As a newcomer, one of your first pleasures is to choose a new name for yourself, discarding the one bestowed upon you at your birth. As a medieval role-playing organization, the SCA encourages members to take on a new persona: name, life, history, and behavior — all medieval. Other portions of your new role can be fleshed out over the next months — but a newcomer should choose a name as soon as possible. After it’s been in use a while a name can be difficult to change. This handout will help you decide on a new name for yourself.
HOW A NAME IS CONSTRUCTED
SCA names consist of two parts: the given name and the byname(s). The given name is what you would be called by your family and friends in a day-to-day situation. In modern usage, it’s sometimes called the “first name” (although some cultures, such as Hungarian, put it last!), and sometimes called the “Christian name” (although cultures of other faiths had them too). The byname would be used to distinguish you from all others who share your given name; it was rare, but not impossible, to have more than one byname.
Some examples of given names are: Biblical names and saints’ names, such as John, or Mary; names from mythology which have passed into common use, such as Æneas, or Diana; names which were originally descriptive, such as Æthelred, or Charity; and names which were originally common nouns, such as Beorn, or Rose. There are many other examples.
Some examples of bynames are: occupational names, such as Tanner, or Smith; patronymics, or names showing descent, such as ap Morgan, Ivanov, or ibn Yusuf; names derived from where you lived, such as von Regensburg, or Fleming; epithets, or descriptive names, such as the Temperate, or Dubh (black-haired); and names expressing something symbolic about you, such as an action (Shakespeare), a favorite oath (Godesgrace), or a badge (de la Rose). Over time, these categories have tended to overlap; and some of these names lost their original meanings and came to be hereditary surnames (Price, which was originally the patronymic ap Rhys).
SOME RESTRICTIONS ON NAMES
There are rules regarding names in the Society, but they can be boiled down to two precepts:
1) Don’t claim to be someone or something you’re not;
2) Don’t do something they wouldn’t have done in medieval times, To be specific:
a) Your name shouldn’t be too similar to that of a historical personage, or of a character in fiction, or of another SCA member. You can be Richard, but not Richard Lionheart or Richard of Castle North, both of which are taken. (For that matter, you should avoid close kinship to protected names: calling yourself Richard fitzWilliam Marshal, for instance, would be a direct claim.)
Some modern names, such as Earl, are actual titles and may not be used in SCA names. Nor should your name imply honors you have not yet earned. Titles are granted by the Crown.
Don’t try to claim non-human descent. You may not call yourself Sigurd Odinsson or Glynda the Elven, for instance. Everyone’s human in the SCA.
b) Try not to have elements from too many cultures in your name. e.g.; Dmitri le Chat mac Donnell is inappropriate. A single language, or two interacting languages such as English-French, would be best; and your name should follow the rules of grammar in your chosen language.
The given name you choose should have been used as a given name in period (before AD 1600). While many given names were taken from common words, not all common words were used as names.
Using surnames, such as Douglas, as given names, while common today, wasn’t done in period. Similarly, using nouns like Ruby or place names like Brittany as given names was not done, and you should avoid it. In most cases, you can use one of your legal given names, whether it is medieval or modern.
It’s true that in the SCA, females may use male names, and vice versa; but you might wish to think twice before deciding to do so. Certainly, you shouldn’t use male and female elements in the same name (e.g. Dorothy Sigursson).and,
c) finally, have pity on all your new friends and choose a name that’s not too hard to spell or pronounce!
(You may notice some SCA members using names which don’t always meet these restrictions. That’s because rules for SCA names are still evolving after a long period of time. Names of older members are protected by a “grandfather clause”, and can be used no matter how non-medieval they happen to be.)
HOW TO CHOOSE A NAME
First, you might consider just what nationality your new persona will be. If it’s to be French, for instance, you’ll want a basically French name.
Or consider what activities you’d enjoy, and build your name and persona around that: if you like calligraphy, for instance, consider being an Irish monk.
