Alys's Simple Guide to Household Names
Articles > Names

Mistress Alys Mackyntoich, OP, OL, OD
[email protected]

Household names are complex and difficult.  They are among the things that heralds and submitters most frequently get wrong.  This Simple Guide is intended to hit the most important highlights of creating household names.  It is not intended to cover every issue, only the ones that come up most commonly.  Likewise, a household name pattern not discussed here may simply be uncommon or not yet documented.

What is a Household Name?
A household name is a name that refers to a group of people instead of a single individual (order names also do this, of course). It may be a family group, a guild, a military unit, or something else. [December 2012 Cover Letter].

Who Can Register a Household Name?
Any individual with a registered personal name can register a household name. 
Household names can be registered jointly to two persons.
Note that every individual is limited to registering six names.  [Administrative Handbook, I.B].  This limit includes personal names and household names.  A person who already has six personal and/or household names registered would have to release one of those names to register a new household name.

How to Build a Household Name
Each household name must have two parts: (1) a designator from the list of designators approved by the College of Arms and (2) a substantive element that matches the way orders were named in period.  [SENA NPN.1]  A designator is necessary so that we can identify the item as a household name rather than as some other kind of name.
In the name Sisterhood of Saint Walburga, Sisterhood is the designator and Saint Walburga is the substantive element.

Matching the Designator and the Substantive Element
The type of substantive element must match the designator being used.  If an inn sign pattern is being used for the substantive element, then the designator must be one appropriate for an inn.
For example, Academy of Saint Gregory with the Dove was ruled unregisterable on the November 2013 LoAR because the designator and the pattern/substantive element did not match:
Submitted as Academy of Saint Gregory with the Dove, the documentation for this item combines multiple types of non-personal names. We require a household name to follow a single model of a particular type of group of people or place where they might gather. See the Cover Letter from October 2013 for more details.
The designator academy is rarely (at best) used in England before 1600 (a 1605 citation from the OED s.v. academy observes, "It importes no litle disgrace to our Nation, that others have so many Academyes, and wee none at all."). However, academies were common in Renaissance Italy. A few of these Italian accademias were named after saints, such as the 1593 Roman Accademia di San Luca and the 1485 Venitian Accademia di San Rocco. However, the combination of a saint and an object is not found. Thus, Academy of Saint Gregory would be registerable, but barring further evidence, Academy of Saint Gregory with the Dove would not.
In that case, the submitter consented to change the name to Society of Saint Gregory with the Dove, and the name was registered in that form.  [Lucien de Pontivi, November 2013 LoAR, A-East].

What Designators Can We Use for a Household Name?
A list of approved designators can be found in Appendix E of SENA, as well as in precedents found in Letters of Acceptance and Return (LoARs).  In addition, any period noun used to identify collective groups of people, if documented, can be used as a household name designator.
Examples of approved designators for households include (in English unless otherwise noted):

      Clan (Anglicized Irish, Scots)
      Clann (Gaelic)
      Maison (French)
      Manoir (French)
      Casa (Italian)
      Haus (German)
      Domus (Latin)

Picking a Substantive Element
The substantive element of a household name has to follow period naming practices in the appropriate language.  Not all substantive elements were used in all languages.  Nor were all substantive elements or naming patterns used in all languages.  Below are some examples of documented household name patters and substantive elements.  (This list is not exhaustive.  New evidence supporting different patterns of household names is being found as more information becomes available.).
        Household Names Based on Inn Signs
I cannot explain this better than Pelican already did:  “One popular kind of household names are the so called inn-sign names, derived from the names of charges used on signs found on inns and other buildings. These names take forms like House of the White Horse, Haus zum Wolf, or Hostel du Croissant. These types of names are found only in certain parts of Europe, and thus are only registerable in those places where this pattern is found. The pattern is known in English, French, Italian, and German. As of the moment, it is not known in Spain or Eastern Europe.”  [February 2013 Cover Letter].
Inn signs take a variety of forms, depending on the culture and language. 
1.      English Inn Signs
Not surprisingly, we have the most documentation for inn signs in English.  As a starting point, people considering household names in English review the patterns and elements found in these articles:
·        Mari ingen Briain meic Donnchada's "English Sign Names" (
·        Margaret Makafee's "Comparison of Inn/Shop/House names found London 1473-1600 with those found in the ten shires surrounding London in 1636" (
·        Juliana de Luna’s “English Sign Names from 1636” (
·        Juliana de Luna’s “Designators in Inn-Sign Names in Medieval and Renaissance England” (
Such names generally use the designators House, Inn or Tavern, either in the form House of X or X House. 
English inn signs take a variety of patterns.  Some of the most common patterns are set out below.  These patterns are found in one of the cited household name articles, unless accompanied by a specific citation to another precedent.
·        House of heraldic charge
·        House of animal / bird
·        House of color + animal / bird
·        House of color + other heraldic charge
·        House of creature/human + head
·        House of number + animal / heraldic charge
·        House of heraldic charge + heraldic charge
·        House of Winged + heraldic charge [Cuhelyn Cam vap Morcant, February 2014 LoAR, A-Meridies].
The pattern of using heraldic charges to form household names includes plural forms of the heraldic charge.  [See, e.g., Morgan MacDuff and Dawn Silverrose, November 2014 LoAR, A-Atenveldt].
Note that names based on English inn sign names cannot use heraldic tinctures as color terms.  They may use only the ordinary color term, such as Black, Red, Blue, etc.  [See, e.g., Eliseva bat Yisrael, June 2015 LoAR, R-Caid].  Thus, House of the Sable Bear is not registerable as a household name, but House of the Black Bear is.

