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by Heather Rose Jones
© 2001 Heather Rose Jones, all rights reserved
HTML formatting by Wendi Dunlap, 1 July, 2001
The following is a survey of name structures found in Gaulish inscriptions of a variety of types, locations, and dates. The major sources are:
I have not dealt with Celt-Iberian data here (the Celtic language found on the Iberian peninsula), partly because the sources are significantly more difficult to work with, partly because it is distinct enough from Gaulish to be worth treating separately.
Unless otherwise identified, the following examples are in the Gallo-Latin group. This article deals primarily with native Gaulish naming practices and does not include the much vaster amount of material on Gauls who bore Roman-style names (which came to predominate as the region became more Romanized during and after the first century CE).
Only a small percentage of the known Gaulish names occur in the structures covered here. Two much more extensive sources for Gaulish given names are Evans and Whatmough (see the references below), although both need to be used with care as they cover a great deal of time and space.
Men's and women's names use the same types of structures in general, with a few variants that may be due to different usage or simply to the vagaries of the data. Rather than separating the two into different sections, I've treated them together to show the parallels.
The major theme in name structures is the combination of an idionym (the given name or equivalent identifying the individual) plus some sort of relationship identification. (I generally try to stay away from less familiar terms like "idionym", but I've tried to use it here to distinguish the given name of the person being identified from other given names that occur in the reference; for example, in patronyms.) Occasionally, other types of identification may also be present, or may substitute for the patronym. The relationship byname may be simply the genitive (possessive) form of the parent's given name; it may be an adjective with a possessive sense derived from that element (similar to the <X-ius> forms of Roman nomina); it may be an adjectival form (with genitive sense) made from the parent's given name with an added suffix <-ac-> before the inflection; or it may add the suffix masculine <-(i)gnos>, feminine <-(i)gna> (meaning roughly "offspring") to the parent's given name. Most typically, the relationship byname comes after the idionym, but the reverse order is sometimes seen.
There are some significant differences between the repertoire of men's and women's bynames in the available data, but this is probably skewed by the nature of the richest source for women's names: a magical text produced by a women's religio-magical cult. Many of the women named in this document are identified by their relationships to other women (including, in some cases, other women named in the document), but it may be a mistake to assume that the patterns seen here are typical for women's names. (At least one scholar is of the opinion that the relationships -- and perhaps even the names themselves -- are of cultic rather than everyday significance. [Koch in Meid et al. 1996]) In addition to identifying the women by their relationships to other women, the names in this document include separate words indicating the nature of the relationship (daughter, mother, spouse), a pattern I did not find in men's names (although I would be unsurprised to turn up an example of a man's patronym with an explicit marker).
In addition to bynames indicating relationships, there are a very few examples of descriptive bynames or ones indicating location of residence or tribal affiliation, or where the nature of the byname is unclear.
(Format note: the actual cited version of the name is given first, transcribed very closely into the Roman alphabet if necessary. Following is a normalized version that puts the name into the nominative, if necessary, and adjusts the spelling to a more standard form. After that, I give the nominative forms of the name elements, with notes on the inflectional class. An acute accent in a normalized form represents a macron (long-mark) -- these would not normally have been indicated in the original, but affect pronunciation.)
To form the patronym, the father's name is simply put into the genitive case of the appropriate declension.
This is exactly the same as the previous construction, but with the order of the elements reversed. Quite probably, in the current example, this is due to the listing of two sons of the same father (i.e., "X's sons: Y, Z") and may not reflect normal name format.
To form the patronym, the stem of the father's name is given the suffix <-I-> and then the appropriate o-stem declensional ending to match the idionym. Because the patronym is behaving grammatically as an adjective, it must agree in case and gender with the idionym. (This is crucial to remember with women's patronyms of this type.) See the appendix for information on how to identify what form to use for the stem.
Another way of forming an adjective from the father's name adds the suffix <-(I)AC-> to the stem, and then the appropriate o-stem or a-stem inflectional endings to correspond with the gender of the idionym. (This suffix is cognate with a common adjective-forming suffix found in later Celtic languages.)
