Arthurian Name Dictionary

Christopher Bruce


   The Arthurian Name Dictionary is intended as a general reference for Arthurian scholars, fans, and hobbyists. It lists proper names from nearly every “Arthurian” text written between the sixth century and the nineteenth, and for more than half of these (the most significant texts) is comprehensive, including all characters and places, major and minor, who appear in the texts. (I would have liked to be comprehensive for all texts, but the lack of availability of many minor sources prevented it; for more information, see the Sources appendix.) I used Tennyson’s Idylls of the King as my final source, though the richness and diversity of modern authors’ uses of traditional characters deserves its own volume, down the road.
   I sincerely hope that this book is valuable to anyone interested in the Arthurian legends. Scholars should find it handy as an “Arthurian desk reference,” and readers of modern Arthurian literature should have fun looking up how their favorite characters originated in the traditional legend. (Read T. H. White’s depictions of Pellinore and the Questing Beast, then look up the entries here!) In this reference, I have dedicated myself to providing as many characters, places, objects, symbols, and themes—both major and minor—as I could, within reasonable space limitations. I hope, and expect, that what you find here is a more comprehensive catalogue of Arthurian proper names than has ever been published before.

A Few Words from the Author

   I’ve saved most of my acknowledgements for the end of this preface, but right away I have to thank the person most responsible for this dictionary: Sir Petipace of Winchelsea.
   I first encountered Sir Petipace in Malory’s Le Morte Darthur when I first read it in 1988. For some reason, out of all the characters listed in the book, his name stuck in my head like a bad song. Years went by before I picked up another Arthurian book, but if someone asked me to name a Knight of the Round Table, I said, “Sir Petipace of Winchelsea.”
   About 1993, I began studying the Arthurian legends in earnest, and to facilitate my studies, I set out to buy a dictionary or encyclopedia that catalogued Arthurian names. I eventually bought four, and for all of them, Petipace was the acid test. As soon as I opened a book, I would flip to the “P” section and try to find Sir Petipace of Winchelsea.
   I never found him.
   My first attempt to give Sir Petipace the recognition I thought he deserved, the “Sir Petipace of Winchelsea Society” (SPWS), died a quiet death after only several months despite what I thought was a successful “Petipace Pentecost Party” in 1995.
   Next, I thought that Petipace’s hometown might want to remember him, but repeated pleas to the officials of the town of Winchelsea, East Sussex, fell on deaf ears. It seems that Petipace had been demonized by those who judge him only by the actions at the end of his life (i.e., conspiring with Mordred and Agravain to expose Lancelot and Guinevere), without any regard to his noble deeds during his prime (i.e., the fight against Sir Tor).
   After that, my campaign to promote Petipace took some strange turns. If you happened to be watching Game Three of the 1996 World Series, that was me with the Yankees cap and the cardboard sign that read “Malory I:3:9.” (“‘And my name,” said the other, “is Sir Petipace of Winchelsea.’”)
   Motivated by the belief that poor old Petipace deserved his own entry, I began cataloguing all the proper names in Le Morte Darthur, just so I could keep them straight myself. Then, when I started reading Geoffrey of Monmouth, I added his characters to the list. From there, I expanded to other texts, gathered momentum, and three years later, this book rolled off my printer.
   Sir Petipace of Winchelsea can be found on page 404. Pay him a visit.

Notes on the Entries

Commonly Used Names

   As you read the entries, you may note that there are a number of names, places, phrases, and terms that I sling around without any explanation. For instance, I assume you know who Lancelot, Gawain, and Arthur are, and I assume that you are familiar with the Round Table, the Sword in the Stone, and the Roman War. I have tried to relate each entry to a familiar name, object, or situation, so you can understand the significance of the entry within only a few words.
   Therefore, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the following entries before you read anything else. These are characters, places, and objects central to the Arthurian legends, and most of the other entries try to refer back to one of these:
Arthur’s Battles
Chastity Test
Fisher King
Hector of the Fens
Joseph of Arimathea
Lady of the Lake
Morgan le Fay
Round Table
Sword in the Stone

Designation of Knights

   I use a number of phrases to indicate that a person is one of Arthur’s knights, including “an Arthurian knight,” “a knight in Arthur’s service,” “a knight of Arthur’s court,” “one of Arthur’s knights,” and “Arthur’s Sir….” “Knight of the Round Table” is only used to describe knights who are specifically named, in at least one source, as a member of the Round Table fellowship.
   “Knight” being a medieval term, the early chronicles and Welsh legends never refer to Arthur’s warriors as “knights.” Accordingly, all fighters in Arthur’s suite that are named exclusively in the Welsh texts or the early chronicles are referred to as “warriors” in this book.

Source Codes

   At the end of each entry, in brackets, is a series of codes that identify the Arthurian sources in which the character, place, object, symbol or theme mentioned in the entry appears. Use the “Sources” table at the back of the book to find the full name and description of the text based on the code.
   The codes are also designed so, if you prefer, you can easily look up the full description of the source in The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. Each code contains just enough letters to identify a unique entry, alphabetically, in the NAE.


   It has been my general policy to translate titles and sobriquets, but not proper names. For instance, Le Chavlier de la Charrette is listed under “Knight of the Cart,” and Isolde aux blanche mains is “Isolde of the White Hands.” However the knight Orguelleus, whose name means “proud,” is still listed under “Orguelleus” because it is a proper name and not a title.
        The exception to the translation policy is when an author writing in English has chosen to give a character a foreign language title. Malory does this often (e.g., “Geryne le Gros,” “Severauce le Breuse”). These titles are only translated if the characters previously appeared in a non-English source.


   I owe thanks to a daunting number of people for their assistance and support with this book. First mention goes to my wife, Terri, who, in addition to providing me invaluable love and support, also helped me edit the bulk of this book.
   Second are the men and women of the Interlibrary Loan Office at Northeastern University, Boston. I have never seen a more efficient, more productive group of people in my life. I put in request forms for dozens of books at a time, but the Interlibrary Loan Office never failed to find a single text. Some of the volumes they turned up should have been in museums. I was continually having conversations with them like this:

Me: “I need an 1560 edition of The Book of Taliesin written in Welsh, in the original manuscript, with none of the pages missing. There are only four in the world. I’d like the one that was owned by Lady Charlotte Guest and has an inscription by Queen Victoria inside the front cover.”

   Professor Norris J. Lacy has my deepest gratitude, both for writing the foreword to this book and for encouraging me, at the beginning, to pursue this project. I would also thank the scholars and students on Arthurnet, and particularly Michelle Ziegler, for providing assistance and advice along the way. Thanks to Judy Shoaf for maintaining this invaluable electronic mailing list.
   My appreciation to Garland Publishing, and particularly my editor, Kristi Long, not only for agreeing to publish my book, but also for making available, to countless students of Arthurian literature, critical editions of dozens of texts.
   Finally, I thank my friends and colleagues at the Cambridge Police Department, who, as people uninterested in Arthuriana, were able to provide me with a valuable “outsiders’” point of view, asking me thought- provoking questions like, “Aren’t you done with that book yet?” And, “What is your book about? Again?” They are the modern-day Knights of the Round Table.

Copyright Christopher Bruce. All Rights Reserved. Provided here by his kind permission. Layout of book modified to fit the Celtic Twilight format.