Names of women in late 16th century Hungarian court records from Transylvania

by Julia P. Szent-Györgyi, known in the SCA as Kolosvari Arpadne Julia
© 2011


This data is based on Demény Lajos & Pataki József, editors: Székely oklevéltár (new series, volume 1; Kriterion Könyvkiadó, Bukarest, 1983), which is a transcription, with indexes, of the surviving record books from the court at Székelyudvarhely (literally “Szekler-court-place”) in Transylvania. These records were written in a mixture of Latin and Hungarian, often switching languages mid-sentence or even mid-phrase. The cases recorded range from disagreements over property, to hiring of lawyers, to witness statements in criminal prosecutions.

According to the introduction, the transcription is fairly faithful: abbreviations are silently expanded or standardized, capitalization and other punctuation follows modern conventions, and diacritics are simplified due to typographic constraints (for example, ý, ÿ, and y with a single dot above are rendered as either ÿ or plain y, depending on context), but spelling is otherwise unchanged from the manuscript. The material is presented chronologically by numbered files or notebooks. Each file can consist of multiple cases, and some cases are spread over multiple files.

I used the index of people and places to write out all of the feminine names found in the text, discovering and correcting some indexing errors along the way. This article consists of a quick overview of feminine names, a list of given names with a frequency table, a discussion of name structures with examples and a note on marital names, and a spreadsheet containing the full names. Analysis and translation of the surnames will be a project for another day.

A Quick Overview of 16th c. Hungarian Feminine Names

Just like boys, Hungarian girls were given a (single) name at birth or baptism, and got their family names from their fathers: Cybre Anna and her younger brother Cybre Ambrus presumably had a father with the surname Cybre (a type of sour soup). In Hungarian writing, as in speech, the family name preceded the given name. Much writing at the time was in Latin, however, and in Latin, names were Latinized: given names were translated to the nearest standard Latin equivalent, modulo the scribe’s knowledge of names, and the family name, untranslated, was written after the given name. Sometimes translation changed only the order, because the given name was the same in both languages: Cybre Anna would be Anna Cybre in Latin. Sometimes, however, the change was more drastic: Anna’s brother would be Ambrosius Cybre, and there was one gentleman who was identified as Gywlafi Lestar in one place, and Eustachius Gywlaffi in another.

When a girl grew up and got married, she still had her maiden name, unchanged, but she also acquired a married name: her husband’s full name plus the suffix -ne (-né in modern spelling), which means ‘wife, Mrs., woman’. When Cybre Anna married Dios Ferencz, she acquired the name Dios Ferenczne. Depending on context, she could use both her married and her full maiden name together (e.g. Dios Ferenczne Cybre Anna), or her married name with just her given name (e.g. Dios Ferenczne Anna), or just her married name, or just her maiden name. Notice that she cannot simply take Dios (‘with walnuts’) as her surname: Dios Anna (or Anna Dios in Latin) would be a different woman—her daughter, perhaps.

Latin renderings of married women’s names are somewhat varied, but generally use some word for ‘wife’ along with the possessive form of the husband’s Latinized name. Many sources use uxor, but the court records presented here favor consors, with a few other possibilities: the woman named Fanchaly Martonne Katalin in one place is called coniunx Marthini Fanchalj Catherina elsewhere.

In some smaller villages, family names were rare, and literal bynames were used instead: Szentkirali Gaspar, ki lakott vgian az meg nevezett Zentkiraly falvaban ... Gaspar Simon, ki fia volt Zentkirali Gasparnak. En penig, Simon Janos, Gaspar Simon fia vagiok.... ‘Caspar of Szentkirály, who lived in the aforementioned village of Szentkirály... Simon Caspar, who was the son of Caspar of Szentkirály. And I, John Simon, am the son of Simon Caspar.... ’ I did not find such an obvious case of feminine literal bynames, but that’s probably because of the smaller number of examples.

