Medievalizing a Name: Elizabeth to Elisende

posted by: Abby View all posts by this author

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Names from the Middle Ages are fascinating. They’re often quite similar to those parents love today, but tend to be almost entirely overlooked.

Nameberry has long had the Coolator. I would call this the Medievalizer, except that sounds like a torture device.

Instead, this is a list of the 2013 US Top Ten for girls, with suggestions for parents looking for something just a little different – or maybe something that would be right at home in the eleventh century.

1. Sophia

Sophia is a legitimate medieval appellation. She appears as early as the twelfth century. But for something more exotic, consider Sapphira, Simona, Sabeline, or Selova.

2. Emma

Like Sophia, she’s another one on this list requiring no transformation, but parents could opt for an elaboration like Emmeline, Emmelina, or Emmelise.

3. Olivia

This is one of the names that sounds like it could be authentic, but is actually relatively modern. Oliva was a second century saint, but her name had faded.  Oliver was a fairly common masculine moniker, but for a medieval girls’ name with similar sounds, consider Oriana or Oriel.

4. Isabella

Isabella would have worn perfectly well in the Middle Ages – she was more common than Elizabeth in many places throughout much of the era. And yet, if you’re looking for something different, consider Isabeau, Isolda, Idonia, or Belsante.

5. Ava

Av- names are available in abundance: Avelina, Avelot, Avice, and Avina are just a few that feel like they’re borrowed from a past era, while still being wearable in the twenty-first century.

6. Mia

She’s super-short, as is period-correct Ada or Ida.

7. Emily

You might have met an Emily in the fourteenth century, but there are other interesting, ends-in-y choices, like Adelie, Mabley, Cecily, and Sidonie.

8. Abigail

This one had me stumped. There’s nothing quite like the -gail ending, and it turns out that even Ab– is relatively unused. Amabel, the forerunner of Annabel and company, comes the closest.

9. Madison

They lack her modern, unisex sound, but this name owes her origins to medieval staples like Matilda and Maude.  Another option is Allison – but she feels very twentieth century.

10. Elizabeth

You could use Elizabeth, but Elisende or Helissent has more of that Great Hall vibe.

I am indebted to several sources for inspiration for this post: the extensive lists at the Medieval Names Archive, Kate Monk’s Onomastikon, and The Middle Ages.  For more Medievalizing, see the original post here.

Are there other medieval names you’d consider using in 2014?

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About the author


Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at
View all of Abby's articles View all Berry Juice Bloggers


6 Responses to “Medievalizing a Name: Elizabeth to Elisende”

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Giinkies Says:

June 5th, 2014 at 10:53 pm

I think Sophronia could also be used for Sophia.

senseandsensibility Says:

June 6th, 2014 at 6:44 am

now that’s something for me! medievalizing instead of modernizing! yay 🙂

niteowl13 Says:

June 6th, 2014 at 11:32 am

These are great! How about Zofia or Zosia for Sophia? Livia instead of Olivia. Abra, Abitha, and Abelia are ancient Ab names. I love the medieval sounding names! Thanks for the post!

Anaxandra Says:

June 6th, 2014 at 9:01 pm

A great post! I love this idea.

AlexandrianScrolls Says:

June 7th, 2014 at 11:24 am

I loved these names, and that picture is gorgeous! 😀

daisy451 Says:

June 9th, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Avelot is fascinating! Any info on etymology or pronunciation?

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