October 9th, 2012


Medieval Names

Deciding on a good name for a character seems to be almost as difficult as naming a real child. One of the questions about the Middle Ages I see most often is "What should I call my character?" Fortunately, there are a number of resources online that can help you find just the right medieval name.

Sara L. Uckelman (aka Aryanhwy merch Catmael) of the Society for Creative Anachronism has combed through the indices of quite a few edited medieval documents and produced some useful lists of names for different regions and time periods, most of them from the later Middle Ages.

An additional source for Anglo-Saxon names right up to the reign of King John is the Onomasticon Anglo-Saxonicum edited by William George Searle in 1897.

For Old Norse names, see the detailed discussion at The Viking Answer Lady.

Like today, medieval people also enjoyed coming up with imaginative names when they wrote fantasy. Leaf through Ernest Langlois's Table des noms propres dans les chansons de geste to see the kinds of names for people and places that showed up in the romances.

Finally, see if you can lay your hands on a copy of Means of Naming: A Social and Cultural History of Naming in Western Europe by Stephen Wilson. Its section on medieval names has useful information about the spread of Christian names in Europe, medieval conventions for naming children, the point at which second names came to be used in different regions, and the periods when surnames became hereditary for different peoples and social classes.