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Saturday, 4 January 2014

Medieval nicknames, pet names and use names

Pet forms of names and their development

To the modern mind, diminutives of someone’s name either involve a short form or a suffix like –ette for a girl.  However the history of diminutives is long and complex, and though shortening of a name was used, the form chosen was not always obvious to the modern eye.  Also, diminutive endings were used for boys and girls both, and might be applied to short forms. 
The diminutive suffices were –el, -ot [sometimes but not always –ota for females] and –in.  The addition of –kin, which we still recognise as a diminutive today, was also sometimes used; for example Lovekin.
The medieval mind did not necessarily feel that the addition of one diminutive suffix was sufficient.  Take the name Lance; it takes a double diminutive to make it Lancelot, not the sort of figure we would think of as one who is essentially Lance-dear-sweetie.  Then there are those names which are shortened and a diminutive applied; the name Isabel became Ibb, which then became Ibbot.  Or Ibelot with a double diminutive.  The reason for the large number of diminutives was probably because most peasants were pretty unimaginative and [with the high rate of child mortality] used the same name over and over again, and in the unlikely event of them all surviving needed some way to differentiate between several Johns and Isobels.

The Norman insistence on record keeping also led to the use of Latin endings, mostly giving rise to new female names.  Although Julian, generally pronounced Gillian, was happy not to take any account of being Juliana for several centuries, Sybil moved towards being Sibilla quite quickly. Old names were Latinised, and Hildgyth became Hilda. Fanciful names from Latin sources sprang up, like Diamanda and Argentina and Presciosa, all short-lived. 
And of course a girl christened Maria by the priest might go through her entire life having no idea of this, being Meriet, or Pol, Mally, Marcella or one of a number of pet names for Mary translated by the village priest solemnly as Maria.  It is the custom of many Hispanic families to christen every girl Maria and use a second name by which to call her; but it was entirely possible for every girl in a medieval English family to be officially named Maria and to be known each one by an individual name.
I have done this with a family in one of my Renaissance mystery stories…..

I would say that the main reason for the rise of some pet names is probably vocal laziness.  People have a tendency always to want to shorten names, for their own convenience.  I would postulate that the form of the shortening of names may be driven by baby tongues trying to say their own name and falling over themselves; consider Queen Elizabeth II’s use of the name ‘Lilabet’ for herself when she was small, dealing with the uncomfortable hard sound of ‘z’ by making it ‘l’ and losing –th for –t at the end.  Equally ‘r’ is a difficult sound to say [and the Norman French found it particularly so] and becomes more conveniently ‘l’.  Hence, Sarah, or Sarra as it was usually transcribed became ‘Sally’.  Mary became ‘Mally’ and then ‘Molly’.   I have no idea why ‘m’ sometimes became ‘p’  to give us ‘Poll’ and ‘Pegg’ from Molly and Megg [Mary and Margaret].   However, if speaking in a rather nasal way, ‘m’ tends to a ‘b’ or ‘p’ -like sound so maybe it arose from a preponderance of head colds in poorly heated houses.
I postulate that Margaret merely lost its ‘r’  to become Mag etc, since ‘Malgaret’ would be hard to say.

The Normans also had some difficulty distinguishing ‘W’ from ‘G’ which led to some names being written down as they were said as one or the other or both – Walter, Galter and Gwalter are all the same name.  This often persisted in pet forms.   That the medieval mind also found it quite logical to start a pet form with an entirely different letter is less easy to understand, hence Robert became Hobb or Dobb as much as Rob.  There was probably an obscure reason. However, as ‘Robin Goodfellow’ was a synonym for a supernatural sprite of faerykind  this has led to additions to the language like ‘hobgoblin’.  Dobb fell out of use when it became common enough that ‘Dobbin’ was a horse in the same way that Tibb for Tybalt fell out of use when it became over-used for ‘Tibbles’ the cat.

