The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

Recognising the contribution of Wales in contemporary society

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home > Transactions > Volume 23 - 2017 > NON, NONNA, NONNITA: CONFUSIONS OF GENDER IN BRYTHONIC HAGIONYMY

NON, NONNA, NONNITA: CONFUSIONS OF GENDER IN BRYTHONIC HAGIONYMY

According to tradition the name of the mother of St David is Nonn, in Latin Nonna, but the name appears first in the Vita Sancti David by Rhygyfarch ap Sulien (1056/7-1099) as Nonnita. It is generally supposed that this is to be derived from the shorter form of the name, though this has so far not been explained. It has been suggested from time to time (1) that Nonn should be considered not as the origin of Nonnita but as an abbreviation of it, (2) that Nonn is not a female but a male name and designates not David’s mother but a companion of his, (3) that the name itself derives from a misunderstanding of a place-name. It is proposed to call all three of these suppositions in question, and in particular to demonstrate that Nonn/Nonna is a credible early Welsh personal name, and further to suggest how Nonnita may be derived from it. Though there is no conclusive proof that Nonn was the name of David’s mother, the claim that it could not have been is erroneous.

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