The most common patronymic formation (in the data I found) adds the suffix <-(I)GN-> to the stem of the parent's name, followed by either an o-stem or a stem inflectional suffix to match the gender of the idionym. (In both this and the previous construction, the "i" appears in most phonetic contexts: when the stem ends in a consonant, and evidently sometimes when the stem ends in "u" as well.) The suffix is a reduced form of the root <GEN->, cognate with Latin gens, and having the sense "family, offspring".
The same construction, but with the order of elements reversed. In this case, there is no particular reason in context for this order and it may simply be a rare but possible alternative.
This and the following two constructions are found only in women's names and only in a single source (that I've been able to identify so far). There seems no inherent reason that men could not have a patronymic construction with an overt word meaning "son" -- there are certainly Latin versions of Gaulish names that use filius -- but I have yet to find one at this time.
In this and the following two constructions, the idionym and relationship word appear in the nominative case, followed by the relative's name in the genitive case.
Here the women are identified as the mother of another woman -- in two cases, the daughter also appears identified as the daughter of her mother. I find it somewhat unlikely that this would be a normal naming construction, but I may be prejudiced by the types of relationship bynames typically found in Europe in the medieval period. There are certainly cultures (e.g. medieval and later Arabic culture) that have name-constructions that identify a woman as the mother of her child (normally of a son).
The same text that includes the mother-daughter relationships also identifies several women as dona of another individual. The reading is not at all certain, further complicated by the unusual case-form of the following name. Lambert (p.53) suggests interpreting the word as "nurse", with the following name in an archaic instrumental/associative plural case, with an overall sense of "nurse to the children of So-and-so". Schmidt (in Meid et al. p.29) interprets dona as a borrowing of Latin domina with a spousal sense, although this leaves unanswered questions about the case of the supposed spouse's name. One of the attractions of Lambert's hypothesis is that it is interpretable as retaining the focus on relationships between women in this text -- three of the four stems found after dona occur in the same text as women's idionyms (Potitius << Potita, Paullius << Paulla, Banonus << Banona; only Primius does not have a corresponding Prima elsewhere in the text). The other three examples are listed in the section on multiple bynames.
There isn't much data on what sorts of bynames other than patronyms were used. There are a few examples of locative or ethnic bynames. There are also a couple of examples where the meaning and even the nature of the byname is unclear.
It is also rare for a person to appear identified by more than one type of byname. The following show various combinations. If Gaulish names follow the same element-order as we find in later medieval Celtic names, it is no accident that we see a pattern: idionym > descriptive byname > blood relation byname > other relation byname > locative or ethnic byname.
(This section will be easier to follow if you've ever studied Latin or Greek or a similar language.) Gaulish nouns and adjectives, in addition to coming in different masculine and feminine forms, belong to an inflectional class (identified as X-stem) that determines what the form of the stem will be (the thing to which endings are added) and which set of endings it takes for the different cases.
In the most common noun classes -- the masculine o-stem and feminine a-stem nouns -- the stem is formed by removing the inflectional suffix (either < OS> or <-A> respectively). In other classes, the relationship may not be as straightforward. N-stem nouns (both masculine and feminine) end in <-U> (long or short) in the nominative case, but this changes to <-ON> for all other cases and inflectional suffixes are added to this. K/g-stem nouns end in <-X> in the nominative (i.e., <-KS>) and in either <-K-> or <-G-> for the other cases. The stem is the form of the name to which non-nominative case suffixes and other suffixes discussed above are added.
The cases indicate what grammatical function a noun or adjective is serving. The "basic" form is the nominative -- and this is the form that the idionym will appear in. Under normal circumstances, the only other case needed for personal names is the genitive, which indicates possession. (In the data above, names may appear in other cases because of the context of the original inscription.) The following table shows these two inflectional endings for each of the declensions found in the names above, with representative names showing how they work.
|Consonant stems (have in common a consonant at the end of the stem that may not appear in the nominative)|
1. Evans, D. Ellis. 1967. Gaulish Personal Names. Oxford University Press.
2. Koch, John T. ed. 1995. The Celtic Heroic Age. Celtic Studies Publications, Malden.
3. Lambert, Pierre-Yves. 1995. La Langue Gauloise. Editions Errance, Paris.
4. Meid, Wolfgang et al. 1996. Die Grösseren Altkeltischen Sprachdenkmäler. Institut für Sprachwissenschaft, Innsbrück.
5. Whatmough, Joshua. 1970. The Dialects of Ancient Gaul. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
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