames based on relationship can be formed with Latinized particles, or with their Dutch counterparts, such as sone/soen/zoen/zone ‘son’, broeder ‘brother’,dochter ‘daughter’, and wijf ‘wife’ (usually with the relative’s name in the genitive case). Bynames of relationship are also formed with the father's name unmodified or placed in the genitive form.

Additional Information: Aryanhwy merch Catmael, "Names from Dutch Records Between 1584-1585" (http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/dutch/vandermeulen.html).

English/Welsh

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Old English

No

Phrase (æt X or of X)

Marked, unmarked

 

Rare

Yes; usingCognomento

 

given+byname

Middle/Early Modern
English

Late

All forms: Phrase (de X, of X, atte Y, de la/del Y); unmarked, adjectival, 
inn sign (atte Z, of the Z)

Marked, genitive alone, unmarked

Matronymic, many others, marked and unmarked

Yes, may use article the/le or omit it.

Yes; marked

Yes; all patterns late (these are generally unmarked)

given+byname
given+byname+loc
given+patronym+descrip
given+byname+byname

Anglicized Irish

No

 

Marked, multi-generation

Clan names

Rare

 

Yes

given+byname
given+pat+pat
given+patronym+clan

Welsh

Late

Phrase, unmarked

Marked, unmarked,
multiple

 

Yes

 

Yes

given+byname
given+pat+pat

Scots

 

Phrase (as in English),
unmarked

Marked (with Macor as in English), unmarked

As in English only

Yes

 

Yes

given+pat+ loc
given+pat+pat
given+pat+descriptive

Notes:

Old English: Patronymics take form of X sunu/sune or Xdohtor (X is father's name in genitive); they must match the given name's gender. Alternately, they may follow the Latinized patterns. Locatives use æt or of followed by the placename in dative form. See the introduction to Reaney and Wilson A Dictionary of English Surnames for more details.

Middle/Early Modern English: Marked patronymics may use Fitz X or Xson; women may use these or use Xdaughter.  These forms may all use the father's name unmodified; Xson and Xdaughter may also use the possessive form.  Alternately, they may follow the Latinized patterns. Late period family names tend to drop articles and prepositions. See the introduction to Reaney and Wilson A Dictionary of English Surnames for more details.

Anglicized Irish: For more details of how patronymic bynames are marked Mari ingen Briain meic Donnchada, "Names Found in Anglicized Irish Documents" (http://medievalscotland.org/kmo/AnglicizedIrish/).

Welsh: For more details, see Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn "A Simple Guide to Constructing 13th Century Welsh Names" (http://heraldry.sca.org/names/welsh13.html) and "A Simple Guide to Constructing 16th Century Welsh Names" (http://heraldry.sca.org/names/welsh16.html).

Scots: See Black Surnames of Scotland for more details.

French

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Frankish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French

Late

Phrase (see notes), unmarked, or inn sign name

Marked, unmarked are more common

widow, other

Yes; may use articlele, la, l'les orun/une or omit it

Yes; usually combining surnames  using dit

Yes; second byname is usually locative; double surnames are rare

given+by
given+byname+locative
given+byname dit byname

Occitan/
Provençal

Late

Phrase (see notes),
unmarked

Marked, unmarked

widow, other

Yes; may use articlele, la, li, l'les orun/une or omit it

Yes; usually combining surnames  usingalias

Yes; but rare for men; second name usually locative

given+byname
given+byname+locative
given+byname aliasbyname

Notes:

All patterns in Frankish must be documented. 

Acute accents may be written or omitted, as long as they are used consistently.  Other diacritics must be documented to be used, as they were rare in period. Capitalization patterns are inconsistent, but combinations of lower and uppercase elements must be documented.

French: Locatives may be derived from place names, in the form de X (or d'X, if X starts with a vowel); from generic toponyms, with du Xde la X, or des X; or from signs, with au Zà la Z, or aus/aux Z.

Occitan: Marked locatives look like those from French; inn sign names have not been found in Occitan to date.

