Scottish Medieval Bibliography
©2000 by Sharon L. Krossa. All rights reserved.
Onomastics is the study of names, both of people and of places. Below are published resources for medieval Scottish names, divided by type of names addressed and usefulness. Since the best and most direct sources for historical Scottish names are original historical documents (which show names as they were used by medieval Scots themselves), the works listed in the Published Primary Sources section of this bibliography are also of interest for onomastics. (Note, however, that medieval Scots may not have been any more knowledgeable about the forms of names used hundreds of years earlier than their own time than most people are these days, so consider when a document was written as well as when the person named actually lived. Also be aware that the names used in literature may not accurately reflect the names used by real people.)
Reliable Online Resources
- Medieval Names Archive
The most complete index of reliable web articles about pre-1600 names, concentrating on European names.
Scottish Names Resources
Pointers to various resources for Scottish names and names from related cultures.
The articles in the Problem Names Project discuss various names and
naming practices about which there are common misconceptions concerning
their use in the Middle Ages or Renaissance. For example, some names and
naming practices that many people today believe to be medieval are
purely modern. Other names and naming practices which were used in one
medieval culture are now mistakenly believed to have been used in
others. Other common misconceptions concern the medieval pronunciation
of a name or whether it was used by men or women in the Middle Ages. If
there are common misconceptions about any aspect of the pre-1600 use of a
name or naming practice, it may be a "Problem Name".
Names of People (Anthronyms)
- Black, George F. The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 1993. Original edition, The New York Public Library, 1946. NYPublic Library 1999 hardback at Amazon.com -
Birlinn 1996 hardback at Amazon.co.uk
The strength of Black's book is that it gives many dated examples of whole names in the original spellings. However, caution is still called for! There were many different naming cultures in Scotland which spoke many different languages. Care must be used to differentiate which names and spellings in Black are likely to have been used by which naming cultures in which languages, and not mistakenly assume that all the names in Black are equally likely to appear in together in the same name. Although Black is generally reliable, keep in mind that sometimes his derivations are incorrect and sometimes either he or the sources he used normalized or translated names from the original (and so the spelling may not be entirely reliable). However, all in all this is the best all around general book for dated medieval and renaissance Scottish names, if used with due care.
- Ó Corráin, Donnchadh, and Fidelma Maguire. Irish Names. 2nd ed. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 1990. Order from Amazon.com
Order from Amazon.co.uk
This is probably the most useful published book about medieval Gaelic names. It lists many Gaelic names "selected from the annals, genealogies, mythology and historical literature of early medieval Ireland" as well as "a number of borrowed names which were once (or still are) well established [in Ireland], some introduced by early Irish clerics, some by the Anglo-Normans." Among its useful features are the inclusion of both early medieval Gaelic spellings (before the colon, :) and modern Gaelic spellings (after the colon). (All spellings are normalized for their respective periods.) Note, however, that not all of the names were used by real people. Some were used only by mythological or legendary characters, so read the entry for each name carefully. Although these are Irish names, many of the native Gaelic names listed were also used by Scottish Gaels in the early medieval period. (By the later middle ages the Irish and Scottish Gaelic name pools had diverged, and it is much less safe to assume a Gaelic name used in Ireland was also used in Scotland.)
Names of Places (Toponyms)
- Johnston, James B. Place-Names of Scotland. 3rd ed. East Ardsley, England: S.R. Publishers, 1970. [Note: the 3rd edition is out of print. An earlier edition (1892) is in print and available at Amazon.co.uk, but it does not include the various revisions and corrections of the 3rd edition.]
The strength of Johnston's book, like Black's, is that it gives many dated examples of place names in the original spellings. The weaknesses are also similar. There were many different naming cultures in Scotland which spoke many different languages. Care must be used to differentiate which names and spellings in Johnston are likely to have been used by which naming cultures in which langauges. Although Johnston is reliable with regard to the dated forms of place names, keep in mind that many of his derivations are incorrect. However, all in all this is a good all around general book for dated medieval and renaissance Scottish place names, if used with due care.
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© 1996-2008. All rights reserved. Copyright of individual articles belongs to their authors. Please do not copy or redistribute without proper permission!