This is your chance to be the character you’ve always wanted to be: Norman lord, Italian lady, German merchant, Moorish scholar, whatever.
Be creative. If you want to be conservative and think carefully about your new name for awhile, yet still play in the SCA, a simple solution would be to continue to use your modern given name, with the name of your local branch as a byname; for example, Brian of Lyondemere.
Period names can be obtained from name books in your public library. Try to avoid the supermarket “Name Your Baby” books. They’re geared to a modern audience, and are frequently inaccurate; many of the names therein are therefore unsuitable for SCA use. Instead, look up P. H. Reaney’s Dictionary of English Surnames or E. G. Withycombe’s Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names to get a feel for medieval names. A good reference is:
http://heraldry.sca.org/heraldry/laurel/names.html or www.s-gabriel.org/names/
Finally you should talk with your local heralds for further references and advice.
RULES OF SUBMISSION
The following is a summary of the rules of submission for Society/persona names in the SCA. There rules are set by the order of the Board of Directors of the SCA, and are revised and amended as necessary by the College of Arms and the Laurel Sovereign of Arms, with BoD approval. Corpora stipulates that this be done, that “unique” name and arms be registered to SCA members, and that the College of Arms is the entity by which it is done.
All names, words, phrases, and languages used in a Society name must either be from period (i.e., have been used before 1600) or accepted by the College of Arms as consistent with period naming practices.
All words, word order, spelling and grammar must be correct for the languages used.
Names that were created after 1600 may be submitted and judged on a case-by-case basis. Such names should follow period linguistic traditions. They may not be strings of random phonemes, nor may they break any of the other rules.
Society names may be submitted by themselves to the College. They need not be accompanied by the submission of a device or badge. However, a device or badge submission must include a Society name to which it can be registered. Society names may be changed by resubmitting the new name as a name change, which must then pass through the same process as a new name.
Society names may not conflict with other registered Society names or with Iportant names in the mundane world, past or present, or in myth or fiction. This includes claims of relationship as well as direct conflict.
The Society name of an individual must consist of a given name and at least one byname. Documented diminutives of given names are acceptable as given names.
A Society name for an individual may not use more than three languages, whose cultures had substantial contact in period. No one element (a single word or phrase) of a name may combine languages. Prepositions and adjectives must be of the same language as the noun they accompany.
Any member may use elements of his/her legal name as the corresponding elements of his/her Society name, without the necessity of period documentation. Such name elements may not be intrusively modern, nor used in such a way as to violate any other rule concerning names. A member’s Society name may not be identical to his/her mundane name.
A Society name may not include titles, honors, membership in orders, or surnames that would imply that one is a member of a royal family or is of royal birth, no matter if it is a part of his/her mundane name.
A member may not claim to be of divine, non-human, or extra-terrestrial origin or descent.
Names that would prove offensive to a significant segment of the SCA, or of the population as a whole, may not be used. This is true even when the offense is unintentional.
The College of Arms deals with each member’s mundane identity, and not his/her persona. All honors earned by or granted to a member belong to the member and not to the persona. The College of Arms requires a single Society name for each member, under which all honors will be listed in the Order of Precedence and under which all submissions will be filed.
If a submitted name is not acceptable but an accompanying device or badge is acceptable, a holding name may be devised by the College so that the device or badge may be registered. Later, when the non-acceptable name has been proven or changed by the submitter, he/she may file for a name change and the holding name will be dropped.
Once a submitter’s name has been registered, it may not be unregistered, even should problems later be found with the name. Permission to use any problematic elements of the name in later submissions, by the submitter or his immediate relatives, may be granted on a case-by-case basis.
While the College of Heralds will help with your submission, the burden of proof ultimately lies with the name’s submitter.
For unusual or uncommon names, documentation will be required. “Documentation” is defined as: two photocopies of the page of the reference cited, along with two photocopies of the book’s title page. The specific passages should be in some way highlighted. For invented names, the same documentation is required showing similarity in the formation of names within period and place. Your persona story is not documentation.
