Names of Castles found in Troubadour Lyrics

edited by Sara L. Uckelman, research and data compilation by Josh Mittleman & Brian M. Scott
known in the SCA as Aryanhwy merch Catmael, Arval Benicoeur, and Talan Gwynek

© 2005 Sara L. Uckelman; all rights reserved
last updated 08Jul05


The following list of names of medieval French castles was created for Academy of Saint Gabriel Report #3068. The data was compiled by Josh Mittleman (known in the SCA as Arval Benicoeur) from Frank M. Chambers's Proper Names in the Lyrics of the Troubadours (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1971), and the etymological information was provided by Brian M. Scott (known in the SCA as Talan Gwynek). I merely provided the HTML vehicle for the information.

France today is a unified country with a common language. That was not true during the 12th and 13th centuries, from when these names are: Pre-modern France was home to several languages, each of which was used in a range of dialects, some quite similar, some quite different. The most significant division was between the langue d'oil, or French, spoken in the north, and the langue d'oc, also called Occitan or Provençal, spoken in the south. These were different languages, not just dialects of the same language, and names in them were often quite different. While the castles listed below are found all over France, the language of the troubadour lyrics was Occitan and not French, and so these spellings are appropriate for southern, and not northern, France. The spellings in the second column are the standard modern French forms.

