John Houselamp.

The end of Diarmaid MacCulloch’s LRB review of a biography of Zwingli by Bruce Gordon is amusing and instructive:

There is little to criticise in Gordon’s assured account. I wish that he had assisted his readers by commenting on some of the surnames that litter his pages, because among them are a number of scholarly clerics who adopted a fancy cod Latin or cod Greek name for themselves. This was a common practice in the 16th century and it was not just pretension (though there was a bit of that too). These surnames were symbols of the international nature of European scholarship, at a time when anyone with an education could travel and make themselves understood in Latin anywhere from Cork to Copenhagen or Córdoba. The Reformation would have been impossible without this common Latin culture. Take the Protestant scholar Theodor Bibliander, who ended his days in Bullinger’s Zurich in 1564 (slightly under a cloud, after an unfortunate row about predestination). He was a German-speaking Swiss, like Zwingli and Bullinger, and it doesn’t require too much knowledge of Greek to turn Bibliander into ‘book-man’, revealing that Theodor’s original surname was Buchmann. We really ought to have been given the reason for the especially intimidating surname of a man who figures a great deal in Gordon’s book: Johannes Oecolampadius, a great friend and theological colleague of Zwingli’s – indeed, such a close friend that the terrible news from the battlefield at Kappel seems to have brought on his own death. Oecolampadius started life in western Germany as Johann Hussgen. Casting around for a more academically resonant name, he decided that Hussgen could just as well be spelled ‘Hausschein’ – domestic lamp. While ‘John Houselamp’ doesn’t have much of a ring to it in either English or German, turn it into sort-of Greek with a dusting of academic Latin and behold: Johannes Oecolampadius.

Interestingly (as Gordon does point out), Zwingli took his own Christian name in an opposite direction, into a deeper vernacular. Named Ulrich after his father, he exploited the local Swiss dialect to refashion himself as ‘Huldrych’, meaning ‘rich in grace’, once he embarked on his clerical career. It was a fitting linguistic turn for the man who, among other things, can take the credit for masterminding the first complete Reformation Bible in German, using Swiss German rather than the Hochdeutsch of Luther’s Saxon translation. Zwingli did draw on Luther’s work for his own project, which is why he and his scholarly team in Zurich were able to complete their version first. Another reason for Luther to be cross with him.

My own onomastic question is about the origin of the surname Zwingli — anybody know?


  1. I knew someone with the last name Zwang. I wonder if it and Zwingli are related.

    Going in a different direction, I learn that the surname Dürer — borne by as German an icon as anyone — is a calque of the Hungarian Ajtósi.

  2. Another one (took me a bit to recall his name): Philip Melanchthon, né Schwartzerdt. Andreas Musculus (< Meusel) is good, too.

  3. Andreas Musculus is great — full marks!

  4. And then of course there’s Linnaeus.

  5. I realize now that I couldn’t recall Melanchthon because of interference from menhaden and Melungeons. I don’t feel the need to apologize for that in this company.

  6. The Melungeons made an LH appearance in this 2006 zaelic comment; menhaden showed up in 2021.

  7. The dtv-Atlas Namenkunde claims Zwingli is derived from Zwinge “Schlucht”.

  8. David Marjanović says

    -li is the (rather specifically) Swiss diminutive. The verb zwingen means “force” nowaday, but zwängen, with various prefixes and prepositions, is somewhere around “squeeze into”, so “ravine” for the noun (which I didn’t know at all) makes sense…

    Zwinger is where you put your hounds if you have a castle.

    Zwang is “compulsion”, pretty much. Zugzwang is the obligation to move a chess figure whenever it’s your turn.

  9. Zugzwang was one of the first fancy German words I learned — that and Brennschluss.

  10. Checking the Yiddish dictionary, Zwang must be צוואַנג tsvang ‘pliers, tongs’.

  11. And it’s related to English thong.

  12. Here is an old article, but it seems a goodie, from what I have read on my phone on the bus. Of note especially:

    Von Seite der Form kann kein Bedenken bestehen. Jetzt noch heisst in gewissen Gegenden von Bünden „zwinglen”, Zwillinge gebären (von Menschen und Tieren), und „das Zwingli” bedeutet einen Zwilling (zurückgehend auf mhd. „zwineling” ahd. „zwiniling”). Auch bei den Römern war „Geminus” und besonders „Geminius”, bei den Griechen „Didymus” Personenname. Merkwürdig ist, dass noch der Zuger Dichter J. C. Weissenbach im Jahre 1678 statt Zwillingsschwester schreibt „Zwinglisschwöster”.

    Diese appellative Bedeutung von „Zwingli” muss also überhaupt in der Ostschweiz im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert noch lebendig gewesen sein. Der Reformator selber hat sie gekannt. Im Vorund Nachwort zu Ceporins Pindar (Schuler und Schulth. Bd. 4, S. 159 und 163) nennt er sich zweimal Geminius.