The one seeming exception to Hungarian surname-first name order occurs with occupations: it is not unusual to find examples like Istuan Kouaczjne Sophia ‘Mrs. Stephen the smith, Sophia’ alongside ones like Kowaczj Mihalyne Anna ‘Mrs. Michael Smith, Anna’. The difference is that in the first case, the occupation is meant literally, while in the second it’s a surname: Steve was definitely a smith, Mike probably wasn’t. Titles and terms of address, such as asszony ‘lady, [married] woman, goodwife’, behave the same way: if they’re used literally, they follow the name.

Feminine Given Names

Notation: headers are in brackets, and use the modern standard spellings of the names as a guide to pronunciation. The period spellings are in italics, exactly as found in the text; those with suffixes are marked with an ‘s’, those in a Latin context are marked with ‘L’, and Latin oblique cases are marked ‘L-o’. Numbers in parentheses are item numbers, referring to the spreadsheet of full names. (Nominative forms of names marked ‘s’ or ‘L-o’ can be found in the spreadsheet.)

Name Frequency (by modern, standard form)

unknown given name 44 19.4%
[Katalin] 35 19.1%
[Anna] 29 15.8%
[Ilona] 19 10.4%
[Orsolya] 16 8.7%
[Márta] 14 7.7%
[Erzsébet] 12 6.6%
[Zsófia] 12 6.6%
[Borbála] 10 5.5%
[Dorottya] 8 4.4%
[Margit] 7 3.8%
[Krisztina] 4 2.2%
[Luca] 4 2.2%
[Ágota] 2 1.1%
[Anka] 2 1.1% one Vlach/Romanian
[Magdolna] 2 1.1%
[Dobra] 1 0.5% Vlach/Romanian
[Fruzsina] 1 0.5%
[Gertrud] 1 0.5%
[Julia] 1 0.5%
[Piroska] 1 0.5%
[Sára] 1 0.5%
[Veronika] 1 0.5%
total: 227 named: 183

Name Spellings

Aghota 1591 (334)
Agota 1591 2x (320, 349)
Ancha 1589 (50)
s Ankaet 1590 (51)
s Ankanak 1590 2x (163, 164)
Anna 1586 (6), 1589 5x (15, 23, 51, 52, 84), 1590 12x (117, 127, 129, 130, 135, 156, 175, 231, 237, 247, 248, 258), 1591 6x (322, 328, 330, 353, 360, 392)
s Anazony 1589 (94)
s Annat 1589 (44), 1590 2x (123, 124)
s Annath 1590 (194)
s Annatol 1590 (196)
s Annaual 1590 (197)
L Anna 1590 3x (182, 256, 260), 1591 3x (366, 377, 381)
L-o Annae 1591 (331)
Barbala 1590 (235)
Barbara 1589 (101), 1591 (396)
Borbala 1589 3x (31, 40, 41), 1590 5x (109, 115, 144, 149, 159)
Borbara 1589 (36), 1590 (169)
s Barbarat 1591 (397)
L Borbala 1590 (263)
Dobra 1591 (368)
Dorotia 1590 3x (108, 126, 277)
Dorotthia 1589 (100)
Dorottia 1590 (239)
Durutthia 1590 (192)
Duruttya 1591 (391)
Dwruttia 1591 2x (393, 394)
L Dorothia 1590 (251)
Eorsebet 1590 6x (116, 136, 178, 179, 243, 270)
Eorsebett 1589 (35)
Ersebet 1589 (95), 1591 (401)
Orzebet 1589 (42)
L Elisabetha 1590 (245)
L Elizabetha 1591 (290)
L Frwsina 1590 (252)
Gedrwt 1589 (60)
Ilona 1588 2x (11, 13), 1589 4x (49, 64, 78, 92), 1590 5x (103, 107, 145, 240, 264), 1591 6x (287, 291, 305, 338, 339, 340)
s Ilonanak 1588 2x (10, 12)
s Ilonara 1591 (309)
s Ilonarol 1591 (369)
s Ilonat 1591 2x (308, 310)
L Ilona 1590 (249)
L Haelena 1590 (217)
L Helena 1590 2x (180, 184)
Julia 1590 (172)
Cata 1590 3x (232, 241, 280)
Catha 1589 (22), 1590 2x (132, 267)
Chata 1589 (48)
Kata 1583 2x (1, 2), 1589 (47), 1590 2x (242, 246), 1591 2x (319, 345)
s Catanak 1590 (275)
s Cathaert 1590 (265)
s Cathanak 1590 (274)
s Cathaual 1590 (266)
s Kataual 1590 (244)
s Katthanak 1589 3x (17, 18, 19)
Catalin 1589 2x (43, 65), 1590 (230), 1591 (363)
Cathalin 1590 9x (114, 125, 128, 138, 191, 259, 262, 272, 281), 1591 3x (306, 313, 399)
Cathalina 1590 (255)
Katalin 1589 4x (61, 62, 63, 79), 1590 2x (102, 205), 1591 3x (284, 285, 292)
Katalyn 1589 (53)
Katalyna 1589 (57)
L Catalina 1590 (250)
L Catherina 1590 (185), 1591 2x (288, 367)
L Cattharina 1589 (74)
L Chatharina 1590 (181)
L Kathalin 1590 (189)
Christina 1590 2x (166, 167)
Kerestina 1589 (54), 1591 (294
Kereztina 1590 (186)
Lucza 1589 (66), 1590 (261)
Luczcza 1590 (112
L Lucia 1589 (75), 1590 (183)
Magdolna 1590 (254), 1591 (404)
Margit 1589 (27), 1590 4x (113, 134, 137, 257)
Margith 1590 (210)
L-o Margaretam 1591 (362)
Marta 1591 2x (300, 303)
Martha 1585 (4), 1589 5x (24, 25, 39, 72, 82), 1590 5x (118, 121, 228, 269, 279), 1591 4x (283, 298, 317, 403)
Marttha 1589 (28)
Mar[t]ha 1590 (120)
s Marthat 1590 (271)
L Martha 1589 (70)
Orsolia 1589 4x (29, 30, 38, 85), 1590 6x (131, 193, 234, 238, 273, 278), 1591 2x (293, 395)
Orzolia 1589 (71)
Vrsula 1591 3x (333, 335, 336)
s Orsoliahoz 1590 (282)
L Orzolia 1589 (26)
L Vrsolia 1589 (69)
Piroska 1591 (315)
Sara 1589 (81)
Veronika 1590 (111)
Soffia 1585 (5)
Soffya 1589 (58)
Sofya 1589 (96)
Sophia 1589 2x (21, 97), 1590 5x (110, 119, 190, 236, 276), 1591 2x (299, 302)
Sophj 1590 (133)
Sophja 1589 (16)
s Sophjanak 1589 (20)
L Sophia 1591 (289)

Name Structures

There are 406 mentions of a woman by name in this volume of the court records. In categorizing these items into broad patterns, I have counted as name elements all given names, as well as anything that the -né ‘Mrs.’ suffix can attach to under the right circumstances: surnames or bynames, and occupations. Relationship terms, places of residence, and terms of address are counted as modifiers of the basic patterns. For example, Nagj Istuanne, galambfaluaj, Agota aszoni is categorized as a three-element name: the husband’s surname is Nagj ‘Big, Elder’, his given name is Istuan ‘Stephen’, and his wife’s given name is Agota ‘Agatha’. The word galambfaluaj means ‘of Galambfalva [Pigeon-ville]’, and aszoni is one possible spelling of the basic feminine term of address or title asszony, roughly equivalent in use to ‘milady’ or ‘goodwife’. As another example, relicta quondam Valentini Varga, Chatharina de Kerezturffalua is also a three-element name.

