Nicknames in Central Switzerland


Description

In addition to the official naming system based on first names and surnames, the rural areas of Central Switzerland have a second, traditional naming system that the older residents – particularly those born before 1960 – continue to use to this day. It consists of nicknames given to individuals, families or extended families. There is a practical reason for it: since many villages and settlements have broad, extended networks of relatives with the same surname, and traditional first names are limited to those of a few saints, official names are not sufficient as a way of distinguishing between people. The nicknames are often derived from names of meadows, professions or social and physical characteristics. Some of them carry a certain stigma and are therefore no longer used by the persons in question. Others, however, form an unencumbered, everyday part of the people's personal identity. Nicknames linked to names of meadows are particularly common in farming communities, and are sometimes supplemented with details of the people's ancestry.

Image gallery

  • Names and landscapes: A typical example of dispersed settlements commonly found in mountainous areas in Central Switzerland, Schächental (UR), 2011. © Christof Hirtler, Altdorf
  • Getschwiler in the Schächental: farmhouses and barns clustered in the middle of the meadows, 2011. © Christof Hirtler, Altdorf
  • Names and announcements: advertisement published in a local Engelberg gazette (OW), 15 December 2011. © Engelberger Anzeiger
  • Names and people: The local community attending the Landsgemeinde in Ibach (Schwyz), 1950. © Foto Odermatt, Brunnen / Staatsarchiv
  • Names and landscapes: A typical example of dispersed settlements commonly found in mountainous areas in Central Switzerland, Schächental (UR), 2011. © Christof Hirtler, Altdorf
  • Getschwiler in the Schächental: farmhouses and barns clustered in the middle of the meadows, 2011. © Christof Hirtler, Altdorf
  • Names and announcements: advertisement published in a local Engelberg gazette (OW), 15 December 2011. © Engelberger Anzeiger
  • Names and people: The local community attending the Landsgemeinde in Ibach (Schwyz), 1950. © Foto Odermatt, Brunnen / Staatsarchiv

References and documentation

Publications
  • Muheim-Büeler, Josef: Die Hänsler. Band I: Nachfahrenverzeichnis. Band II: Schächentaler Zunamen und Übernamen. Greppen: Selbstverlag, 1981 [weitere Auflagen: 1983, 1993, 2006].

  • Gwerder, Alois: “200 alte Übernamen im Muotathal – aufs Jahr genau erfasst”, In: Schweizer Volkskunde 96 (2006), S. 94-95.

  • Oechslin, Max: “Urnerische Übernamen”, In: Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde, 39 (1941-1942), S. 161-178.

  • Blaser, Fritz: “Familien-, Zu-, und Übernamen der Gemeinde Triengen”, In: Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde, 33 (1934), S. 198-203.

  • Saladin, Guntram: “Über luzernische Familiennamen”, In: Der Geschichtsfreund. Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins Zentralschweiz, 84 (1929), 109-141.

  • Plattform für schweizerische Ortsnamen- und Namenforschung mit einer umfassenden toponomastischen Literaturliste zu allen Schweizer Kantonen

Documentation