A guide to some 15-16th century Latvian naming patterns.

A guide to some 15-16th century Latvian naming patterns.

Compiled by ffrw ffride wlffsdotter, last updated 3rd January 2022.

  1. Introduction.
  2. Locative Bynames.
    • 2.1 Masculine locative bynames, ending in -nik and variants.
    • 2.2 Feminine locative bynames, ending in -nix and variants.
    • 2.3 Masculine and feminine unmarked locative bynames.
  3. Patronymics.
    • 3.1 Masculine patronymics, ending in -dels.
    • 3.2 Masculine unmarked patronymics.
    • 3.3 Feminine patronymics, ending in -meyte.
  4. Other feminine relationship bynames.
    • 4.1 Feminine bynames indicating marriage, ending in s(z)ewe, wyf, and vrouwe.
    • 4.2 Feminine bynames, derived from a man's byname, ending in -sche.
  5. Occuptional Bynames.
    • 5.1 Masculine occupational bynames, ending in -nik and variants.
    • 5.2 Feminine occupational bynames, ending in -nix and variants.
  6. Unmarked Latvian bynames.
  7. Patterns in Latvian names.
  8. Acknowledgements.
  9. References.
  10. Endnote.

1. Introduction.

According to Balodis (2008:10), the earliest Latvians bore a single name. These names were taken from nature, and people could be named after animals, birds, trees, flowers, or the elements. In the 13th century, the Northern Crusades reached the modern-day territories of Estonia and Latvia, and the names of the inhabitants of this region, called Livonia, were recorded with an increasing frequency (Sutorp 2015:13-4). As the Crusades continued, bringing with them not only colonisation but Christianisation, baptism into the new faith also meant that indigenous peoples were named after patron saints or guardian angels (Balodis 2008:11). Over subsequent centuries, the naming pool was reduced to a handful of popular "Christian" names, and the Latvian-speaking peasants, living under a single manor, often shared the same name (Selart 2016:3; Balodis 2008:11). This necessitated the need for bynames that could provide some disambiguation. By the 15th century, Latvian people were regularly recorded with bynames, and subsequently most of the examples below are from the 15th and 16th centuries (Balodis 2016:1).

A map showing the languages spoken in medieval Latvia.
Figure 1: "The geographical and linguistic boundaries of the Latgalians, Semigallians, Curonians and Livonians circa 1250." Map designed by Dr. A Bielenstein, drawn by M. Bielenstein, printed 1892.
In the centre of the map is the area where Latvian-speaking Latgalians lived (pink), with Semigallians and Selonians south of the Daugava River. To the north are Estonian speakers (brown), to the west are Livonian speakers (blue) and where Curonians, Latgalians, and Livonians mixed (pink with hatching). To the south are the Lithuanians and Samogitians (gold-yellow), and to the east are Ruthenians (green).
Map now in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Latvian language belongs to the Baltic group of the family of Indo-European languages (Jansone 2010:741). Its closest living relatives are the Lithuanian language, and its dialects, and the modern Latgalian language spoken in eastern Latvia. Over the centuries, the Baltic languages spoken by the Semigallians, Selonians, and Curonians, slowly shifted to dialects of the Latvian language (Jansone 2010:743). However these Baltic languages are not related to the Finnic language also spoken in the present-day territory of Latvia, called Livonian, or the Estonian language in neighbouring Estonia. The colonisation of Livonia after the Crusades resulted in the "German urban merchant elites and artisan middle classes" living "alongside the indigenous populations" in the cities of medieval Livonia, where the primary language of record was Middle Low German (Strenga 2021:61). Over the centuries, particularly after the Reformation, the rights of Latvians were restricted. The non-German town residents by the 15th century may have been unable to purchase property, and were excluded from various craft guilds that controlled who could practice skilled trades within the city (Strenga 2021:66,67). Outside of urban centres, the German nobility became manor lords in a demesne economy where each peasant was expected to support themselves as well as provide labour to the manor that they lived under (Melton 1988:315-6, 326-8).

Jansone (2010) and Strenga (2021:78) note that the authors of the earliest examples of Latvian writing were all ethnically and culturally German. When working as scribes that recorded the Latvian bynames of individuals, these German writers "used the letters of the German alphabet at that time, and texts were based on the orthography of Lower German" to record the Latvian language (Jansone 2010:744). Despite these limitations of the available sources, linguists have identified bynames that have preserved recognisable Old Latvian words, and hence are considered to be records of people who were ethnically Latvian, instead of belonging to the Low German-speaking elite.