I started out intending to separate Latin names from Hungarian ones, but gave up after encountering examples like honesta mulier relicta Sofalj Birthalanne, Elizabetha, which uses the Hungarian form of the husband’s name (surname first, and a Hungarian form of his given name, with the Hungarian marital suffix at the end) in the midst of otherwise Latin text. In any case, only about one name in twelve is in Latin.

Single-element names: 23 total (5.7%).

Of these, 21 use the woman’s given name (with or without modifiers), while 2 use the husband’s surname or occupation plus the marital suffix.
Modifiers: 1 place of residence, 4 asszony, 9 relationship terms (4 felesege ‘his wife’, 4 leania ‘his daughter’, 1 onokam ‘my grandchild’), 1 ethnic description.

Example modern spelling English translation
Borbala azzonj Borbála asszony goodwife Barbara
felesege Kerestina felesége Krisztina his wife Kristina
Timarne Tímárné Mrs. Tímár (Tanner)
Dobra neuÿ olahne Dobra nevű oláhné the Vlach woman named Dobra

Mrs.-type names (two-element names that do not include the woman’s given name): 154 items (37.9%).

Of these, 126 are unmodified: just X Yne, where X is the husband’s surname, and Y is his given name.
Modifiers: 12 places of residence, 2 asszony, 7 relationship terms (3 relicta, 1 consors, 2 nehai ‘the late’, 1 felesege), 8 use a literal occupation and hence reverse the order (Y Xne), and 2 have multi-word bynames.

Example modern spelling English translation
Balogh Janosne Balogh Jánosné Mrs. John Balogh (Lefty)
Bikafaluj Hegy Ferenczne bikafalui Hegy Ferencné Mrs. Francis Hegy (Mountain) of Bikafalu
consors Antonii Istuanfj consors Antonii Istvánfi wife of Anthony Istvánfi (Stephenson)
Sigmond Kouaczjnenak Zsigmond kovácsnénak for Mrs. Sigmund the smith
Nagy Kereseo Balasne Nagy Kereső Balázsné Mrs. Blaise Kereső (lit. ‘searcher’, a type of official or judge) Senior

Maiden names (two-element names that do not include a man’s name): 16 examples (3.9%).

Of these, 11 are unmodified, consisting of the woman’s surname and given name.
Modifiers: 2 places of residence, 3 asszony.

Example modern spelling English translation
Sereczien Cata Szerecsen Kata Kate Szerecsen (Saracen)
czikizentimrehi Bak Annat csíkiszentimrei Bak Annát (accusative case) Anna Bak (Buck) of Csíkszentimre
Betlen Anna aszoni Betlen Anna asszony goodwife Anna Betlen (shortened form of Bethlehem)

Three-element names: 178 items (43.8%).

The basic pattern here is X Yne Z, where X is the husband’s byname, Y is his given name, and Z is the woman’s given name. There are 50 examples of this bare pattern, without modifiers.
Modifiers: 50 places of residence, 71 asszony, 9 non-wife relationships (4 arvaia ‘his orphan’, 4 leania, 1 filia), 20 ‘wife’ (12 consors, 4 coniunx, 4 felesege), 15 ‘widow’ (12 relicta, 3 nehai), 4 multi-word bynames, and 6 occupations (reverse order: Y Xne Z).

Example modern spelling English translation
Faggias Janosne Anna Faggyas Jánosné Anna Anna, Mrs. John Faggyas (Chandler)
Agiaghffalj Simon Palne Martha agyagfalui Simon Pálné Márta Martha, Mrs. Paul Simon of Agyagfalu
Nemet Mihaljne Borbala azzonj Német Mihályné Borbála asszony goodwife Barbara, Mrs. Michael Német (German)
a’ megh halt Damakos Myhalj aruaianak, Ilonanak a meghalt Damakos Mihály árvájának, Ilonának for Helen, orphan of the deceased Michael Damakos (Dominic)
nehaj Cziokor Ferenczne Orsolia azzonj néhai Csokor Ferencné Orsolya asszony goodwife Ursula, Mrs. the late Francis Csokor (Bouquet)
Ethedj Nagy Kiraly Georgine Martha azonj etédi Nagy Király Györgyné Márta asszony goodwife Martha, Mrs. George Király (King) Senior of Etéd
Menihart deakne Eorsebet Menyhárt deákné Erzsébet Elizabeth, Mrs. Melchior the clerk

Four-element names: 24 items (5.9%).