There is a tendency to add excrescent H- to the beginning of names and excrescent –t or –d to the end.  The first is a matter of aspirants and may be demonstrated in the usually exaggerated Cockney accents delivered by writers where comic and low characters drop their ‘h’ and add an excrescent ‘h’ to words beginning in a vowel.  This is a matter of contention too between English English and American English as no self-respecting American would pronounce the ‘h’ on ‘herbs’ and no self-respecting English person would consider dropping it.  The second may carry on from the confusion of d, ð or þ, where an aspirated –th sound disappears, but this does not explain all cases.  I postulate that it is in the way people spoke.  In East Anglia, in the dialect written, incidentally, by Chaucer as his native tongue, there is a tendency to add excrescent –d to words.  I got in trouble at school myself for innocently writing about my dressing-gownd.  East Anglia was in the Medieval period the most populous part of the country.  It seems reasonable to suppose that its dialect carries some fossilised speech of the past.
That A and E are interchangeable as opening vowels can be seen immediately to spring from the Saxon dipthong æ, and needs no further explanation. Au to O is merely a matter of translating the original Latin name which would have involved a syllable derived from Aurum, gold, into what it sounded like.  And it must be remembered that the form of the name I give first would have been the most common form at the time, not necessarily the name from which it developed.  Mathilda and Maud [pronounced ‘Mow’d, like a kitten mew] came from Mechtildis, a Frankish name, which form disappeared.  However some original forms gave rise to pet forms of their own before they disappeared; Eleni, the original Greek from which the name Helen became the more normal form, gave variants like Ellen after the addition of excrescent H- became set as the main name. 

Some of the pet names have since become names in their own right, some – notably those of the most common names – have stayed as pet names, some have an existence of both. And some, such as Gilota, a pet name of Egidia, became absorbed into Gillian, once a pet name of Julian[a] and subsequently so common that a girl was a jill, and was likely to jilt her man. 

Here find tables showing the variant forms and pet names of the names that attracted most, which is as good a way as any to see which were popular at least for long enough to acquire a sufficiency of pet forms.