At the same time, someone who was recorded with a wholly German-language name, may not have been non-indigenous. To quote Selart (2015:3) on naming in the Baltic: "Germanic and Christian names do not denote ethnic identity, especially as they were spelled in accordance with the tradition of the language (Latin, Low German)" in which the records were written. There are no known instances of a non-German, Latvian person recording their own name, in their own language, from this time period (Lietiņa Ray 2003:1). Instead, names were recorded to fit the needs and purposes of the scribes who created these documents. To illustrate how an individual's name could vary according to the circumstances, Strenga (2021:77) gives the example of Mychgel Muzmester, a member of the Riga Porter's Guild recorded in 1520. His byname is considered to be a partly Low-Germanized byname meaning "cooper."note Another Guild record in 1530, which may be the same individual, records the name as Michel Mutczenex, from Latvian mucinieks, also meaning "cooper." But we do not know what Michael called himself in everyday life.

Limitations of the data, and the patterns discussed.

Although there is some evidence for some bynames that were not modified to make them explicitly masculine or feminine, it seems that the personal names in frequent use in Livonia were still strongly gendered. This may be due to the relatively small naming pool of "Christian" given names that was frequently used at the time. For example, in Siliņa-Piņķe's (2007:52-4) examination of a financial register from 15th century Riga, 81 women were recorded with their given name. Yet between them, they shared variations of only 11 names, and over half of the women bore variations of just two personal names: Hese, a diminutive of Hedwig, and Margareta (Bahlow 1979:453,464). Similarly the 645 men in the same register only used 105 different given names between them, and the 10 most popular names accounted for 63.5% of all masculine names recorded, with nearly a quarter of the men called some form of Johan (Siliņa-Piņķe 2009). It is therefore not possible to confidently advise what a gender-neutral name of a Latvian speaking person before 1600 may have looked like, and instead the patterns listed below are sorted into masculine and feminine examples.

Finally, this page is intended to summarise the most frequently encountered naming patterns in the literature discussing pre-1600 records from Latvia, rather than be a comprehensive overview. It provides examples of these patterns, including Standard (ie. present-day) Latvian language interpretations, and the sources used.

Most of the patterns discussed below were accepted for inclusion in SENA Appendix A on the October 2021 Letter of Acceptances and Returns of the College of Arms of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), and do not require additional documentation to use in your name submission. However the individual name elements will need to be documented. You may also need to cite this document for the pattern of feminine patronymics.

Please keep in mind that this document may be static, but research is constantly evolving. The patterns that were accepted in October 2021 may have changed in the interim, or further research could have revealed patterns that are not discussed here. Please double-check!

2. Locative Bynames.

Locative bynames are attested in Latvian, and can take different forms. Bynames ending in Standard Latvian -nieks (masculine) and -niece (feminine) are roughly equivalent to a "Noun-er" bynames in English, like Londoner, Sydneysider, Beijinger or Harrisburger (Nau 2013:88). These locative bynames could refer to towns or other settlements, as well as more generic toponyms such as forests or hills. In 15th and 16th century sources, masculine bynames ending in Standard Latvian -nieks are often spelled -nik, while feminine bynames ending in Standard Latvian -niece were frequently spelled -nix.

Along with using the -nix suffix, women could also bear locative-style bynames ending in the Low German suffix -sche. Werth (2015:54,57) says that this is a Low German feminine suffix, that was added to a family name to indicate a woman's affiliation with her husband or father. So it is more likely that they indicate the locative origins of a significant man in her life, rather than indicating her origins. That pattern is discussed in more detail in the "Feminine bynames, derived from a man's byname, ending in -sche" section.

2.1 Masculine locative bynames, ending in -nik and variants.

Generic toponymic bynames borne by men include:

  • Hans Bersenick - 1596 - Standard Latvian birznieks "from the forest grove" (Bukšs 1948:213).
  • Jan Bierznik - 1599 - Standard Latvian birznieks "from the forest grove" (Bukšs 1948:185).
  • Thomas Kolnik - 1583 - Standard Latvian kalnieks "from the hill" (Bukšs 1948:214).

Similarly, locative bynames mentioning specific towns include:

  • Jane Boweskenekesz - 1521 - Standard Latvian Baušķenieks "from Bauska" (Blese 1929:161)
  • Jacob Czesnix - 1465 - Standard Latvian Cēsnieks "from Cēsis" (Bukšs 1948:200).
  • Berttolt Sessenekes 1472 - Standard Latvian Cēsnieks "from Cēsis" (Blese 1929:169).
  • Jans Nytounex - 1532 - Standard Latvian Nītavnieks "from Nītava" (Bukšs 1948:205), the ancient name of the town Jelgava (see Polanska 2003).

