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Personal and family names: reference sources

This is a brief guide to information on family and personal names, their origins and history. The works listed can be seen in the Humanities Reading Room of the British Library, and may also be found in other large public reference libraries. This guide is not intended to be exhaustive and further sources are referred to in the bibliographies contained in the listed works. 

Items not on the open shelves are marked with an asterisk.


GeneralMonographs - family names
General personal namesMonographs - personal names
BibliographiesPeriodicals and series
 Further contacts


Cresswell, J., Dictionary of first names: an indispensable guide to more than 10,000 names. Edinburgh: Chambers, 2009.
HLR 929.44
*Dunkling, L., Guinness book of names.7th ed. Enfield: Guinness Publishing, 1995.
Freya.R., Sobriquets and nicknames. Boston:Ticknor, 1888; repr. Detroit: Gale, 1966
HLR 929.4
Latham, E., A dictionary of names, nicknames and surnames. London: Routledge and Sons, 1904.
HLR 929.97
Mossman, J., Pseudonyms and nicknames dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Gale,1987 (and Supplement 1988.)
HLR 929.4
Ratier, E., Encyclopédie des pseudonymes. Paris: Faits & Documents, 1993- .
HLR 929.4
Sharp, H.S., Handbook of pseudonyms and personal nicknames. Supplements. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1972- .
HLR 929.4

 General personal names

Lawson, E.D., Personal names and naming, an annotated bibliography. New York: Greenwood Press, 1987.
HLR 929.4
Lawson, E.D., More names and naming: an annotated bibliography. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1995.
HLR 929.4


Alston, R.C., A bibliography of the English language from the invention of printing to the year 1800. Vol. 11. Place names and personal names.
Ilkley: printed for the author, 1977.
HLR 420.16
*Bibliographia onomastica 1951- . In: Onoma: bibliographical and information bulletin.
Rajec, E.M., The study of names in literature: a bibliography. NewYork: K.G. Saur, 1978.
Supplement. München: K.G. Saur, 1981.
HLR 808.802
*Roberts, R.J., Bibliography of writings on English place and personal names. Louvain: International Centre of Onomastics, 1961.
(Onoma: bibliographical and information bulletin, vol 8, 1958/59, no. 3.)
Smith, E.C., Personal names: a bibliography. New York: New York Public Library, 1952.
HLR 929.4
*Smith, E.C., Literature on personal names in English, 1952- . In: Names: journal of the American Name Society.

 Monographs - family names

Great Britain

*Anderson, W., Understanding English Surnames. London: Batsford, 1978.
*Bardsley, C.W., English surnames. London: Prentice-Hall International, 1968. [Reprint of the 3rd edition of 1884.1
Bardsley, C.W., A dictionary of English and Welsh surnames. London: Heraldry Today, 1980.
HLR 929.42
Black, G.E., The surnames of Scotland, their origin, meaning and history. New York: New York Public Library, 1962.
HLR 929.42
*Davies, T R., A book of Welsh names. London: Sheppard Press, 1952.
*Dexter, T.F.G., Cornish names. Truro: D. Bradford Barton, 1968.
*English Surnames Series.
Individual volumes are also listed in Explore the British Library.
3775.135000 DSC
*Ewen, C.H.L'E., A guide to the origin of British surnames. London:John Gifford, 1938.
Ewen, C.H.L'E . A history of surnames of the British Isles. London: Kegan Paul,Trench, Trubner & Co., 1931.
Additions and Corrections. Paignton: C.L. Ewer, 1946
HLR 929.42
Guppy, H.B., Homes of family names in Great Britain. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1968. [Reprint of 1890 edition.]
HLR 929.42
Hanks, P. and Hodges, F., A dictionary of surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
HLR 929.42
*Hughes, P., Is thy name Wart?,The origins of some curious and other surnames. London: Phoenix House, 1965.
*Josling, J.F., Change of name. 14th edition. London: Longman, 1989. [A brief guide to English law.]
YC. 1989.a.10561
*Klein, S. Stufflebeem, Brockway & Sturt, The origins of our surnames. London: Michael O'Mara Books, 2002
*Mac Giolla-Domhnaigh, P., Some Ulster surnames. Dublin: Ciodhanna Teo, 1975.
Maclysaght, E., The surnames of Ireland. 5th edition revised and corrected. Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1985.
HLR 929.42
Martin, C.T., The record interpreter: a collection of abbreviations, Latin words and names used in English historical manuscripts and records.
Dorking: Kohler & Coombes, 1976. [A facsimile reprint of 2nd edition of 1910.]
HLR 477
*Matthews, C.M., English surnames. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1966.
Morgan,T.J. and Morgan, P., Welsh surnames. Cardiff.. University of Wales Press, 1985.
HLR 929.42
*Morris,T E., Welsh surnames in the border counties of Wales. London: Society of Cymmrodorion, 1932.
Phillimore,W.P.W. and Fry, E.A., An index to changes of name 1760-1901. London: Phillimore & Co., 1905.
HLR 929.42
Reaney, P.H., A dictionary of English surnames. 3rd edition with corrections and additions by R.M.Wilson. London: Routledge, 1991.
HLR 929.42
Reaney, P.H., The origin of English surnames. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967.
HLR 929.42
*Rogers, Colin D., The surname detective: investigating surname distribution in England, 1086-present day. Manchester: Manchester University Press, [1995]
*Titford, J., Searching for Surnames A practical guide to their meanings and origins. Newbury: Countryside Books, 2002
*Wright. A., Court-hand restored,. or the student's assistant in reading old deeds, charters, records, etc with an appendix containing an alphabetical table of ancient surnames. 10th edition. London: Stevens and Sons, 1912.


