A Brief Introduction to Medieval Bynames

by Talan Gwynek (Brian M. Scott) and Arval Benicoeur (Joshua Mittleman)
scott@math.csuohio.edu and mittle@panix.com

© 1999-2004 by Brian M. Scott and Joshua Mittleman; all rights reserved.
Revised 22 Jul 2004

Sources for Medieval Bynames

If you'd like more information about bynames used in a particular medieval culture or if you'd like to see a larger selection of possibilities, here are a few good books you can consult. You will also find a large collection of articles on medieval names and lists of names from various cultures in the
Medieval Names Archive. If you don't see anything that covers the culture that interests you, please contact the Academy of Saint Gabriel; we may be able to help.

Some of these sources are modern dictionaries of surnames. Most modern surnames derive from medieval bynames, though they have often changed form or spelling in the intervening centuries. The best studies of surnames trace them back to their origins and give early, dated examples. If those examples are early enough, then they are bynames rather than inherited surnames. We have included in this list surname dictionaries that meet this criterion. Other can also be used to choose medieval bynames, but it requires more expert knowledge.





Low Countries




Scots (not Gaelic)




Layout, editting, and publishing by Arval Benicoeur.