2.2 Feminine locative bynames, ending in -nix and variants.

  • Anna Bowskenyse - 1515 - Standard Latvian Baušķeniece "from Bauska" (Blese 1929:133,161).
  • Margrete Sesenix - 1509 - Standard Latvian Cēsniece "from Cēsis" (Blese 1929:169).
  • Anna Ludenix - 1507 - Standard Latvian Ludzeniece, "from Ludna" (Bukšs 1948:204).

2.3 Masculine and feminine unmarked locative bynames.

There are also instances where people were recorded with the byname, and no -nik/-nix suffix. The majority of the examples below were borne by men, but one instance of a woman with an unamrked locative byname has been found. This use of placenames for bynames parallels the general pattern for unmarked bynames, discussed further below.

  • Thomas Kerbe - 1628 - from a settlement called Korbe, that is recorded in 1521 (Kovaļevska 2020:132).
  • Juger Meyk - 1599 - from the village of Maynckendorff, recorded in dated 1682, and in 1839 Maikendorf (Kovaļevska 2020:133).
  • Jurgen Tels - 1599 - from the homestead of Telši (Kovaļevska 2020:133-4).
  • Margete Bouske - 1506 - from Bauska (Balodis 2008:240; Blese 1929:133).

3. Patronymics.

Patronymic bynames describe a person as their father's son, or father's daughter. As the onomastic literature tends to focus on Latvian-language elements, the examples mentioned below are skewed towards patronymics that refer to their father's byname, rather than their personal name. Despite this bias in the literature, there is sufficient evidence to show that men's patronymics could utilise their father's given name or byname. These patroymics were marked with dels (Standard Latvian dēls, "son"). Women's patronymics, of which only examples incorporating their father's descriptive byname were found, used meyte (Standard Latvian meita, "daughter").

In the present day, if you were describing a person as someone's offspring, you would put the parent's name into the genitive case. As illustrated below, however, the scribes recording these names could make errors, and the grammatical case endings are frequently missing.

3.1 Masculine patronymics, ending in -dels.

Examples of masculine patronymics were found, that used both the personal names of fathers, as well as their bynames:

  • Hansken Anderdels - 16th century - Anders is a form of the name (in Standard Latvian spelling) Andrejs, for Andreja dēls (Švābe 1933:381; Siliņš 1990:56).
  • Barthelmes Hermedels - 16th century - his father's name is Herme, a Low German form of the name Hermann (or in Standard Latvian spelling Hermanis), also used in 16th century Estonia (Švābe 1933:381; Saar 2017:254; Siliņš 1990:153).
  • Hans Bertelmesdels - 16th century - his father's name is Bertelmess, a form of (in Standard Latvian spelling) Bartolomejs, for Bartolomeja dēls (Švābe 1933:381; Siliņš 1990:82).
  • Mathiasz Pechsiz dels - 1513 - his father's name is Pechsiz (Standard Latvian: Pēksis), a diminutive of Pēteris (Blese 1929:221; Siliņš 1990:260). The expected Standard Latvian patronymic would be Pēkša dēls.

Examples of patronymics using a father's byname include:

  • Jurgen Burse dels - 1520 - Blese glosses this name as German Börse "money pouch, purse" (Blese 1929:167).
  • Bartholomes Tymmerman dels - 1538 - from Low German Timmermann, "carpenter," a Latvian dialectal form is timermanis (Blese 1929:267; Spektors 2021). In Standard Latvian this name would hypothetically be written as "timermaņa dēls."
  • Hanns Balleinge dels - 1578 - Standard Latvian bāliņš, a diminutive of brālis "brother" (Blese 1929:159; Spektors 2021). In Standard Latvian this name would be written "bāliņa dēls."

3.2 Masculine unmarked patronymics.

In Arbusow's examination of a register from the Bishopric of Courland, an area which included Latvians and Livonians, he includes examples of people with Germanic personal names, and apparently unmarked bynames:

  • Martin Peter - 1582/3 (Arbusow 1924:226)
  • Thomas Andres - 1582/3 (Arbusow 1924:226)
  • Peter Andreas - 1582/3 (Arbusow 1924:226)
  • Hanß Bertholdt - 1582/3 (Arbusow 1924:226)

3.3 Feminine patronymics, ending in -meyte.

Women were also recorded with names ending in meyte (Standard Latvian meita), meaning "daughter". Although fewer examples have been found, these names appear to be similar to the examples using their father's byname, that end in dels "son," in terms of content and inconsistent grammar:

  • Angneta Dwelnicke meyte - 1507 - Standard Latvian dvieļnieks, genitive dvieļnieka "towel-maker," from Latvian dvielis or Low German Dweil (Blese 1929:175; Balodis 2008:144).
  • Margarete Stackle meyte - 1515 - Standard Latvian stackle, genitive stakles "a fork in a branch or tree" (Blese 1929:256).
  • Ilsebe Swarenick meyte - 1515 - Standard Latvian svarinieks, genitive svarinieka "weighman" (Blese 1929:264).
  • Anne Leyman meyte - 1500 - Standard Latvian leimanis, genitive leimaņa "vassal or liege subject (of the Livonian Order)" (Blese 1929:203).
  • Lossye Melnepowtyn meyte - 1521 - Standard Latvian melni pauti genitive melnu pautu "black testicles" (Blese 1929:210; Endzelin 1932:251).