2.      French Inn Sign Names
Information about inn-sign names in French can be found in Juliana de Luna's "Inn Signs and House Names in 15th Century Paris" (
Examples of these names in bynames also can be found in Aryanhwy merch Catmael's "French Names from Paris, 1421, 1423, & 1438" (  Bynames using the preposition a or aux are usually based on inn signs.  For example,
Designators that can be used with French inn sign names include:
·        ensigne de (the sign of)
·        hostel/ostel de (hotel of)
·        maison de    (house of)
Patterns found in the names of French inn signs include:
·        Maison de + saint’s name
·        Maison de + heraldic charge (including plurals)
·        Maison de + heraldic charge + heraldic tincture
·        Maison de + two heraldic charges
·        Maison de + literary reference
Examples:  la maison de l'Estoile (house of the star); hostel du Lion d'argent (hotel of the white lion)

3.      Italian Inn Sign Names
Some information about inn-sign names in Italian can be found in:
·        Aryanhwy merch Catmael's "Names from an Early 16th C Census of Rome: Household Names" (
·        Nicholas Eckstein's The district of the Green Dragon: neighbourhood life and social change in Renaissance Florence (
Designators found in Italian inn sign names include casa de (house of), taverna de (tavern of) and hostaria de (place serving food and wine).
Patterns for naming inn signs in Italian include:
·        Casa de + religious reference (both Christian and classical)
·        Casa de + heraldic charge
Examples: casa del Confalone (house of the banner); casa de la Minerva (house of Minerva)

4.      German Inn Sign Names
We have more limited information about German inn signs than we do about inn signs in other languages.  However, we do have information about some period patterns for such names.
We have clear evidence of inn signs depicting heraldic charges:
Cunrad zum Grifen (1297), found in Bahlow s.n. Greif(f)
Haus zum Eichhorn (1460), found in Bahlow s.n. Eichhorn
Wernher zum Rosen (1311), found in Brechenmacher s.n. Rose
Burchart zem Rosin (1295), found in Brechenmacher s.n. Rose
Walther zem Sterne (1255), found in Bahlow s.n. Stern
These examples support the pattern Haus zum + heraldic charge, as in the dated example of Haus zum Eichhorn (house of the unicorn).
We also have examples of inn signs named using the pattern heraldic charge + color, including zum schwarzen Beren (of the black bear) (1565).  [February 2013 Cover Letter]
Household naming follows the rules of German grammar.  Thus, to form “House of the Red Crows,” the proper structure is Haus zu den roten Krahen.  [Jakob Krahe, February 2014 LoAR, A-AEthelmearc].

