Please do not add direct links to this web page from your own web site. Instead, link to Scottish Gaelic Given Names.

[DrupalCon London icon] Help Sharon win a trip to attend DrupalCon London!

Scottish Gaelic Given Names: For Women:
Names of Scottish Gaels from Non-Gaelic Scottish Sources with Irish Gaelic Forms

Draft Edition

Last updated 6 Mar 2006  

This is a draft edition! It is very incomplete! See the first part of this article. You have been warned!


Pre-1600 Scottish Gaelic Evidence (from documents written using Gaelic orthography)

As yet, no pre-1600 Scottish Gaelic examples of the name have been found written in standard Gaelic orthography.

Pre-1600 Scottish Gaelic Evidence (from documents written in Gaelic but using Scots orthography)

As yet, no pre-1600 Scottish Gaelic examples of the name have been found in documents written in Gaelic but using Scots orthography.

Pre-1600 Latin Evidence from Scotland

Four late 12th century Latin charters mention the name of the wife of Cospatric, third Earl of Dunbar. Three of the charters use the spelling <Derder> (one of them twice), while only one uses the spelling <Derdere>. Of the three charters that use the spelling <Derder>, two were issued by her husband (one of which Derder herself witnessed) and one was issued by her son Waldeve, while the charter that uses the spelling <Derdere> was issued by the Bishop of St. Andrews. (Rogers, pp. 6, 8, 18-19, 46.)

In all four charters, her name appears to be being used in a nominative case form:

Rogers page 6, charter no. 8:
"Cospatricius comes ... quod sponsa mea Derder dedit ..."
(Earl Cospatric ... that my spouse Derder has given...)

Rogers page 8, charter no. 11:
"C. comes ... quod Derder Comitissa sponsa mea dedit ..."
(Earl C[ospatric] ... that Countess Derder my spouse has given...)
"... Testibus Derder Comitissa . Waldef filius comitis . Lambekin dapifer . Ernulfo de Suinton . Roberto le Norreis . Adam filio Meldredis . et aliis ."
(... Witnesses Countess Derder, Waldeve son of the earl, Lambekin the steward, Ernulf of Suinton, Robert the Norreis, Adam son of Meldred, and all.)

Rogers page 18, charter no. 26:
"Comes Waldeuus ... quas Derder Comitissa mater mea eiis dedit et Cospatricius comes pater meus carta sua confirmauit ..."
(Earl Waldeve ... which Countess Derder my mother gave them and earl Cospatric my father confirmed by his charter ...)

Rogers page 46, Appendix of Original Charters and Other Documents, charter no. I:
"Ricardus Dei gracia Sancti Andree episcopus ..."
(Richard by the grace of God bishop of Saint Andrews ...)
"... que Cospatricius comes et Derdere comitissa sponsa eius et Waldeuus filius et heres eorum eidem loco concesserunt et dederunt ..."
(... which earl Cospatric and countess Derdere his wife and Waldeve their son and heir granted and gave to the same place ...)

Of the instances of the name in these charters, only in "Testibus Derder Comitissa" (charter no. 11) should the name theoretically be in an oblique case, but it seems that despite what the grammar ought to be, for the first three names of witnesses (Derder, Waldef, and Lambekin) the clerk actually put their names into the nominative case instead (even though he properly put the names of the other witnesses into the appropriate case).

What is going on with <Derdere> in appendix charter I. is a little harder to figure out. The expected grammar, and surrounding nouns, appears to be nominative, but to the best of my knowledge ending a female nominative given name in <-e> is very, very weird. I'm inclined to regard it as very likely a scribal error (much like the <Derder> in charter no. 11 that is in the nominative case even though it shouldn't be after "Testibus", only this time <Derdere> in an oblique case when it should be nominative).

These charters do not include explicit dates, but the general timing can be determined by the fact that Cospatric died in 1166, so charters nos. 8 & 11 must have been written in or before 1166; Richard became bishop of Saint Andrews in 1165, so appendix charter no. I must have been written in or after 1165; and Cospatric's son Waldeve died in 1182, so charter no. 26 (which confirms charters nos. 8 & 11), was probably written between 1166 and 1182 (since heirs usually do not confirm the grants of their predecessors until after they have inherited). (Rogers, p. x.)

From this evidence, we can know without any doubt that a Latin nominative case form of this name is <Derder>, and that the name was used for real people in the late 12th century.

Which brings us to the question of what culture Cospatric's wife came from. Cospatric was the third earl of Dunbar, an earldom located in the most southeastern corner of Scotland, just over the border from England, an area that had been settled by Old English speaking Anglo-Saxons starting in the 7th century. His grandfather (also named Cospatric) had been earl of Northumberland before rebelling against William I of England and then fleeing to Scotland, where Malcolm III granted him Dunbar. So Cospatric, at least, in his location and at least paternal ancestry, was most likely primarily a Scots/English speaker.