    Also of note in the first paragraph, in relation to cod Latin names:

    Wenn der Reformator, und schon sein Vater, einen Ring (eine „Zwinge”) im Wappen führen, so stimmt dazu die Überlieferung, dass er in Wien seinen Namen mit „Cogentius” übersetzt habe.

    (zwingen = cogere)

  13. Great find! I personally would have used Gemellus rather than Geminus, to match the diminutive Swiss form.

  14. That’s interesting. I wonder if ‘twin’ is a real etymology or a folk one. Is the ‘ravine’ one plausible for Switzerland at that time?

  15. David Marjanović says

    Oh, interesting. “Twin” is more plausible than “ravine” (as opposed to a derivation or compound like “ravine farmer” or “upper-ravine-er” or whatever).

    צוואַנג tsvang ‘pliers, tongs’

    Huh – Zange “tongs” (the cognate, except singular). I forgot about Zwinge, though; Schraubzwinge means “{C|G}-c{l|r}amp, F-clamp/bar clamp/speed clamp” (I haven’t encountered Zwinge elsewhere).


    I don’t even know that one. o_O …And neither does de.wiktionary. en.wiktionary does, though!

  16. I have no idea if it’s used by actual Germans; I learned it from Willy Ley’s Rockets, Missiles and Space Travel (and still have bitter memories of a third-grade librarian who refused to let me check the book out until I read a paragraph to her and proved that I could understand it).

  17. Miserly librarians…mind-boggling. Did she think the words would go to waste?

  18. @David Marjanović: The meaning of zugzwang (not normally capitalized) is actually something more specific and subtle. It refers to when, on a player’s turn, any move they make weakens their position; in other words, a situation in which a player would prefer not to have to move at all. So mutual zugzwang is when, for a given board position, whichever player’s turn it is will find themselves in the weaker (potentially losing) position.

  19. As my grandfather joked, цугцванг в цейтноте: it’s your turn but any move would make your position worse, and you’re running out of time.

  20. The dtv-Atlas Namenkunde (authored by Konrad Kunze, a professor of German language and literature) seems to expressly reject the derivation of Zwingli from Zwilling; on the other hand it has a long list of surnames derived from various words for Bodenvertiefungen (p. 99), Zwingli among them.

  21. re. Hussgen: ist that really a variation of Hausschein (which I have never heard)? A more natural interpretation seems to be of -gen as the common (in names) spelling variant of the diminutive suffix -chen. So Hussgen = Häuschen.

  22. I learned “Brennschluss” from _Gravity’s Rainbow_.

  23. re. Hussgen: ist that really a variation of Hausschein (which I have never heard)?

    I doubt it; I think “he decided that Hussgen could just as well be spelled ‘Hausschein’” implies that he made the derivation up so he could get a fancy Latinate name out of it.

  24. How often did they hand cod Latin/Greek names down to children? I’ve wondered whether the name Petraeus began this way.

  25. Hussgen = Häuschen

    Then he should have called himself Oecion. Not as impressive, though.

  26. John Cowan says

    I learned “Brennschluss” from _Gravity’s Rainbow_.

    And I from Heinlein’s Double Star, where the pilot says to the actor: “When you were whooping your cookies after Brennschluss, […].” (The book has nothing to do with binary stars; the title refers to doubling in a starring role, while also saying This Is SF to fans.)

    How often did they hand cod Latin/Greek names down to children? I’ve wondered whether the name Petraeus began this way.

    Most likely. It’s a Dutch Latinization of the patronymic Pieterszohn. On this rock, etc.

  27. Trond Engen says

    I think traditions were different in different countries, and presumably in different patches of the German map as well. Latinate surnames are quite common in Sweden, especially (I think) in old priestly families, but I can’t think of a single homegrown example from Denmark-Norway. Maybe it went out of fashion with Erasmus Montanus.

  28. David Marjanović says

    There are places in Germany where the last names were always recorded in Latin in the baptism registers; these Latin forms are official now, and that’s how you get people named Textor, Faber, Pistorius or (I guess) Möbius.

  29. The cultural undertones would unfortunately be lost on most readers here, but for those familiar enough I will tell of the Israeli emigrant I met who took the name Olivieri, abandoning his native Zeituni.

  30. the Israeli emigrant I met who took the name Olivieri, abandoning his native Zeituni.

    Have to wonder why Zemmour hasn’t done that.

