A (very brief) guide to some Livonian naming patterns.
Compiled by ffrw ffride wlffsdotter, last updated 3 January 2022.
- Masculine Patronymics.
- Marked Patronymics using -poy(e) and -dels.
- Unmarked Patronymics.
- Descriptive and Occupational Bynames.
- Feminine Relationship Bynames Ending in -sche.
- Bynames meaning "Livonian."
- Patterns in Livonian names.
In the 13th century, the Northern Crusades reached the present-day territories of Estonia and Latvia. From this point on, the names and languages of the inhabitants of this region, called Livonia, were recorded with increasing frequency (Sutorp 2015:15). Living primarily on the Gulf of Riga, and along the rivers of the region, was the indigenous people that gave the area its name; the Finnic-language speaking Livonians, or Livs. By the 13th century the Livonian language had developed into two dialects; Salaca Livonian, centred on the Salaca river near the present-day Latvian-Estonian border, and Courland Livonian on the south-eastern shores of the Gulf (Grünthal 2015:97) (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Historic distribution of the Livonian language (dark brown), and the region where where the last first-language speakers of Livonian lived (black), overlaid onto a map of the Republic of Latvia. Image by Jukka, Wikimedia Commons.
From the 14th century onwards, the Livonian peoples started to assimilate into the surrounding groups that spoke Baltic languages. Ultimately this mixing gave rise to the people today known as the Latvians (Līvõ Kultūr sidām, 2021). The Livonian language continued to be spoken in these regions, although the Latvian language was also increasingly used by the Livs (Līvõ Kultūr sidām, 2021). By the early 20th century the Livonian language was only spoken in villages along the Livonian coast of northern Courland, although a larger number of people identified, and identify, as Livonian (Līvõ Kultūr sidām, 2021). Today, the Livonian language and culture is safeguarded and cultivated by multiple organisations and people (Druviete and Kļava 2018).
With this long period of interaction, between Livonians, Latvians, and the Low German-speaking record writers, someone who identified as being a Livonian person may not have borne an unambiguously Livonian-language name. Strenga (2021:67) for instance, mentions a Claus Lachermunt (Standard German: Lachermund "laugher-mouth") who was a member of the beer-carter's guild of Riga in the 15th century. He had an entirely German-language name, but was described as non-German (undudesche), so was most likely to have been a Latvian or Liv. According to Strenga (2021:64) this is because "the scribes usually Low Germanized the names and bynames of the members, and most of the members recorded do not have any Latvian or Liv sounding bynames," despite his guild having a significant membership of indigenous peoples.
The names discussed below are therefore only identifiable by researchers to be Livonian, when the bearer's name used Finnic name elements, or if an individual was identified as a Liv in the document (Tarvel 1995:59; Strenga 2021:64). It is hoped that this page will be useful for heralds in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and submitters, who may come across names using these patterns, and are looking for more context. The information below is quite limited, as researchers such as Saarikivi (2017:29) have noted that Livonian names in Latvia are presently "poorly investigated and understood."
Finally, this page is intended to summarise the most frequently encountered naming patterns in the literature discussing pre-1600 Livonian names. It provides examples of these patterns, and the sources used, but it is not a comprehensive overview.
The majority of the patterns discussed below were accepted for inclusion in SENA Appendix A on the October 2021 Letter of Acceptances and Returns, however the individual elements will still need to be documented.
Note: Where normalised forms are given, the modern Livonian literary language is used. It is taken from the Līvõkīel-ēstikīel-lețkīel sõnārōntõz (2012-2013), and is derived from Kurzeme Livonian, rather than Salaca Livonian (Blumberga 2016: 225).
2. Masculine Patronymics.
Marked Patronymics using -poy(e) and -dels.
Patronymic bynames describe a person as their father's son, or father's daughter. To date, only a handful of examples have been found. Tarvel (1995), Kallasmaa (1996), Balodis (2009), Joalaid (2009), and other researchers, have identified masculine patronymics that were borne by Livonian men. Either, the father bore a Finnic name with a Latvian patronymic marker -dels (standard Latvian dēls). Or their names were recorded with the Livonian patronymic suffix -poy(e) (standard Livonian: pūoga) (Tarvel 1995:59).
Examples of patronymic bynames, where the father had a Finnic name, include:
- Hans and Hinze Eckedels - 1564 - from the Finnic personal name Eke (Joalaid 2009; Stoebke 1964:18).
- Peter and Jane Immedels - 1564 - from the Finnic personal name Imme (Stoebke 1964:31). Balodis (2009: 108) suggests that this name is from Livonian im, "miracle."
- Jan and Peter Nanedels - 1538 - this personal name is also recorded in Estonia. Mägiste says this is a diminutive of Jan (Latvian: Jānis, English: John) (Stikāne 2014: 192; Mägiste 1929:40).