Gaelic

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Pictish

 

 

Marked; mac B or filius B "son of B"; 
filia B "daughter of B"

nephew, nepos B

 

 

 

given+by

Oghamic (c.500-c.700)

No

 

Marked; maqqas B "son of b"; 
inigena B "daughter of B

 

Descriptive

No

 

given+byname

Old/Middle Gaelic 
(before c.1200)

No

Rare

Marked; mac B "son of B"; 
ingen B "daughter of B"

Clan affiliation; two-generation patronymics; "wife of" for women

Descriptive; rarely occupational

No

Multi-generational, descriptive and patronymic

Varied; see articles below

Early Modern Gaelic 
(after c.1200)

No

Rare

Marked; mac B "son of B";
inghean B "daughter of B"

Clan affiliation; two-generation patronymics; "wife of" for women

Descriptive; rarely occupational

No

Multi-generational, descriptive and patronymic

Varied; see articles below

Scots Gaelic

No

Rare

marked; mac B "son of B";
ingen or inghean B "daughter of B"

Two-generation patronymics; "wife of" for women

Descriptive; rarely occupational

No

Multi-generational, descriptive and patronymic

given+pat
given+descrip+pat
given+pat+descrip
given+pat+pat

Notes:

Pictish: Please refer to Tangwystl verch Mogrant Glasvryn, "A Consideration of Pictish Names" (http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/tangwystyl/pictnames/).

Oghamic: Please refer to Mari Elspeth nic Bryan, Index of Names in Irish Annals (http://medievalscotland.org/kmo/AnnalsIndex/).

Old/Middle Gaelic: For appropriate spellings, refer to Mari Elspeth nic Bryan , Index of Names in Irish Annals (http://medievalscotland.org/kmo/AnnalsIndex/). For structure, please refer to Effric Neyn Ken3ocht Mcherrald, "Quick and Easy Gaelic Names" (http://medievalscotland.org/scotnames/quickgaelicbynames/).

Early Modern Gaelic: Please refer to Effric Neyn Ken3ocht Mcherrald, "Quick and Easy Gaelic Names" (http://medievalscotland.org/scotnames/quickgaelicbynames/) for more details on Gaelic names.

Scots Gaelic: Please refer to Effric Neyn Ken3ocht Mcherrald, "A Simple Guide to Constructing 12th Century Scottish Gaelic Names" (http://medievalscotland.org/scotnames/simplescotgaelicnames12.shtml).

All patronymics are created using the genitive form of the father’s name. Byname elements may need to have their spelling modified to soften the pronunciation (lenited) or change the grammar.  For guidance on when lenition is required, please refer to Effric Neyn Ken3ocht Mcherrald, "The Spelling of Lenited Consonants in Gaelic" (http://medievalscotland.org/scotlang/lenition.shtml).

Accents may be used or omitted as long as it is done consistently. Capitalization is inconsistent in period records, but must match a period pattern.

German

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

German

Yes

Adjectival (common), marked, and inn signs

Unmarked, rarely marked

Women may use feminine form (see notes)

Yes; usually without articles

Early (see Latinized names)

Rare; second byname is usually locative or descriptive

given+byname
given+byname+locative
given+byname+descript

Notes

Locatives based on place names use the forms von X; generic toponymics use vom Y, or another form of der; the form de X is found before about 1300.  Locatives based on generic toponyms, house names or inn-sign names use the form  zum Z.

Women commonly used a feminized form of their husband’s or father’s surname, either by adding the suffix –in/-yn, or used a genitive form ending in –s/-z or -en. Unmodified surnames were also used.  Further discussion of women’s bynames can be found in Aryanhwy merch Catmael, "Women's Surnames in 15th- and 16th-Century Germany" (http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/german/womenssurnames.html).

Greek

Please refer to Bardas Xiphias, "Personal Names of the Aristocracy in the Roman Empire During the Later Byzantine Era" (http://heraldry.sca.org/names/byzantine/introduction.html).  All patterns documented in this article are registerable.