Dauzat,A., Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de famille et prénoms de France. Paris: Librairie Larousse, 1977.
HLR 929.4
Morlet, M.T, Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de famille. Paris: Perrin, 1991.
HLR 929.42


*Bach, A., Deutsche Namenkunde. Heidelburg: Carl Winter Verlag, 1952-6.
Bahlow, H., Deutsches Namenlexikon: Familien- und Vornamen nach Ursprung und Sinn erklärt. München: Keysersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1967.
HLR 929.4
*Brechenmacher, J.K., Deutsche Sippennamen: ableitendes Wörterbuch der deutschen Familiennamen. Görlitz: Verlag für Sippenforschung und Wappenkunde, C.A. Starke, 1936.
*Gottschald, M., Deutsche Namenkunde: unsere Familiennamen nach ihrer Entstehung und Bedeutung. 2. vermehrte Auflage. Berlin: E Lehmann's Verlag, 1942.


Kaganoff, B.C., A dictionary of Jewish names and their history. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.
HLR 929.4


*Veras Nascentes, A. de, Dicionário etimológico da lingua portugêsa.Vol. 2, Nomes próprios. Rio de Janeiro: Livraria Francisco Alves, 1952.


*Unbegaun, B., Russian surnames. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972.

 Monographs - personal names

Great Britain

*Dunkling, L., First names first. London: Dent, 1977.
*Feilitzen, O. von, The pre-conquest personal names of Domesday Book. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksells Boktryckeri, 1938. (Nomina Germanica, vol. 3).
Freestone B., Harrap's book of nicknames and their origins: a comprehensive guide to personal nicknames in the English- speaking world. London: Harrap, 1990.
HLR 929.4
Hanks, P. and Hodges, F., A dictionary of first names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
HLR 929.44
*Johnson, C., The Harrap book of boys' and girls' names. London: Harrap, 1973.
*Loughead, EH., Dictionary of given names, with origins and meanings. 2nd edition revised and corrected. Glendale, Calif.:Arthur H. Clark Co., 1958.
*Partridge, E. Name this child. a dictionary of modern British and American given or Christian names. 3rd edition, revised and much enlarged.
London: Hamish Hamilton, 1951.
Searle,W.G., Onomasticon Anglo-Saxonicum: a list of Anglo-Saxon proper names from the time of Beda to that of King John. Cambridge: University Press, 1897.
HLR 929.4
*Tengvik, G., Old English bynames. Uppsala:Almqvist &Wiksells Boktryckeri, 1938.
W.P 5244/4
Withycombe, E.G., The Oxford dictionary of English Christian names. 3rd edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.
HLR 929.44
*Yonge, C.M., History of Christian names. New edition revised. London: Macmillan, 1884.


Dauzat, A., Dictionnaire Étymologique des noms de famille et prénoms de France. Paris: Librairie Larousse, 1951.
HLR 929.4


*Drosdowski, G., Lexikon der Vornamen. 2.Aufl. Mannheim: Bibliographisches Institut, 1968.


Fraser, PM. and Matthews, E., ed. A lexicon of Greek personal names. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987- .
HLR 929.4
Pape J.G.W. and Benseler, G.E., Wörterbuch der griechischen Eigennamen. Graz:Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1959. [Reprint of the 1911 edition.].
HLR 929.97


*Woods, Richard D., Hispanic First Names A Comprehensive Dictionary of 250 Years of Mexican-American Usage. Westport, CT: London: Greenwood Press, 1984


*Benson, M.,  Dictionary of Russian personal names. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

 Periodicals and series

*Beiträge zur Namenforschung. Heidelberg, 1949- .
*Naamkunde: mededelingen van het lnstituut voor Naamkunde te Leuven en de Commissie voor Naamkunde en Nederzettingsgeschiedenis te Amsterdam. Louvain, 1969- .
*Names. Journal of the American Name Society. Berkeley and Los Angeles. 1953-1996.
*Names. 1997- .
 6015.33100 DSC 
*Nomina: English Name-Studies. Hull, 1977- .
Notes and Queries. London, 1848- .
HLR 052
*Onoma. Vol. 1-32. Louvain, 1950-1995.  
*Onoma. Vol. 22-38. Louvain, 1978-2003.
6260.940000 DSC
*Onomastica: pismo poswiecone nazewnictwu geograficznemu i osobowemu. Wroclaw, 1955- .
PP 3963.mb.
*Prace onomastyczne. Wroclaw, 1955- .
*Revue internationale d'onomostique. Paris, 1949- .

 Further contacts

Further information may be available from:

The Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland (SNSBI, )publishers of Nomina (see above)
Written Enquiries to Miss J Scherr (Hon Sec, SNSBI)
c/o Medical Library
School of Medical Science
University of Bristol
Bristol BS8 1TD.

The Institute for Name Studies at the University of Nottingham, a focus for research and teaching in the field of name studies.
Institute for Name Studies
University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD.

Humanities Reference Service and Sound & Vision Reference Service
British Library
96 Euston Road

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7412 7831

E-mail: Ask the Humanities Reference Team