More frequently mentioned in the literature, are personal names of Finnic and non-Finnic origin combined with the Livonian patronymic suffix -poy(e). :
- Jane Elonpoy, Henneke Elenpoy - 1564 - from a Finnic personal name like Elo(i), possibly related to Finnish ilo "joy" or Livonian ilā "nature, the natural world," with the Finnic genitive -en suffix (Kallasmaa 1996:37 sn. Eliste; Stoebke 1964:18). (Note that this name is also using the older Finnic genitive -n ending that is not used in modern Estonian, or literary Livonian (Arnek 2019:397; Viitso and Ernštreits 2012-2013).)
- Lemete Clawepoye - 1564 - from the personal name Klāvs, a diminutive of Nikolajs (English: Nicholas) (Kallasmaa 1996:174 sn. Leemeti).
- Hans Igapoy - 1564 - from a Finnic personal name such as Iga or Yga, from Livonian igā "age, lifetime" (Kallasmaa 1996:41 sn. Igaküla; Stoebke 1964:25; Kiparsky 1938:247).
- Peter Togenpoy - 1564 - possibly from the Scandinavian personal name Toke (Eesti Keele Instituut 2018 sn. Tuuka). (Note that this name is also using the older Finnic genitive -n ending that is not used in modern Estonian, or literary Livonian (Arnek 2019:397; Viitso and Ernštreits 2012-2013).)
- Thomas Kayenpoy, Jane Kayenpoy - 1564 - from the Finnic personal name Caye (Kallasmaa 1996:72 sn. Kaie; Stoebke 1964:33). Blese (1929:184) instead suggests the name is etymologically related to Latvian kaija "seagull." (Note that this name is also using the older Finnic genitive -n ending that is not used in modern Estonian, or literary Livonian (Arnek 2019:397; Viitso and Ernštreits 2012-2013).)
- Andres Massepoye - 1538 - from the personal name Maß, a diminutive of Tomass (English: Thomas) (Kallasmaa 1996:208-9 sn. Massi; Stikāne 2014:192).
- Andres Mickelpoy - 16th century - from the personal name Miķelis (English: Michael) (Švābe 1933:381).
- Claus Wyllanpoy - 1564 - from the Finnic personal name Wylla, from Livonian vīļa "cereal, grain" (Kallasmaa 1996:496 sn. Villasoo; Stoebke 1964:78; Kiparsky 1938:258). (Note that this name is also using the older Finnic genitive -n ending that is not used in modern Estonian, or literary Livonian (Arnek 2019:397; Viitso and Ernštreits 2012-2013).)
Alongside the marked patronymic bynames that literally state that someone was a person's son, there are also bynames that do not use -poy(e) or -dels. Instead, these are considered to be unmarked patronymics.
Unmarked patronymics borne by male peasants in southern Estonia appear to be similar to the patronymics also recorded for Livonian men. Saar has summarised how these names have been interpreted by Estonian researchers:
"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... 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" (Saar 2017:242-3).
It has been assumed that these Livonian names can be interpreted in a similar way. Examples of Livonian unmarked patronymics include:
- Melle Andreas - 1601 - from the Livonian name Melle (Livonian mēļ "sense, reason"). Compare with the marked patronymic used by Hinze Mellenpoy, 1564 (Stoebke 1964:56 sn. Melle).
- Kau Jane - 1564 - from the Livonian name Kau(e). Compare with the marked patronymic used by Bartelmes Kauenpoy, 1564 (Stoebke 1964:35 sn. Kau(e)).
- Lembitte Lembe - 1582—83 - from the Livonian names Lembitte and Lembe (both related to Estonian lemb, Finnish lempi, "love") (Balodis 2009:109; Kiparsky 1938:250; Stoebke 1964:43,44).
- Lembite Mely - 1582—83 - from the Livonian names Lembitte (related to Estonian lemb, Finnish lempi, "love") and Mely (Livonian mēļ "sense, reason") (Balodis 2009:109; Kiparsky 1938:251; Stoebke 1964:44,54)
3. Descriptive and Occupational Bynames.
Individuals could also be recorded with bynames that described them in some way. This could include mental or physical characteristics, or an occupation that they held. Descriptive bynames, identified as being Livonian by Tarvel (1995: 59, 60), include the following masculine examples:
- Andres Kaddag - 16th century - from Livonian gadāg, "juniper," see also Latvian "kadiķis" (Tarvel 1995: 59).
- Marx Kurke - 16th century - from Livonian kurg, "crane," see also Estonian kurg (Tarvel 1995: 59).
- Mattes Rebben - 16th century - from Livonian rebbi, "fox," see also Estonian rebane (Tarvel 1995: 59).
- Kaddack Jurgen - 1638 - from Livonian gadāg, "juniper" (Tarvel 1995: 60).
- Tedder Michell - 1624 - from Livonian teddõr, "black grouse," see also Estonian teder (Tarvel 1995: 60).
- Kips Lauer - 1624 - from Livonian kõps "hare" (Tarvel 1995: 60).
- Paddajalg Nickh - 1638 - from Livonian padā+jālga, "kettle-foot" (Tarvel 1995: 60).
