Greetings to those Newcomers looking for names!!!
I've seen quite an influx of people requesting help in
finding a name in the last few days. The first thing I
will say is read through the article below that I
received courtesy of Master Gawain of Miskbridge;
these are very basic questions to start off with for
anyone first looking towards a name.
Once you've read the article, then start digging
around through the Medieval Names Archive that the
Academy of St. Gabriel hosts:
I'd also refer people to the Education Articles that
Laurel has up on names as well:
Then check out the various name articles that Master
Modar has available:
By the time you've gone through all of those sources,
you should have a very solid idea of what you are and
are not interested in. Corner your local herald at
that point and dig through the references they have to
put the finishing touches on a name that you can call
Until the next time,
Signore Giudo di Niccolo Brunelleschi, CT
Shire of Deodar, Kingdom of Calontir
Deodar & La Grande Tente Pursuivant
~*~ START "CHOOSING A NAME" ARTICLE ~*~
Choosing A Name
Article provided by: Master Gawain of Miskbridge
When you have chosen, or at least narrowed down, your
persona, you can effectively start looking for a name.
Here are some things to consider, in no particular
1) What language would my persona have spoken?
~~ It would almost certainly have been unlike the
language spoken today in that place. Sometimes it's a
matter of language evolution, like Old English to
Middle English to Modern English. Sometimes there were
different people there. For instance, the people in
England in the 5th Century were the ancestors of the
present-day Welsh, and used the ancestor of that
2) How was a name constructed?
~~ In the 21st Century United States, a personal name
typically consists of two names selected by the
parents followed by a hereditary family name. This
pattern is rarely found in any Western European
cultures in our period. Practically the only factor
common to all of them was a name selected by the
parents. In some cultures, this was the only formal
name a person had. Two people of the same name were
distinguished by a variety of means, most of which are
the predecessors of present-day surnames. These did
not become hereditary till near or beyond the end of
our period in most cultures. Hereditary surnames have
never been adopted in Iceland, for instance.
3) How was a given name chosen?
~~ For one thing, Mom and Dad didnt go to the library
and check out a "What to Name Your Baby?" book. Those
things list the "meaning" and origin of many names.
The ones that are accurate (a small minority) will
tell you the meaning of the root words that the name
originated from. In fact most names were disconnected
from those roots long before the beginning of our
period. Names were often chosen to refer to a parent
or other ancestor, a godparent, a famous or powerful
person, or a saint, much as they are today. Thats the
meaning of most names, not whatever root word they
4) What about surnames?
~~ Before surnames became inherited family names, they
were simply informal descriptive elements. In law, the
name you were given at baptism was your "real" name,
and it was considered criminal, or at least shady, to
use another one. Surnames might very well vary
depending on your situation. Suppose you were a baker
by trade and you had moved from your hometown of
Oxford to London. To your customers you might be known
as William (the) Baker, to your friends as William of
Oxford, and to the folks at home as Will Johnson. Your
childhood playmates might have called you Will White
if you had light blond hair or a fair complexion.
5) What about women's names?
~~ Same sort of things apply, except that women
obviously didn't take their husband's surname. Even
after they became inherited, it was a long time before
that happened. In some European countries, such as
Italy, they still keep their own surname. Also, be
aware that surnames in some languages are inflected
6) What about spelling? I hear it wasn't standardized
~~ Absolutely true. Today we tend to consider the
written word as authoritative over the spoken one.
Then, it was the spoken word, and the written form was
just a way to record it. Spelling was variable, but it
always represented the same sound, according to the
conventions of that time and place. In fact, the
various spellings of words give us clues to the way
words were pronounced at a given time. Those
conventions were very different in different languages
and at different times. When you see how Irish or
Welsh names were written by English scribes, you will
see just how different they might be.
7) So how many different kinds of surnames were used?
~~ In our area of interest, there were four basic
types, with some subdivisions. First, names of
relationship, most commonly patronymics: Johnson, ap
Owen, mac Briain, fitzHugh, Ivanovitch, etc. Second,
toponymics, which refer to a town or geographical
location: of London, atte Ford, Underhill, and so on.
Third, occupational names: Smith, Ferrier, Kuznyetsov,
and Schmidt all refer to an individual who works with
iron for a living. Fourth, epithets: these refer to
physical or personal characteristics most commonly,
but may be more oblique in some cases. One thing to
remember is that the mix of these types varied widely
between cultures. For instance, Welsh and Irish used
patronymics almost exclusively, while English uses a
good portion of all four.
8) What about non-European names?
~~ Although they vary more widely, most of the above
still applies. Find a book on the particular language
for more information.
~*~ END ARTICLE ~*~
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