Not Griselda, Not Brunhilda

No, not Brunhilda. Venetian women of the Middle Ages had quite distinctive names. I came across this list in Pompeo Molmenti’s history series, Venice: Part I, Vol. II, page 49. Check these out:

Names starting with vowels–Aloica, Engranata, Uliosa, Olimpiade, Istriana, and Agrismonia. Alidea has a pretty flow to it, as does Icia, pronounced (if the Medieval pronunciation is the same as today, which I can’t vouch for) as ee-chee-uh.  And who can forget that tall flower Altafiore?

And now some consonants–Beriola, Falasia, Rucca, Birida, Galifora, Donina, Lodola, Creusa, and that mouthful Reconfilinia. Imagine calling her to dinner. “Reconfilinia! Your stew is getting cold! Grab your trencher and come to the table!” What if her sister were Ciattarella? You’d be worn out before you could finish telling these girls to do their chores. Especially if their little sister were called Pantasilea.

I try to imagine their nicknames. Fidiana might be Fidi for short. Cavalcante could be Cava or Cavi? Or Cante? Did people in the Middle Ages have nicknames?

Names that remind me of nouns–Diadema (did she wear a crown?), Soprana (did she sing?), Canziana (did she sing too?), Casotta (a small boat house?), or Vivalda (and she came a few centuries before our famous composer of similar name, though he was Venetian as well).

I love the Z names, not so common in most parts, though z is a well-worn consonant in Venetian dialect, so we shouldn’t be too surprised–Zardina and Zaratina.

And there are others I came across elsewhere (and even in later centuries) where women (and some men) had sort of doubled names, like Morosina Morosini and Saracena Saraceni. But I guess some people are still giving such names to their kids now, like Robert Roberts.

And last but not least–Fina!

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About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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4 Responses to Not Griselda, Not Brunhilda

  1. Nancy Schwalen says:

    Well, one nickname I could see for Birida is Birdie! I am trying to imagine these names with an Italian accent (with which I have a little familiarity although I would guess that the Venetian accent is somewhat different).

  2. This is so interesting! To my ear, some of these names still recall a geographic origin, like Istriana (coming from Istria), while others make me think of their height, like Altafiore (tall flower) or Donina (little woman). Also, Lodola sound short for “allodola” (skylark). Others still sound funny, like Ciattarella, that can refer to somebody who’s always talking, maybe translatable as “chitty chatty”? But my favourite is Cavalcante, very medieval in sound, referring to somebody who rides a horse, or “rider”. Thank you for sharing this!

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