Pet names and variants of female names across the Medieval period
Agatha, Agace, Agate, Agett
Emme Em(ma), Emmet, Emmot(a), Emelot(a), Amelot(a), Imme, Emblem Emeline, Emelina, Ameline, Amelyn, Minna, Minota,Imma,Edelina,Emlyn Emerentiana, Emerence
Margaret/Marjorie Magge, Magot(a), Marguerite, Madge, Margery, Margat, Merg(r)et, Meriet, Mogg(e) Pogg, Pegge, Mogot, Magat, Grete, Greta
Ann(e) Annot, Annett, Anney, An(n)ora
Eve/Avelina Eva, Evot(a), Evet(te), Evelot, Evelune, Evelin(g), Ivet(ta), Iva, Ava, Avelina, Aveling
Mary Molle, Malle, Malot(a) Mariot(a), Mary-Ann, Malyn, Malina, Marian, Marykin, Meryet, Maryatt, Mol(et), Marina, Marcella, Maura, Miriam, Poll, Polkin
Ailith, Ailed(a), Alet, Aleda, Alith, Adelid, Ailet, Aliet
Everild(a), Avery,  Averyl, Aveline,Avelina, Averilet(a), Avel, Avenels
Avis Avice, Avina, Avicia, Avizia, Aveza,Havoise
Floriane Flora, Flur, Fleur, Floria, Florencia, Florentia, Florence
Melicent Melisende, Melisendra,Melusina, Milcentia, Millicent, Melisentia, Milisendis
Alice/Alison, Alys, Alise, Alicia, Alisen,Alysone,Alisounne,Helisent, Elison (scots) Elisind, Helysoune, Adeline, Adelina, Adeleide, Adeliz, Alesia, Aelizia, Alot(a), Elisota
Isabel Isabella, Ysabella, Bel(e) Isabeau, Ilsabeth, Ibb(et) (Ishbel, Isla: scots) Libbe(t), Bella, Bel(ot), Belet, Belissendis, Ibbot(a) Ebbot, Ebota, Ebete, Bete, Bibb(i), Tibb(y), Bibile, Ibelot
Mat(h)ilde/Maud,Maddy, Tilly*  Mathild, Mactildis, Mechtilda, Mazelina, Mahalt, Mahald, Mahaud, Mald*, Molde(en)*, Mauld, Moude, Motte, Till(ot)
Oriel, Oriholt, Oriolda, Aurildis Orieldis,Aurelia
Amabel Amable, Mabel Mabilia,Mabilla,Amabilia, Amia, Amabilis,Anilla,Amabilla,Anabella, Amalota,Ameline, Amisia, Mab(b), Mopp(e),Moppet,Mabot(a), Amiel..Amand Amanda[from 1212]   Amy/Amice/Amata
Idony Idonia, Idonea, Ideny, Idone, Yden(e), Idunn, Iduna
Petronille Petronella, Perone(l)le, Peryna, Parnell(e), Pernel Pennel, Purnella
Iseult Iselda, Iseldis, Ysoude, Isolda, Isouda, Isota*, Isata, Iseut, Ysole, Isset, Isalt
RichildaRikilda,Richeldis, Richenda, Ric(h)olda, Rictrudis
Barbara Barbarel(la), Barbet(a), Babb(el) Barbel, Babbet, Babot(a) Babeth, Barbary, BarbetteBarb(y)
Ismay  Ismenia, Ismaine, Idemay, Ysemay, Ysmeine, Ismayn, Ismaigne, Hismena, Minna, Emonie, Immine
Rose Rosa, Rosalba, Rosamund, Rosalie, Rosan(na)
Beatrice Beatta, Bete, Beton, Bett(e), Bettris(s) Betryse, Betune, Beitiris (scots) Beatrix
Jane Joanna, Johanna, Jehanne, Jean(ne) (Fr, Scots), Joan, Janet, Janeth, Jenyth, Jehane
Sanchia Scientia, Sancha, Sence, Sanche, Sanctia, Science, Sencey
Bridget Bride, Bedelia, Beret, Berget
Jocelyn, Joyce, Josse, Joy, Jocea, Jocosa, Juicea
Sara Sarre, Sare(t), Sarret, Sarrot, Sarra [Sally was later]
Catherine Katharine, Catelin(e), Kate, Kitty Katte, Katin, Catin, Kytte, Catlin, Cat(te), Katerel, Catun, Catell, Catelet
Jacquetta Jaketta, Jakemina, Jaqueline, Jemme, Jemma, Gemma, Jimme, Jacoba, Jacelin
Sidony Sedehanna, Sedania, Sedaina
Cecily Cecely, Cecile, Caecilia, Celia, Sisilla, Siscillia, Sisely, Sisly*, Sicely, Sissel(ot), Siss(ot), Cissot(a)
Julian(e) Juliana, Julitta, Julia, Juliet[late], Jill, Jilian, Jelion, Giliane, Giliana, Gillet, Gilia, Gilota, Gell, Gellion, Geleia, Gellie, Gillota, Jell, Jull, Juetta, Jouet, Jewet, Juhota
Tiffan(y)*Theophania Teffan, Teffaia, Tephania, Theffanie, Tiphina
Clare Claire, Clarel, Clarot, Claret, Claris, Clarice/Claricia, Clarisse, Claritia, Clarissa
Viola Violante, Violete, Violetta,Violaine, Yolande
Denise,Denet, Dionysia,/Denysia
Laura, Lora, Lauretta, Laureola, Laurencia, Loret(t)a, Lauret.

