Introduction chapter III: the language of the rolls

Pages 25-34

Two Early London Subsidy Rolls. Originally published by [s.n.], [s.l.], 1951.

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In this section


The Language of the Rolls.

There are certain characteristic differences between the rolls as regards language. The French element is far more prominent in the earlier than in the later roll, and the English element, which is comparatively slight in the earlier roll, is prominent in the later one.

I. The subsidy of 1292.

In this roll the returns for the various wards show certain characteristic differences as regards usage.

A. The Latin element.

The Latin element is on the whole not very strong, but the framework, so to speak, is Latin. Latin are the names of the wards ("Eadem warda extra portam", etc.), the assessments, the sums total, and the statements of the numbers of taxpayers ("Capit"'). Relationship is mostly indicated by Latin formulas, as ffilius Bernard' Gut Cordw 23, frater Siluestr' Qu 50, socius eius Dowg 40, vallettus Joh. clerici Cordw 14. Senior, junior are used several times. Titles before names are thrice Latin: Domina CripI 61, Dowg 16, Magister BroadSt 39.

Font-names are mostly abbreviated, as Joh', Galfr', Walt', etc., but the probability is that the full names at the back of these abbreviations were mostly the Latinized forms. Joh' more likely represents Lat Johannes than OF Johan; in the only case where the full non-Latinized form is used it is Jon. Galfrid' will be for Galfridus, Petr' for Petrus, Hug' must be for Hugo. Full Latinized forms, such as Alanus, Edmundus, Goceus, Paulus, Juliana occur now and then, and more often abbreviated forms containing a Latin ending (-us, -'s, -a), as Rog'us, Walt's, Kat'ina. The safe examples of Latinized names are about 85 (Galfr', Joh' and the like, or Danyel, Dauid, Lucas, Simon not being included). They are especially common in the returns for Bish and Cordw (17 instances each, both written by hand 2), Dowg (10), Bill (8), Ports (7), Bas (3). The number of taxpayers is small in the last two wards, and both returns are partly in hand 2. Demonstrably Latinized forms are few in Qu (only Agnet'), Bridge (3), Vintry (2, or 4, if Alan' is included), Walbr (4). Hypocoristic names, as Gilot, Robin, or names of Italian origin, as Nute, Thonchelin, are rarely Latinized.

Occupational surnames are Latin in 9 or 10 cases: Batelar' Bill, Pistor Cordw, also Clerici gen. Cordw 14, Aurifaber CripI, Clericus CripE, Cissor 'tailor', Clericus Dowg, Carnifex Ports, Faber, Pistor Qu. An occupational word added for distinction after a full name is Latin in 9 cases, all except one in Bill and Cordw: alutar' 'cordwainer' Bill 7, 14, pistor ib. 6, 18, allutarius Cordw 34, clericus ib. 67, pistor ib. 26, speciarius ib. 40, aurifaber Qu 16.

The surname fil. Marie Dowg is Latin.

Local surnames are rarely Latin in form, but it is noteworthy that four names in Qu contain a Latin translation of an English or a French word: de ripa de la Leye 'of the bank of the Lea,', de Marisco (Engl atte Mershe), de Venella (Engl in the Lane), de Vinea (Engl atte Vigne). There is also de Ponte BishE. Surnames from placenames derived from saints' names are sometimes in the Latin form, as de Sancto Albano CripI, de Sancto Cristoforo BroadSt, and names of English towns are occasionally Latinized, as Oxonia for Oxford, Wyntonia for Winchester.

B. The French element.

In the return for Vintry whole French sentences or phrases are common, as ky maint de coste ly "who lives next to him" 11, ke maint en sa shope "who lives in his workshop" 28, ki maint deuant lostel Robin hod "who lives opposite the hostel of R. H." 51, ke fu la femme phelippe le tailur 61. In other returns are only found shorter expressions such as son frere Bridge 63, et Roger son vallet Dowg 84, compaingnuns 'partners' Walbr 43.

