Collected Name Resources from LoARs (2010-present): - Eastern European -
Articles > Names

Collected Name Resources from LoARs (2010-present)

Articles from Juliana de Luna, Lillia de Vaux, and Alys Mackyntoich

Back to Collected Name Resources from LoARs

- Eastern European -

June 2013 - Juliana de Luna Link to LoAR Cover Letter

As I start my fourth year writing this series, I want to return to a discussion of the naming resources and issues for specific cultures. I've had a particular request to talk about Eastern European languages, as our resources for them are a little skimpier than for Western Europe.

Russian is the Eastern European language for which we have the most information, and we'll sometimes depend on that information to make sense out of other areas. But it's got a lot of interesting features itself.

The main source for Russian name elements and the grammar that glues them together is Paul Wickenden of Thanet's A Dictionary of Period Russian Names, whose second edition is online ( and third edition is available through the SCA Marketplace/Stock Clerk. This source uses a single transliteration system, the Library of Congress system, which is only one of the systems we allow. On the whole, this is a fantastic source. It has one serious weakness for our purposes; it only lists the earliest occurrence of any name. So, for example, Ivan is dated to 1181 in the entry for it, though Ivan was common through 1600 and later. This is particularly frustrating for saint's names, which are often listed with only a very early (3rd century, for example) citation, and must depend on the saint's name allowance for registerability.

The most common pattern for Russian names is a given name followed by a patronymic byname, a byname which describes you as your father's child. Patronymics normally are marked, which is to say that they change the father's name to say that it's a patronymic form. The rules are easy; they're based on how the father's name ends. The forms we're used to hearing today, which end in -vich, are pretty uncommon in period. More common are forms like Mikhailov or Vasil'ev; some names even end in -in for this patronymic form, like Borodin. Sometimes syn "son" was added either to the patronymic form of the father's name or to the unaltered form. For women, the grammar is just a hair different: the patronym must be feminized by adding -a to the end: Mikhailova, Vasil'eva, Borodina. They may be marked using doch' "daughter" (yes, the ' is a letter in Russian). The modern -ovna ending is only found a few times in the early 17th century.

Women are also frequently identified as their husband's wife, using zhena "wife" or again with only the modified form of her husband's name. They are even sometimes identified as someone's mother, with the relationship word mat' in place of doch' or zhena.

Back to men (though these patterns are registerable for women as well): Sometimes, two generations of patronymics (father and grandfather are included) and rarely names go back even further. Unmarked patronymics in Russian are rare but registerable; several citations that are most likely unmarked patronymic bynames in Russian can be found in the September 2007 Cover Letter. These unmarked patronymic bynames seem to be more frequently found in the Ukraine or Belarus rather than in Russia itself. A few other bynames of relationship (including matronymics, which name a man as his mother's son) are found for men; see the grammar section of the Dictionary ( for more details.

Other kinds of bynames are found less frequently. Descriptive bynames are described in the grammar section of Paul's Dictionary (the URL is given above). Paul has also written articles on certain kinds of descriptive bynames (occupational, animal-based, and plant-based); they are housed at his personal website (

Locative bynames are discussed at length in his "Locative Bynames in Medieval Russia" ( Unlike locative bynames in English, these names are at best rarely formed as a prepositional phrase (z Belina "of Belino"). Instead, they take noun or adjectival forms: Novgorodets "resident of Novgorod", Novgorodov "son of Novgorod", or Rostovskoi "the person from Rostov".

If all that's not enough, we have more good research that expands our collection of names (and name spellings) further: Predislava Vydrina, "Russian Personal Names: Name Frequency in the Novgorod Birch-Bark Letters" ( and with late period data on name frequency, Marya Kargashina, "Names from Muscovite Judgment Charters; Diminutives as Documentary Forms and Name Frequency in Justice in Medieval Russia" (

Back to Collected Name Resources from LoARs