           Household Names Based on Personal Names
Another common form of household name is based on the name of the individual owner, founder or inspiration.  The exact form of such names depends on the language and culture in which it is created.
In English, we have documentation for forming household names based on given names, surnames or a person’s full name.  Quoting from the March 2013 Cover Letter:
English household names are often derived from personal names. As with other household patterns in English, the pattern is X('s) House or House of X, not House X. Household names derived from people's names in English take a couple of forms. The most common household name uses the individual's full name, like þe hous of Julyane huxster or sir Henry Percy house (both period examples from Sharon Krossa's "A Brief, Incomplete, and Rather Stopgap Article about European Household and Other Group Names Before 1600" ( The same pattern is found using household as the designator.
Examples that use only given names, only surnames, or only titles are used in limited contexts. Examples of X's House with given names are found only for saint's names and legendary names, like King Arthur. For surnames, X's House or X House are mostly found in references to actual buildings rather than to people, though they may sometimes be used to refer to the people living in such a building. House of X seems to have been used largely to refer to noble dynasties (like the House of Lancaster and House of York. All of these patterns are registerable.”
A person’s full name may be used to form a household name in English and Scots.  In the July 2018 Cover Letter states:
Previous precedent stated that the only attested pattern for English household names using a person's full name was House of + given name + last name. [Brigit inghean ui Dhomhnaill. Household name House of Hammer Fall, 11/2014 LoAR, A-East] However, new data has now been found in English and Scots for inn-sign names using a person's full name, including Walter Chepmannis taveroun (1526) and the Eden Berys [Tavern] (1483). Based on this new data, as of the date of publication of this Letter, we hereby expand the 2014 precedent and expressly allow English and Scots household names in the form given name + last name + House. Further, the designators Inn, Tavern or Brewhouse (or any period spellings thereof) can be used instead of House in English or Scots inn-sign names based on a person's full name. Where the person's full name comes before the designator, it should be in the possessive form. This ruling applies only to English and Scots household names; the use of this pattern for household names in other languages must be documented.
In Old English, a household name can be formed from a personal name in the genitive form + hus.  For example, Aarones hus is dated to c. 1000 in the Oxford English Dictionary. [Birgir inn Blakki, March 2004 LoAR, A-Caid].
In French, Juliana de Luna’s “Inn Signs and House Names in 15th Century Paris” ( contains multiple examples of household names formed using personal names as the substantive element.  The article includes examples using the following patterns:
·        Person’s full name: la maison Eudeline de Macer; l'ostel de Y. Gregoys
·        Surname only: hostel d'Alegre; Housse Gilet
·        Person’s title: l'hostel d'Artois
In German, there is no evidence for the pattern Haus + surname.  [Faelan mac Flainn, June 2016, R-Lochac].
In Old Norse, household names can be formed from personal names.  The personal name in the genitive form is combined with a suffix such as –staðr (steading), -topt (a homestead) or -staðir (multiple steadings).  Although hús is a comparatively rare element in Old Norse, it has been permitted as a household name designator – in this instance, Spak-Hrafns hús. [Grímólfr Skúlason, August 2014, A-East].  For example, Bergstopt would be a household name based on the personal name Bergr (genitive Bergs) + -topt, thus, the homestead of Bergr.
In Gaelic, we have some evidence of households named after the person who was the head of the household.  See Sharon Krossa’s “Medieval Gaelic Clan, Household, and Other Group Names” (

         Household Names Based on Ancestor’s Name
1.      Gaelic
Medieval Gaelic clans were named after significant male ancestors (usually already deceased).  The basic naming pattern for clans in Gaelic was:
clan term + clan ancestor's given name (in genitive case & sometimes lenited)
The most common clan term was Clann, which is the term most commonly requested as a designator.  For other clan terms and discussion of the grammar of forming clan names, see Sharon Krossa’s “Medieval Gaelic Clan, Household, and Other Group Names” (
2.    Scots
Current data shows the following patterns for Scottish clan names in period Scots.
        (1)   For a Gaelic/Highland clan:  phonetic or semi-phonetic rendering in Scots of the Gaelic form of the clan name.  For example, clan Allaster, Clan Gregour.  Note that these examples use the given name of the clan ancestor.
        (2)   For a Gaelic/Highland clan: Scots language form of the relevant Gaelic family name or chiefly title.  For example, klan of Makdonel (1596).
        (3)   Clan + surname of Lowland family, e.g., clan Jamesoun (1540)
        (4)   Clan of the + surname of Lowland Border family, e.g., clan of the Ellots (circa 1597)
        Any of these patterns may be combined with a Scots place name.  Examples of this pattern found in 16th century Scots texts include Clane MacKane of Avricht, Clandowill of Lorne, and Clan MacThomas in Glensche.

3.    Welsh
In Welsh, groups of people can be named after the personal name of their common ancestor.  Per the April 2013 Cover Letter, patterns for creating a household name based on an ancestor’s name in Welsh include:
Plant + given name of ancestor 
Wryion + given name of ancestor
Gwely or Gafael + given name of ancestor
Each of these constructions has a slightly different meaning.  Wryion + personal name means literally “grandsons of personal name.”  Gwely or gafael refers to a group of descendants who share land.
For more details, see the April 2013 Cover letter and Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn's "Period Welsh Models for SCA Households and the Nomenclature Thereof" (

         Household Names Based on Place Names
In English, households, inns, taverns or halls named after places are incredibly common.  The pattern placename + house/hall is well established.  For example, the Middle English Dictionary gives examples of the Howse of Oseney (c.1460), Nottingeham castell (1152), and Fysshewykeshostell (1476), all of which are based on place names.
In both French and English, manors are named after places.  For example, we have evidence of le manor de Bromesgrave and le manoir de Asshewelthorp, as well as Manoir de Moulins (manor of the windmills).  [Jacquelin de Normandie, March 2016, A-Atenveldt].  Both of these would be acceptable household names based on place names.
In German, household names use either the adjectival form of the place name or an unmodified form of the place name.  Thus, for someone from Freiberg, the household name would be Haus zum Freiberger (adjectival form) or Haus zum Freiberg (unmodified form).  [See, e.g., Martelle von Charlottenburg and Eric von Charlottenburg, February 2012 LoAR, A-Atlantia; Andreas der Eisfalke, August 2010 LoAR, A-East].  No support has yet been found for the construction Haus von placename.