  31. PlasticPaddy says


    Lærd navn Betydning, oprindelse  
    Achton    Jordløs
    Arctander    Norge
    Augustinus    Aagesen
    Aurimontanus    Guldbjerg
    Bircherod    Birkerød
    Brahe    Bedrift
    Bredsdorff    Bredstrup
    Cervinus    Hjort
    Chimonius    Winther
    Corfusioranus    Korsør
    Cormontan    Hjertebjerg
    Cornificius    Horne
    Corvinus    Ravn
    Cypræus    Kobbersmed
    Dorcheus    Torsk
    Hersleb    Herslev
    Hortulan    Søn af gartner
    Luxdorph    Løgstrup
    Lützhöft    Lyshøj
    Lætus    Glad
    Mackeprang    Oprører
    Montoppidan    Bjergby
    Neapolitanus    Nysted
    Olivarius    Holgersen
    Palladius    Pallesen
    Paludan    Kær
    Petrafontanus    Stenkilde
    Pistor    Bager
    Pohlmann    Polak
    Pontoppidan    Broby
    Prætorius    Foged
    Raffenberg    Ravnebjerg
    Riber    Indbygger i Ribe
    Sadolin    Sadelmager
    Sartorius    Skrædder
    Scavenius    Skagen
    Schandorf    Skanderup
    Schildorf    Eskilstrup
    Schneekloth    Sneklump
    Schultz    Foged
    Smith    Smed
    Sperling    Spurv
    Stallknecht    Staldkarl
    Sylvius    Skov
    Ursin    Bjørn
    Vedel    Vejle
    Victorinus    Sejersen
    Wandal    Vendelbo
    Wellejus    Vejle

    I like some of these, e.g., Praetorius and Ursin.
    Some of them seem strange (I thought Holger would be something like Oggierus or Odoacer and Olivarius would fit Olafsen better).

  32. Trond Engen says

    Half of these are not latinate at all but German forms of Danish toponyms or toponymic surnames. Of those that are (Graeco-)Latin I should have remembered Arctander (not “Norge” but “Nordmann”), which is part of my wife’s family history.. Also a couple of the others are familiar now that I see them. Ursin is pretty well known, but escaped me, probably because of the missing suffix. I think I actually briefly thought of Scavenius but dismissed it as Swedish.

    (But note that I didn’t claim they don’t exist, just that they’re rare enough that I couldn’t remember any examples.)

  33. DM: Where does Möbius come from?

    I imagine that it, and Gesenius and Sibelius, are Latinized by form, not by meaning.

  34. David Marjanović says

    Absolutely no idea. Prätorius is more common, though.

    Have to wonder why Zemmour hasn’t done that.

    I thought he emphasizes his Berber identity against the evil, evil Arabs?* Not that I know which side his name is even from, but it’s definitely more plausible for that than a French name would be.

    * See also: HC Strache of Ibiza infame allying himself with the Serbs against the Turks. His own name is impeccably Viennese, i.e. plausibly Czech.

  35. I thought he emphasizes his Berber identity against the evil, evil Arabs?

    Indeed, and Zemmour is at least etymologically a Berber name: azemmur “olive”. About the only Berber thing about him, though. As far as I could find, his recorded ancestors on both sides lived in Arabic-speaking towns and spoke Arabic until they shifted to French, like pretty much all Algerian Jews.

    Edit: French WP says “D’après l’historien Benjamin Stora, Éric Zemmour est « juif arabe » mais préfère se présenter comme « juif berbère »[5],[6].”

  36. There are several Swedish surnames which have a seemingly Scandinavian derivation but with final stress, such as Lindén, Rosén, and Tegnér. I take it they were first latinized as Lindenius, Rosenius, etc. and then lost the endings but kept the stress pattern.

    There are also lots of Swedish surnames combining Germanic-looking roots with -ander such as Elmander and Vikander.

  37. Where does Möbius come from?

    Benennung nach Rufname, siehe Möbus 1. Es handelt sich um eine Lautvariante oder um eine mit dem lateinischen Suffix -ius erweiterte latinisierte Form aus der Zeit des Humanismus.

    And Möbus is a variant of Mebus, “einer durch Wegfall der unbetonten ersten Silben entstandenen Kurzform von Bartholomäus.”

  38. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    @JP, I did sufficirnt reseach on Norén to say I’m not guessing when I trace the name to his father who was the pastor at Nora and used Norenius in Latin. That would seem to account for a lot of the ultimately stressed names.

    As recently treated of here, Carolus Linnaeus was the son of a preacher man who took that name after a linden tree, maybe on entering university. (His mother was the daughter of the parish priest where the father had a post as chaplain, using the last name Brodersonia after her father who must have been the son of a Bror). His descendants would probably have used Linné by default, but now L. was actually ennobled as von Linné so there were no ifs or buts about it. Lindén (different dialect?) and Rosén is probably the same idea, plants don’t complain.

    Tegnérs [teŋˈneʂ] far var komministern Esaias Lukasson (som tog sig namnet Tegnerus efter födelsesocknen Tegnaby i Småland).

