PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England


[Image: Excerpt from the Domesday Book]
[Image: Durham Liber Vitae, folio 38r (extract)]


Author: SDB
Editorial Status: unknown

Discussion of the name

According to von Feilitzen, this name derives from Old Norse Valþíofr. His view was endorsed in a subsequent article (Gordon 1935) which explores the etymology of that name. Gordon argues that the first element Val- derives ultimately from Germanic *wala- meaning ‘chosen’ or ‘beloved’; and that the second element þíofr meant ‘servant’, but was understood to carry the more specialised meaning ‘servant of a god or supernatural power’ when used in personal nomenclature. Gordon’s principal purpose was to show that the name Wealhþeow which occurs in the Beowulf poem was not formed by combining the Old English name elements wealh (meaning ‘British’ or ‘foreigner’) and þeow (meaning ‘servant’ or ‘slave’). Rather, it was formed by combining Old Norse name elements which meant literally a ‘chosen servant’ devoted to a god or to a higher power: a more plausible name for a Scandinavian queen. It follows that Waltheof should not be misconstrued as a combination of Old English wealh and þeof (meaning ‘thief’), and that it would have been an appropriate name for an Anglo-Scandinavian landholder.

The name was, however, rare in Anglo-Saxon England: PASE identifies just five people of that name other than those named in Domesday Book, and three of the former (Waltheof 1, Waltheof 4 and Waltheof 6) were almost certainly the same person, an earl who held office in Northumbria in the late tenth century, and who was the great-great-grandfather of the Waltheof 2, the earl who figures prominently in Domesday Book.


Gordon 1935: E. V. Gordon, ‘Wealhþeow and Related Names’, Medium Aevum 4 (1935), 169–75

Forms of the name

Spellings in Domesday Book: Wallef, Walleu, Waltef, Walteif, Walteu

Forms in modern scholarship:

  von Feilitzen head forms: Valþíofr

  Phillimore edition: Waltheof

  Alecto edition: Waltheof

Distribution map of property and lordships associated with this name in DB

List of property and lordships associated with this name in DB

People of this name

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