Titles before names are French in five cases: Dame BroadSt 3, 6, Vintry 60, Mestre Vintry 62, Sire Walbr 2. Petit before the name means 'junior' Bridge 62.

The French definite article le(la) is regularly used except in local surnames like atte Gate, as le Barber, a la Vigne. The form la is used before a surname if the bearer was a woman: Leticia la Aylere, Katerin la Fraunceyse,Lawinia la waterladestre, where also the surname has a distinctly feminine form, Juliana la Jouene, Aweline la Purcere, where the surname is of common gender, and Juliana la Cofrer, where the surname has the masculine form. An exception is Roys le Clerk, where the masculine form of the article is used.

Font-names often appear in the French form, which was also the normal English form. The distribution of these name-forms shows much variation. There are in Bridge 29, in Crip 21, in Vintry 13, in Walbr 13, in BroadSt 10, in Qu 8, in Cordw 6, in Dowg 4, in Bill two. Altogether the names in a French form, inclusive of Wat', which must be for Water, and such as David, Danyel, Simon, are borne by some 120 taxpayers. As examples may be mentioned: Aleyn, Ancel, Bartelmeu, Denys, Hanry (Hary, Herri), Jakes, Maheu, Marc, Peres, Phelip, Steuen, Warin, Aliz, Alice, Gilian, Isabele, Moude, also hypocoristic names such as Gilot, Jake, Baudechoun, Gateron, Robin.

Occupational surnames are mostly French in form. To seven Latin names of this kind, borne by 10 people, correspond some 75 French, borne by about 170 people, to which may be added over 40 instances of occupational words of French origin added after full names.

Most of these words were doubtless current in English in this period, and these surnames or occupational words may equally well be looked upon as English elements. Such surnames are, for instance, Armurer, Barber, Chandeler, Cordewaner, Draper, Gauger, Ioignur, Lorimer, Macun, Plomer, Tailur, Tauerner. Others had definite English counterparts and may be looked upon as purely French, at least many of them, as Aylere (Garlecmonger), Brasur (Brewere), Ceinturer (Girdelere), Cloer (Nailere), Cu (Cok), Cuuer (Coupere), Fener (Haymongere), Gaunter (Glovere), Leyner (Wolmongere), Mancher (Haftere), Massecre (Boucher, itself a French word), Megucer (Whittawiere), Orbatur (Goldbetere), Orfeure (Goldsmith), Pestur (Bakere), Seler (Sadelere), Tondor (Shereman), Tulere (Tilere). French names of this kind were no doubt as a rule translations of English ones. Among occupational words not used as surnames may be added formager (chesmongere), peleter (felmongere), pessoner (fishmongere).

The relative number of occupational surnames is not the same in all wards. But we may point out that there are in BroadSt 34, in Vintry 32 and in Bridge 18 French surnames and occupational words, but no Latin ones, in Crip 40 such names and words as against two Latin ones, in Dowg 15 as against two. On the other hand Qu has 12 French and 3 Latin ones, Cordw 15 French and 6 Latin ones, Bill 14 or 15 French and 5 Latin ones.

The surname of relationship le fiz Michel CripI is French. French font-names used as surnames always have the genuine French form, as Ace, Baudri, Fouq, Morice, Reyner. Luke is always Lucas as a surname, but the latter form was used also in Anglo-French (e. g. Fr Chron 9, 13).

Some local surnames in a French form were doubtless translations of English names, as de la Cornere Qu (Engl in the Hyrne), de la Crois Vi (Engl atte Cros), atte Virge Wa (Engl atte Yerde). The French prep. a is noteworthy in a la Fontayne Dowg (perhaps Engl atte Welle), a la Vigne ib. (Engl atte Vyne). Seint E(d)mund, Seint Osy may equally well be English as French.

The common surname le Lung (Loung) is French in form and has no doubt replaced Engl Long. La Jouene (Bridge) is a rendering of Engl Young. Le Blund and le Rous (Rus) may be translations of Engl White and Red respectively. French in form are le Fraunceys (la Fraunceyse) and le Hirreys ('Irish').

French influence on the form of English names is occasionally seen, as in Frois (Fros) for Frosh, Estreys for Estrish (both Bill) and in local surnames such as Gernemue (Walbr), Sorne for Shorne (Bridge), Stebeheye (Bridge), Wincestre, Wincetre (Bill, Bridge, etc.).

C. The English element.

Font-names call for no discussion here. Nicknames of English origin generally keep their English form, as Grete, le Rede.

Local surnames of the type atte Gate are fairly common, as ate Castel, atte Lanend, atte Wode Bridge, atte More BroadSt, atte Selde Dowg, in pe Hyrne Ports.

The only point of real interest in this connection is the use of English occupational surnames. There is hardly any reason to suppose that the English words so used had found their way into Anglo-French. The clerks who wrote the returns were doubtless English-speaking people, who sometimes left English occupational names untranslated.

No surnames of this kind occur in Bridge, Qu, Dowg, Vintry, which in this respect show themselves strongly French or Latin in character. They are particularly common in Crip, where we find le Brewer, le Chapman, Copersmyth, le Heymongere, le Hoder, le Tannere, also the hybrid le Cheuerelmonger (bis) and le Callere (bis), apparently an English formation from a French word.

Bish has Cornmetere and the hybrid Lindraper, also Lingedraper, which seems to be an English formation. We further note in Ports le Hodere and le Potere (bis), in BroadSt le Hodere, la Purcere and the unique la Waterladestre, in Cordw Setter and Wirdrawer, in Bas the somewhat doubtful le Teyare and in Bill the still more doubtful le Mitere.

The total number of English occupational surnames is small, 23 inclusive of hybrids. But, as already pointed out, many French occupational surnames may equally well be looked upon as English. English occupational words are not found added to a full name for distinction. Poter BroadSt 15 is probably OF potier.

Hybridism is very common. A Latinized font-name is often combined with a French surname preceded by le (la), as Egidius le Quilter, Edmundus le Teilur, Jacobus le Botiller, Leticia la Aylere, or with a French surname without le, as Stacius Coteler. Other instances are Rogerus le Rous brasur, Willelmus de Hokele chapeler, Magister W. le Myre, Dame Alice Hautein vxor W. Hautein.

II. The Subsidy of 1319.

Also the language of this subsidy shows a mixture of Latin, French and English elements, but their distribution is not the same as in the earlier subsidy.

A. The Latin element.

The fundamental language is Latin. Latin are the Ingress and the Colophon, the names of wards, the assessments, the sums total and additional matter at the end of the returns for each ward, references such as "Respice in tergo" and the like. Latin are various pieces of information in the main text, such as nuper vicecomite BreadSt 90, manente in redditu R. Hosbonde FarrI 168, Caligario Regis Cheap 163, indications of relationship, as que fuit vxor Andree aurifabri CripI 31, socio eius Cheap 152. A widow is sometimes referred to as Relicta followed by the husband's name (FarrI 42 ff.). Latin are also the numerous marginalia, like pauper, nullus talis or Nomina tax'. Gard' for ward BreadSt 22 probably represents an Anglo-Latin garda 'ward'. Titles are Latin, as Domina Walbr 20f., 47, etc., Magister CripI 76, etc., and senior, junior are used to distinguish namesakes, but paruus occurs in the sense 'junior' FarrI 1.

Font-names are with only a very few exceptions Latinized. Even when names are abbreviated, the Latin (ablative) ending is generally added, as in Joh'e or Joh'ne, Rob'to, Marg'ia. Hypocoristic names are generally Latinized too, as Janino BroadSt 9, Maikino Cheap 126, Guilloto ib. 139, Dyota Castle 42, and so are Italian names like Burnetto Cheap 128, Ragacio Bish 56. The only examples where the Latin ending is absent are the French Heruy Walbr 57, Guylote Aldg 17, Guillote Cheap 157, Staci Cheap 98, Johan Bish 48, 51, Castle 31, Cordw 21, Tower 50 (not certain examples), the women's names Aubry FarrE 88, Imaigne Langb 30; the English Seman FarrI 114, Wymond Bill 46; the hypocoristic Notekyn Cordw 65, Petrekyn BreadSt 63. The Italian Mone ColemSt 7 and Pelle Bish 11 seem to have kept their Italian form. Adam, Dauid, Samson are generally uninflected in Latin. It will be seen that the non-Latinized form has crept in only quite occasionally.

