15th Century Italian Men's Names

By Brian Scott (Talan Gwynek)

In University Records and Life in the Middle Ages, trans. and with an intro. and notes by Lynn Thorndyke (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1975), selection 138 is a list of the promoters and examiners of Matheus de Capitaniis de Busti when he received the doctorate of arts in 1438 and the doctorate of medicine in 1441 from the university of Pavia. Thorndyke says that for the most part he's left the names in the Latin of his source, a collection published in 1789. I've no reason to doubt that this reproduces the Latin of the original. I have simply omitted the three names that appear to have been Englished, as well as any locatives that use the English preposition 'of'.

Selection 159 from the same source is a salary list of doctors and scholars who lectured at the university of Ferrara between the Feast of St. Luke in October, 1473, and the same Feast a year later. If the names have been normalized, it can only be *very* lightly, given the obvious dialect features. Those are most noticeable in the use of z and x. Zanfrancesco is evidently a variant of Gianfrancesco, Zohane is clearly a 'John' variant, and Zirondi is probably a form of Girondi. This substitution is especially common in Venice and Emilia-Romagna. d'Arzenta is for d'Argenta; the substitution of z for g is characteristic of Emilia-Romagna, where the name may—as I suspect is the case here—be toponymic. Nigrixolla appears to be a variant of Negrisola from Venice of Emilia-Romagna, and Piaxenza is Piacenza. From this it appears that Pexaro may be Pesaro.

It's noticeable that da is the normal locative pronoun, but see also the names Ruberto di Girardin da Lendenara and Nicolò de Girardin de Lendenara: here we see normal Italian usage in the first name and substitution of de for *both* prepositions in the second. In de Bertolin, de Vi(n)cenzi, de Gilino, and de Marcho Galeotto the preposition is probably patronymic, but de Piamonti is probably a locative 'of Piemonte'. If the final a can be trusted, de Argentina is probably metronymic. The name di Paxiti is clearly patronymic; the source is a diminutive of the name Pace, from Latin pax 'peace'. The name di Zirondi is more difficult to interpret. In this dialect Zirondi should be from Gironde, the name of a French province. It appears that either di is being used here with locative sense, or this is a patronymic based on a byname.

The names dai Liuti and dai Carri might be translated 'from/at/by the lutes' and 'from/at/by the carts'. Fucilla (25) says that the latter appears early in the form quel(lo) dai/dei carri 'he of the carts', more of a pure description than a true byname. At any rate, these names appear to be originally occupational in function, for a lute-maker and a carter. The name del Avvogaro is harder to interpret. An av(v)ogaro was a lawyer or attorney, but the term could also refer to a high mercantile official or to the mayor of a commune. I suspect that the byname was patronymic, but it could also have been topographical. I can't completely explain dal Sagrà. A sagrato is a churchyard, however, and I can easily believe that sagrà is an older dialect form; if so, this is a straightforward topographical locative.

Bolognin is probably just an ethnic term for someone from Bologna, but Fucilla mentions that it was also the name of a coin. Zambotto may be patronymic. Fucilla gives Iacopotto as a diminutive of Iacopo 'Jacob', and the derived surname Pottino implies the existence of the pet form Potto. Gian (Iaco)potto, or in this dialect Zan (Iaco)potto, could well assimilate to Zambotto. Sandeo could perhaps be a contraction of what would be santo Dio 'blessed God' in modern Italian, possibly deriving from a favorite oath.

Most of the forenames are recognizable. Filin may be Fileno. Boetio clearly represents the name of the Latin scholar Boetius. Hellia is a variant of Elio. Orazio is a standard form that may not be familiar: it's from Horatius. Piedrobon is a double name, Pietro Bono. Corradin is a diminutive of the Italian borrowing of Conrad. Palmerin is a diminutive of Palm(i)ero, an original byname for a pilgrim ('palmer') used as a forename from the 12th c.