However, for much of the 12th century, Dunbar was probably about as close to Gaelic speaking areas as it ever came. Gaelic was at its widest spread around 1100, and the 12th century was one of transition from the 11th century, when Scottish kings were clearly Gaelic in cultural origin, to the 13th century, when in culture Scottish kings became primarily Scoto-Norman and Scots-speaking in culture. And although there were multiple languages and cultures in Scotland in the 12th century as there were throughout the Middle Ages, there wasn't yet a contemporary perception of a wide cultural gulf between them (as would develop in the late 14th century, when the familiar idea of civilized Scots-speaking Lowlands vs. wild Gaelic-speaking Highlands first emerges). In the 12th century there was probably a higher relative rate of cross-cultural interaction, including intermarriage, among the various Scottish cultures, especially Gaelic and Anglian/Anglo-Norman (the former the previously dominant culture on the way out, the latter the future dominant culture on the way in) than in any later century. And, especially considering that even in the 15th and 16th centuries it wasn't all that uncommon for Highland-Lowland mixed marriages among great lords, a primarily culturally Gaelic noble woman marrying a primarily culturally Anglian/Anglo-Norman earl would not be the least surprising in the much more culturally mixed 12th century — particularly since in the 12th century the great majority of Scottish earls (the natural source of daughters to be wives for other Scottish earls) were still primarily Gaelic in culture.

So, the most straight forward explanation of Cospatric's wife's name would be that she was a Gael and that in the 12th century, <Deirdre> was in use among Scottish Gaels as a given name for real people.

That said, another possibility is that Cospatric's wife was from the same cultural background as Cospatric, and either that a) <Deirdre> was in use among Scottish Gaels as a given name (for real people) and Anglian/Scoto-Norman culture had adopted the name from Gaelic usage (for real people) or b) <Deirdre> was not in use among Gaels as a given name (for real people) but Anglian/Scoto-Norman culture had adapted the name from Gaelic legend (as part of the general 12th century fad for using previously unused names from literature, many never seen again until modern times).

I think that the order of likelihood is probably the order I present these three possibilities above, but I can't say how much more or less likely each option is beyond this simple speculative order. It may be they are all very similar in likelihood, it may be that one is much more likely than the others. Without further evidence, it is very hard to say. However, since two of the three possibilities include use of the name (for real people) among Gaels, it is more likely than not that one way or another the name was in use among Gaels.

Further, even if Cospatric's wife was not herself a Gael, it is not unlikely that a Gael would refer to her (as the wife of an earl, earls being the next rank down from king in the 12th century in Scotland), either in speech or in writing, and when referring to her in Gaelic they would, of course, use the Gaelic form of her name (as medievals transformed names to fit the language being used, not the person being referenced). Likewise for the Scots/English form — even if she were not herself from a primarily Scots/English speaking culture, it is not unlikely that a Scots/English speaker would refer to her, and when referring to her in Scots/English, they would use a Scots/English form of her name.

So the situation is that we can be more confident about the form the name would take in various languages (Latin, Gaelic, Scots/English), and that it would indeed be used in all these languages (even if only for women from another linguistic culture), than we can be confident which Scottish culture or cultures gave the name to their daughters.

But, since this is Scotland in the 12th century, that isn't as much of a problem as it would be in other centuries, because given names are more than usually culturally fluid in this century, anyway. So this mainly just means that there is a chance that a 12th century name that is assumed to be for someone who was primarily Gaelic in culture is really for someone who was primarily Anglian/Scoto-Norman in culture, or that a 12th century name that is assumed to be for someone who was primarily Anglian/Scoto-Norman in culture is really for someone who was primarily Gaelic in culture...

N.B.: Black gives the spelling <Deredere> for the wife of Cospatric, citing "Annals, p. 109" (Black, s.n. Deirdre). This is an error. Black's source uses the spelling <Derdere>, not <Deredere> (Lawrie, p. 109), and the ultimate source for the name of the wife of Cospatric is the four Latin charters discussed above, three of which use the spelling <Derder> and only one of which uses the spelling <Derdere>.

Pre-1600 Scots Language Evidence

(To be included if found.)

Pre-1600 Irish Gaelic Evidence

No examples of Deirdre have been found so far used for real human beings in Ireland before modern times. However, one text of the legend of Deirdre written in Early Modern Irish (so, dating to somewhere between 1200 and 1700) uses the spellings "Déirdre", "Deirdre", and (once) "Deairdre" (CELT Deirdre G301020).

Pre-1600 Latin Evidence from Ireland

(To be included if found.)

Pre-1600 English Language Evidence from Ireland

(To be included if found.)

Modern Scottish Gaelic Evidence

(To be included if found.)


Speculative Pre-1600 Scottish Gaelic Forms

(To be written when time permits.)

[DrupalCon London icon] Help Sharon win a trip to attend DrupalCon London!
[DrupalCon London icon] Help Sharon win a trip to attend DrupalCon London!
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Barnes & Noble