And the following feminine examples of descriptive bynames are found in Kiparsky (1938) and Blese (1929):
- Magdalene Must, Anna Must - 1506, 1507 - from Livonian mustā "black", see also Estonian must (Kiparsky 1938:253).
- Katherina Koyken - 1521 - Blese (1929:193) associates this with Livonian kuoig (compare with Latvian kuģis) "cog (a type of ship)" or Latvian kuika "bad, difficult horse."
- Anna Poyke - 1521 - from a diminutive of Livonian pūoga "son" (Blese 1929:227).
Tarvel, and Blese also have some examples of occupational bynames paired with masculine personal names:
- Jacob Puscep - 16th century - from Livonian pū + siepā, "carpenter." See also Estonian puusepp. Note: the modern Livonian word for a carpenter is būmēstar (Tarvel 1995: 59).
- Peter Kirstsepp - 1638 - from Livonian kast + siepā, a "coffin-" or "box-maker" (Tarvel 1995: 60).
- Peter Routzeppis - 1536 - Blese associates this byname with Estonian raudsepp "blacksmith", but Balodis suggests it is Livonian rōda + siepā (Blese 1929: 236; Balodis 2008: 267)
- Sepe Michell - 1624 - from Livonian siepā, "smith." See also Estonian sepp (Tarvel 1995: 60).
- Perremehs Anss - 1624 - from Livonian perīmīez, "landlord." See also Estonian peremees (Tarvel 1995: 60).
4. Feminine Relationship Bynames Ending in -sche.
Feminine names with Livonian name elements appear to be constructed similarly to feminine names incorporating Estonian and Latvian elements from this time period, in that they use the Low German suffix -sche.
Kaplinski (1975) has interpreted this type of byname as indicating that the woman is married. Werth (2015:54,57) takes a broader interpretation, and says that that the Low German feminine suffix -sche was added to a family name to indicate a woman's affiliation with her husband or father. These names appear to follow the German-language name order, with the given name in front, and a byname following.
It appears that this suffix could be appended to any unchanged masculine byname to create a feminine byname, including locative, descriptive, and occupational bynames. The examples below are derived from descriptive bynames:
- Ilsebe Mustesche - 1453 - - from Livonian mustā "black", see also Estonian must (Blese 1929:215).
- Merten Must - 1510 (Blese 1929:215).
- Aleyte Ristinsche - 1461 - from Livonian rištīng "person, human being" (Blese 1929:235).
- Katrina Subersche - 1475 - from Livonian sõbrā "friend" (Kiparsky 1938:255; Blese 1929:261).
- Andresz Subber, Jürgen Subber - 1508, 1522 - (Blese 1929:261).
- Margrete Zusesche - 1461 - from Livonian suž "wolf" (Blese 1929:263).
5. Bynames meaning "Livonian."
According to Strenga (2021:64), "only in handful of cases does a byname indicates the possible ethnic origin of a person; usually such bynames were given to ethnic minorities, like Livs – Libete, Libes, and Libeth...." Without ethnonymic bynames, the examples below would have been indistinguishable from the wider population of southern Livonia.
The following examples are taken from Blese, showing instances where an individual had the Latvian byname lībietis meaning "Liv, Livonian man."
- Hans Lybete - 1452 (Blese 1929:204)
- Peter Lybet - 1480 (Blese 1929:204)
- Mattis Libetz - 1536 (Blese 1929:204)
- Hinrich Libets - 1647 (Blese 1929:205)
- Jürgen Libesz - 1515/16 (Blese 1929:205)
- Libeth Jakob - 1607 (Blese 1929:204)
Unmarked bynames for women, which could be interpreted as Latvian lībiete "Liv, Livonian woman" were also found:
- Katerine Libet - 1522 (Blese 1929:205)
- Margarete Lybet - 1518 (Blese 1929:205)
Feminine examples could also end in -sche:
- Anneke Libitsche - 1497 (Blese 1929:204)
- Margarete Libesche - 1516 (Blese 1929:204)
6. Patterns in Livonian names.
Very broadly, the patterns that have have been documented are:
- given + byname
- byname + given
These names are similar to the names seen in northern Livonia, in the present-day territory of Estonia. In general, where marked patroynymics are used, the byname is the second element of the name. Unmarked patronymics, occupational bynames, and descriptive bynames were recorded as the first or second element of the name. Given the lack of research into Livonian names before 1600, it is difficult to provide a detailed summary.
Thanks must go to The National Library of Latvia for hosting so many searchable texts on the Latvijas Nacionālā digitālā bibliotēka platform. I also am grateful for the time that Hróðný Rognvaldsdóttir, and Ursula Georges took in reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this guide. All errors in interpretation of the above data are entirely my own.
All website addresses were checked 13th December 2021.
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- Viitso, Tiit-Rein and Ernštreits, Valts. 2012-2013. Līvõkīel-ēstikīel-lețkīel sõnārōntõz [Livonian language - Estonian language - Latvian language dictionary] (Tartu, Rīga: Tartu Ülikool, Latviešu valodas aģentūra)