    I think you can safely assume that any ultimately stressed surname in Swedish used to have a Latin -us or -ius to keep the stress on that syllable in Latin. (For the latter, I adduce Saint Ansgarius who as Ansgar has kept the ultimate stress in Danish, though we don’t write it. The nativized boy’s name Asger has initial stress. And yes, the latter looks like it would be from ON ǫss-geirr vel sim, but the German monk was clearly named with the local equivalent).

    I have actually encountered Swedish surnames on the pattern Hansén. I never tried to find out if it was a latter-day copycat apostroph or an actual Hansenius that would have been used in Latin documents, like Brodersonius above. (But it’s not Hanssón; therein lies a mystery, but maybe é just gives that last je-ne-sais-quoi to your ambitions). I just found the wonderfully named bass player Johan Hansén-Larson on Youtube (@JHL).

  39. David Marjanović says

    His descendants would probably have used Linné by default

    This one did end up as Linnaeus filius in his capacity as a botanist.

    but maybe é just gives that last je-ne-sais-quoi to your ambitions

    I see what you did there.

  40. Trond Engen says

    I started writing a comment on this type of names last night, but the discussion is well past where I put it away.

    I’ll just note that I think these endings took on a life of their own and came to be used more or less freely as a final element in the system of “poetic” two-part names that are so common in Sweden: Lindgren, Forsberg, Sjöblom, Engquist.

  41. Interesting to see the pronunciation of Tegnérs given as [teŋˈneʂ], and not just because it is for the genitive form of the name. Norstedts svenska uttalslexikon gives [te̞ɡˈneːr] as the pronunciation of Tegnér (it doesn’t give a pronunciation for Tegnaby, however). The g in gn normally corresponds to [ŋ] in Swedish spelling, but it appears as [ɡ] across morpheme boundaries as in tagning and also in egna. Norstedts svenska uttalslexikon gives both [ŋ] and [ɡ] as possibilities for Dagny.

    Anders Tegnell was in charge of Sweden’s pandemic response during COVID-19, and his name seems to be pronounced with a [ɡ]. Norstedts svenska uttalslexikon gives the pronunciation of Egnell as [ɛɡˈnɛlː].

    Tegnell, Egnell and other such surnames ending in -ell such as Forsell make up another common class of final-stressed Swedish surnames, and look like the result of adding Latinate -elius to native names.

  42. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    @JP, you are totally right about egna and tagning. But living in Stockholm, I was often on [teŋˈneʂgatan]. People clearly do not reference the pronouncing dictionary before speaking. Shame!

    That said, -ner in Tegner is at best a cranberry morpheme, and I wouldn’t hesitate to pronounce Tägnaby (current spelling) as [teŋˈnabʏᵝ] if aiming at “normal” Stockholm pronunciation. claims that it’s from (pl.gen. of) θegn and -by, so no boundary where it would need to be–but I don’t know what happens to -gn in Småland.

    (SAOB has [teŋˈner], so vindicating Stockholm. Though Norstedts Förlag has a huge building in Stockholm, or at least a huge sign on a building in Stockholm, so I’d assume they’d use that norm too).

  43. @Lars Mathiesen, thanks for the explanations on the pronunciation of Tegnér. I’ve never heard the name pronounced myself, and didn’t expect it to find it in SAOB.

    Would you pronounce Egnell or Tegnell with [ŋ] or [ɡ]? I don’t have a good sense of why these would use [ɡ] instead of [ŋ], but as I already mentioned, Norstedts svenska uttalslexikon gives the pronunciation of Egnell with a [ɡ].

    By the way, isn’t the street in Stockholm Tegnérgatan, not Tegnérsgatan?

  44. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    @JP, yes, it’s Tegnérgatan, I was too hasty. In Stockholm that will have an [ɾ], [ʁ] further south.

    Remember that I’m not a native speaker. I’d moved back to Denmark by the time the pandemic struck and I’ve probably only heard Tegnell pronounced on Danish television, and that does not prove much. But I just quickly googled my way to an SVT interview where the journalist clearly says [te’gnel]. Myself I wouldn’t have hesitated to say [teŋ’nel], being anxious to apply “real Swedish” rules. Just goes to show.

    And he’s only in the SAOB because of “Tegnér barns,” a big blocky church design that became fashionable after (Bishop) Tegnér had one or a few built. Proper nouns don’t usually go in the SAOB unless they are incorporated in non-proper ones like tegnérlada.

  45. @Lars Mathiesen, thanks. I’m also primed to pronounce g before n as [ŋ] in Swedish, partly because that’s one case which is similar to the regular Korean rule of /ɡ/ becoming [ŋ] before nasals, e.g. 독립 /doɡ.ɾib → doɡ.nib → doŋ.nib/ [d̥oŋ.nip̚] dongnip.

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