Cornish (and Other) Personal Names from the 10th Century Bodmin Manumissions

by Heather Rose Jones
(Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn,

© 1999, 2001 by Heather Rose Jones; all rights reserved.

The Names: Given Names

Names of Latin or Biblical Origin

There are 36 entries with names of either Latin or Biblical origin -- names that would have come into use via the Catholic Church. Here I have made note of whether the name appears in contemporary Welsh records (Llandav), contemporary Breton records (Redon), or Anglo-Saxon records (Searle -- note that some, although not all, of the Bodmin records are listed in Searle). Appearance in Morlet (French sources) is mentioned only if the name appears in none of these. Otherwise, the format of the entries is as above. The gender, if not apparent in the text or the grammatical form of the name, is assumed to be that normally associated with the name.

Latin and Biblical Masculine Names

Abel (Llandav) m
    Abel (L 34, 392 witness)
Augustine (Llandav mentions the saint of this name, Searle) m.
Agustinus (L 44, 321 witness)
Austius (L 78 witness)
Agustin (L 337 ?)
Benedict (Llandav, Redon, Searle) m.
Benedic (L 158, 181 slave)
Benjamin (Llandav) m.
Beniammen (L 267 witness)
Beniamen (L 257 witness)
Constantine (Llandav, Searle) m.
Custentin (L 9, 287 witness, owner)
    Note that the first syllable shows the same vowel change found in Welsh forms, such as Custennhinn.
David (Llandav, Redon, Searle) m.
Dauid (L 251 slave)
Deui (L 7 witness)
    This is the same variant of the name by which the Welsh Saint David is commonly known.
Electus (no examples in the usual sources, although several can be found in France in Morlet vol. II p.45) m.
Electus (L 33 witness)
Eli (Llandav, Redon, Searle) m.
Eli (L 215 witness)
Elie (L 167 witness)
    Kemble transcribes this as Selie but the others agree on this form, and I cannot confirm Kemble's form in any of my sources.
Eusebius? (Llandav mentions a Saint Eusebius, Morlet vol. II p.48 has multiple examples of the name) m.
Eusebi (L 323 owner)
    The grammatical form is inexplicable as the context calls for a nominative.
Germanus (Llandav) m.
Germanus (L 150 witness)
Isaac (Llandav, Redon, Searle) m.
Isaac (E 195, 236 witness)
Not found in any comparative material as a personal name, although this is the usual form in Medieval Welsh sources for Jesus -- a name not normally in ordinary use in northern Europe) m.
    Iesu (L 41 slave)
Johannes (Llandav as Iouan, Redon, Searle) m.
Iohann (L 21 witness)
Joseph (Redon, Searle) m.
Iosep (L, E 332, 358, 369 witness, slave)
Justin m.
Llandav has both Jestin and Gistin(us) used for the same man. My guess would be that this is a hard "g", perhaps a hypercorrected "reverse lenition" of the initial consonantal "y"? Redon also lists both Gestin and Jestinus as masculine names. The Bodmin entry is identified as someone's steward, so the masculine identification is quite firm.
    Gestin (E 243 witness)
Justus (Llandav and Redon both list Iust, Searle has Iustus) m.
Iustus (L 298 slave)
Magnus (Redon, Searle; but all of Searle's examples are of Norse kings) m.
Magnus (L 296 slave)
Noe (Llandav) m.
The forms in Llandav are Noe, Nouy, Nogui, and Nougui. Noe is found in Bartrum for the Biblical Noah. The other forms appear to be an unrelated Welsh name that eventually became conflated with it. This example seems more likely to be the Biblical name than a native Brythonic one, as we would expect a form more similar to No(g)ui here if it were the latter.
    Noe (E 200 witness)
Prudens (nothing in the usual comparative sources, but Morlet vol. II p.94 lists it) m.
Prudens (L 127, 144 witness)
Puer (no comparative examples) m.
Puer is the usual Latin word for "boy, child" and ordinarily one wouldn't interpret it as a personal name, however it appears here in a list of witnesses where the usual interpretation seems unlikely.
    Puer (E 367 witness)
Samuel (Llandav, Redon) m.
Samuel (L 153 witness)
Solomon (Llandav, Redon, Searle) m.
Salaman (E 286 witness)

Latin and Biblical Feminine Names

Elisabeth? (Not in any of my comparative sources) f.
    This name presents a slight puzzle. It appears on the continent (in France, see Morlet vol. II p.46) in records of the 10th century and earlier, but always with a "b" at the beginning of the last syllable. The form found here suggests that the name has been in continuous use in Cornish since before the Brythonic languages split around the 6th century, because it shows evidence of sound changes that occurred around that time (i.e., b>v). (Normally, one would expect the name to be normalized to the usual form found in Latin documents anyway, but compare with Deui under David above.) And yet I can find no other evidence of the name in use in Brythonic-speaking cultures of this period or earlier.
    Elisaued (L 120, 314 slave)

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