• An Oxford Historian

Early Medieval Occupational Bynames

Updated: Apr 26

Another consistent theme in early medieval English naming is the presence of bynames/nicknames that reflect occupation and work. Not only do these give us an interesting slice of life and employment options from the period, but also points towards a focus on the social roles played by these individuals within their communities. My interest here is primarily not with clear expressions of rank or occupation - these are certainly important, and there are many of them. However, there are many further cases where occupation names are metaphorical or employ a deliberate judgment on the quality of the craft - these are far more intriguing.


God' Softebred - Soft Bread (von Feilitzen, 216)

From the c.1110 survey in Winton, this would seem to reflect a reference to the quality of the bread. Indeed, baking is a frequently occurring theme. Girold Furwatel - Cake-Oven - is found in the 1148 survey and reflects a similar focus (von Feilitzen, 216).


Lichesuster - Corpse Nun (von Feilitzen, 164)

From the 1148 survey in Winton, von Feilitzen suggests this is a name given to one who prepares corpses for burial.


Winstan Escipport - Shut-Gate (von Feilitzen, 211)

Found within the c.1110 Winton survey, this is potentially a reference to a gate-keeping job. Possible comparison here is to be drawn with Godwin Porriz - Tengik glosses a possible translation as 'porch, vestibule' (Tengvik, 390), implying a similar occupation, although von Feilitzen does not support this (von Feilitzen, 215).


Ascelin Casier - 'Cheese-Cellar' (von Feilitzen, 209

Winton Domesday - survey of c. 1110. This is presumably a reference to a seller of cheese.


R. Tailgebosc - Cut Wood (Tengvik, 388)

There are a substantial grouping of occupation bynames in Domesday that focus on a verb and noun compound - the doing of an action. There are at least 4 individuals with the Old French byname Tailgebosc, presumably referencing a forester or a carpenter. Dunninges Tailiferes - Cut Iron - is similar (Tengvik, 388). Hunters appear to be given the names Aelfric StikeStac - Stick/Stab Stag - Alwine Stichehar - Stick/Stab Hare - and Stichehert - Stick/Stab Hart (Tengvik, 387). We must assume that Æilmer Stachecoc - Spit (roast) Cock - was a cook (Tengvik, 387).


Luuinges Scalarius - Laddermaker (Tengvik, 267)

From Domesday. While this one is itself not very colourful, it is an interesting reflection of employment - was this individual tasked solely with making ladders, or just particularly good at it?


Ticchemannessone - 'man who keeps or breeds kids'

Slightly less ominous than first appears, this is a reference to a shepherd.


  • Interested in history, and keen to access more information and resources? Subscribe to the blog using the form below to keep up to date!

  • Check out my previous articles on Anglo-Saxon (here), Viking (here) and obscene (here) nicknames. A new Deep-Dive article on Anglo-Saxon thegnly diets can be found here.

  • Consider donating to help maintain the cost of the website - students have to eat too!

Bibliography


von Feilitzen, O. 'The Personal Names and Bynames of the Winton Domesday' in M. Biddle (ed.) Winchester in the Early Medieval Ages (Oxford, 1976), pp. 143-229


Tengvik, G. Old English Bynames (Uppsala, 1938)



0 comments

Recent Posts

See All