When font-names are used as surnames the normal French or English form is regularly kept, as Austyn, Geruays, Mabbely, Edmund.

Surnames are only rarely Latin in form.

Latin occupational surnames are common only in Ports, where there are 12 such names (Braciator, Casearius, Sutor, etc.) as against two French (Carpenter, Vynour), and 5 English (Bruer, Chapman, Hoder, Hotter, Lymbrenner). In this ward we also find the surname Paruus (no doubt for Engl Litle), and even the French Rus has had the ablative ending -0 added. In other wards Latin surnames of this kind occur only occasionally. There are in Bill Faber, in BreadSt Pistor, Tabernarius, in Bridge Cocus, in Cand Chapelarius, in Cheap Clericus, Cocus, in ColemSt Faber, Pistor, in Cordw Cocus, in CripI Aurifaber, in CripE Carpentarius, in FarrI Candelarius, Cocus, in LimeSt Faber, in Qu Cocus (bis), altogether 29 instances. A few times we find Latin occupational words added to full names, most of them in BreadSt (Cocus 7, 12, 13, 16, piscator 50), Cheap (allutarius 84, candelarius 137, cissor 8, 12, sellarius 21) and CripI (aurifaber 52, braciator 18, cissor 29). There is also carnifex FarrI 81.

Latin surnames of relationship are filius Roberti Langb, filius Rogeri Bridge, Qu. The surname Miles has the ablative form Milite (Tower).

English place-names used as surnames are sometimes Latinized, as the county names Deuonia (BroadSt) and Kancia (Qu), and names of cities or places as Cantuaria (FarrI), Eboraco (Cheap, twice), Oxonia (BroadSt, CripI), Nouo Castro (Bridge, Walbr), Westmonasterio (FarrI), Wyntonia (common), Sancto Albano (Aldersg, Cheap), Sancto Botulpho (Aldersg 16). The name de Foresta (FarrI) will be a translation of Engl atte Wode.

B. The French element.

The French element chiefly appears in surnames. The isolated font-names in a genuine French form, as Heruy, Aubry, mentioned supra, were current in English also. The same is generally true of French font-names used as surnames.

The French definite article le (la) is still used regularly except in surnames of the type atte Gate. It is found chiefly before occupational and similar surnames, but there are occasional examples such as de la Chaumbre, de la Garderobe, del Abbaie.

The feminine form la is usual if the surname was that of a woman. The surname itself is often feminine in form, as la Braceresse ('breweress') Bish, Cand, la Silkewymman FarrE, la Ceynturere ColemSt, la Chaundelere Langb, la Coyfere FarrE, la Warenere Langb. The masculine form was brasur, ceynturer, etc. In some cases the surname was of common gender, as la Leche Cand, Cordw, la Webbe Aldersg, la Bokebynder FarrE, la Stocfysshmongere Cornh. The surname keeps its masculine form in la Jueler BroadSt, perhaps an inaccurate spelling. Sometimes the surname indicates that the person followed the trade indicated, as evidently in the case of la Silkewymman, sometimes that she was the widow of a person with an occupational surname. La Warenere (lit. 'keeper of a warren') cannot have been an occupational surname in the real sense when applied to a Londoner.

In a few cases the article has the form le before the surname of a woman: le Calicer, le Goldescherster FarrI, le Sporyere FarrE, le Gardiner Bish, le Taburer BroadSt, also le Bole FarrI, le Botiller Walbr, le Gros Bas. A feminine ending -e is not added here. These examples need not indicate that the scribes used the forms le and la indiscriminately. The husband's surname was simply transferred to his wife or widow. Agnes le Botiller was called by the surname of her husband James le Botiller. Goldescherster may have been used of a male workman.

