Home Page > Information for Heralds > Herald's Handbook > Books and Articles on Names
Policy Level: Informational
Intended Audience: All heralds and their clients
Abstract: List of books on names with opinionated advice as to their usefulness and applicability to the SCA.
The original article was written/created in 1986. The available books and articles have changed dramatically since then, and Mistress Astrith has completely re-written the article by Alison von Markheim and Eilis O'Boirne.
Sources for Printed Books
Name books that are not included in this article and are not on list of books owned by the College of Heralds of the Kingdom of the West (VII.5), should be avoided unless you can check with a senior name herald about the status of the book for documenting names in our period. Sources for printed books are:
Primary Sources for On-Line Information
The primary source for on-line information are the rules and articles posted on the Laurel website:
Academy of St. Gabriel
Another important name resource for SCA heralds are the reports and articles posted at the Academy of Saint Gabriel website.
As part of the requirements for its members to research their ancestors, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent teams to Europe to photograph birth, christening, marriage, and death records. Long available only in micro-fiche, these records have been converted to digital format and are available on-line at FamilySearch. https://www.familysearch.org/hr/search/. This is a useful source for late-period names.
FamilySearch also includes names from user-submitted genealogies, which are not suitable for documentation. Specifics on which data sets are usable and how to cite them are provided on the Laurel website: http://heraldry.sca.org/names/familysearch.html. Note that the summary of the information that is provided for documentation MUST include the batch number, but no additional copy is needed.
Digital Versions of Name References
The primary sources for downloading name and armory references are Google Books and a non-profit digital library called the Internet Archive. Because these references are scanned as images, the files can be 30 to 50 megabytes in size or more. Even if the book is printed only in black-and-white, it may have been scanned in color. If this was done, every page has a “color” background, because the pages generally are no longer white.
Links to the digital versions of the reference on Laurel’s no-copy-needed list are provided on that list below, if any are available.
Print and Digital References – Useful, but not on the no-copy-needed list.
MacLysaght, Edward, Surnames of Ireland. Still in print. A basic guide to Irish names. It includes the old Gaelic forms, but lacks dates.
Peterson, Lena. Nordiskt runnamnslexikon. This reference is written in Swedish and has a web page in Swedish: http://www.sprakochfolkminnen.se/om-oss/arkiv-och-samlingar/nordiskt-runnamnslexikon.html. The web page has a link to the pdf version: http://www.sprakochfolkminnen.se/download/18.6dffb94c149794d926e379/1415279748920/Runnamnslexikon_T%20141106.pdf
Stratmann, Francis Henry and Henry Bradley. 1891. A Middle-English Dictionary: https://books.google.com/books?id=xIsYAAAAIAAJ. Or for a more recent source, see the University of Michigan website. Middle English Dictionary – search on-line at: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/. The latter is on Laurel’s no-photocopy-needed list.
And from a website by an SCA herald with on-line or downloadable references, with comments by the author of the website (http://slumberland.org/sca/articles/onlineheraldicbooklinks.html):
Sources That Do Not Require Photocopies to Laurel
Appendix H of the Administrative Handbook has a list of name references that are in frequent use by SCA heralds. The name books, with annotations, are listed below. Some of these references lack dates. If you use one of these, look for a date for the name in the articles at the Laurel website and the Academy of Saint Gabriel. These sources may be cited with just the author or title abbreviation and the page number. See the Laurel website for the abbreviations: http://heraldry.sca.org/admin.html#APPENDIXH.
Bahlow, Hans. Deutsches Nameslexikon. (also the translation by Edda Gentry)
Bahlow, Hans. Deutschland Geographiche Namenwelt
Bardsley, Charles. A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames. This is one of the original scholarly works on names. Reaney (see below), has corrected and amplified these earlier efforts, but they are still very worthwhile. A reprint is available: https://books.google.com/books?id=RbkEAAAAIAAJ&hl=en.
Black, George F. The Surnames of Scotland. A comprehensive study of Scottish surnames, including many that are no longer in use. It is liberally supplied with dates and covers names that originated in places outside Scotland but have been used there. It is also a good source for given names that eventually became surnames. The 1946 edition can be viewed at https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/70225?availability=Family%20History%20Library. It is identical to the 1964 edition except for an additional preface and a few names added. Therefore, the number of the page on which you find a name is the same in both. This book is also readily available from used book sellers.
Brechenmacher, Josef Karlmann. Etymologisches Wörterbuch der Deutschen Familiennamen. This reference was published in 1957 in four volumes and re-published in 1963 in 2 large volumes. The 4-volume 1957 edition can be viewed at https://familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlcatalog/supermainframeset.asp?display=titledetails&titleno=303402&disp=Etymologisches+W%26%23xf6%3Brterbuch+der. The 1963 edition, published in two volumes that is not available in a digital edition. If you are citing information from the 1957 edition, be sure to include the publication date and both the volume and page numbers in your documentation
Dauzat, Albert and Rostaing, Charles. Dictionnaire Etymologique des Noms de Lieux de la France.