There are more bynames following this pattern, but I was unable to find a possible interpretation of their meaning:

  • Magdalena Apzegaye meyte - 1517 (Blese 1929:156).
  • Margarete Pode meyte - 1521 (Blese 1929:226).
  • Dorttye Szmettes meytte - 1517 (Blese 1929:142).

4. Other feminine relationship bynames.

In Siliņa-Piņķe's (2007:54) examination of feminine names recorded in 15th century Riga, she writes "In 70% of cases, women were named after their husband or rather the head of the family in the financial register. That is to say, that their identity is expressed through the identity of their spouse, or otherwise through the paterfamilias or other male relatives."original text The general trend, corroborated with other sources, therefore is for women to be identified by a significant man in her life.

4.1 Feminine bynames indicating marriage, ending in s(z)ewe, wyf, and vrouwe.

These bynames literally spell out that this woman is married, because they explicitly call her a wife. In the examples recorded using a form of Standard Latvian sieva, the majority of the records found used the spellings sewe and szewe. In records where a woman was recorded with Low German Wief or Fro, it was spelled wyff or vrouwe. Like many of the relationship bynames mentioned on this page, in Standard Latvian one would expect the husband's byname to be in the genitive.

These names could use just the byname of her husband:

  • Barbar Massen sewe - 1518 - Standard Latvian maša, genitive mašas "(woven) matting" (Blese 1929:209).
  • Kattryn Semel sewe - 1516 - Standard Latvian ziemelis, genitive ziemeļa "northern wind" (Blese 1929:259).
  • Gerdecke Stroppenecke sewe - 1510 - Standard Latvian stropnieka sieva, a beekeeper's wife (Blese 1929:260).
  • Ilse Susse sewe - 1594 - Blese considers this to be Latvian zuša, the genitive of zutis "eel" but Kiparsky glosses Susse as Livonian suž "wolf" (Blese 1929:263; Kiparsky 1938:256).
  • Grete Werssekaye szewe - 1515 - Standard Latvian vērškāja, genitive vērškājas "ox-leg/foot" (Blese 1929:273; Laumane 2011:58).
  • Katrine Zallake sewe - 1474 - Standard Latvian zaļacis, genitive zaļača "green-eyed" (Blese 1929:240).

These names could also mix languages, combining a man's Latvian byname with the German suffix wyff. Examples identified by Blese include:

  • Anneke Baltsche wyff - 1487 - Standard Latvian balts "white" + -sche and wyff (Blese 1929:160).
  • Margerte Scyslen wyff - 1453 - Standard Latvian susliņa, genitive susliņas "a small, insipid drink" + wyff (Blese 1929:170).
  • Katerine Lassen wyff - 1452 - Standard Latvian lācis (genitive lāča) "bear" or lasis (genitive laša) "salmon" + wyff (Blese 1929:202).

And there are also instances where the full name of the husband's name is used, either using Latvian szewe or German vrouwe:

  • Barbare Bartolmeesz Jureszuke szewe - 1533 - she is the wife of Bartolmeesz jūrascūka (genitive jūrascūkas) "porpoise" (Blese 1929:183).
  • Katharina Hermen Pawassare szewe - 1534 - she is the wife of Hermen pavasaris (genitive pavasara) "the season of spring" (Blese 1929:220).
  • Dorothea Marthin Ozelin szewe - 1534 - she is the wife of Marthin ozoliņš (genitive ozoliņa) "little oak tree" (Blese 1929:217).
  • Barbara Martyn Wrangul szewe - 1534 - she is the wife of Martyn brangulis (genitive branguļa) "an obese man" (Blese 1929:277; Balodis 2008:117).
  • Marghareta Jacob Dorsseneke vrouwe - 1512 - she is the wife of Jacob dārznieks (genitive dārznieka) "gardener" (Blese 1929:171).
  • Magdalena Hansz Appen vrouwe - 1519 - she is the wife of Hansz apinis (genitive apiņa) "brewing hops" (Blese 1929:156).
  • Magdalena Tone Sagersz vrouwe - 1519 - she is the wife of Tone (a diminutive of Antonijs) zāģeris (genitive zāģera) "sawhand, sawer" (Blese 1929:238; Siliņa-Piņķe 2015).