          Household Names Based on Saint’s Names
Saint’s names are frequently used to name houses or groups of people, making them an appropriate substantive element for naming a household. 
The current (October 2016) SCA heraldry rules allow you to make up saints as long as the root name of the person is real.  For example, the Company of Saint Kenrics Beard is a registerable household name, even though there was not a real Saint Kenric because: (1)  Kenric is a documentable period name; and (2) a beard is a documentable period heraldic charge.

         Household Names Based on Ship Names
Households may be named after ships’ companies, based on the name of the ship.  For example, on the January 2016 Letter of Intent, the household name Company of the Panther Fierce was registered with the following explanation:
As documented in the Letter of Intent, this household name follows the pattern of a Tudor ship named after a heraldic charge (Panther) and a 16th century surname (Fierce). Examples include the Falcon Lisle, named after Lord Admiral Lisle, and the Falcon Grey, which was renamed after its second captain, Richard Grey.  [Séamus Blaer de Maxwell, 1/2016 LoAR, A-Atlantia].

Documenting the Elements
When submitting a household name, documentation is required for more than just the naming pattern.  The submitted spellings of the designator and the substantive element also must be documented.  Thus, for example, when submitting the household name Bacoun Taverne, the spellings Bacoun and Taverne must be documented:
Bacoun is an English surname found in "An Index to the 1296 Lay Subsidy Rolls for Rutland, England" by Karen Larsdatter (
The spelling taverne is found in the Middle English Dictionary s.v. tavern(e) dated to 1393, 1400, 1432 and 1475.
One of the best resources for documenting particularly words and spellings to period is the Middle English Dictionary, which is available on-line ( and is searchable.

The Lingua Societatis Allowance
Under NPN1.C.2.c, “[w]e also allow the registration of translations of attested and constructed household names . . .  into standard modern languages appropriate to the submitting individual or branch, as described in NPN.1.A. We allow this because the meanings of these names would have been clear to the speakers of these languages, but may be unclear to modern speakers. The translation must be a literal, plausible and complete translation. Under no circumstances will translations of the meanings of given names or placenames be registerable under this rule.”
Under NPN1.B.3, household name designators may be registered in the original language or may take the lingua Societatis form.  Prepositions and articles must match the language of the designator.  For example, either Compagnia di Santa Lucia or Company of Santa Lucia is registerable for the meaning 'company of Saint Lucia', but Company di Santa Lucia and Compagnia of Santa Lucia are not; in each one, the preposition and article do not match the language of the designator.

How To Figure Out Whether Something Is A Period Heraldic Charge 
There is an SCA resource called the Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry ( that will help you identify heraldic charges known in period.  It includes citations and pictures of period forms of heraldic charges.  Experienced heralds will also have access to period rolls of arms and armorials (collections of blazons or images).  A “Pic Dic” entry can be cited as reliable evidence that a charge is period.

Conflict-checking a Household Name
The only considerations for conflict checking are the sound and appearance of the substantive elements.  When doing a conflict check for a household name, the designator is considered “transparent.”  In other words, it is not counted at all for conflicts.  Thus, Order of the Black Swan conflicts with Company of the Black Swan, because both are non-personal names.
However, we do not do conflict by translation, so Order of the Black Swan does not conflict with Companie du Cigne Noir.  The substantive elements in these two names do not look or sound anything alike.
We also do not check personal names against non-personal names.  Thus, Company of the Black Swan does not conflict with Agnes of the Black Swan (a personal name using a surname based on an inn sign).
All non-personal names must be checked for conflicts and presumption against all other non-personal names.  This includes real world non-personal names.  Thus, the household name Free Company of Saint Lawrence had to be pended to be checked for conflicts and presumption against the Saint Lawrence River.  [Þora Sumarliðadóttir and Eadric the Potter, May 2015 LoAR, P-Drachenwald].  In that case, the household name was returned for presumption.  [Þora Sumarliðadóttir and Eadric the Potter, September 2015, R-Drachenwald].