Dauzat, Albert. Dictionnaire Etymologique des Noms de Famille et des Prenoms de France. If you can read even a little bit of French, this is an enormously valuable book which includes many dates for both given names and surnames.
De Felice, Emidio. dizionario dei cognomi italiani.
De Felice. Emidio. dizionario dei nomi italiani.
Diez Melcon. R. P. Gonzalo. Apellidos Castellano-Leoneses.
Ekwall, Eilert. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names. Available through internet booksellers and particularly useful.
Fransson, Gustav. Middle English Surnames of Occupation 1100-1350. Before the extensive section on occupational surnames, there are 50 pages on Middle English naming practice in general.
Geirr Bassi Haraldsson. The Old Norse Name. The definitive book on Old Norse (Viking) names and naming practices. It is really only an overgrown pamphlet, but is invaluable. It is NOT available in print, but two indices derived from this source are available at the Academy of Saint Gabriel: Viking Names found in the Landnámabók: http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/norse/landnamabok.html and http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/norse/vikbynames.html. NOTE that the web articles require copies, because they could be revised.
Hitching, F. K. and S. References to English Surnames in 1601 and 1602. The 1602 volume is available at archive.org: https://archive.org/details/referencestoengl00hitc. The 1602 volume includes an index of all the names from the 1601 volume.
Johnston, James R. Place-Names of Scotland. https://archive.org/details/placenamesofscot00johnuoft.
Jonsjo, Jan. Middle English Nicknames: I. Compounds.
Lexicon of Greek Personal Names (Vol 1-4). This has morphed into a project with more volumes and an on-line database: http://www.lgpn.ox.ac.uk/. NOTE that only the first four volumes are no-copy-needed. The subsequent volumes and the on-line version require copies.
Lind, E. H. Norsk-Isländska Dopnamn ock Fingerade Namn från Medeltiden. Viewable on-line at HathiTrust: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b468094;view=1up;seq=668.
Lind, E. H. Samlade Ock Utgivna. Supplementband.
Lind, E. H. Norsk-Isländska Personbinamn Från Medeltiden Samlade Ock Utgivna Med Förklaringar. Viewable on-line at HathiTrust: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b468098;view=1up;seq=7.
Mills, A. D. A Dictionary of English Place-Names. Available inexpensively used in both hardcover and paperback. The seller lists generated via Amazon don’t tell you which edition the seller has. Try abebooks instead, to be sure you are getting the edition you want.
Mills, A. D. A Dictionary of London Place-Names.
Morgan, T.J., and Prys Morgan. Welsh Surnames. Published in hardcover and paperback in 1985, so available relatively inexpensively from internet used book sellers.
Morlet, Maire-Therese. Dictionnaire Étymologique de Noms de Famille.
Morlet, Marie Therese. Étude d'anthroponymie picarde: les noms de personne en Haute Picardie aux XIIIe, XIVe, XVe siècles.
Morlet, Marie-Therese. Les Noms de Personne sur le Territoire de l'Ancienne Gaule du VI au XII Si. NOTE: This has two volumes, so you must specify the volume when citing.
Ó (or O) Corrain and Maguire] Ó Corrain, Donnchadh & Maguire, Fidelma. Irish Names. The names with dates from this book are provided in an internet article by an SCA herald. http://medievalscotland.org/kmo/ocm/. NOTE: If you are citing from the internet article, you must include a copy. This is a relatively recent publication, so paperback copies are inexpensive from internet used book sellers.
Paul Wickenden of Thanet, A Dictionary of Period Russian Names. NOTE: The edition must be specified; the version on heraldry.sca.org (http://heraldry.sca.org/names/paul/) is the 2nd edition, while the version available from the Stock Clerk is the 3rd edition. CAVEAT: this is no longer available from the Stock Clerk.
Reaney, P.H. and R. M. Wilson. A Dictionary of English Surnames. Because it gives dates for everything and is readily available used, this is the most frequently used reference for English surnames. It can also be used to document given names that have become surnames.
Room, Adrian. A Dictionary of Irish Place-Names.
Searle, William George. Onomasticon Anglo-Saxonicum. https://books.google.com/books?id=RLkEAAAAIAAJ. NOTE that this is no longer considered sufficient without additional documentation, but it’s a place to start
Smith, A.H. English Place Name Elements.
Socin, Adolf. Mittelhochdeutsches Namenbuch. https://books.google.com/books?id=VGxBAQAAIAAJ&pg. Also available as separate page views at: http://reader.digitale-sammlungen.de/de/fs3/object/display/bsb10930484_00001.html.
