Frankish Names

by Guntram von Wolkenstein
This article is still under construction, and will hopefully end up (eventually) as something more than simply an excerpt from a book. Currently, all the text below is from Chapter 5 of Stephen Wilson’s The Means of Naming.

Early recorded Frankish names are mainly dithematic. First elements included:

Adal- (noble)
Am- or Amal- (active)
Bald- (bold)
Bert- (bright)
Child- (fight)
Chlod- (celebrated)
Sigi- (victory)
Theud- (folk)

Second elements included:
-ger (lance)
-man (man)
-mund (protection)
-ric (powerful)

-sind (road)

Many elements could serve in either first or second position. Typical Frankish names, combining these elements, are those of the first royal kindred, the Merovingians, for example Childebert, Childeric, Chlodobert, Theudebald and Theuderic. The same kinds of dithematic name are found much later among the serfs of Saint-Germain-des-Prés: Adalbert, Adalsind, Amalric, Baldebert, Sigemund. Some elements were especially common and figure in large numbers in distinct names. Morlet, for example, lists 40 male and 33 female names with Adal- as their first element; 34 male and 29 female names with Child- or Hild-; and 21 male and 15 female with Sigi-. Similar concentrations are found of popular second elements. Among the serfs of Saint-Germain, there were 52 distinct names ending in -ric, 65 in -hard, and 104 in -bert.

By the ninth century, if not before, uncompounded names had become much more common in the sources. These were often short versions of the dithematic names, starting life perhaps as pet names: Adda, Adzo, and Atto from Adal- names; Berta or Berto from Bert- names and so on. The second element could also provide the short name. Gregory of Tours mentions an inhabitant of Saintes called Chardegysil, “who has the laternative name Gyso”. Syllables or consonants of the longer name could be doubled. So one has Gundegisil, Count of Saintes, who was called Dodo, Gunde- giving Dedo, then Dodo. Similarly, the archbishop of Rouen, Ardoin, who died in 683, was also called Dido. Names in Sigi- provided Siggo. Such names could be further altered by adding suffixes, sometimes Latinized. So Berto or Bert- names could give Bertilo, Bernico, Bertinus etc. All kinds of such hupocoristic forms are found in the ninth-century poyptiques and other later documents. Among the serfs of Saint-Germai

Gender was always and status could be indicated by the form of the name. For female names the suffix -a was often added to a male second element: Sigibranda/Sigibrand. But there were also a number of specifically female second elements, for example:

-burg (fortress, protection)
-gard (dwelling-place)
-gund (combat)
-hild (combat)
-lind (gentle)
-swind or -swinda (strength)
-trud (power)

It will be noted that, while some of these elements refer to what might be regarded as feminine qualities, others belong to the same warrior idion as the male elements. They clearly suit the forceful and often quarrelsome and bloodthirsty queens and princesses who appear in the pages of Greogy of Tours: Berthegund, the daughter of Ingitrude, who despoiled the covenant at Tours, of which she had once been, though married, the abbess; Fredegund, the wife of King Chilperic, who had a succession of relatives tortured and killed; her great rival, Brunhild; or Clothild, the daughter of King Charibert, who lead a revolt in another convent at Poitiers.