French occupational surnames are very common. There are about 100 such surnames borne by some 280 taxpayers. But the majority of these words were undoubtedly by this time part and parcel of the English vocabulary and would have been felt by scribes as English words. Such surnames are, for instance, Armurer (fn. 1), Barber, Bocher, Carpenter, Clerk, Coffrer, Cordewaner, Joignour, Kisser, Masoun, Mercer, Peyntour, Plomer, Spicer, Taillour, Tauerner. Others had frequently used English counterparts, as Auener (Otmongere), Brasour, Ceynturer, Fayner, Fourner (Bakere), Keu, Mouner (Milleward), Orbatour, Orfeure, Pestour, Seller. Some of these surnames are less common than the English ones, some more so. Brasour (Braceresse) occurs 6 times, Brewere 13 times, Ceynturer once, Girdeler thrice, Mouner once, Milleward thrice, Orbatour once, Goldbetere thrice. On the other hand Keu is found five times, Cok 'cook' not at all, Orfeure thrice, Goldsmith not at all, Seller 4 or 5 times, Sadelere twice, Fourner once, Pestour four times, Bakere 5 times.

Several French occupational surnames found in the earlier roll are absent in the later one, as Aylere, Batur, Bornysor, Cloer, Cordener, Cuuer (often Couper), Leyner, Mancher, Meguser, Massecre, Mostarder, Tannur, Teynturer, Tondor, Tulere, Wafrer. It is clear that the French influence was decreasing.

French occupational words are mostly used as distinguishing additions after full names, but most had already been adopted into English. Purely French were doubless furmager Cheap 13 f., gaunter ib. 35. The number of French words of this kind used is not large. 40 instances occur.

French surnames of the nickname type are of little interest here. Most of the names are words that had gained admittance into English, as Barun, Cosyn, Frere, Person, Bacon, Gay, Gentil. Le Moigne may be a rendering of Engl Monk, and Rus one of Engl Red. Blund does not occur, only White.

Some local surnames are French in form or partly so, as de Cornwaille, de Loundres, Deueneys, Fraunceis. Interesting is en la baillye (FarrE), which contains the French preposition en. Names such as de Seint Alban (Yue, Neede) are probably to be looked upon as English.

Normanized forms of English place-names used to form surnames are sometimes found, as Aumesbery, Caumpes, Wyncestre.

Two French surnames of relationship are finally to be noted: filz Richard and filz Roberd.

C. The English element.

Here may be noted first several surnames containing the English definite article, as the local ate Bowe, atte Gate, atte Swan, ate Barnette, atte Bataille and the like, in the (ye) Lane, and the nickname Blak inthe mouthe.

The number of occupational surnames of English origin or formation is considerable, though still inferior to that of French names. But the greater part of French surnames of this kind may be looked upon as in reality English. The English or partly English occupational surnames in the roll number some 65, occurring about 130 times. Among them may be mentioned Bakere (5 exx.), Bokebynder, Bowestrengere, Brewere (common), Chesmonger, Cornmongere, Coupere (6), Disshere, Fethermongere, Garlikmonger, Glaswrighte, Goldbetere, Goldescherster, Hosyer, Lymbrenner, Maderman, Milleward, Naylere, Ropere, Sakkere, Sherman, Skynnere, Tauwier, Webbe, Whittawyere, Wyrdrawere. Hybrids are Cheuerelmongere, Lyndraper, probably Callere (4 exx.). English words sometimes appear added to full names: bakere BreadSt 41, brewere Bill 12, coliere Castle 57 f., felmonger Cheap 36, glouere Bill 15, nailere Bas 33, pottere Aldg 22, 25, potter Ports 5, pursere Cheap 145, and the hybrid pybaker BreadSt 11, 39.

It may also be noted that the common surname le Longe always has its English form, that le Yongg is found twice, Jovene never, and that the name French is le Freynsh', le Frensche (once each), Fraunceis only once. The form le Estrishe corresponds to le Estreys in 1292, and le Northren perhaps to le Norreys in 1292.


  • 1. The definite article generally preceding these surnames is omitted.