Solveig Throndardottir. Name Construction in Mediaeval Japan.
Sveriges medeltida personnamn (SMP). This is on-line only and is in Swedish: http://www.sprakochfolkminnen.se/sprak/namn/personnamn/sveriges-medeltida-personnamn.html.
Thuresson, Bertil. Middle English Occupational Terms.
Watts, Victor, ed. Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names, Based on the Collections of the English Place-Name Society.
Withycombe, E.G. Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names. Readily available used and lots of dates. This is the most frequently used book reference for English given names.
Woulfe, Patrick. Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall: Irish Names and Surnames. Recommended for surnames only; italicized forms are from the time of Elizabeth I or James I. https://archive.org/details/irishnamessurnam00woul. However, the version available at archive.org doesn’t use italics, and most are undated.
Heraldic symposia proceedings. Proceedings from 2013 to date are available on the Laurel website: http://heraldry.sca.org/kwhss/. An index to the earlier proceedings is available at the same location. These were produced in print only, and are no longer available from the SCA Stock Clerk.
No-Photocopy Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
These are some dictionaries which are useful in researching period usage. A dictionary citation is not sufficient to document something as part of a name, but may be useful in documenting spelling or usage. Most are available both in print and online.
The Anglo-Norman Dictionary. Online: http://www.anglo-norman.net/gate/.
Bosworth, Joseph and T. Northcote Toller, An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Available on-line as page images. http://ebeowulf.uky.edu/BT/bosworth.htm. You could download them all as separate images if you had the space and time. There are 1302 pages. A supplement published in 1921 is also available as a pdf file. https://archive.org/details/anglosaxondictio00tolluoft It is only 768 pages long, plus the front matter.
1911 Britannica Encyclopedia. This is available on-line: https://archive.org/details/EncyclopaediaBritannicaDict.a.s.l.g.i.11thed.chisholm.1910-1911-1922.33vols. Note that it is 29 volumes plus three supplements and a guide volume. The core 29 volumes total 1.77 GB in size, so be sure you have plenty of space if you are downloading them.
The Catholic Encyclopedia.
Clark Hall, John R., A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. https://books.google.com/books?id=2HgKAAAAIAAJ. You may also find the 1916 version in .tiff, .png and partial HTML format at the Germanic Lexicon Project. http://lexicon.ff.cuni.cz/texts/oe_clarkhall_about.html. NOTE that despite the absence of a hyphen, the surname of this author is “Clark Hall”, not “Hall”. Many libraries get this wrong in their catalogue lists.
Cleasby, Richard, and Gudbrand Vigfusson, An Icelandic-English Dictionary. https://books.google.com/books?id=ne9fAAAAcAAJ. You can find tiff files of individual pages at http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~kurisuto/germanic/oi_cleasbyvigfusson_about.html.
Corpus Diacrónico del Español. This is an on-line dictionary: http://corpus.rae.es/cordenet.html.
Dictionary of the Scots Language. Available on-line only: http://www.dsl.ac.uk/.
The Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue. 12 volumes. This is now included in the Dictionary of the Scots Language, listed above.
Lewis, Charlton T. and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary. There are two editions: the first was published in 1879: https://archive.org/details/1.ACLASSICALANDMEDIEVALLATINDICTIONARYLEWISANDSHORTVOL.1ACPAG.1508, and a revision was published in 1891: https://archive.org/details/LatinDictionaryA. IMPORTANT NOTE: there are several different copies of each edition at archive.org. Some of the copies are several HUNDRED MB in size. The links provided here are the smallest versions, only 45 to 55 MB.
Liddell, H.G. and Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. The ninth edition is still in print, but costs $185 in 2017. There is an on-line version, but its interface is inconvenient to scroll through: http://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/.
Royal Irish Academy. Dictionary of the Irish Language based mainly on Old and Middle Irish materials. On-line version available: http://www.dil.ie/.
The Scottish National Dictionary. 10 volumes. This is now included in the Dictionary of the Scots Language, listed above.
The Middle English Dictionary. This is on-line only: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/.
Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
The Oxford English Dictionary. You can subscribe to the on-line version: http://www.oed.com/. The 2-volume, compact edition is available from used booksellers. It was compacted by shrinking the print, so it was distributed with a magnifying glass. While it CAN be read without one, use of a magnifying glass is highly recommended. If you get a used copy that has lost the magnifying glass, please get one from your local office supply store. Used copies of this edition are expensive now, although not nearly as expensive as the multi-volume set.
Zoëga, Geir, A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic. The full dictionary may be found in .tiff and .png formats at the Germanic Lexicon Project http://lexicon.ff.cuni.cz/texts/oi_zoega_about.html. The 1967 reprint of the 1910 edition can be downloaded at https://archive.org/stream/concisedictionar001857#page/n5/mode/2up.