Latin and Germanic names in the Estoria de España (text 5)

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In this new post we wanted to touch on the anthroponymy in the Estoria de España, particularly in fragment 5 of Transcribe Estoria, dedicated to the Archbishop of Toledo, called “Urbera”, who is said to have “brought to Asturias the holy relics and the books and the holy garment that Saint Mary gave to Saint Alfonso”. Since we already have an article dedicated to him on the blog, we will not elaborate on the content of that fragment.

¶ Chapter CLxxxvjº. De como vrbera arçobispo de toledo leuo las sanctas rreliquias e los libros e la sancta vestidura que sancta maria dio asant alifonso.

In the field of onomastics this text is striking, as detailed reference is made to numerous characters who held the position of Bishop of Toledo, as well as other prominent clerics in this part of the Estoria. Some, like Isidoro and Leandro, have gone down in history with the title of ‘Saint’. In the middle of this long list, some names stand out that may be strange to the modern reader, while others just present some alteration to the name most commonly used later. As the main source of this fragment is the work De rebus Hispaniae by Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, we assume that the Alfonsine historians adapted the Latin in the way that seemed most convenient, without forgetting those uses that were more familiar to them.

The first part of the chapter alludes to Urbera. The witness E1 tells us that Urbera ‘was Archbishop of Toledo after Sinderedo’. Doubts arise regarding the form of the name, since the most possible was Urban. [1] In line with this theory, in the Crónica Mozárabe there is a clergyman called this, and there is speculation of his being an archbishop (Gonzálvez Ruiz 2011: 79). The name, Urban o Urbano, comes from the Latin urbanus meaning ‘of the city’, and has a long tradition within the Church of being chosen by various popes. The last, Urban VIII died in 1644.

vrbera que fue arcobispo de toledo

Of Visigothic origin, without doubt, is Gunderigo, the bishop cited in the Estoria de España as coming after Felices or Félix and before Sinderedo: “Despues ffelizes. ¶ Desi Gunderigo. ¶ e empos este; Sinderedo”. This Toledan clergyman is called Gunderico by Enrique Flórez (1758), just as other modern historians do. Furthermore, this name was given to a Vandal king who died in Seville in 428. [2]. The composition of the anthroponym seems to have the root gunthi ‘war’ which we can observe in the name Gonzalo (Medieval Latin Gundisalvus, García Gallarín 1998: 173; Lapesa 1980: 121), but also in the German Günther / Gunther[3]. To this first element has been added the Germanic word rik, ‘rich’ o ‘powerful’ (Lapesa 1980: 121), present in names from this origin such as Federico and Rodrigo, and the names of numerous Visigothic kings (Eurico, Amalarico, Witerico, etc.).

despues feliçes. despues gunderigo.

We know that Sinderedo coexists with the variant Sindredo although contemporary sources such as the Real Academia de la Historia use Sinderedo[4]. Near Urbano, we see Evancio mentioned. It may be that the latter is directly related to Evencio, from the Latin name Euentius, from evenio, ‘to happen’ (García Gallarín 1998).

sinderedo en cuyo tienpo prisieron los moros atoledo
euançio omne de grant sabor e de grant sentido

Less well-known is the name Sisiberto, another of the bishops of Toledo. In some histories, such as that of Gregorio Mayans (1753), it appears as Sisberto[5]. It is most probably made up of the root *sis / sisu ‘spell, curse’, related to the German Zauber, which can be seen in other Germanic names such as Sisebuto or Sisenando (García Gallarín 1998: 284), and the etymon berth ‘brilliant’, which has formed Germanic anthroponyms such as Alberto, Roberto o Rigoberto (op. cit).  

toledo o sisiberto arçobispo dese mesmo logar fue despuesto

We find ourselves here with two names of which the use has endured to present day: Al(i)fonso and Esidro. The former refers to the patron saint of the diocese of Tolede, today known as San Ildefonso. According to Lapesa (1980: 121), Hildefonsus, Adefonsus and Alfonsus have as their origin *hilds ‘fight’, *all, ‘all’ y *funs ‘prepared’, and converge in Alfonso, although the variants Ildefonso and Alonso have not lived on, and have taken an independent path. Perhaps out of faithfulness to the tradition, the Toledan archbishop has been called Ildefonso since the thirteenth century, and can be seen as such in the Miracles of Berceo[6], something which, nonetheless, is not followed in the Estoria de España.

las escripturas de sant alifonso

As for Esidro, it is equivalent to Isidro (ysidrio in the ms. C), a common and well-known variant [7]. However, nowadays we refer to a concrete historical character, Saint Isidore of Seville (556-636), with the form that is closer to the Latin original Isidorus, and this from the Greek Isidoros, ‘gift from the goddess Isis’ (García Gallarín 1998: 192). Many examples of the form Esidro can be found in the medieval texts of the CORDE database and the CODEA corpus [8].

