Concerning Double Given Names Before 1600

edited by Sharon L. Krossa (known in the SCA as Africa filia Kennocii)

Last updated 27 Oct 2004

Introduction (Draft Edition)

by Sharon L. Krossa with the assistance of Heather Rose Jones (known in the SCA as Affrick nyn Ken3e & Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn)
Last updated 27 Oct 2004  

For most of the medieval and early modern period prior to 1600, double given names are not found in European naming cultures. From the late middle ages and renaissance, they begin to be found in some European naming cultures, but even in many of these cultures they remained rare until after 1600.

There are also various kinds of bynames that were used in medieval and early modern Europe that are sometimes mistaken for second given names when they are found in a name of three or more elements. For example, sometimes a literal patronymic byname can look like a second given name. This collection of articles addresses the use of true double or multiple given names, and only discusses such multiple bynames in passing.

Certain terms are used throughout these articles, and for convenience and to avoid repetition they are defined here:

A given name is a name chosen for and given to a person, usually at birth or baptism, as distinct from a byname or surname. Synonyms for "given name" include "first name", "forename", "baptismal name", and "Christian name".

A byname is an additional name used with a person's given name(s) to distinguish which person with that given name they are. (So a modern inherited family surname is a type of byname.) Note that unlike given names, the specific bynames used for a person are mainly determined by other people and/or cultural traditions rather than the personal choice or preferences of parents or the one named.

A personal byname is a byname that pertains to and describes that specific individual for whom it is used — for example, by describing their appearance or which individual was their father, etc.. For example, if <Johne Duncansone> is the son of <Duncan Redhed>, this instance of <Duncansone> is a personal byname that distinguishes this Johne from other men named Johne by indicating that this Johne's father has the given name Duncan.

In contrast, an inherited family byname or family surname does not pertain to or describe that specific individual but rather is inherited and shared by members of a family or lineage. For example, if <Johne Duncansone> is the son of <Robert Duncansone>, this instance of <Duncansone> is an inherited family byname that distinguishes this Johne from other men named Johne by indicating that this Johne is a member of a family that uses the byname Duncansone.

Surname is simply a synonym for "byname". Note that not all surnames are inherited family bynames — a personal byname such as a literal patronymic byname is also a surname. (However, you may find that some people use "surname" specifically to indicate an inherited family byname.)

A patronymic byname is a byname formed from an individual's father's name. For example, if <Johne Duncansone> is the son of <Duncan Redhed>, the personal byname <Duncansone> is a patronymic byname indicating that Johne's father has the given name Duncan.


As the use of double given names varied by naming culture, they are discussed on a culture by culture basis: