Names in the Low Countries before 1150

Early-medieval personal names in The Netherlands and Flanders


This website presents an overview of personal names in the Low Countries in the early Middle Ages. Initially, the site was set up for re-enactors, who wanted to create a persona for this period. I noticed that the site is also appreciated by genealogists, LARP-players, writers of historical novels and even mothers-to-be.

The collection of names is derived from primary sources, scriptures, usually in Latin, written during the early Middle Ages. I have tried to find and include all available sources until the year 1150 for The Netherlands and the Flemish part of Belgium, and I have recorded all personal names mentioned. Most material comes from charter books, but I have also consulted contemporary narrative sources: annals, chronicles and vitae of the saints. The compilation yielded over 10.000 attestations, 6000 individuals, and 1800 unique names.

The large variation in given names is one of the most conspicuous aspects of this compilation. The early Middle Ages may sometimes be depicted as a dark era where everything was sinister and grey, but for the names of the people, this picture is absolutely wrong. The pool of names was virtually limitless, the names sounded harmonious, and they expressed beauty and strength. In this regard, the early Middle Ages were a bright and colourful period.

Most people in the early Middle Ages had a Germanic name, consisting of two elements. The Table of roots presents the meaning of each Germanic element. The lists and the analysis pages show which names were popular or rare, which spellings were used and also differences and similarities between the social classes and the regions.

Usually, a person had only one single name, without a second (family) name. Over the centuries, the naming habits changed: biblical names became more popular, and the variation in Germanic names diminished. Due to the decreasing number of given names, the need for secondary names emerged, in order to keep individuals apart. The present compilation covers the beginning of this new era in name giving. The analysis pages illustrate some of these changes over time.
Kees Nieuwenhuijsen
Rotterdam, September 2012

Site history
February 2000
First version, focusing only on given names.
March 2001
Site moved to the present web address.
February 2004
Major revision. Added: data from the Diplomata Belgica and from various narrative sources. This implied bout 1000 'new' persons and 300 'new' given names. Added: analysis of bynames.
January 2005
Major revision. Added: 500 individuals from the ‘Oorkonden van Gelre en Zutfen’ and from Grierson’s Flemish Annals.
January 2006
Minor corrections.
September 2012
Major revision. Added: about 1500 'new' persons from Belgian Limburg and Flemish Brabant and from various narrative sources. Corrected: identification of individuals. Revised: identification of name elements, using Förstemann (1900).


Material & Methods

Male names
Male names extended
Female names
Female names extended
Table of roots
Non-Germanic names
Single rooted names
Composition rules Namesakes
© Dr. Kees C. Nieuwenhuijsen
Last update: September 2012