Feminine Given Names from
Thirteenth Century Perugia

by Arval Benicoeur (Josh Mittleman)

© 1997 by Joshua D. Mittleman; all rights reserved.

The Source

These names appear in a tax roll of the city of Perugia taken in 1285. The tax roll is studied by Alberto Grohmann in L'Imposizione Diretta nei Comuni della'Italia Centrale nel XII Secolo: La Libra di Perugia del 1285 (Paris, Torino: École Française de Rome, 1986). This work includes a complete transcription of the tax roll, an index to people taxed, an economic study of 13th century Perugia, and a brief onomastic analysis. As part of his onomastic analysis, Grohmann compiled a list of all feminine names that appear in the Libra. He did not, alas, provide a parallel analysis of masculine names; I plan to do that analysis myself.

The Libra is entirely in Latin, and because of the way it was recorded, all the names are in the genitive case. For example, the tax collected from Ugolino Davini is recorded as Libra Ugolini Davini est 100.

The Libra records 5755 names. Of these, Grohmann counted 612 as feminine, excluding names of questionable gender, but including names that appear in matronymic surnames. In that sample, he found 251 distinct names plus numerous hypocoristic forms. He discusses these names at some length, summarizing his results in an alphabetical list with counts of the number of times each name occurs. I have used that table as the basis for the lists presented in the pages referenced below. I expect to add more detail to this presentation as I study Grohmann's work, and I will eventually index the masculine names as well.

The feminine names in the Libra are unusually diverse. The twelve most common names account for only 34% of the sample. Compare this with a sample of feminine names from 14th century York, where the twelve most common names account for 89% of the sample and 16th century English women's names, where the top five names account for 51%. The average of 2.4 instances of each name is also unusually low: 20% of the women have unique names and 38% have names which occur 3 or fewer times. These figures suggest that late 13th century Italy was one of the historical moments when different namestocks converged, in this case the old Latin stock (Iuliana, Iohanna, Setembrina) and the newer French and German stocks (Bruna, Ugolina, Gualterutia). In addition, we can see a large number of descriptive or attributive given names (Rosa, Bona, Albina, compound descriptives (Clarastella, Altadonna, Bonafemina), devotional names (Angela, Maridonna), and other unusual names that defy easy classification. One might speculate that this was a time of significant name invention, but that hypothesis could only be checked by comparing this sample with other data earlier and later. That may be possible in the future; Grohmann refers to a subsequent census in 1313.

Names listed by frequency
Names listed alphabetically