Main Menu | finished


This Name Dictionary brings together in a convenient form information on personal names in Chaucer's works and on the names of gods and goddesses in their mythological and planetary aspects. Names of books, e.g., Anteclaudian and Eneydos, are considered under the entries for their authors, whose names are also mentioned. Names in square brackets at the beginning of entries, e.g., [JEAN DE MEUN], indicate that Chaucer mentions not the name but the work, e.g., Le Roman de la Rose. To keep the emphasis on personal names, those of allegorical figures, such as Fame, Fortune, and Nature, are not included. Place names are excluded because they have been dealt with in A Chaucer Gazetteer, by Francis P. Magoun, Jr. (Chicago: 1961).

The present work is addressed both to students--who may turn to it to find out where and in what context a given name occurs and to find out, at a glance, Chaucer's use of a given author, e.g., Lucan--and to those readers who are interested in etymological sources, e.g., the origin, formation, and development of Chaucer's names. The Name Dictionary thus supplements the notes of modern editions and goes beyond older indices, such as Corson's Index of Proper Names and Subjects to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (London: 1911) and, more recently, Dillon's Dictionary of Proper Names in the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer and Scott's Who's Who in Chaucer, both published in 1974.

The listings are in Chaucerian spellings, e.g., Ladomya instead of Laodomia, the classical spelling, to make it easier for the reader to find. In addition to using French, Italian, and modified Latin spellings, Chaucer modified names, without radically changing them, to suit the needs of rhyme and meter and to fit stress patterns.1 Thus May occurs in medial and final rhyming positions, but Mayus occurs four times in various positions with initial syllabic stress in The Merchant's Tale2; Griselde becomes Grisildis as stress and rhyme demand in The Clerk's Tale. Latin Colatinus is contracted to Middle English Colatyn for the same reasons. Sometimes Chaucer uses several variants of the same name, e.g., Eneas or Enee. Eneas is Middle English, French, and Italian; Enee appears for the sake of the rhyme. Position in the line, determined by the necessities of meter, in turn determines the form of the name; syllabic stress is shifted to meet the needs of metrical stress, and the shifted emphases are noted where they occur. Since i/y, ch/th, c/k are generally interchangeable in medieval manuscripts, no explanations are given for such variation.

Each entry has four sections. Biographical, historical, or mythological information is presented in the first paragraph, and names are given in classical spelling, e.g., Laodomia. Chaucer's use of the name appears in the second paragraph. Any particular connection, implication, or meaning of the name in the context in which it appears is discussed, with allegorical interpretation where appropriate, and names are given in Chaucerian spelling, e.g., Ladomya, Laodomya, and Laudomia. The third paragraph considers the etymology of the name, gives concordance occurrences for each form of the name, lists variant spellings, and takes note of the final -e where it occurs. Some names, like Criseyde, have final syllabic -e at the end of the line but elided final -e in the middle of a line before a word beginning with a vowel or unaspirated -h.3 Since the form of the name generally bears some relation to its place in the line, these are discussed where appropriate. The fourth paragraph is a bibliography of all sources used in the entry as well as important articles on the person or the Tale. The exception is Migne's Patrologia Latina, whose designation, e.g., PL 23: 175, appears immediately next to the work identified in the text. Sources are listed in alphabetical order. Those most frequently used are listed by their abbreviated titles, e.g., The Riverside Chaucer, ed. L. Benson; RR, ed. E. Langlois. Articles are given full bibliographical treatment, e.g., G. Dempster, "Chaucer at Work on the Complaint in The Franklin's Tale." MLN 52 (1937): 6-16. Periods after Roman numerals in the entry indicate books within a book, or parts, followed by line numbers, e.g., Iliad II.695-699. In the sources that follow the entry, Roman numerals indicate volume numbers, followed by a colon and page numbers, e.g., Homer, Iliad, ed. and trans. A.T. Murray, I: 102-103.

Cross-references appear in bold face and square brackets, e.g., [Dorigen]. Index numbers distinguish several persons with the same name, e.g., Robin1, Robin2, Robin3, each a different person. The following is a sample entry:

LADOMYA, LAODOMYA, LAUDOMIA. Laodomia was the wife of Protesilaus, who was killed when the Greeks landed at Troy, even before the main battles began (Iliad II.695-699). Laodomia killed herself when he did not return (Heroides XIII). Jerome mentions her among faithful wives, Epistola adversus Jovinianum (Letter Against Jovinian) I.45 (PL 23: 275).

The Man of Law lists a story of Ladomya among Chaucer's works, MLI 71, but no story exists. Dorigen thinks Laodomya is exemplary of wifely virtue, FranklT 1445; Laudomia appears in the catalogue of love's martyrs, LGW F 263, LGW G 217. [Dorigen: Protheselaus]

The forms appear to be scribal variants, all with four syllables. Ladomya occurs in final rhyming position, MLI 71; Laodomya appears in medial position, FranklT 1445; and Laudomia occurs medially, LGW F 263, LGW G 217.

