Saturday, April 30, 2011

Norman Names

When meeting someone for the first time, it is common to ask "where are you from?". In Kentucky, if you are not from Louisville or Lexington, you reply by stating stating "I'm from 'such and such county'." I am from Clark County or, I am from Boyle County. The Normans took this to the extreme by including the place they were from into their very name. They used a French term "de" which literally is a preposition meaning "of". In context this would mean "from". Thus Saber de Aldham would be staying, I am Saber from Aldham, by just giving his name.

In the Patent Rolls of Henry III, A.D. 1216-1225, there is an index which list the recorded name of the folks involved in these accounts of Norman history. The most common form of Norman name follows this structure: (name) followed by (de) followed by (location). Examples are William de Abbrineis, Ralph de Aeneurt, and Robert de Dunewich. Now when a son of the first Norman was given, it would be listed as Robert son of Robert de Dunewich. This type of recording was necessary to distinguish between the two Roberts.

In these Norman records, it was also common to list an individual by using the French "de le" or "de la". [le being masculine, and la being feminine gender] The French meaning "of the" where the article "le/la" matches the gender of the word it precedes. Thus John de la Barre, and Roger de la Barre would mean John of the Barre.

At times there would be a listing like today's names, such as Fremin Bekin, Michael Belet, and Reginald Cabus. This name type would often be following by series of descriptors such as, " W. Cadel, master of the Templars this side the mountains".

In some cases, all types would be combined such as "Master Geoffrey de Calete, envoy to the Pope". In this case, a qualifier (master) was followed by (name), followed by (of), followed by (location).

It was at this time that the term "fitz" was also used. A listing such as "Henry son of Reginald Fitz-Count" This term means "son of" but appears to be an application of the Anglo-Saxon "fetys" meaning "well-made". [Perhaps a tongue in cheek or a statement of respect.] Thus, the name would mean, Henry son of Reginald son of "well-made" Count.

Well there you have it. The Normans wanted you to know where they were from. As indicated in the previous post, the Welsh wanted you to know who their father was. Where are you from? Who is your father? Much like today.

The reference analyzed is "Patent Rolls", Henry III, A.D. 1216-1225. Public Record Office, London.

1 comment:

  1. I want to find out more about the origins of surnames.