The Journal of Literary Onomastics is the only scholarly periodical devoted to the study of names in literary texts (with "literary" defined as broadly as possible). Our focus is on literatures in the languages of Western and Central Europe of any period and any national origin. We are an affiliate publication of the American Name Society.

The The Journal of Literary Onomastics also awards the Wilhelm Nicolaisen Prize in Literary Onomastics to the author of the best essay of each volume. The prize consists of a cash award of $150 to be given to the author(s); students and faculty of the State University of New York at Brockport are ineligible. The prize honors the late Wilhelm Nicolaisen, Distinguished Professor of English and Folklore (Emeritus) at the State University of New York, Binghamton, and later Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen. Throughout his career, Professor Nicolaisen made major contributions to scholarship in literary onomastics and was a frequent contributor to Literary Onomastics Studies. Books for review should be sent to the following address:

Editor, Journal of Literary Onomastics
, Department of English
, SUNY Brockport, 350 New Campus Drive
, Brockport, NY 14420, U.S.A.

Recent Submissions

  • The Name and Battle of Arfderydd, near Carlisle

    Breeze, Andrew; Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona (1/1/2012)
    The battle of Arfderydd, fought near Carlisle in 573 (or perhaps 575), appears in many accounts of North Britain. Yet more can perhaps be said on its location and the meaning of its name. This paper thus has two functions: it reviews what has been written on the conflict between 1860 to 2009, and then sets out a new etymology for Arfderydd, with implications for where the action took place.
  • The “Saracens” of King Horn: Two Unnoticed Analogues

    Jurasinski, Stefan; SUNY Brockport (1/1/2012)
    Sheds new light on the tendency of some Middle English narrative texts to describe Vikings and earlier Germanic peoples as "Saracens."
  • A Pragmalinguistic Study of Yoruba Personal Names

    Ogunwale, Joshua Abiodun; Obafemi Awolowo University (1/1/2012)
    By virtue of their morphology and pragmatic effects, name-forms are lexical. However, proverbs are usually copious linguistic expressions that transcend mere lexical units. This study gives a description and analysis of the forms and contents of certain proverbial expressions whose linguistic forms and discursive roles have permitted their usage as Yorùbá personal names. Two major tasks are crucial in the following analysis: a characterization of the process involved in the change, and the explication of the interface between the pragmatics and semantic contents of this class of names. Essentially, therefore, the paper pursues answers to the following questions: how are the sentential features of Yorùbá proverbs reduced to the morphological/lexical status of names and why are some proverbs usable as names and a wide range of others not attested? And, arising from those two questions, what is the status and what are utilitarian effects of this class of names in pre-literate Yorùbá society? It is hoped that the provision of answers to the above questions would suggest reasons why certain rules; i.e. construction of certain types, occur in certain communication situations and thus highlight the interface between construction types and their uses.
  • "Eve's Neighborhood": Fictionalized Factual Place Names in an Off-Campus Novel

    Nicolaisen, W.F.H.; University of Aberdeen (1/1/2011)
    Considers Liz Rosenberg's novel Home Repair and interpretive problems of literary naming.
  • Cratchit: The Etymology

    Adams, Michael; Indiana University (1/1/2011)
    Cratchit, the surname shared by Bob, Martha, Peter, Belinda, assorted other Cratchits, the mother and wife who is only identified as “Mrs. Cratchit,” and especially Tiny Tim, in A Christmas Carol (1843), is one of Dickens’s most thematically and stylistically significant character names, as well as arguably the best loved. Nevertheless, the name’s etymology has given rise to relatively little commentary and is as yet undetermined. The exception is Michael Patrick Hearn’s The Annotated Christmas Carol (Dickens and Hearn 119) which correctly identifies the predominant etymon, without any attempt to “determine” it. Here I examine various etymological claims and argue for a particular mixed etymology, one that makes linguistic (morphological, semantic, pragmatic) and literary (thematic, characterological, stylistic) sense. The etymology leads to the name’s fictive value: the etymology is essential to understanding, not only thesignificance of the name, but the significance of the novel, as well as something about the aesthetic assumptions or inclinations underlying both, of which we are aware at their point of intersection.
  • “Dese Funny Folks. Glad I Ain’t None of Them”: An Onomastic Inquiry into Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury

    McAdams, James; Lehigh University (1/1/2012)
    The discipline of onomastics investigates such topics as “What is a name? Who names? What is named? Why does a person, place, or thing receive a name?” (Nuessel 1). Although there are numerous academic approaches subsumed under the broad term onomastics, the one most relevant to this paper is “anthroponyms,” which directly concerns the practice of character naming. In addition to surveying this perspective, I will analyze the innovative way in which character names in The Sound and the Fury function by locating the numerous places in the novel in which names change, repeat, layer, multiply, becoming ambiguous and displaced. Ultimately, I will consider how these linguistic “slippages” relate to the famous Faulknerian theme of the decline of the South. At the same time, I will identify those places in the novel–most often, in the case of the Gibsons–where names function effectively, and consider what this might connote about the future of the South, which the novel famously “redeems” on Easter Sunday, 1928. I will focus on three character names and one linguistic-ethnographic set: Benjy, Quentin, Candace, and the Gibson family.
  • Place-Names and Politics in The Awntyrs off Arthure

