Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mediæval English Pet Names

The information behind this article comes primarily from Charles Wareing Bardsley’s English Surnames:  Their Sources and Significations, seventh edition, published in London in 1901.  This book is available for free download in Acrobat PDF format from Google Books at
What do I mean when I say, “pet names”?  The technical word is “diminutive”.  In other words, a more intimately familiar, often shortened version of a name, for example:  Billy from William, or Betty from Elizabeth.  The word pet, in reference to pet names, is a shortened version of the French word petite, meaning little one.  This article does not cover the kind of nicknames that are often unrelated to their bearer’s actual name, such as a person whose name is John being called Lefty, due to his being left-handed.
Interestingly, many mediæval pet names are preserved even until current times in the hereditary surnames that fill our telephone directories.  Many English surnames started out as patronyms and metronyms.  (A patronym tells who a person’s father is.  A metronym tells who his or her mother is.)  Also, the patterns by which pet names were formed came from both Anglo-Saxon English and Norman French.
In some cases a pet name was formed by literally shortening the name, and often substituting a different first letter, to make a rhyme.  A few examples are:
Christopher > Kit, Kitt, or Kitte       Anne > Nan
David > Dawe                                    Cecilia or Cecily > Cis, Cesse, Sis, Siss, or Sys
Gilbert > Gib, Gibbe, or Gyb            Eleanor, Elinor, Leonora, or Alianor
Nicholas > Cole or Col                               > Annora, Ellen, Lina, Lyna, or Nel
Richard > Dick or Hick                     Etheldreda > Ethel
Robert > Dob, Dobbe, Hob, or          Isabel > Ib or Bell
Hobbe                                        Matilda > Maud
Roger > Hodge or Dodge                   Petronilla > Parnel or Pernel
Walter > Watte                                  Theophania > Tiffany
In many other cases, a pet name was formed by adding a suffix to either the proper name or very often to a shortened version of it.  Often, the resulting pet name was even longer than the name from which it came.  These suffixes were of four principal varieties:
(1) Kin from the Anglo-Saxon.
Adam > Adkin, Adekin, or Atkin
Anthony > Tonkin
Baldwin > Bodkin
Bartholomew > Badkin or Batkin
Daniel > Dankin
David > Dawkin or Dakin
Elias > Alkin or Allkin
Jane > Janekyn
John > Jenkin, Hankin (from the Latin Iohannes)
Henry > Hawkin or Halkin
Hugh > Hughkin or Huckin
Geoffrey > Jeffkin
Lambert > Labmekyn, Lambekin, or Lambkin
Laurence or Lawrence > Larkin
Luke > Luckin
Mark > Markin
Matilda > Mawdkin, Meakin, Mekin, Malkin, or Makin
Peter > Peterkin, Perkin, or Parkin
Radulf or Ralph > Rapkin or Rawkin
Reginald, Ragenald, Rainald, Reynold, Renaud, Reinaud, or Renard
> Rankin, Reynkin, or Reynkyn
Robert > Hopkin
Roger > Hotchkin or Hoskin
Simon > Simkin, Simpkin, or Symkyn
Theobald, Thibault, or Thibaud > Tipkin
Thomas > Tomkin or Thompkin
Walter > Watekyn or Watkin
William > Wilekyn or Wilkin
(2) Cock also from the Anglo-Saxon.
Adam > Adcock
Alexander or Alisaundre > Saundercock (via Saunder) or
Sandercock (via Sander)
Baldwin > Balcock
Barbara > Babcock
Bartholomew > Badcock or Batcock
Daniel > Dancock
Elias > Elcock, Ellcock, Alcock, or Allcock
Geoffrey > Jeffcock
John > Johncock, Hancock, or Handcock (both via Latin Iohannes)
Laurence or Lawrence > Laycock
Luke > Locock, Luckock, or Lucock
Mark > Marcock
Philip > Philcock
Richard > Hitchcock
Simon > Simcock
Timothy > Timcock
William > Wilcock or Wilcoc
(3) Ot or et from the Norman French.
Abel > Abelot, Ablett, or Ablott
Arnold > Arnott, Arnet, or Arnyet
Brice > Briccot
Cecilia or Cecily > Cissota, Sissot, Syssot, or Syssott
Douce, Duce, Dulce, or Dulcia > Dowsett, Doucett, or Duckett
Charles > Charlat, Charlot (fem. > Charlotte)
Constance > Cussot
Cuthbert > Cowbeyt or Cobbet
Daniel > Danett or Dannett
Dionisius > Dyott, Dyot, Diot, or Denot (via Dennis)
Drew or Drogo (not Andrew) > Drewett or Druett
Eleanor, Elinor, Leonora, or Alianor
> Annot, Alinot, Alnot, Anota, Linot, or Linota
Elias > Elliot, Eliot, Allot, Alecot, Alyott, or Elicot
Emeric or Emery > Emelot
Emma > Emmett or Emmot (both fem.)
Eve > Evett or Evitt (both fem.)
Gerald or Gerard > Garret, Jarret, Jarratt
Gilbert > Gibbett
Giles > Gillet or Gillot
Guy > Guyot, Gyot, Wyot, Wyott, or Wyatt
Hamon > Hamnet, Hammet, or Hamonet
Henry > Hallet, Halket, Henriot, Heriot, or Haryott (fem. Harriet or Harriot)
Hugh > Huet, Hewet, Hewett, or Howett
Isaac > Higgott or Higgett
Isabel > Bellet or Bellot (via Bell); Ibbot, Ibbit, Ibbet, Isotte, Ebot, Ezota, Isot, Izott, Ibote, or Ibotta (via Ib)
Ivar, Iver, Ive, or Ives > Ivett
John > Jackett (via French Jacques; fem. > Jacquetta)
Juliana > Gilot, Gillot, Juet, Juetta, Jewit, Jewitt, Jowet, Jowett, or Juliet
Laurence or Lawrence > Larrett
Luke > Luckett or Lockett
Margaret > Margot, Marget, Merget, Margett, Maggot, Magot
Mary > Marriot or Mariot
Matilda > Tillot or Tyllott
Miles or Milo > Millot, Millet, or Mylett
Nicholas > Colet, Colett, or Collett (fem. Collette; via Col)
Pagan, Payne, Paye, Paine, or Pain > Paynett or Paynot
Paul > Paulett, Poulett, Powlett, or Pollitt
Peter > Perot, Perret, Perrett, Parrot, or Parret
Phillip > Phillot, Phillipot, Philpott, Philpot, Fillpot, Fylpot, Phillot, Philipot, or Phylypotte
Robert > Robynet (via Robin)
Roland > Rowlett, Rowlet
Simon > Simonet, Simnet, or Symonet
Stephen > Stevenet, Stevenot, Stennet, or Stennett
Theobald, Thibault, or Thibaud > Tibbot, Tebbott, Tibbat, Tibbet, or Tebbutt
William > Guillemot, Gwillot, Gillot, Gillott, Gillett, Williamot, Willmot, Wilmot, Willot, Willet, Willert, or Willimote
Sometimes the -ot/-et form was rendered instead as -elot or -elet.
Bartholomew > Bartelot, Bartlett, Bertelot, or Burlet
Cecilia or Cecily > Cesselot
Christian > Crestolot or Crestelot
Hamon > Hamlet or Hamelot
Hugh > Hughelot, Huelot, Hulot, Hullet, Hullett, Howlett, or Hewlett
Richard > Richelot or Rickelot
Robert > Hobelot (via Hob)
Theobald, Thibault, or Thibaud > Tebbelot
(4) On or en also from the Norman-French.
Alice or Alys > Alison
Beatrice or Beatrix > Beton, Betten, Betin, Betyn, Betan, or Beaton
Catherine > Catlin, Cattlin, Catlyn, or Katlyn
Gilbert > Gilpin, Gibbin, or Gibbon
Guy > Guyon
Hamon > Hamlyn or Hamelyn
Hugh > Huon, Hugon, Huguon, Hugyn, or Huggin
Isaac > Higgin
John > Jacklin (via French Jacques; fem. Jacqueline)
Mary > Marion
Nicholas > Colin (via Col), Collin, or Nixon
Peter > Perrin
Radulf or Ralph > Rawlin or Rollin
Richard > Diccon, Dicken, or Diggon (via Dick) or Hitchin
Robert > Robin, Dobbin, or Hobin
Thomas > Tomlin
William > Wicken



