Medieval German Given Names from Silesia

by Talan Gwynek (Brian M. Scott)

© 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004 by Brian M. Scott; all rights reserved.
Revised April 2002; Jan 2004


This article is a compilation of the given names found in Hans Bahlow's Mittelhochdeutsches Namenbuch nach schlesischen Quellen (Neustadt an der Aisch: Verlag Degener & Co., 1975). The title may be translated Middle High German Name Book from Silesian Sources. The book is a study of personal names from medieval Silesian records, especially those of the towns of Legnica (Liegnitz), Wroclaw (Breslau), and Görlitz. Most of the book is devoted to the bynames, but there is a short final section on given names, and most of the byname citations also include given names. As is usual in medieval records, the overwhelming majority of persons named are men, but the book is still a rich trove of the given names used in Silesia in the 14th and 15th centuries.

More precisely, the bulk of the citations are from the 14th and 15th centuries. The 13th and 16th centuries are somewhat less well represented, and there is a handful of citations from the 12th century or earlier. A few citations, mostly early, are from other parts of the German language area.

At the end of the first millenium, Silesia was inhabited by Slavonic tribes and was part of Poland. German settlement in the area did not really get under way until the 12th century. Thus, many of the names show Slavic influence, especially in the diminutives and pet forms.


The arrangement of the data is most easily explained by reference to a typical entry. Here is one of medium size, that for the name Paul. For the headword I have generally chosen a form of the full name that is both typical of the data and reasonably familiar. This is followed by variants and then by diminutives and pet forms. The order in which they are arranged is not entirely systematic, but I have generally tried to group similar forms together. (Thus, Pawil immediately follows Pawel.) I have also generally placed Latinized forms, like Paulus, after the corresponding German forms, and I have tried to place the German diminutives before the ones that show Slavic influence.

The number 14 following the name Paul means that there were 14 instances of this form in the data. I have omitted the number when a form appeared only once, as is the case with Pauel. The numbers in the rightmost column are the dates of the citations, listed in chronological order. In some cases Bahlow gave a range of dates, e.g., 1337-39, the third date for Paulus; these have been inserted into the list according to the date at the middle of the range, in this case 1338. A number in parentheses immediately following a date indicates multiple citations from that year. Thus, there were two 1451 citations for Paul, two 1384 citations for Pauwel, two 1433 citations for Pawel, and one for each of the other forms. Occasional brief comments appear in square brackets. (Sometimes this is no more than a more familiar form of the name.)

Paul 14 1363, 1369, 1372, 1408, 1415, 1422, 1427, 1441, 1451 (2), 1476, 1495, 1535, 1554
   Pauwel 7 1381, 1383, 1384 (2), 1389, 1394, 1419
   Pauel 1 1411
   Pawel 7 1349, 1415, 1422, 1423, 1429, 1433 (2)
   Pawil 2 1380, 1431
   Paulus 3 1317, 1335, 1437-39
   Paschke 3 1333, 1394, 1437-39 [a Slavic pet form]
   Paschkewicz 1 1444

Some of the pet forms are associated with more than one full name. An example is Örtel, which may be from Ortlib, Ortolf, etc. If a citation includes both a pet form and a full form for the same person, I have listed the pet form under the full form. I have listed other instance of the same pet form under the same full form, unless they are known to represent another. If, as with Örtel, no instance of the pet name is associated with a specific full form, I have made it a separate entry. (The one exception is Bastian, which I have listed under the much more familiar Sebastian, though the latter does not occur in the data.)

Finally, it is not feasible to count persons, so I have counted citations; this should still give a good general indication of which names were most popular.


The Mittelhochdeutsches Namenbuch leaves something to be desired as a source. Both internal evidence and comparison with citations in Brechenmacher's Etymologisches Wörterbuch der Deutschen Familiennamen suggest that Bahlow is a bit careless about the exact forms of citations, and in some places it is impossible to be certain exactly what form is being cited. Having no practical alternative, I have taken all citations at face value. A few of the citations were too ambiguous to be used at all; in most cases, however, I have given them what seemed the most probable interpretation.

Some of the names were abbreviated in the original sources. In some cases the intended expansion seems reasonably certain, and I have silently expanded abbreviations. Had I not done so, the single most common form under Nicolaus would have been Nic., which in fact accounts for most of the citations listed for Nicolaus.

In his section on given names, Bahlow gives examples of names that were quite rare in his data, sometimes in several forms. Such names are therefore certainly over-represented in the following tabulation. This means that a ranking based on these frequencies will surely be misleading at the lower end. Nevertheless, it is safe to assume that masculine names that occur very often, especially if they gave rise to a large number of pet forms, were in fact popular. None of the feminine names occurs especially often, but the number of variants and especially of pet forms is again some indicator of popularity.

Men's Names
Women's Names

Published by Arval Benicoeur