2020, Volume 17, Issue 3

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Vladislav V. Alpatov
Moscow City Teacher Training University
Moscow, Russia

Medieval English Nicknames and Surnames with Christian Associations

Voprosy onomastiki, 2020, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp. 23–50 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2020.17.3.033

Received on 31 January 2020

Abstract: The article surveys Medieval English nicknames and the derivative modern surnames carrying Christian associations through their motivation. Most commonly, these nicknames would originally refer to a clerical order or office (e.g. Clark < clerk) and then subsequently take the form of a patronymic (e.g. Vickerson < vicar). Some of these are properly occupational, designating the office itself (e.g. Prest) or the relation to people in holy or monastic orders: a familial (the name could be inherited by legitimate or, after the 12th c., illegitimate, children) or working one (e.g. Monkman). Alternatively, such nicknames are metaphoric denoting people that resembled priests, monks, etc. (e.g. Cardinal). A number of nicknames refer to diverse minor church offices like sexton and chanter, as well as religiously and socially marked people like palmer. There is also the type of metonymic nicknames that describe the conduct of the bearer in religious and moral terms, e.g. as pious or prayerful (e.g. Holyman). Less widespread but more varied are “event-nicknames” under which heading the author subsumes what is traditionally called pageant names, from the alleged roles in Medieval drama (e.g. Herod), and names deriving from church festivals (e.g. Christmas). Religious associations also appear in names derived from oaths and favourite phrases of the named persons (e.g. Godspeed). The array therefore puts on display a wide range of Medieval social roles and attitudes, and allows to speculate on their respective prominence. Parallels are drawn with Old Russian names and nicknames, and several alternative explanations or specifications for English nicknames are suggested. The article continues the series of publications devoted to the influence of Christianity on the English and, wider, Medieval European namegiving.

Keywords: surnames history, medieval nicknames, Christian associations, religious motifs, vocabulary of religion, motivation of names, English name studies.


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