Collected Name Resources from LoARs (2010-present): - Marital Bynames -
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Collected Name Resources from LoARs (2010-present)

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

- Marital Bynames -

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March 2012 - Juliana de Luna Link to LoAR Cover Letter

One issue that often comes up with submissions is how husbands and wives share (or fail to share) bynames. While it's typical in the modern world for a married couple to share a surname, this was not true in many areas of Europe in the Middle Ages.

In some languages, bynames are quite literal. Some such languages include Gaelic, Old Norse, Old English (Anglo-Saxon), Welsh, Russian, and Arabic. In these languages, patronymic bynames, which say you're someone's son or daughter, are literal. Thus, sharing a byname with your spouse suggests that you have the same father, or at least that your fathers had the same name. So in these languages, husbands and wives normally have unrelated bynames.

In some languages (including Gaelic, Russian, Old Norse, and Hungarian), there are constructions that name a woman as her husband's wife. In Gaelic, the pre-1200 word meaning "wife" is ben, while the post-1200 word is bean. It is followed by the name of her husband in the genitive (possessive) form. Names have been found using the husband's complete name, his given name, and his byname. In Russian, the word for "wife" is zhena; it normally comes after her husband's given name and before his patronymic byname, both in the "patronymic" form. More details can be found in Paul Wickenden of Thanet's A Dictionary of Period Russian Names ( In Old Norse, the word for wife is kona; a byname consists of the husband's given name in the genitive (possessive) form, followed by the word kona. In Hungarian, this type of byname is formed by using the husband's entire name (surname first), with -ne attached to his given name. This byname comes first and is followed by her given name, as is typical in Hungarian.

In addition, Latinized bynames in multiple languages use uxor "wife" followed by the husband's name (usually given name only, but sometimes his complete name) in Latinized form. This grammar requires the genitive (possessive) form of the husband's name (as it's naming her as John's wife, for example). More information about marital bynames in other languages will follow next month.

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