Interestingly, in the available sources, there is only a single example of this pattern ending in wyff:

  • Margrete Yacobes bruvers wyff - 1453 - she is the wife of Yacob brūveris (genitive brūvera) "brewer" (Blese 1929:165).

4.2 Feminine bynames, derived from a man's byname, ending in -sche.

According to Renāte Siliņa-Piņķe (2007:54-5), in her analysis of the Low German portion of the financial register of Riga, the most common byname used for women was the byname of a male relative (such as a father or husband) with the Low German gender-inflection suffix -sche. This type of byname has been recorded across medieval Low German speaking areas, including in neighbouring Estonia (Kaplinski 1975; Werth 2015:54,57).

It appears that this suffix could be appended to any unchanged masculine byname to create a feminine byname, including locative, descriptive, and occupational bynames. These bynames are often ambiguous in the sense that it is unclear if they are patronymics, or bynames relating to a husband, without a relationship suffix such as s(z)ewe, wyf, or vrouwe, or the previously mentioned meyte.

4.2a Feminine bynames, derived from a man's locative byname.

  • Ilske Candowsche - 1476 - from the town of Kandava, see also the traditional German name for the town, Kandau (Bukšs 1948:202).
  • Elsebe Lelewarsche - 1475 - from the village of Lielvārži (Blese 1929:203).
  • Barba Nuxsche - 1475 - from the village of Ņukši, also incorrectly called Ņukšas or Nukšas (Bukšs 1948:202; Kurcalts 1968:129; Latvijas Ģeotelpiskās informācijas aģentūra 2017).

4.2b Feminine bynames, derived from a man's descriptive byname.

  • Kathrina Jownesch - 1463 - Standard Latvian jauns "new" + -sch(e) (Bukšs 1948:183).
  • Gertke Kyukulsche - 1485 - Standard Latvian kukulis "bread bun" + -sche (Bukšs 1948:204).
  • Anna Lappensche - 1530 - Standard Latvian lapiņš "little leaf" + -sche" (Bukšs 1948:204).
  • Anne Lotzessche - 1518 - Standard Latvian lācis "bear" + -sche (Bukšs 1948:204).
  • Barbar Murretsche - 1524 - Standard Latvian mūrītis "inglenook, stove-couch" + -sche (Blese 1929:215).
  • Anneke Spilwesche - 1495 - Standard Latvian spilve "cotton-grass" + -sche (Bukšs 1948:253).
  • Margrete Zeemegersche -1461 - Blese glosses this name as ziemas jērs "winter lamb" (Blese 1929:245).

4.2c Feminine bynames, derived from a man's occupational byname.

  • Katherina Jostneckesche - 1516 - Standard Latvian jostnieks "belt-maker" + -sche (Blese 1929:183).
  • Kattryne Styppenekesche - 1473 - Standard Latvian stīpnieks "hooper, the person who makes the hoops on a barrel" + -sche (Blese 1929:258).
  • Apollonie Spelmansche - 1461 - Standard Latvian spēlmanis "gambler, punter, player" + -sche. See also Low German Speelmann "musician" (Blese 1929:253).

5. Occupational bynames.

Occupational bynames are, unsurprisingly, a byname describes an individual in terms of an occupation or job they do. They are more commonly found borne by men, due to their more prominent role in public life, and like locative bynames they often end in the -nieks suffix to indicate their occupation. The bynames ending in -nieks are similar to occupational bynames in English ending in -er, like how miesnieks could be translated into the more archaic occupation flesher, ie. a butcher. Or how sietnieks could be translated as siever, a maker of sieves.

Women were also recorded with occupational bynames, however Siliņa-Piņķe (2007) says that women in Livonia traditionally could only work in a few areas; as midwives, or as bathhouse attendants. But women could also manage family businesses while their husbands were absent (ibid.). It is therefore possible that women bore occupational bynames because they were working in that field. These feminine occupational bynames were often suffixed with variations of Standard Latvian -niece, most commonly written as -nix.

In the 16th century, the standardised Latvian literary language had not been established, and so there was great variation in how the -nieks suffix was recorded, although a very common spelling was -nik. As an example of this diversity in spelling, the following examples were all interpreted by Blese (1929:212-4) as the byname muižnieks the "manor lord," or possibly mucinieks "cooper." (Strenga (2021:77) considers the latter interpretation of "cooper" to be more likely.)

