Catalan Names in Latin Contexts: the late 12th century

by Juliana de Luna (Julia Smith,
June 1999

These names are taken from a group of documents detailing lawsuits from 12th century Catalonia. At the time, conflicts between noble landlords and their tenants were common. Lawsuits in which tenants successfully defended themselves against the demands of their landlords are common. These are taken from the analysis of Thomas Bissom (in Tormented Voices: Power, Crisis, and Humanity in Rural Catalonia, 1140-1200, 1998).

Catalan is a Romance language spoken in northeastern Spain. At the time, it was spoken in a group of mostly independent counties that later would become part of the kingdom of Aragon. Catalan is most closely related to Provençal, but shares certain traits with both Spanish and French.

The author intentionally left most names in their documentary Latin forms, rather than translate them into the vernacular. I include both documentary forms and probable vernacular forms (the latter in parentheses). Vernacular forms are based both on the author's notes and on later documentary forms (written in the vernacular, most notably Marsá 1977).

Men's Names

Given Names

Men's names are relatively concentrated. The top 6 men's names account for almost 72% of individuals (70% if all names written as initials were excluded). However, the remaining individuals are widely distributed: 25 names are seen only once.

The top men's names are:

1. Petrus (Pere) 42 22%
2. Guilelmus (Guilelm, Guillem) 25 13%
3. Arnau (Arnal, Arnau) 19 10%
4. Bernardus (Bernard, Bernat) 17 9%
5. Raimundus (Ramon) 16 9%
6. Berengarius (Berenguer) 15 8%
7. Poncius (Ponç) 5 3%
8. Johan 4 2%
9. Marti 4 2%
10. Carbonell 3 2%

Three names occur twice, Dominicus (Domingo), Ermengallus (Ermengol), and Vitalis (Vidal). A complete list of men's given names and a list of all the men's names as they appeared in the original documents are both available.

Men's Bynames

The vast majority of the people mentioned here have single element bynames. Just under 20% have no byname, but just a single given name. 76% have a single element byname. The remaining 5% have two-element bynames.

The most common kind of byname is a locative byname taking the form <de (placename)>. 28% of men had this sort of surname. Two kinds of patronymic surnames are found here: the first has the father's name in a possessive form (i.e. ending with <-i> or <-onis>), while the second uses the father's name in an unmodified form (some with Latin endings, others in vernacular form). 11% of men have patronymic bynames with a possessive form; 8% have patronymic bynames that are unmodified. A small percentage of these names may have second given names, but it was impossible to determine from the data. 6% of men had descriptive bynames, including occupational (rusticus 'peasant', burbo 'weaver') and descriptive (barbarossa 'red beard', bonus homo 'good man') bynames. The remainder of single element surnames could not be identified.

Two element bynames had (with one exception, which combined a patronymic with an occupational byname) a locative element as the second element. Only three people have what may be a double given name with a locative surname. While double given names cannot be ruled out at this date for Catalan, they were extremely rare.

Women's Names

Relatively few women's names are found in these documents; they are listed below as they appeared in the documents. Only a single name, <Ermessen> appears more than once. Only a few of the women have bynames; all of those are locative.

Adalyde de Perpiniano
Aiculina d'Almenara
Berenguera de Puigdàlber
Guilelma de Planes
Maria Gitarda


Bissom, Thomas
1998 Tormented Voices: Power, Crisis, and Humanity in Rural Catalonia, 1140-1200. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Marsá, Francisco
1977 Onomástica Barcelonesa del Sigo XIV. Barcelona: Universidad de Barcelona.

Layout, editting, and publishing Arval Benicoeur.