    Breeze, Andrew; Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona (1/22/2019)
    No abstract.
  • Permanent Functions of Characters’ Proper Names in Harry Potter

    Gibka, Martyna; Koszalin University of Technology (1/22/2019)
    No abstract.
  • Hrothgar and Wealhtheow: An Onomastic Approach to a Story of Good Governance

    Nelson, D. Marie; University of Florida (1/22/2019)
    No abstract.
  • Spenser, Wolfram, and the Reformation of Despair

    Monta, Susannah; Oliver, Lisi; Louisiana State University; University of Notre Dame (1/1/2011)
    To date, no consensus has emerged concerning the derivation of Spenser’s names Trevisan and Terwin, the only two characters in Book I’s “Legend of Holiness” whose names are not obviously labels. This essay proposes that Wolfram’s Parzival offers a strong analogue that may also point to a possible origin for the names of Spenser’s Trevisan and Terwin. Further, and most significantly, the comparison between Wolfram’s poem and Spenser’s gives the more important of those two figures, the fearful knight Trevisan, a complex role to play as Spenser probes Protestant theological treatments of despair.
  • The Power of Place: Colonization of the Anglo-Saxon Landscape by Royal and Religious Ideologies

    Leggett, Samantha; University of Cambridge (5/2/2017)
    No abstract.
  • Unique Onomastic Information in the Lebor na hUidre Táin

    Holmberg, Matthew; Harvard University (5/2/2017)
    No abstract.
  • Imag(in)ing the Holy Places: A Comparison between the Diagrams in Adomnán’s and Bede’s De locis sanctis

    O'Neill, Patrick P.; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (5/2/2017)
    No abstract.
  • Preaching the Landscape in the Blickling Homilies

    Cudmore, Danielle; Halmstad University (5/2/2017)
    No abstract.
  • British Places and Rauf de Boun's Bruit

    Breeze, Andrew; Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona (1/1/2011)
    Considers place names in Le Petit Bruit, a short prose chronicle of the early fourteenth century.
  • Genre Construction: The Creation of the Dinnshenchas

    Murray, Kevin; University College, Cork (5/2/2017)
    No abstract.
  • "Historia Brittonum" and Britain’s Twenty-Eight Cities

    Breeze, Andrew; Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona (7/18/2016)
    Certain versions of the ninth-century _Historia Brittonum_ have an additional chapter (66a), nominally containing a list of "all the cities in the whole of Britain, twenty-eight in number". It has intrigued medieval and modern scholars alike. They have struggled to identify the names as those of Roman Britain's cities, for the most part without success. In the present paper a new approach is tried. While some of the places listed are genuine Roman cities (but also medieval ones), such as Winchester, Carlisle, York, London, Canterbury, or Chester, others are no such thing. They can be shown on the basis of the twelfth-century Book of Llandaff to be monastic and other sites in south-east Wales and the Border, such as Monmouth, Welsh Bicknor, Doward, Trellech Grange, Much Dewchurch, or Llandogo. Others are from more distant parts of Britain, such as Kirkintilloch near Glasgow, or Trevelgue on the coast of Cornwall. The list hence tells us almost nothing about Roman Britain, but a great deal about ninth-century Wales, where a monk living between the Wye and the Usk inadvertently succeeded in passing off a set of local names, with some random additions from elsewhere, as an index to Roman Britain's urban life. It also shows how a readiness to emend name-forms in a Celtic-Latin text may bring sense out of what has been devoid of sense for over a millennium.
  • “The city was named after an Herb called Mesas in Ancient Spanish”: Rabbi Yosef Mesas’ Testimony concerning his Surname

    Shemesh, Abraham Ofir; Ariel University, Israel Heritage Department, ISRAEL (7/18/2016)
    Yosef Mesas (1892–1974), a renowned Jewish Rabbi, claimed that the origin of his surname is the ancient city Mesas near Madrid, named for a medicinal herb common there. He assumes that "Mesas" became a common name in Morocco after the Jews were exiled from Spain in 1492. Mesas suggests that the herb is "Masasa" in Moroccan Arabic (Darija dialect). In the 12th century, Maimonides stated that Moroccans call the genus Plantago "Masasa". This fact refutes Mesas' assumption that the name was brought to Morocco after the Alhambra Decree. "Mesas" apparently originates from the Spanish term "mesa", meaning "tableland" or "plateau". It can be estimated that the family originated from "Mesas de Ibor", in the Cáceres region of western Spain. It is quite possible that after the family arrived in Morocco the surname became associated with the local "masasa" plant, connecting it with the Spanish city of Mesas.

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