Edith Eaditha, Idith, Ediz, Alduse, Aldusa, Edusa
Eleanor, Ellen(or), Elaine, Elinor, Elyanor, El(l)a, Ala, Elot(a), Eliana, Helen(a), Alienor(a), Ellett, Elena, Heleyne, Eleni [no Nell yet]
Lettice/Laetitia Lece, Lecia, Lecie, Lecelina, Letselina, Lecel, Leceln,Lescelye,Lesellyn, Lett(e)
Elizabeth,, Ellice, Beth(a), Bess(e), Elizabella,Bethel, Lylie, Lilian. [No Betty yet]
Love,Lovie,Lovota, Loveta, Lovejoy Lovekin,Leffeda, Liuete, Loveday

Pet names and variants of male names across the Medieval period
Adam Adnet, Adenot, Adkin, Ade, Add
Henry, Hal, Harry, Herry, Hanne, Hen(kin), Hanekin, Halkin,Hawkin
Paul, Poul,Pole, Pauley ,Paulin, Powlis

Aloysius, Lowis, Lewis, Lewin, Louis
Hilary, Ilarius, Illore, Eularius, Eylarius, Ellery, Hille
Peter, Pierce, Piers, Pers,Pell Perkin,Pirret,Perrin,Perr(el),Pierun Perron,Peterkin,Petri (scots)

Amyas, Amyot, Amand, Amadis (French)
Hugh,Hugo,Huiet,Hughelot,Ugo ,Hugelin,Huelin,Hulin,Hudde Huglin,Hudkin,Hukin,Howe*Hewe Huget,,Hudelin,HuhelHuwet Huchon (Fr)
Philip, Phelp, Philp, Felip, Filkin, Philpot, Phipp, Potkin, Potin

Ancel,Ansel(l),Anselm,Ancelot, Anscelin, Hanselin,Anselin
Ralph, Rafe, Rafael, Raff, Radulf, Raul, Raulin, Raulot

James, Jago,Jacob(i),Jacce, Jack(lin), Jagge, Jakot, Jackett, Jackamin,Jex,Jem(me), Gimelot, Jimme, Jaycock, Jakock, Jankin, Jaques, Cob(et), Jakemin
Reginald,Reynold, Reynaud, Reginaud

Anketil,Antel,Anker,Antin,Aske Asketil,Askil,Annakin(Yo), Asti

Arnold, Arnaud, Arnot, Arnel
Richard,Rick,,Rich(ie) Digge,Ricot,Richelot,Rickard, Dicel, Dic(con), Dicet, Dicelin, Diggen, Hick(ot, Hicun, Hickot

Auberon, Aubrey, Oberon, Avery, Avo, Aves, Auvery, Aubert, Albray, Albert
John, Jack, Jankin, Jenkin, Jan(cock), Hank (Flem) Henk(e) (fl) Henkin (fl) Hann,Jonet,Jehan, Janin, Janne, Jenin, Hancock (fl)

Robert, Rob(in), Robelard, Dobb(in), Hobb(in), Hobelot, Hobelin, Hopkin, Nobb, Nabb, Nabelot, Bobbet

Bartholomew,Bart,Ba(t)te Barty(Scots),Batty,Batkin,Bette Bartelot, Bertelot, Bertelmew
Joscelin/Goscelin,  Josse, Joyce Josset, Gotselin, Gotsone, Jukel, Judoc, Joy, Joshin, Joce, Goss, Got(te), Goslin.Joel Juhel, Jool, Jol, Johol, Joelin, Joylin, jollein
Randolph Randall, Randle, Randulf, Rand(y), Hann, Rann, Ranulf, Rankin, Randekin, Ranel, Rendall

Christopher,Stoffer, Kit*(te), Kester, Kitelin, Christal (Scots
Roger, Hogg* Rodge, Hodge, Dodge, Dogge, Doggin, Hodgekin.