  • Jorgen Motsenick - 1495 (Blese 1929:213).
  • Mychael Muszeneke - 1503 (Blese 1929:213-4).
  • Michel Mutczenex - 1534 (Blese 1929:214).
  • Andres Mutzenekess - 1520 (Blese 1929:213).
  • Symon Mwzenekes - 1514 (Blese 1929:213).

5.1 Masculine occupational bynames, ending in -nik and variants.

The occupations that these bynames encompassed appears to have been quite broad, for instance:

  • Andrys Groznik, Jan Groznik - 1599 - Standard Latvian grožnieks "rein-maker" (Bukšs 1948:187; Balodis 2016:2)
  • Tomas Kaulnik - 1599 - Standard Latvian kaulnieks "bone-worker" (Bukšs 1948:188)
  • Klaus Kletnik - 1599 - Standard Latvian klētnieks "granary overseer" (Blese 1929:330; Polanska 2003:162).
  • Jan Seteneke - 1473 - Standard Latvian sietnieks "siever, sieve-maker" (Blese 1929:246).
  • Bartolmeus Spellnick - 1507 - Standard Latvian spēlnieks "gambler, punter, player" (Blese 1929:253).

5.2 Feminine occupational bynames, ending in -nix and variants.

The occupational bynames mentioned by Blese, that were borne by women, cover a wider diversity of occupations than just the role of bathhouse attendant already mentioned by Siliņa-Piņķe (2007):

  • Ilzke Bekernix - 1507 - Standard Latvian biķerniece "cup-maker" (Blese 1929:87,161).
  • Katherine Bekernix - 1509 - Standard Latvian biķerniece "cup-maker" (Blese 1929:87,161).
  • Anna Murnix - 1511 - Standard Latvian mūrniece "mason" (Blese 1929:215).
  • Margreta Pertenix - 1508 - Standard Latvian pirtniece "bathhouse attendant" (Blese 1929:223).
  • Anneke Pertenix - 1509 - Standard Latvian pirtniece "bathhouse attendant" (Blese 1929:223).
  • Margrete Sedelneke - 1472 - Standard Latvian segliniece "saddler" (Blese 1929:244).

6. Unmarked Latvian bynames.

Alongside the examples of unmarked locative bynames, people could be recorded with completely unmarked descriptive bynames, that appear to be identically used by both men and women. This differs from present-day Latvian surnames, that are changed to match the gender of the bearer. The examples below illustrate this by listing masculine and feminine names together, with the feminine name listed first:

  • Agate Asgurne - 1521 - Standard Latvian āza gurni "billy goat's hips" (Blese 1929:57,157). This name does not appear to have a present-day equivalent.
    • Simon Asegurne - 1565 (Blese 1929:157)
    • Michel Azegurne - 1540 (Blese 1929:157)
  • Anne Kanep - 1454 - The expected feminine form of this byname would be Standard Latvian Kaņepe "hemp" (Blese 1929:187).
    • Peter Kannep - 1453 - The expected masculine form of this byname would be Kaņeps (Blese 1929:187).
  • Margarete Bersen - 1516 - The expected feminine form of this byname would be Bērziņa "little birch tree" (Blese 1929:162).
    • Andres Berssyn - 1532 - The expected masculine form of this byname would be Bērziņš (Blese 1929:162).
  • Katerine Owryn - 1518 - The expected feminine form of this byname would be Auriņa, meaning a small birdcage, or a bait hive in a tree to capture a swarm of bees (Blese 1929:158).
    • Jurgen Owryn - 1522 - The expected masculine form of this byname would be Auriņš (Blese 1929:158).
    • Marten Ouwryn - 1511 (Blese 1929:158).

Some additional unmarked bynames borne by men include:

  • Hans Jelums - 1534 - Standard Latvian jēlums "a wound" (Blese 1929:182).
  • Jane Kapustgallyn - 1532 - Standard Latvian kāpostgalviņa "cabbage-head." (Blese 1929:187).
  • Bernd Sinep - 1545 - Standard Latvian sinepes "mustard" (Blese 1929:248).
  • Peter Sypoll - 1521 - Standard Latvian sīpols "onion" (Blese 1929:248).

7. Patterns in Latvian names.

If you are looking for further examples of Latvian names, a major source for byname information is Blese (1929) which has been digitised and made freely available by the National Library of Latvia. For information about modern Latvian bynames, that can be used to then find pre-1600 equivalents, the Latvian Surname Project produced by Antra Celmiņa is extremely useful. Balodis (2016) has written a little in English about Latvian occupational bynames, giving glosses for examples in Blese (1929). Information about pre-Christian naming is in sources such as Siliņa-Piņķe (2014).

