Motivation of Dog Names in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Based on Jan Ostroróg’s Nomenklatura ogarów)

  • Marius Smetona
  • Anželika Smetonienė
Keywords: Ostroróg, zoonyms, sixteenth–seventeenth centuries, motivation


In Lithuania, research on proper names of animals takes a relatively small part of onomastics. In addition, academic papers on zoonyms are rather scarce. It is most appropriate to begin an analysis of dog names from the motivation of name choices and its distribution, thus revealing the overall picture of Lithuanian proper names of animals. The aim of this paper is to investigate the motivation of the choice of dog names in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and to determine the prevalent naming tendencies at that time. The names were collected by Jan Ostroróg in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. First of all, 313 dog names were divided into names of clear, not quite clear, and unclear motivation on the basis of Milda Norkaitienė’s classification of animal names, which was adapted for the dog names by Daiva Sinkevičiūtė. Division of the dog names collected by J. Ostroróg in the Polish– Lithuanian Commonwealth into groups according to the above-mentioned classification shows that the causes and trends of dog naming in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were similar to the present ones: a contemporary classification of dog names with a clear motivation is perfectly suitable for the analysis of dog names from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, there are some differences in the naming process, because a new group of dog names emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: names motivated by the function of the dog during hunting. The reason for this is probably specific names: all collected names belonged to hunting dogs. There is also another difference: in the present-day Lithuanian language, the names given to animals, including dogs, are mostly based on an animal’s physical features, while in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries dog names were predominantly based on their temper: the character, behaviour, and interests.