Libraries are an invaluable tool in this research. “Name Your Baby” books should be avoided because their accuracy is rarely acceptable and their entries usually undated. Look for books that give dated examples of the names in question. See your local heralds for further information and assistance. They will be happy to help you. (They’d rather pass your name the first time, than to be in a position of saying either “I told you so” or “I wish you’d come to me first.”)
SUBMITTING YOUR SCA NAME
Congratulations! You are about to submit your name to the SCA College of Arms. Welcome to a tradition that goes back many years. This will explain how to fill in the form for your first submission, For more information, visit The College of Heralds
PREPARE THE FORM
Click HERE to print the Name Submission form (pdf).
EXPLANATION OF FORM FIELDS
This is a new submission, so leave this field blank.
Name being submitted
The name on this line should be your personal SCA name that you are submitting.
Legal Name & Address
This is your full legal name and your current address.
Place an “X” in the box next to PRIMARY
Place an “X” in the box next to NEW
This is the branch of Caid kingdom based on where you reside (see the map under Find Your Local Branch). If you can’t figure it out, leave it blank.
Your gender, phone number, Date of Birth, Email Address
Fill these is with your personal information. You may opt to not disclose your gender, as preferred.
Record the date you are submitting this form.
Consulting Herald, Herald’s Email Address
Please provide the name and email address for the herald who helped you. This can be left blank if you did not have assistance.
The fields on the form preceeded by ++ are only for when someone has previously submitted a Name Submission, as this is your first submission, skip these.
++ Name(s) previously submitted but not registered (if any)
++ Kingdom submitted From
++ Date Returned
This section explains that the Herald may need to make changes to your submitted name in order for it not to conflict with an already registered name or because historically it is not correct. There are three options to choose from:
I will not accept MAJOR changes to my name
I will not accept MAJOR or MINOR changes to my name
Leaving both of the above boxes blank means that you will accept both major or minor changes to your submitted name.
I care most about
If my name submission must be changed, I care most about:
LANGUAGE and/or CULTURE
If you mark any of these boxes, please write in what you care most about.
Gender of my name
This is used to determine the gender of the name you are submitting, the options are
The gender of your name does not have to match your biological/preferred gender. This box is to indicate the gender for the name, as all elements need to be consistent for the name being submitted. For example, you cannot be Jon Beornsdottir (Daughter of Beorn).
Change my name to be authentic for
If you are not sure about the year or locality of the name you are submitting, you can request the heralds make the name authentic for ________. You must be specific e.g. 12th-14thcentury or “Irish” or “Welsh”, rather than saying “early”. Or “late”, or “Celtic”. Do not select this option if you indicated you did not want changes to your name above.
If you are, or soon will be, submitting another item ( such as a device, badge or household name) If the Laurel Sovereign of Arms finds that your name cannot be registered for any reason, and you do not have a name previously registered, Laurel may create a “holding name” for you so that your other item can be registered. If you do not want a holding name created, place an “X” in the box next to “I will not allow the creation of a holding name”. You must keep in mind that if the name submission is returned, then your other submissions will be returned as well. The holding name will be released once your name is passed.
Name documentation & consultation notes
This is the space to provide the citations for the sources you found for your name elements. You must provide a scanned or printed copy of each source. All sources must provide a date for the documented name element. This should be any books, articles, or genealogical searches, including page numbers, URLs, etc. Extra pages may be included with the form. You do not need to send copies of the source if it is on the non-photocopy list found here: http://heraldry.sca.org/admin.html#APPENDIXH.
Send one copy to the College of Heralds.
For only a name submission the fee is $8.00, but if you are submitting a name and a device together, the fee is $15.00 (a $1.00 discount from filing them separately). Make checks payable to: “SCA College of Heralds”
Please contact the Dolphin herald (the Kingdom Submissions herald) for the current mailing address.