Hungarian/Romanian

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Hungarian

 

Adjectival (vernacular), phrase (de X), unmarked (Latinized)

Unmarked, rarely marked (as B-fi)

metronymics (late period); wife (see notes)

Yes; without articles

 

 

byname+given (vernacular)
given+byname (Latinized)

Romanian

 

Phrase, adjectival (see article)

See notes

 

Yes

 

 

given+byname

Notes:

Hungarian: Women often have marital bynames that add –ne to her husband's complete name. See Walraven van Nijmegen, "Hungarian Names 101" (http://heraldry.sca.org/names/magyarnames1012.html) or various articles by Kolosvari Arpadne Julia in the KWHSS Proceedings for more details.

Romanian: See Aryanhwy merch Catmael, "Names from the Royal Lines of Moldavia and Wallachia" (http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/other/romanian.html) for more details.  The article does not document patronymic bynames, but that appears to be an artifact of the (royal) data.

Iberian

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Castilian (Spanish)

Late

Phrase (de X;  del Y orde la Y), unmarked; adjectival

Marked (see notes), unmarked

 

Yes; usually without article

 

Yes; second byname usually locative

given+byname
given+pat+locative
given+byname+locative
given+pat+descriptive

Catalan

Yes

Phrase (de Xdel Y orde la Y), adjectival

Unmarked or marked as in Castilian

viuda "widow"

Yes; usually without article

alias with two bynames

Yes; second byname usually locative

given+byname
given+given+byname
given+byname+locative

Basque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portuguese

 

Phrase (de Xda Xdo Xd'X)

Marked (see notes), unmarked

 

Yes; usually without article

 

Yes; second byname usually locative

given+byname
given+pat+locative

Notes:

Castilian: A patronymic byname may be Latinized (filius B) or in the vernacular, usually formed by adding –ez to the father's name (and dropping terminal –o).  Patronyms may also be formed by using an unmodified version of the father’s name. For more details see Elsbeth Anne Roth, "16th Century Spanish Names" (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~kvs/heraldry/spanish16/) or Juliana de Luna "Spanish Names from the Late 15th Century" (http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/juliana/isabella/).

Catalan: For further details see Aryanhwy merch Catmael, "Catalan Names from the 1510 census of Valencia" (http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/spanish/valencia1510.html), especially the surname section.

Basque: All patterns in Basque must be documented; Basque names often closely resemble Castilian or Catalan names.

Portuguese: A patronymic byname may be Latinized (filius B) or in the vernacular, usually formed by adding –ez to the father's name (and dropping terminal –o).  Patronyms may also be formed by using an unmodified version of the father’s name or as de B or d'B (when the father's given name starts with a vowel). See Aryanhwy merch Catmael, "Portuguese Names from Lisbon, 1565" (http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/portuguese/lisbon1565.html) for more details.

Italian

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Italian

Yes; triple names very late

Phrase (see notes), unmarked, Latinized

Marked (asdi B), multi-generational, unmarked, Latinized

Family names (see notes), matronymics (as di B)

Yes; rarely use articles

Early, Latinized only

Yes; patronymic bynames in these patterns are generally marked with di

given+byname
given+pat+pat
given+pat+family
given+pat+locative
given+family+locative

Notes

Italian is incredibly variable in period, with names from Venice, Tuscany, and the south all significantly different. For Venice, see Juliana de Luna, "Names from 16th Century Venice" (http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/juliana/16thcvenice.html). For Tuscany see Juliana de Luna, "Names in 15th Century Florence and her Dominions: the Condado" (http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/juliana/condado/) and Aryanhwy merch Catmael, "Names from Arezzo, Italy, 1386-1528" (http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/italian/arezzo.html). For the south, see Aryanhwy merch Catmael "Names from 15th Century Naples" (http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/italian/naples.html). Latinized patronymic bynames usually are just the father's name in the genitive form, without filius/filiaI.