Provençal forms found in lyricsLocation & historical notesEtymological information
BaboThe chateau Babon in Marseille, residence of the viscounts of the city; demolished before 1302.Apparently named after a 9th c. bishop Babo or Babon. [1] The underlying name is presumably a Germanic Babo with an Old French oblique case Babon.
BelesgarBeauregard, a castle of Vaucluse, canton of Jonquières, near Courtheson, residence of Raimbaut d'Aurenga.Belesgar is the Occitan equivalent of French Beauregard. [2] The sense is 'fair view'.
BiarApparently the fortress of this name between Valencia and Murcia.This is either from the Latin word apiarium and signifies 'place of bees', and or from Arabic biyaar 'wells' with the sense 'place of wells'. [3,4]
BotenanProvencalized form of Boutavant, a castle in the Vexin.The French spelling is a compound of the root (or the imperative) of , Old French boter 'to strike; to push', and avant 'before, in front of'. Occitan enan or enant is French en avant [2], which also gives the correspondence Botenan ~ Boutavant). The name is thus 'push forward', referring to an advanced fortification.
BrioBrion was a castle in the Valentinois.This is derived from Gaulish briga 'a height, an elevation' which was Latinized (inter alia) Brio. [5]
BroilEl Brull, a castle in Ausona (province of Barcelona, on the railroad line to Vich).This appears to be related to Old French breuil, Old Provençal brolh 'small wood enclosed by a wall or hedge', from brogilum, of Gaulish origin. [5]
CajarcA castle in Quercy on the Lot.The origin is obscure, but apparently related to Limousin cajaroco (Provençal cacaroto, cagarocho) 'hollow; hut, crib, hovel'. [5]
CandaCandes, a castle on the Loire near Monsoreau.The French form is Candé. [2] The source is Gaulish condate 'confluent'. [5]
Carmenzon, CarmançoThe castle of Carmensó in Ampurdán (Gerona).This is derived from Gaulish *Carmentus, Latinized *Carmentius, plus the suffix -acum. [5]
ClarasvalsA castle of Richard I on the site of the present Scorebé-Clairvaux (Vienne).This is 'bright, clear valley'.
lo DaroLe Daron, a castle in the kingdom of Jerusalem.Though there is a word daron that originally meant 'master' and then 'father', and more plausible etymology for this is daru 'strong'. [6,7]
DromoThe donjon at Vienne (Isère).
GlorietaThe former palace of the princes of Orange.This is Spanish glorieta 'summer-house; bower, arbor'.
Gordo, GordonA castle in Quercy, on the site of the present Gourdon (Lot).This represents a pre-Latin *gor-d- 'mountain', with suffix -onem. [5]
MalespinaThe castle or seat of the Malaspina family, though no castle so named exists today.
MartelThe castle (Lot, arr Gourdon) where the Young King died.This is from the personal name Martel. [5]
MatafeloThe castle of Mateflon (Maine-et-Loire).This is unclear, but is perhaps matar 'anéantir'; felon (tel) 'félon', i.e. 'destroy traitor'. [2]
MedionaA castle near Vallbona (Lérida).
MirandolA castle near Martel (Lot).This is from Old Provençal miranda 'watchtower', with a diminutive suffix -eolum. [5]
tor MirmandaThe Tour Mirmande, or Tour Gloriette, conquered by William of Orange when he won Orange.This is from Old French mirmande 'fortified house or town'.
MonfortA castle in Périgord (Dordogne).This is 'strong mountain', with reference to its military value.
MonrozierA castle in the Aveyron.Apparently for a mount covered with rose-trees.
MontagutThe castle of Montégut, which occupied the site of Lisle-d'Albi (Tarn).'Sharp-mount'.
MontesorA castle near Balaguer ("castrum de Monte-Sor").Sor is a Gallicism for saur 'red', so this is 'red mountain'. [2]
MontesquiuUncertain.The first element is from Latin mons 'a mountain, a hill', and the second is Old Provençal esquiu 'wild, hostile'.
OstalricA castle in the prov of Gerona.This appears to be from ostal 'house' and ric 'rich', i.e., 'rich house'. [2]
Polinhac, PolomnhacPolignac, a castle between Clérmont and Le Puy.This is from some obscure Gaulish name. [5]
PosquieirasPosquières, a castle near present-day Vauvert.
RocabertiRocabertí, a castle in the prov. of Gerona, near La Junquera.This is likely Roca Berti 'Berto's fortress'.
SegurSegur (Corrèze), an important castle of the viscounty of Limoges.This is from Latin securus 'secure, safe'. [2]
TornelTournoel, a castle in the commune of Volvic.The castle has a rather prominent stone turret, and so likely takes its name from Old French tornele 'turret'.
lo ToronLe Toron, a fortress SW of Tyre.This appears to be Old French toron 'hill, elevation', a derivative of tor 'tower, elevated place'.
VentadornOne of the four viscounties of Limousin; the ruins of the castle of this name are near Moustier-Ventadour (Corrèze).The origin of this name is uncertain. The first element could be from a pre-Celtic word meaning 'elevation', or it could be the 'wind' word, or , it could be something else altogether: Winchester (Hampshire) was Venta Belgarum 'Venta of the Belgares', where venta is a pre-British element meaning something like '(chief) place (of a tribe)'. The correspondance of Ventadorn with French Ventadour matches the correspondence of Occitan dorn and Old French dor, dur, both 'breadth of the fist.' [2]

References & notes

Chambers, Frank M. Proper Names in the Lyrics of the Troubadours (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1971)

[1] "Le site du Fort Saint-Jean à Marseille à travers les siècles" (WWW:, no date)

[2] "Lexic occitan medieval" (WWW:, June 2004)

[3] "Biar" (WWW: Viquipè dia, 2005)

[4] Palacios, Miguel Asín, Contribución a la toponimia árabe de España. 2nd edn. (Madrid-Granada: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientíicas, 1944).

[5] Dauzat, Albert & Ch. Rostaing, Dictionnaire Etymologique des Noms de Lieux de la France (Paris: Librairie Larousse, 1963). s.nn. Breil, Brion, Cajarc, Candé, Charmant, Gordes, Marmande, Martel, Mirande, Polignac, Segur

[6] Dauzat, Albert, Jean Dubois, and Henri Mitterand, Nouveau Dictionnaire Étymologique et Historique (Paris: Librairie Larousse, 1964).

[7] Godefroy, Frédéric, Lexique de l'ancien français, J. Bonnard & Am. Salmon, eds. (Paris: Librairie Honoré Champion, 1994).