Denis, Dionysus, Den(et), Denzil, Denisel
Lawrence/Laurence, Larry, Lorenz,Larkin, Lorkin, Laret, Lawrie, Lowrie, Low,Laur
Silas/Silvester, Silvanus, Selwyn, Selvayn, Savin, Salvin, Selwin

Egidius, Aegidius, Giles,Gille, Gillard, Gilo, Gisel
Leonard,Leo,Lyel,Leon,Leunot, Leonides, Lionel, Leoline
Simon,Sim(o)nel,Sim(kin), Simond, Simonet, Simcock

Elias, Ellis Elcock, Helle, Eliot,Elwaud(Scots) Elwat, Eluat Eluolt Elkin, Helyas, Hellis, Elyet, Allat, Alard Adalard, Elicoc, Hellcock, Elie
Luke,Lucius, Lucian,Ludovic, Luck Lucas, Luket
Theodore,Theodoric, Terry, Todrick, Torrey, Tyrri, Tedric, Therry, Thierry (Fr) Deryk (flem) Torald, Tory

Matthew, Mayhew, Makin, Masse, Math(e), Mathy, Matkin, Maton

Geoffrey,Jeppe,Geff,Gepp,Jeeves, Jeff, Jefcock, Jeffkin, Jeffrey
Michael Mihel, Michel Miot, Mighell, Miche, Miell, Miles, Milo
Thomas,Tom(lin) Tomkin, Tomcock, Tam(lin), Tommis

Gerald,  Gerard, Girard, Garard, Garrald, Garrood, Jarrold, Jarrot, Jerald, Greoud, Jared
Nicholas, Colin, Colcock, Cole, Coll, Colkin, Colet, Nicol, Nicolin, Nicks, Nix
Theobald,TibaltTibbald,Tebbet, Tebb(el) Tybaud Tepp, Talbot

Gilbert,Gibb,Gibelin,Gibelot, Gip
Odo, Odelin, Eudo,Otho,Odinel, Othello
Vivian,Vidian,.Fithian, Fidd,Fidkin,Fiddian, Vidgen

Hamo,Hamlet,Hamlin,Hammet, Hamnet,Hamon(d),Haim(o),Hame Hamon,Aymes,Hamekin,,Hawkin
Orlando/Roland, Rollet, Rollin Rowland, Rowlatt, Rollant,Ruel, Rollanz, Rauland
William,Wilmot,Guylote,Will(y), Willet,Wilot,Wilcock,Gilot, Gilmyn


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  2. Hello! I am doing research into ship names, and came across your blog. I was wondering where you compiled this information from? It's all very interesting and would really help with my research! Thanks!

  3. Believe it or not, a lot of it came from the Oxford Dictionary of Surnames, because a lot of modern surnames derive from old pet names! I've also wandered through a few old assize documents, and there are things like 'Walter of Trimley alias Watkin' which give some of the names by which people were known. Confusing is that Hen, Han, Henk, Henkin and so on were not just Henry but could also be John; and that both John and James were known as Jack, though it derived originally through the French Jacques for James. James and Jacob were both recorded as Jacobus in Latin documents. For later ship names may I recommend a reprint of what was a collection from the Lloyds List, ships of 1800 Lloyds list is the oldest continuously published newspaper in the world, and a letter to Lloyds might get you access to some of their earlier records. Also there are lists of warships at the Maritime Museum at Greenwich but I believe you need an appointment to get to see them. I think some may be on fiche, and some may have been digitised. Certainly half of the Anthony Anthony roll is there but you have to jump through hoops to see it. The other half is, I THINK in the Bodleian. The ships of the Henrician navy are however listed in such books as 'Tudor Sea Power' which should be available on inter-library loan if your local library doesn't hold it [it's a bit specialised!] heh, maybe I should do a series of blogs on ship names too

    1. That's fantastic, thanks so much for your help! I recently bought the Oxford Dictionary of Surnames, but hadn't looked through it yet! So perfect :)

  4. there are a lot of gems of information in it, names with dates and places. The Domesday book is also available in a big hardback which is quite truncated info but covers everywhere, for earlier names.