The Ys of Medieval names


Yamina (Moorish Arabic): “Right hand, right” or “oath.”

Yanduza (Moorish Arabic)

Yartina (Judeo–Arabic)

Ygnesa (Basque), Ynes (Spanish): Form of Agnes (chaste), from Greek root hagnos. The name became associated with lambs because the martyred St. Agnes was often shown with a lamb (agnus in Latin).

Ypola (Catalan): Possibly a form of Greek name Hippolyta (freer of horses), from roots hippos (horse) and luo (to loosen).

Ysabeau, Ysabiau (French): Form of Isabelle, which in turn is a form of Elizabeth (“my God is an oath” or “my God is abundance”). The original Hebrew form is Elisheva.

Ysenda (Scottish)

Ysentrud, Isentrud (German): Derived from Ancient Germanic name Isantrud (iron strength), with roots îsarn and þruþ.

Ysopa (English): “Hyssop,” a type of fragrant shrub in the mint family.

Ysoria (English): Possibly a form of Isaura (from Isauria).

Yspania (Occitan): Spain.


Yarognev (Slavic): “Fierce anger,” from roots yaru (energetic, fierce) and gnyevu (anger). The modern form is Jarogniew (Polish).

Yaromir (Slavic): “Fierce peace” and “fierce world,” from roots yaru and miru (world, peace). The modern forms are Jaromír (Czech) and Jaromir (Polish). This name is also sometimes used in modern Russian.

Yaropolk (Slavic): “Fierce people,” from roots yaru and pulku (people, host). The modern form is Jaropełk (Polish).

Yesün (Mongolian): “Nine,” considered a very lucky number representing abundance.

Ymaut (Baltic, Livonian): Possibly “miracle gift,” from Livonian roots im (miracle) and and (gift).

Ymbert (French)

Jarogniew, Jezebel, and Jancofiore

As luck would have it, after I wrote and scheduled this post, I realised there’s one J name in The Decameron after all, so instead of letting half of an already-written post go to waste and give up an opportunity to exonerate an unfairly-maligned queen, I decided to add a third name.


Jarogniew (Yah-RAHG-nyev) is a rarely-used Polish name meaning “fierce anger,” derived from the elements yaru (fierce) and gnyevu (anger). It seems to have been more common in the Middle Ages, and quite an anomaly among Slavic names, Polish or otherwise. So many Slavic names have meanings related to love and peace. It’s more of a leftover from the days when the Slavic tribes were fierce warriors.

Jezebel derives from the Hebrew Iyzevel, “Where is the prince?” It’s one of those unjustly slandered names I’m a huge advocate of reclaiming, like Esau and Vashti. Outside of the Bible, the historical evidence which exists actually shows her as a strong, powerful woman and an excellent leader. All the secular studies demolish the erroneous long-held beliefs based on the biased Biblical account. A strong, powerful, successful, capable woman leader, who had an identity outside of her husband, was seen as a threat to men and challenge to the comfortable status quo. So they slandered her and accused her of misdeeds without any evidence.

Jancofiore is a name I can’t find the etymology of, but I know fiore is Italian for “flower.” She appears in the tenth story of the eighth day of The Decameron, as a barber who relieves a young Florentine merchant, Niccolò da Cignano (called Salabaetto), of all his goods.

Salabaetto is in Palermo on business, and looking for something fun to do while his goods are in storage. He falls for Madame Jancofiore, and arranges for a rendezvous with the help of her maid. They have a wonderful day of pampering at a public bath, tended to by two slave girls, and enjoy a sumptuous supper at Madame Jancofiore’s house. Of course, they become lovers, and Madame Jancofiore gives him many expensive gifts.

Madame Jancofiore later lies to Salabaetto that her brother’s head will be chopped off unless she sends him 1,000 gold florins within eight days. Once he’s loaned her half the money, their relationship starts to change, and they rarely spend any time together. She refuses to repay him, and he sails off to Naples (not Pisa, as his superiors requested). With the help of his friend Pietro dello Canigiano, a treasurer of the Empress of Constantinople, Salabaetto sends Madame Jancofiore a lot of allegedly expensive goods.

This completely changes her tune, and she pays him back when he returns to Florence. They also resume their affair. However, Salabaetto still wants to punish her, and so tells her a fish story about all his money and goods being pirated by bandits from Monaco. Madame Jancofiore loans him 1,500 golden florins, which he uses to repay all his outstanding debts. When Salabaetto doesn’t return after two months, she discovers his oil flasks are full of seawater and his bales are full of hemp and some cloth.