G. Dempster, "Chaucer at Work on the Complaint in The Franklin's Tale." MLN 52 (1937): 6-16; Homer, Iliad, ed. and trans. A.T. Murray, I: 102-103; K. Hume, "The Pagan Setting of The Franklin's Tale and the Sources of Dorigen's Cosmology." SN 44 (1972): 289-294; Ovid, Her, ed. and trans. G. Showerman, 158-171.
It must be noted that the nameless pilgrims on the ride to Canterbury are referred to with capital initial letters, e.g., the Knight, the Merchant, the Clerk, the Friar, the Summoner. The people in the Tales who have similar occupations are given lower-case initial letters, e.g., the merchant (The Shipman's Tale), the clerk (The Franklin's Tale), the friar (The Summoner's Tale), the summoner (The Friar's Tale).

A key to abbreviations precedes the dictionary itself. It is divided as follows:

I. Chaucer's Works

II. Editions of Chaucer

III. Journals, Periodicals, and Reference Books

IV. Books and Other Abbreviations

An appendix at the end contains a short glossary of medieval astronomical and astrological terms, a Ptolemaic map of the universe, and diagrams of the zodiacal signs. There is a full bibliography, divided into primary and secondary sources.

I have used the Loeb editions of Greek and Latin authors wherever possible and medieval commentaries on mythological works for interpretation of figures and etymologies of names. The most important of these are Isidorus Hispalensis, Etymologiarum sive Originum Libri XX (ed. W.M. Lindsay, Oxford: 1911, 1972); Fulgentius, Mitologiarum libri tres in Mythographi Latini (ed. T. Munckerus, Amsterdam: 1681); Petrus Berchorius, Reductorium morale, Liber XV: Ovidius moralizatus, Cap.i, De formis figurisque deorum, Brux. Bibl. Reg. 863-869 (Utrecht: 1966); Ovide Moralisé (ed. C. de Boer, Amsterdam: 1915-1938), and John Gower, Confessio Amantis (ed. G.C. Macaulay, Oxford: 1911). For astronomical and astrological names I have used Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos. J.D. North has shown that this work was Chaucer's principal source for knowledge about the heavens and that the work was very well known during the period.4 For Chaucerian variants of Biblical names, the Latin Vulgate is the source.

The modern texts used for this work are The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. W.W. Skeat (Oxford: 1894-1897); The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry Benson (Boston: 1987); The Text of the Canterbury Tales, ed. J.M. Manly and E. Rickert (Chicago: 1940); The Tales of Canterbury, ed. Robert A. Pratt (Boston: 1974); A Parallel Text Print of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, put forth by F.J. Furnivall (Chaucer Society Publications, nos. 63, 64, 87, 88, London: 1881-1882), and The Book of Troilus and Criseyde, ed. R.K. Root (Princeton: 1926). I use mainly those spellings found in The Riverside Chaucer, but compare them with Manly-Rickert. Chaucer refers to the diversity of English dialects in the fourteenth century in Troilus V.1793-1798, and the variations found in the eighty-four manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales underscore his warning. In his discussion of the spelling of those manuscripts, J.M. Manly points out that there is no means of reconstructing the spelling systems of the ancestral scribe. Yet "conspicuous words, such as dialect forms, unusual words, proper names, and rhyme spellings are likely to be retained, and these only irregularly."5 He cautions, therefore: "It is not wise, then, to conclude, as has sometimes been assumed or suggested,...that because the spellings of the MSS having the best texts agree in general, these MSS reproduce the spelling of the original." The term "Chaucerian spelling" used throughout this Name Dictionary refers to the forms as scribes have rendered them. The line numbers follow the fragment divisions of The Riverside Chaucer.

In addition to the prefaces and notes of the editions mentioned above, I am also indebted to A Concordance to the Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer and to the Romaunt of the Rose, by J.S.P. Tatlock and A.G. Kennedy (Washington, D.C.: 1927, 1963); A Chaucer Gazetteer, by F.P. Magoun, Jr. (Chicago: 1961); A Dante Dictionary, by Paget Toynbee, revised by Charles Singleton (Oxford: 1968); The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, by David Hugh Farmer (Oxford: 1978, 1979); Medieval Science and Technology: A Selected, Annotated Bibliography, by Claudia Kren (New York: 1985); Chaucer Source and Analogue Criticism: A Cross-Referenced Guide, by Lynn King Morris (New York: 1985). For the etymology and system of Roman names, Cassell's Latin Dictionary has been invaluable.


1. N.E. Eliason, "Personal Names in The Canterbury Tales." Names 21 (1973): 137.

2. May occurs twenty-six times, Mayus four times in various positions. Emerson Brown, Jr., suggests that Maius, the month favorable to physicians, connects May with Damyan, who, with May, heals Januarie, "The Merchant's Tale: Why Is May called Mayus?" Chaucer Review 2 (1968): 273-277. He admits, however, that such a connection does not account for the form of the name.

3. For a full discussion of Chaucer's final -e, see E.T. Donaldson, "Chaucer's Final -e." PMLA 63 (1948): 1101-1124; 64 (1949): 609; and Ian Robinson, Chaucer's Prosody: A Study of the Middle English Verse Tradition (Cambridge: 1971), 82-108.

4. J.D. North, "Kalendered Enluymned Ben They." Review of English Studies, new series 20 (1969): 134.

5. The Text of the Canterbury Tales, ed. John M. Manly and Edith Rickert. 8 vols. (Chicago: 1940), I: 560.

Copyright © 1988, 1996 Jacqueline de Weever
Published by Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London.

Main Menu | finished