Locative bynames in the northern and central areas normally take the form da X, but de X and di X are rarely found.  Generic toponymics take the formdella/dalla/dello/dallo Y. In the south, de X and di X are far more common.

Family names typically modify a patronym or byname by removing the last vowel (if there is one) and adding –i. Unmodified forms are found as well.

Jewish

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Hebrew

No

 

Marked; multi-generational

Tribe name (men only), like ha Levi

ha [noun], feminized for women

 

Multi-generation patronymic

given+byname
given+pat+pat

Vernacular

 

(see notes)

(see notes)

 

(see notes)

 

Multi-generation patronymic

given+byname

Notes:

Jews lived in a location where a vernacular was spoken (German, Arabic, etc.)  Men generally had a Hebrew language name and a vernacular name. The vernacular name may be the equivalent of their Hebrew name or an unrelated vernacular name.  Women generally had vernacular names only (often the same as local naming pool).

Hebrew: Patronymic bynames are formed using ben B "son of B," and bat (Sephardic) or basB (Ashkenazic) "daughter of B"

Vernacular: Vernacular bynames often follow the Hebrew forms (so mostly patronymic), but are generally written following the standards for the local vernacular.  Occasionally, the particles are transliterated from the Hebrew (e.g., "N filius B ben C" in a Latin document). Other kinds of bynames (especially locative bynames and the byname meaning "Jew" in the vernacular) are found as well.

Latinized

Latinized names are not a single thing; they must follow the rules of the naming pool from which they are taken.

Bynames based on relationships can be marked with Latinized particles such as filius 'son', filia 'daughter', uxor 'wife', and relicta 'widow'.  These are usually followed by the Latinized form of the person in the genitive case, though sometimes the name is not declined.

Locatives can use the preposition de 'of/from,' despite the fact that such usage was not proper in classical Latin.  In this case, the locative may be Latinized, but is often left in its vernacular form.

In the early Middle Ages, a second given name is often used as a byname; it is preceded by a term like aliasdictus, or cognomento. In later usage, two bynames will often be connected by these same terms.

Mongol

Mongol names are quite different in structure from European names. All patterns documented in Baras-aghur Naran, "On the Documentation and Construction of Period Mongolian Names" (http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/baras-aghur/mongolian.html) are registerable.

North Slavic

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Polish

 

Phrase, adjectival (see notes)

Marked, Unmarked (see notes)

Brother, wife, widow

Rare

 

Yes; patronymic + locative (N B-ówna z X).

given+byname
given+pat+locative

Czech

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes

Polish: In Polish, i/y/j switches are common, and the use of accents is inconsistent. Names will be registered with or without accents as long as they are consistent.
In Polish, bynames based on relationships can be marked with Latinized particles or with their Polish vernacular equivalents, such as B syn 'B's son', B brat 'B's brother', B żona 'B's wife', and B wdowa 'B's widow'. Alternately, the relationship could be indicated by a suffix added to their relative's name, such asBwic(z)/Bwicc ('son of B') or Byk/Bik ('little B', forming a diminutive).  Women's bynames use feminine forms. Most frequently, patronyms are changed by adding the diminutive suffix –ina/-yna, or by adding–ówa (married name) or –ówna (maiden name), making Bina or Bówa. What look like double given names may well be unmarked patronymic bynames.
Locative bynames in Polish-language documents normally take the preposition z/ze 'from/of', followed by the place name in the genitive case. Alternately, an adjectival form can be created by adding –ski for men or –ska for women to the location's name in its grammatically required form.

Czech: All patterns in Czech must be documented. Academy of Saint Gabriel report 3244 (http://www.s-gabriel.org/3244.txt) gives some leads for documenting Czech forms.

Persian

Persian name structures are quite different from European name structures. All patterns found in Ursula Georges, "Persian Masculine Names in the Nafah.ât al-uns" (http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/ursula/nafahat/) are registerable. The most common structure is a single given name followed by a locative byname derived from the adjectival form of a placename (usually adding – î to the placename for both men and women). Descriptive bynames are also found. A few examples of women's bynames (all locative) can be found in Aryanhwy merch Catmael and Ursula Georges, "Persian Feminine Names from the Safavid Period" (http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/ursula/persian.html).