  1. Do we know what the significance of the suffixes were? Did something like '-kin' have meaning or - like certain articles for German nouns - did they just 'sound right'?

  2. That is an interesting question. I would guess that they originally had meaning, but what that might be, Bardsley doesn’t tell us. On pages 15-16 of the book I referenced (pages 49-50 in the PDF of the book), he merely states:

    1. Kin.—This saxon term, corresponding with the German ‘chen,’ and the French ‘on’ or ‘en,’ ... we still preserve in such words as ‘manikin,’ ‘pipkin,’ ‘lambkin,’ or ‘doitkin.’ ...
    2. Cock.—Our nursery literature still secures in its ‘cock-robins,’ ‘cock-boats,’ and ‘cock-horses,’ the immortality of this second termination....
    3. Ot or et.—These terminations were introduced by the Normans, and certainly have made an impregnable position for themselves in our English nomenclature. In our dictionaries they are found in such diminutives as ‘pocket’ (little poke), ‘ballot,’ ‘chariot,’ ‘target,’ ‘latchet,’ ‘lancet;’...
    4. On or en.—These terminations became very popular with the French, and their directories teem with the evidences they display of former favour. They are all but unknown to our English dictionary, but many traces of their presence may be found in our nomenclature....

    Sorry, but this is about as much help as I can offer.