For simplicity’s sake we will categorize every abbreviation form as a contraction when one or more letters are omitted inside a word. I.e. it is not at the beginning or end of a word, which we have written about in our former posts (click the words to read them) and it is not a one-letter abbreviation which we will write about in future.
There are two groups within this category:
- Abbreviation of nasal consonants and
- Word specific contractions.
Let’s see the examples!
- One less nasal consonant
It was usual to
- write only one n or m instead of two or
- omit the n or m if there was one
This was marked with a horizontal line above its place.
We have mentioned this already when discussing the abbreviation of the prefix con/com-, and you may also remember this is the very same sign as the abbreviation of an -m at the end of words. You may see also an -mn- abbreviated in this way.
comendacione = commendacionem (recommendation)
omem = omnem (all)
NOTE: you can observe in the first example that the horizontal abbreviation mark can “slide away”, i.e. it is not necessarily right above the one nasal written down, here the sign is considered to be part of the prefix com-, so it is above that. But usually it is approximately there where the omitted nasal would stand in the word, like in the second example.
- Word specific contractions
If you presume a word could be contracted because you can’t find it in a dictionary, you have to presume also that it was a universally known and common word, as only those were abbreviated. Otherwise even contemporary peers may not have been able to read them. Luckily, this narrows down the possibilies.
These contractions were marked mostly with a horizontal or arched line above the word. But even this may have been skipped!
Here is a list of the most common ones that I as a genealogist-translator meet in ecclesiastical and legal texts (some may be common only in Eastern Europe, but anyway, even through these you get the main idea how this works):
cottus = comitatus (county)
eppus = episcopus (bishop)
Trannia = Transylvania (Transylvania)
Hlis = Hungaricalis (Hungarian)
Florum = Florenorum (Florins)
Nro/No = numero (number)
Ao Dni = Anno Domini (in the year of the Lord)
nra = nostra (our)
vra = vestra (your)
splis = specialis (special)
spbilis = spectabilis (addressing of noblemen, notability)
dnus = dominus (gentleman, lord)
poss/possio = possessio (tenure, village)
Mattas = Majestas (Majesty)
gralis = generalis (general, main)
ecclia/ecclea/ecla = ecclesia (church)
pttus = praetitulatus (named above)
lra = libera (free)
ctte = civitate (in the city)
lrae testles = litterae testimoniales (letter of testimony)
judlium = judex nobilium (literally: judge of the noblemen, but he is a leader of the county)
jurassor = juratus assessor (sworn assessor or judge)
judria = judiciaria (judiciary)
incattus = in causam attractus (defendant)
Let’s see some of these in handwriting!
cottu = comitatu
dno = domino
Eclae = ecclesiae
Eppus = episcopus
nr = noster
Have you found other contractions? Do you have questions?
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