All of the naming patterns discussed above follow the broader western European pattern of «Given name» «Byname». More specifically, the following patterns have been covered:

  • «Masculine given name» «Locative byname ending in -nik»
  • «Masculine given name» «Unmarked locative byname»
  • «Feminine given name» «Locative byname ending in -nix»
  • «Masculine given name» «Patronymic byname ending in -dels»
  • «Masculine given name» «Unmarked patronymic byname»
  • «Feminine given name» «Patronymic byname ending in meyte»
  • «Feminine given name» «Marital byname ending in s(z)ewe, wyf, or vrouwe»
  • «Feminine given name» «Man's byname ending in -sche»
  • «Masculine given name» «Occupational byname ending in -nik»
  • «Feminine given name» «Occupational byname ending in -nix»
  • «Masculine given name» «Unmarked descriptive byname»
  • «Feminine given name» «Unmarked descriptive byname»

8. Acknowledgements

Thanks must go to the National Library of Latvia for their assistance in digitising Latviešu personu vārdu un uzvārdu studijas and for hosting so many searchable texts on their digital library platform. I also am grateful for the time that Beatrice Domenici della Campana, Ursula Georges, Birgitta Lulli, and Andris Rūtiņš took in reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this guide. All errors in interpretation of the above data are entirely my own.

9. References

All website addresses were checked 3rd January 2022.