Romany

Romany are known to have used two names: a private name used only in their community, and a vernacular use name, used in interactions with locals.  We do not currently have evidence of the elements or structure of private names before 1600; without such evidence they cannot be registered.  In general, forming a name appropriate for the desired region/language where a Romany persona is living (e.g., "A from X") follows period usage.

Russian/East Slavic

All patterns found in Paul Wickenden of Thanet's "A Dictionary of Period Russian Names" (http://heraldry.sca.org/paul/) and "Locative Bynames in Medieval Russia" (http://heraldry.sca.org/names/toprus.html) are registerable.

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Russian

Yes; one Christian, one Slavic

Adjectival, rarely other forms

Marked (see notes)

Matronymics, wife

Yes

 

Yes; multiple patronymics (or patronymic from father's whole name)

(see notes)

Other

 

(see notes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

Russian: The construction of Russian bynames is complicated; see Paul Wickenden of Thanet's "A Dictionary of Period Russian Names" (http://heraldry.sca.org/paul/) for structures both of individual bynames and for names as a whole. His and "Locative Bynames in Medieval Russia" (http://heraldry.sca.org/names/toprus.html) is also useful for constructing locative bynames.

Other East Slavic languages, like Ukranian and Belorussian, follow similar patterns to Russian, but are beyond the scope of this article; their formation needs to be individually documented.

Scandinavian

Double Given Names

Locative

Patronymic

Other relationship

Descriptive/
Occupational

Dictus

Double Bynames

Order

Old Norse/
Old Icelandic

No

Phrase, adjectival; see notes

Marked; -son or 
-dóttir added to the genitive of father’s name

Two-generation patronymic; Bson Csonar, wife (Bkona)

Descriptive, occupational are rare

 

Descriptive byname + patronymic or two-generation patronymic

given+by
given+descriptive+pat
given+pat+descriptive
given+pat+pat

Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Icelandic, etc.

 

Phrase, adjectival; see notes

Marked; Bson or
Bsen using genitive of father’s name; see notes for feminine

Wife (using the genitive form of the husband's name)

Rare

 

 

given+by

Notes

For Old Norse/Old Icelandic, see Geirr Bassi Haraldsson's The Old Norse Name and inLindorm Eriksson's "The Bynames of the Viking Age Runic Inscriptions" are registerable. See Lindorm's article for more information on locative bynames.

Accents and other diacritics (like þ, ð, and {o,}) may be used or omitted, as long as the system is consistent.

For Old Norse/Old Icelandic, by precedent, prepended bynames (nicknames that precede the given name) are capitalized, but nicknames that follow the given name are not.

For later Scandinavian languages (Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Icelandic, etc., the feminine forms of patronymics are variable.  Swedish forms includeBdotterBdottherBdottir, and Bdatter, while Danish forms include BdotherBdotterBdaatterBdaater, and Bdaather. Other forms must be documented.

Locative bynames take the form i X in Swedish, af X in Danish, for example. The placenames must be grammatically correct forms to follow those prepositions.

For details of construction in Swedish, see http://www.s-gabriel.org/2296. Swedish: Wife (using genitive form of husband's given or full name)

South Slavic (Serbian, Croatian, etc.)

All patterns must be documented. Our sources for South Slavic names are quite limited. One useful source is Walraven van Nijmegen, "Early Croatian Given Names" (http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/walraven/croat/), which documents the pattern of a single given name followed by a single patronymic byname which is either the father's name unchanged or a construction formed by adding –ov, -ovic. Other sources suggest –ic may sometimes be used to construct a patronymic byname.

Turkish

Turkish names are quite different from European names; they are somewhat like Arabic names, but do not follow all Arabic patterns. One useful source is Ursula Georges, "Sixteenth-Century Turkish Names" (http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/ursula/ottoman/).