Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Belgian Names

The country is made up of two separate cultures, the Flemings to the north and the Walloons to the south. Flemish, a dialect of Dutch, is spoken in northern Belgium and the Walloons, although they do have their own language, use French for official purposes. Latin names are often considered to be of French origin, and little distinction is made between names of Flemish, Walloon, Dutch, French, German, Low German, English or Saxon origin.

Flanders was one of the richest parts of Europe and many other countries wanted to gain control of it, especially France. Successive occupying governments weakened the economy and by the C19th it was one of the poorest areas in Europe. The territories of the County of Flanders are now divided between Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Flanders, incuding part of the Duchy of Brabant and the Principality of Liege, has partial independence within the Belgian federal state. There are about six million inhabitants whose first language is Dutch or Flemish.

Biblical names were always common although these often took local forms. For instance, Adam became Adaem or Daem in daily use although written records retained the original form. From 1564-1796, these were kept in Latin. After this date, Latin, Dutch or French forms could be used. Latin forms were not used in speech. Somebody registered as 'Petrus Dominicus' was known as 'Pietermien', a contracted form of 'Pieter Domien'.

There was no standardised system of spelling in Middle Dutch so many variations occurred. Common ones include: replacing a double vowel by a single vowel + e (Bossaard/Bossaerd) 'd' instead of 't' at the end of a word (Arend/Arent) y instead of 'i' (Francois/Francoys). Diminutive include forms, the endings '-kin' (Germanic form) and '-quin' (French form).


Latin Dutch French Local (archaic) Local (modern)

Franciscus Frans Francois Sooi, Sus Frans, Francois
Joannes Jan Jean Jan, Wannes Jan, Johan
Egidius Gillis Gilles Gilles Gilles
Thomas Thomas Thomas Maes Thomas
Josephus Josef Joseph Jef Jo, Jozef
Petrus Pieter Pierre Pier, Pieter Pierre, Pieter
Balduinus Boudewijn Baudouin
Judocus Joos
Ludovicus Lodewijk Louis


The letters 'ij', 'y' and 'i' are virtually interchangeable in spellings. The 'ij' or 'y' is a long, soft form of 'i'. The element 'lie' would be pronounced 'lee' and 'j' is equivalent to the English 'y' with the name Jan being pronounced 'Yan'.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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