  • Arbusow, L. 1924. "Ein Verzeichnis der bäuerlichen Abgaben im Stift Kurland (1582/83)." [A register of peasant taxes in the Bishopric of Courland.] Latvijas Universitātes Raksti 10:163 - 286.
  • Bahlow, H. 1979. "Frauennamen des Mittelalters als Familiennamen." [Women's names of the Middle Ages as surnames.] Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur. 108(4):448-466.
  • Balodis, P. 2016. "Latvian Surnames Motivated by Profession" In: Names and Their Environment: Proceedings of the 25th International Congress of Onomastic Sciences Glasgow, 25-29 August 2014. Volume 3: Anthroponomastics (Glasgow: University of Glasgow):1-10.
  • Balodis, P. 2008. Latviešu personvārdu etimoloģiskās: semantikas teorētiskais modelis un tā realizācija. (Latvian personal names: A theoretical model of tymological semantics and its implementation.) PhD Thesis. (Rīga: Latvijas Universitāte)
  • Blese, E. 1929. Latviešu personu vārdu un uzvārdu studijas, I [Studies of personal names and surnames of Latvians, I] (Rīga: A.Gulbis)
  • Bukšs, M. 1948. Pīzeimes par senejū latgalu̧ resp. latvīšu volūdu [Remarks on the Language of Ancient Lettgalls, respective the Latvian Language] (Traunstein, Bavaria: VI Ločis Izdevniecība.)
  • Celmiņa, A. 2015. Latvian Surname Project
  • Endzelin, J. 1932. "Latviešu personu vārdu un uzvārdu studijas I. Vecākie personu vārdi un uzvārdi (Studien zu den lettischen Personen- und Familiennamen I. Die älteren Personen- und Familiennamen) by E. Blese" Zeitschrift für Slavische Philologie 9(1/2):245-262
  • Jansone, I. 2010. "Latvian." Revue belge de Philologie et d'Histoire 88(3):741-764.
  • Kaplinski, K. 1975. "Eestlased ja venelased XIV sajandi Tallinna maksunimistuis." [Estonians and Russians in the 14th century Tallinn tax lists.] Keel ja Kirjandus 11:682-692.
  • Kiparsky, V. 1938. "Ostseefinnische Personennamen aus lettländischen Sammlungen." [Balto-Finnic personal names from Latvian collections] Sitzungsberichte der gelehrten estnischen Gesellschaft 1936:245-259
  • Kovaļevska, O. 2020. "1599. gada Livonijas revīzijā minēto personvārdu pēdas mūsdienu vietvārdos (īpaši Vidzemē)." [Traces of Personal Names from Livonian Revision 1599 in Contemporary Place Names (Especially in Vidzeme).] In: Onomastikas pētījumi II. (Rīga: LU Latviešu valodas institūts):112-138.
  • Kurcalts K. 1968 "Par dažiem Latvijas PSR austrumdaļas kapeņu un apmetņu toponīmiem." [On some toponyms of graves and settlements in the eastern part of the Latvian SSR.] Arheoloģijas un etnogrāfijas 8:125-134
  • Latvijas Ģeotelpiskās informācijas aģentūra. 2017. Vietvārdu datubāze, publiskā versija, 8. izdevums: Ņukši [Place Names Database Public Version, 8th Edition: Ņukši]
  • Laumane, B. 2011. Kāja un mārkāja. [Foot/leg and sand lizard.] (Liepāja: Liepājas Universitātes Kurzemes Humanitārais institūts)
  • Lietiņa Ray, M. 2003. "Recovering the Voice of the Oppressed: Master, Slave, and Serf in the Baltic Provinces." Journal of Baltic Studies 34(1):1-21.
    DOI: 10.1080/01629770200000231
  • Melton, E. 1988. "Gutsherrschaft in East Elbian Germany and Livonia, 1500-1800: A Critique of the Model." Central European History 21(4):315-349.
    DOI: 10.1017/S0008938900012498
  • Nau, N. 2013. "Latvian agent nouns: their meaning, grammar, and use." Baltic Linguistics 4:79-131.
    DOI: 10.32798/bl.410
  • Polanska, I. 2003. Zum Einfluss des Lettischen auf das Deutsche im Baltikum. [On the influence of Latvian on German in the Baltic Area.] (PhD thesis: Bamburg University.)
  • Saar, E. 2017. "Forenames in 16th and 17th century southeastern Estonia." Uralica Helsingiensia 12:241-286.
  • Selart, A. 2016. "A new faith and a new name? Crusades, conversion, and baptismal names in medieval Baltics" Journal of Baltic Studies 47(2):179-196.
  • Schiller, K. and Lübben, A. 1877. Mittelniederdeutsches Wörterbuch 3 [Middle Low German Dictionary volume 3] (Bremen: Kühtmann)
  • Siliņa-Piņķe, R. 2015. "Antonius, Tenis un Antiņš: Ieskats latviešu personvārdu attīstībā." [Antonius, Tenis, and Antiņš: A brief insight into the development of Latvian given names.] Onomastica Lettica 4:188-219.
  • Siliņa-Piņķe, R. 2014. "Die vorchristlichen Rufnamen in Lettland (9.–13. Jahrhundert) und ihre Spuren in der heutigen Namengebung." [The pre-Christian personal names in Latvia (9th – 13th centuries) and their traces in today's naming.] In: Names in daily life. Proceedings of the XXIV ICOS International Congress of Onomastic Sciences. (Generalitat de Catalunya):907–914.
    DOI: 10.2436/15.8040.01.94
  • Siliņa-Piņķe, R. 2009. "Rufnamen in Riga im 15. Jahrhundert." [Given names in 15th century Riga.] In: Names in Multi-Lingual, Multi-Cultural and Multi-Ethnic Contact: Proceedings of the 23rd International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (Toronto: York University):892-899.
  • Siliņa-Piņķe, R. 2007. "Frauenvornamen und andere anthroponomastische Frauenbezeichnungen im Rigaer Kämmerei-Register im 15. Jahrhundert." [Women's given names and other anthroponomastic women's names in the Riga Financial Register of the 15th centuryBeiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache im Baltikum 5 (Stuttgart: Hans-Dieter Heinz Akademischer Verlag):49–57.
  • Siliņš, K. 1990. Latviešu personvārdu vārdnīca. (Rīga: Zinātne)
  • Sutorp, U. 2015. Estonian Language. (Tallinn: Eesti Instituut.)
  • Švābe, A. 1933. Die älteste schwedische Landrevision Livlands (1601) [The oldest Swedish (plough)land revision of Livonia (1601)] (Rīga: Latvijas Universitāte)
  • Spektors, A. 2021. Tēzaurs [Thesaurus]
  • Strenga, G. 2021. "Turning transport workers into Latvians? Ethnicity and transport workers’ guilds in Riga before and after the Reformation" Journal of Baltic Studies 52(1):61–83.
    DOI: 10.1080/01629778.2020.1863238
  • Werth, A. 2015. "Gretie Dwengers, genannt die Dwengersche: Formale und funktionale Aspekte morphologischer Sexusmarkierung (Movierung) in norddeutschen Hexenverhörprotokollen der Frühen Neuzeit." [Gretie Dwengers, called the Dwengersche: Formal and functional aspects of morphological sex marking (gender inflection) in North German witch interrogation protocols of the early modern period.] Jahrbuch des Vereins für Niederdeutsche Sprachforschung 138:53-75.
    https://tinyurl.com/livpatterns (shortened)

10. Endnote

  1. An alternative interpretation is that these are two unrelated people, and that the byname is wholly German. A Musemeister in Middle Low German is the man in charge of an armoury (Schiller and Lübben 1877:140). This possibility is not mentioned by Strenga.
    Go back to the Introduction.
  2. Original text: In 70 % der Fälle werden Frauen im Kämmerei-Register nach ihrem Mann bzw. ihrem Familienoberhaupt benannt, d.h. ihre Identität ist durch die Identität des Ehemannes bzw. des Familienvaters oder anderer männlicher Verwandter ausgewiesen.
    Go back to other feminine relationship bynames..