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

Articles from Juliana de Luna and Lillia de Vaux

- Matronymic Bynames (Northern) -

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August 2012 - Juliana de Luna Link to LoAR Cover Letter

Last month, I asked whether we should continue to register matronymic bynames in Gaelic. This month, I'm going to talk about matronymic bynames more broadly. Matronymic (or metronymic - they mean the same thing) bynames are names that say who your mother is. They are less common everywhere in Europe than patronymic bynames, which say who your father is. This is true even in places that reckon inheritance matrilineally: the Pictish names we have as well as other early names from the British Isles all have patronymic bynames but not matronymic bynames. (For the data I'm basing this on, see Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn's "A Consideration of Pictish Names" http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/tangwystyl/pictnames/ and her "The First Thousand Years of British Names" http://www.heatherrosejones.com/names/welsh/1000british/)

Despite the European bias toward patronymic bynames, matronymic bynames are found in many languages in our period. English has substantial numbers of matronymic bynames, mostly unmarked like Hugh Margarete (dated to 1273 in Bardsley s.n. Margaret). However, marked forms are also found, like Tomas filius Rose or Johanna Rosedoghter (dated to 1279 and 1397 respectively in Reaney and Wilson s.n. Rose and introduction, p. li).

Elsewhere in the British Isles, matronymic bynames are rare. Matronymic bynames are found occasionally in Scotland; all the examples I know are unmarked or use the Scots -son. The evidence for matronymics in Gaelic was discussed last month; basically they are only found as additional descriptions, rather than as solo bynames. In medieval Welsh, matronymics never rise to more than 1% of bynames, but are found in any sizable dataset. They are always single bynames, not found in multiple generation bynames.

Matronymic bynames are not infrequently found in French and German. In French, matronymic bynames are usually unmarked (like patronymic bynames). In the 1292 Paris census, the byname Aales and Barbe are two examples (taken from Aryanhwy merch Catmael "Names in the 1292 census of Paris"). In German, both unmarked and marked examples are found: Dietrich Elisabet (dated to 1289 in Bahlow s.n. Elisabeth), Arnold Ittensun (dated to 1300 in Bahlow s.n. It(t)ensohn), and Henneke Katerinen son (dated to 1336 in Bahlow s.n. Katerina).

Dutch matronymic bynames are quite rare, but found both in Aryanhwy merch Catmael's "Dutch Names, 1358-1361" http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/dutch/earlydutch14.html and her 15th Century Dutch Names http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/dutch/dutch15.html).

In Scandinavia, matronymic bynames (always using a form of son or daughter) are rare, but found. The Viking Answer Lady says that 34 men in Old Norse Iceland were known as their mother's sons. Matronymics are found in medieval Scandinavia as well. Examples are found in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, though they become less common by the 16th century (Between Betrothal and Bedding: Marriage Formation in Sweden 1200-1600 by Mia Korpiola Kingship and State Formation in Sweden, 1130-1290 by Philip Line).

Next month, we'll continue this discussion with matronymic bynames in southern Europe, the Middle East, and the little we know about Eastern Europe.

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