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: Name Formats

The freed slaves are mostly identified simply by a given name. Two bear patronyms while in other cases family relationships are indicated, but in ways that cannot be interpreted as functioning as a byname. One of the former bears a second byname in addition to the patronym. About half of those identified as owners bear some sort of byname, primarily high-ranking titles, either secular (king, duke) or religious (bishop), but in a few occasions, patronyms. The witnesses overwhelmingly bear bynames indicating a religious office (priest, deacon, etc.) but sometimes a secular occupation or title (steward), or patronym. With one exception, this group is the only one where non-occupational, non-patronymic bynames appear, but they are very few and difficult to interpret with certainty. Among the owners and freed slaves, bynames appear in both Latin and Old English entries roughly in proportion to the total number, but among the witnesses, individuals appearing in Old English records disproportionately do not have bynames, while individuals appearing in Latin records disproportionately do. (Remember that these bynames are overwhelmingly religious offices.)


Among the slave-owners, the only people with bynames bear Old English given names. In all, eleven individuals (in 18 separate entries) fall in this group. (Some also appear as witnesses.)
           Æþalræd rex (L 101)
Eadryde cyninge [oblique case] (E 171)
Eadmund rex (L 68)
Eadgar rex (L 162)
Æþelwærd dux (L 148)
Ordgar dux (L 95)
Maccosi centurionis [genitive] (L 211)
    Kemble has Maccesi; this individual appears as a witness in an Old English text as a "hundreds-man"
Wulfsige byscop, Wulfsige episcopus (E 353, L 311)
Æðelgeard biscop (E 172)
Ælfric Ælfwines sunu (E 232)
Ordulf filius Brun (L 125)


Only two of the freed slaves bear something that could be interpreted as a byname -- both including patronyms. One is a Cornish name appearing in a Latin entry, the other an Old English name in an Old English entry and also includes an unidentified non-patronymic byname. Förster suggests interpreting hate as "hight" (is called).


There are 176 witness entries that include a byname. For bynames that appear more than a few times, only representative examples are given and the full number noted in the text.

Religious Occupations

The vast majority of witnesses' bynames are religious offices, whether in Latin or in Old English. In many cases, the same individual appears with both versions of the same position; in others, the same individual appears with different designations, perhaps because one is less specific, perhaps because of a change of position.

Latin presbiter is the element that most often alternates with other titles for what appears to be the same individual, in four cases alternating with Latin diaconus, four more times with Old English messepreost (in one of these also alternating with Latin clericus and sacerdos), twice with Latin clericus only, and twice with Latin episcopus (one of whom also appears as pravost and one as diaconus), and once with Latin sacerdos only. Other alternations include Old English messepreost with diaconus, Latin monachus with clericus, Latin diaconus with discipulus, Latin praeside and diacon with Old English portgereva, and the previously mentioned Latin centurion with Old English hundredesmann.

Abbot: Lat. abbas
           Germanus abbas (L 150)
Bishop: Lat. episcopus, Eng. bisceop
Wulfsige episcopus (L 96)
Comoere episcopus (L 320) appears three times
Buruhwold bisceop (L 149)
Clerk: Lat. clericus
In all, 29 entries include this byname, representing at a minimum 11 different individuals, the majority Cornish, but representing all three classes. Four of the records, all from the same passage, spell the word with "-os" instead of the usual "-us". All examples are in Latin records.
    Leucum clericus (L 122)
Beniamen clericus (L 257)
Bryhsige clericus (L 147)
Adoyre Milian clericus (L 72)
    Förster inserts a comma after the first element, making this two names. The other editors interpret it as a single entry, perhaps "Adoyre, Milo's clerk"?
Teþion consul (L 155)
Deacon: Lat. diaconus, Eng. diacon
35 records include this byname, representing at least 13 different individuals approximately half with Cornish names and half English. Two occur in Old English texts and use the form diacon, the remainder in Latin texts with diaconus.
    Godric diaconus (L 217)
Cantgueithen diaconus (L 291)
Godric diacon (E 239)
Disciple: Lat. discipulus
Boia discipulus (L 265)
Reader: Lat. lector
Agustinus lector (L 44) -- This person appears in total three times.
Minister: Lat. minister
Goda minister (L 139)
Monk: Lat. monachus
Leucum monachus (L 317)
Priest: Lat. presbiter, sacerdos, Eng. preost (Tengvik considers presbiter and preost equivalent. p.266), messepreost
All the examples using preost are in English texts. There are 13 entries in all, representing at least 9 individuals bearing all three types of given names. There is a certain amount of spelling variation: masseprost appears 3 times, mæsseprost once, messepreost 8 times, and genitive mæsepreostas once.
    Cynsie preost (E 60)
Mermen masseprost (E 363)
Byrhsige mæsseprost (E 362)
Isaac messepreost (E 195)
In all there are 58 examples of some form of presbiter, probably representing 30 individuals. Other than two of the abbreviated forms, the following all occur in Latin records. The primary spelling of the full form is presbiter, with 37 examples, followed by nine of prespiter and four of presbyter. The element often occurs in abbreviated form, as pr~ six times, pb~ once, and pres~ once.
    Byrhsige presbiter (L 32)
Grifiuðpresbiter (L 98)
Prudens presbiter (L 144)
Byrhtsie presbyter (L 42)
Leofric prespiter (L4)
Both of those identified as sacerdos appear elsewhere with presbiter.
    Osian sacerdos (L 334)
Byrhsie sacerdos (L322)
Scribe: Lat. scriptor
Eadsige scriptor (L 143)

Secular Occupations

Duke: Lat. dux
           Æþelwerd dux testis (L 102)
Hundredsman: Lat. centurion, Eng. hundredesmann
Maccosse hundredesmann (E 194)
Lay: Lat. laicus
Note that no English given names appear in this group.
    Custentin laicus (L 9)
Elie laicus (L 167)
Wurlowen laycus (L 10)
Reeve: Lat. praepositus, Eng. gereva, pravost
Æilsige portgereua (E 193) -- chief officer of a town
Cufure prauost (E 24) = praepositus
Ylcærþon præpositus (L 154)
Osulf prepositus testis
Steward: Eng. stiwerd
Gestin Þes bisceopes stiwerd (E 243)
Ælfsie præside teste (L 386)
Witness: Lat. testis
Dofagan teste (L387)
March teste (L 388)
Ælfnoðteste (L 389)
Cilifri: very probably a place-name
Ungost Cilifri (L 117)
    Förster considers these to be two separte given names, but the others treat Cilifri as a byname, and this seems likely to me.
Map: uncertain, possibly brythonic map "son", but perhaps instead an OE given name Mappa.
Godric Map (E 246) (see Tengvik p.378)
Muf: uncertain, but Tengvik (p.352) suggests "simpleton, fool"
Æþælwine Muf (L 141)
Sherlock: "bright hair"
Ælfwerd Scirlocc (L 140)
In addition to the one possible locative byname above (Cilifri), another linguistically Cornish place-name is mentioned in one entry. For completeness' sake, it is given here.
    Lyscerruyt (L 135 villa)
Patronyms: Lat. filius, Eng. sunu
Wurgent filius Samuel (L 153)
Teþion filius Wasso (L 116)
... filius Mor (L 156)
Teðion Modredis sunu (E 204)

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