Of these, 5 are just X Yne A B, where X is the husband’s byname, Y is his given name, A is the woman’s byname, and B is her given name.
Modifiers: 1 place of residence, 9 asszony, 9 relationships (4 nehai, 2 relicta, 2 felesege, 1 ura ‘her husband/lord’), 3 reverse order (AB XYne), 6 literal occupations (YXne), and 1 non-wife (a man’s sister).

Example modern spelling English translation
Kouaczj Mihalne Gagj Ilona Kovács Mihályné Gagyi Ilona Mrs. Michael Kovács (Smith), Helen Gagyi (of Gagy)
Janos Gerebne betlenffalj Swkj Borbala János gerébné betlenfalui Süki Borbála Mrs. John the village elder, Barbara Süki (of Sük) of Betlenfalu
nehaj Keoreossi Mihaljne Vattaj Anna azzonj néhai Kőrösi Mihályné Vatai Anna asszony Mrs. the late Michael Kőrösi (of Kőrös), goodwife Anna Vatai (of Vata)
Cybre Ambrus nenieth, Cybre Annath Cibre Ambrus nénjét, Cibre Annát (accusative case) Ambrose Cibre’s (a type of sour soup) elder sister Anna Cibre

Miscellaneous: 11 items don’t quite fit any of the categories above (2.7%).

Of these, 3 mention more than one male relative, 3 give both a byname and an occupation for the husband, and most are complex phrases rather than single names.

Example modern spelling English translation
Nemet Mihalne, ki az eleott Zewch Mihalne volt Német Mihályné, ki azelőtt Szűcs Mihályné volt Mrs. Michael Német (German), who was previously Mrs. Michael Szűcs (Furrier)
Homoros Janos deakne Sophia de Vduarhelj Homoros János deákné Zsofia de Udvarhely Mrs. John Homoros (perhaps hámoros, a type of smith) the clerk, Sofia of Udvarhely
Dwruttia azzonj leania az en aniam Orsolia azzonj Dorottya asszony leánya az én anyám Orsolya asszony goodwife Dorothy’s daughter, my mother goodwife Ursula
Bodo Benedekne, olahffalj, Vrunk darabantia felesege, Eorsebet Bodó Benedekné, oláhfalui, urunk darabantja felesége, Erzsébet Mrs. Benedict Bodó (patronymic), of Oláhfalu, our lord’s infantryman’s wife, Elizabeth

A special note on marital names

More than three-fourths (316) of the items use the marital suffix -ne. 22 of these are attached to the husband’s occupation (<man’s given> + <occupation>-ne), two are on the husband’s surname or occupation alone, and one is attached to the woman’s ethnicity (using in this case the more basic meaning of ‘woman’, generally rounded to “nő” in modern usage and spelling). The rest (291 examples) are appended to the husband’s full name in Hungarian: <surname> + <man’s given>-ne. This most common format may omit the woman’s personal name entirely (144 examples), or it may be followed by her given name (135 examples) or her surname plus given name (10 examples). (There are also a few examples where the woman’s full name precedes her husband’s name.) Notice that in no case does the suffix attach to just the man’s given name – his surname must precede it – and the only two examples where the suffix is used without the man’s given name are single-element shorthand references. In other words, this data does not unfortunately support the modern practice of using <husband’s surname>-né + <woman’s given>. Notice also that the Hungarian suffix goes with Hungarian names, not Latin ones: with a few unusual exceptions (where the scribe appears to have momentarily forgotten which language he was using), -ne is used with Hungarian forms of all given names, and with surnames first.