Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/741

This page needs to be proofread.




cept Christianity, was baptized in 878 by the name of jEthelstan.

Practice regarding Names. — But while various Fathers and spiritual writers, and here and there a synodal decree, have exhorted the faithful to give no names to their children in baptism but those of canon- ized saints or of the angels of God, it must be con- fessed that there has never been a time in the history of the Church when these injunctions have been at all strictly attended to. They were certainly not heeded during the early or the later Middle Ages. Any one who glances even casually at an extensive list of medi- eval names, such as are perhaps best found in the in- dexes to the volumes of legal proceedings which have been edited in modern times, will at once perceive that while ordinary names without any very pronounced religious associations, such as William, Robert, Roger, Geoffrey, Hugh, etc. enormously preponderate (Wil- liam about the year 1200 was by far the most common Christian name in England), there are also always a very considerable number of exceptional and out-of- the-way names which have apparently no religious as- sociations ai, all. Such names, to take but a few speci- mens, as Ademar, Ailma, Ailward, Albreza, Alditha, Amaury, Ascelina, Avice, Aystorius (these come from the lists of those cured at the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury) are of quite frequent occurrence. The point however cannot be dwelt on here. We may note on the other hand that a rubric in the official "Rituale Romanum" enjoins that the priest ought to see that unbecoming or ridiculous names of deities or of godless pagans are not given in baptism (curet ne obscama, fabulosa aut ridicula vel inanium deorum vel impiorum ethnicorum hominum nomina imponan- tur). Some of the seventeenth century French ritu- als have gone further than this. For example that of Bourges (1666) addressing parents and godparents urges: "Let them give to boys the names of male saints and to girls those of women saints as right order requires, and let them avoid the names of festivals like Easter (Paques), Cliristmas (Noel), All Saints (Toussaint) and others that are sometimes chosen." Despite such injunctions "Toussaint" has become a not uncommon French Christian name and "Noel" has spread even to England. The addition of Marie, especially in the form Jean-Marie, for boys, and of Joseph for girls is of everyday occurrence.

In Spain and Italy again, ardent devotion to our Blessed Lady has not remained content with the sim- ple name Maria, but many of her festivals etc. have also created names for girls: Conception, of which the diminutive is Concha, is one of the best known, but we have also Asunci6n, Encarnaci6n, Mercedes, Dolores, etc. in Spanish and in Italian Assunta, Annunziata, Concetta, etc. It is strange on the other hand that the name Mary hiis by no means always been a favour- ite for girls, possilily from a feeling that it was too au- gust to be so familiarly employed. In England in the twelfth century Mary as a Christian name is of very rare occurrence. George again is a name which despite the recognition of the warrior saint as patron of Eng- land, was by no means common in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, though strangely enough it grew in popularity after the Reformation. A writer who has made a minute examination of the registers of Ox- ford University from 1.560 to 1621, has made out the following list of the more common names borne by the students in order of popularity: John, 3S26; Thomas, 2777; William, 2.546; Richard, 1691; Robert, 1222; Edward, 957; Henry, 908; George, 647; Francis, 447; James, 424; Nicholas, 326; Edmund, 298 (see Oxford Hist. Soc. Transactions, XIV). In Italy and Spain it has always been a tolerably common practice to call a child after the saint upon whose feast he is born.

Confirmation Names. — The practice of adopting a new name was not limited to baptism. Many

medieval examples show that any notable change of condition, especially in the spiritual order, was often accompanied by the reception of a new name. In the eighth century the two Englishmen Winfrith and Wil- libald going on different occasions to Rome received from the reigning pontiff, along with a new commission to preach, the names respectively of Boniface and Clement. So again Emma of Normandy when she married King Ethelred in 1002 took the name JE\{- gifu; while, of course, the reception of a new name upon entering a religious order is almost universal even in our own day. It is not strange, then, that at confir- mation, in which the interposition of a godfather em- phasizes the resemblance with baptism, it should have become customary to take a new name, though usu- ally no great use is made of it. In one case, however, that of Henry III, King of France, who being the god- son of our English Edward VI had been christened Edouard Alexandre in 1.551, the same French prince at confirmation received the name of Henri, and by this he afterwards reigned. Even in England the prac- tice of adopting a new name at confirmation was re- membered after the Reformation, for Sir Edward Coke declares that a man might validly buy land by his confirmation name, and he recalls the case of a Sir Francis Gawdye, late Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, whose name of baptism was Thomas and his name of confirmation Francis (Co. Lift. 3a).

ScHROD in Kirchenlex., a. v. Namen; Bass Mulunger in Did. Christ. Ant.; CoRBLET, Histoire du sacrament de bapteme, II (Paris, 1884): Mart£:ne, De antiquis ecdesioE Htibus, I (Venice, 1783), 17-28; YoNQE, .4. History of Christian Names (London, 1894).

Herbert Thurston.

Names, Hebrew. — To the philosopher a name is an artificial sign consisting in a certain combination of articulate sounds, whereby a particular class of people are wont to designate one thing and distinguish it from all others. If the name conveys an idea, it is merely because of a wholly artificial relation once arbitrarily established between the name and the thing it stands for. Primitive people, using a language as it is handed down to them without inquiring into its origin, are inclined to make much of names. This is true of the old Semitic peoples, especially of the Hebrews. All Hebrew names were supposed to bear a significance, as originally individual subjects were called by a name expressive of some characteristic, e. g., Edom, red; Esau, hairy; Jacob, supplanter. They were carefully and solemnly selected, especially personal names. Leaving aside cases where the name was Divinely given (Abraham, Gen., xvii, 5; Isaac, Gen., xvii, 19; Ismael, Gen., xvi, 11; John, Luke, i, 13; Jesus, Matt., i, 21; etc.), the naming of a child usually devolved upon the parents, and, it appears, preferably upon the mother. The women of the family (Ruth, iv, 17), or the neigh- bours (Luke, i, 59), talked over the name to be given. The name seems to have been given ordinarily at the time of the birth; but at a late period the day of cir- cumcision was more usual (Luke, i, 59; ii, 21). Of the customs connected with the naming of cities we know nothing, except what may be gathered from the names themselves, and what is said of a few cities named after their founders and conquerors (Gen., iv, 17; Num., xxxii, 42; Deut., iii, 14; Jos., xix, 47; etc.).

So intimate was the relation conceived to be be- tween the individual and his name, that the latter came frequently to be used as an equivalent of the for- mer: "to be called" meant "to be", the name being taken to be equal to the object, nay, identical with it. Notliiiig is iiKir" fldqucnt of tiii.s fuct tliaii the religious awe in which the Hebrews held the name of God (see Jehovah). Similar notions prevailed with regard to all proper names. Nor were the Hebrews an excep- tion: all Semitic peoples, and, to some extent, all primitive peoples shared the same belief. This is why the study of these names is looked upon by students of history as a sort of key to the knowledge of the reli-