sant ysidrio tomo la primazia en espanna

Likewise, the form of Quirigo appears altered in the Alfonsine manuscript, with the second velar occlusive voiced as /g/, something which is not seen in the texts written later when mentioning the bishop of Toledo, Quirico. This name, from the Latin Quiricus, is a possible variant of Ciriaco (García Gallarín 1998: 260), this related to kyrios, ‘señor’ (‘Lord’) (op. cit. 114). As for Felices, we find ourselves with an archaic form of Félix, a name given to the archbishop of Toledo. Just as for Isidro or Alfonso, the Alfonsine authors use the name as it was habitually used in the Castilian of the time: Felices is documented in several medieval texts, both literary and legal. We can also see traces of this when it appears as a toponym, such as in the hamlet of San Felices (Soria).

¶ Despues de sant aljfonso fue arçobispo quirigo

Amongst the variations of names there are cases of apocope, which we find, for example, in a bishop called Clemeynt, who it is said “fuxo ante los Almohades a Talauera”. This is a variant of the present-day Clemente, from the original Latin Clemens, ‘merciful, compassionate’. The apocopated form with the final –e dropped, Clement, is very common in peninsular medieval texts from Castile, as well as from other areas [9].

fue y otrosi otro electo que ouo nonbre clemente que fuxo ante los almohades atalauera e m[o]ro y grant tienpo fasta que murio.
Finally, we have to cite a curious reference to the Arabic first name given to a man of the Church: “fue en Seuilla el sancto Obispo Johan. omne de muj grand santidad e de buena uida. e santa. que era llamado de los Alaraues por su arauigo; Çaeyt almatran. e era muj sabio en la lengua arauiga”. The name  Çaeyt seems to be equivalent to señor, a term of respect for a clergyman. Although this is an exceptional case, we should note the presence of the Arabic world even in a text of such great importance to Visigothic culture.

que era llamado delos alaraues por su arauigo caeyd almatran

In conclusion, by simply examining the first names of the Toledan diocese we are able to appreciate the immense cultural heritage of its city. The authors of the Estoria de España copied a fragment of a history in which the Hispano-roman and the Visigothic traditions came together, as did the Arabic, as an indirect presence. The origin of names, as always, is a clear footprint of cultural heritage.

Delfina Vázquez Balonga



García Gallarín, Consuelo (1998): Los nombres de pila españoles. Madrid: Ediciones del Prado.

Gonzálvez Ruiz, Ramón (2011): “El nacimiento del mundo mozárabe toledano (711-807). Un ensayo de historia comparada”, Mozárabes. Identidad y continuidad de su historia. Antigüedad Y Cristianismo (Murcia) XXVIII (2011), pp. 67-98.

Lapesa, Rafael (1980): Historia de la lengua española. Madrid: Gredos.

Benecke, Georg Friedrich, Wilhem Müller y Friedrich Zarncke (1854): Mittelhochdeutsches Wörterbuch. Mit Benutzung des Nachlasses von Georg Friedrich Benecke ausgearbeitet von Wilhelm Müller und Friedrich Zarncke. Leipzig: Verlag Hinkel.

Flórez, Enrique (1758): España Sagrada. Madrid: Oficina de Antonio Marín. Disponible en Biblioteca Digital de Castilla y León:


[1] I am grateful to Enrique Jerez and Ricardo Pichel for their advice.

[2] King of the Hasding Vandals, the Silingi and the Alans (Real Academia de la Historia:

[3] From the Old High German gund, ‘war’ (Benecke, Müller y Zarncke 1854).


[5] Observaciones al concordato de 1753. Ayuntamiento de Oliva, 1985.

[6] “Diziénli Ildefonsso, dizlo la escriptura / pastor que a su grey dava buena pastura”, verses from the miracle entitled “La casulla de San Ildefonso”. Gonzalo de Berceo, Milagros de Nuestra Señora (1246-1252). Edición de C. García Turza, 1992.

[7] San Isidro labrador, patron saint of Madrid and of numerous places throughout Spain and Latin America, is the clearest example of the popularity of this vulgar variant from the original Latin.

[8] For example, in a document from the cathedral of León, issued in 1286: “Esidro Gonzalez”. In CODEA, “Esidro Domínico Peláez”, Palencia, 1228 (CODEA 0245), amongst others. Examples can be found throughout the 13th century.

[9] In the CODEA corpus, document 0484 (Toledo, 1270), “monesterio sobredicho de Sant Clement”, amongst others.


Delfina Vázquez Balonga was awarded her doctorate in Spanish Language in 2015. She is currently an associate lecturer at the University of Alcalá. Her research interests are lexis, onomastics and morphosyntax in the archival documents of the 16th to the 19th centuries. She has published a number of books and articles about this material.

Translation: Tanya Grkinić and Polly Duxfield

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