The Old English masculine name Brun is identical with the adjective brun
meaning ‘brown’ (OE brūn
). It appears to have become established as an independent forename only in the later tenth century, its earliest recorded bearers living c. 970. Over the next three generations the name proliferated at certain specific and relatively modest social levels. Persons recorded before 1066 included a priest, someone who may have been the senior reeve of a regionally important thegn, a servant and beneficiary of Bishop Ælfric II of Elmham (Ælfric 104) (d. 1038), and at least five moneyers active in different mints between the 970s and the 1030s.
The strong form (Brun) and weak form (Bruna
) of the name are both on record (for instance on the coins) (Redin 1919: 11–12, 45), but in practice in DB they are impossible to distinguish. In theory, spellings in Brune
ought to stand for Bruna, but the Danelaw thegn Brun was spelled Brune once and Brun the other six times. The occasional spelling Brunus
could represent the Latinization of either the strong or the weak form. Successive Latinization and deLatinization of the weak form as DB moved through several stages of copying would potentially have turned Brune to Brunus to Brun or vice versa.
Von Feilitzen (1937: 209) suggested that some of the DB entries might have stood for a Scandinavian name (ON Brúnn
, ODan Brun), but evidence for the use of that name in England is vanishingly thin (Fellows Jensen 1968: 66).
The 1086 subtenant in Warwickshire whom DB calls Bruno has usually been regarded as having the name Bruno, but that name seems not to have been used in Normandy (Adigard des Gautries 1954; Fauroux 1961; Bates 1998) and in the French-speaking lands was associated rather with Burgundy, Champagne, and the Rhineland (Morlet 1968: 61). He is much more likely to have been an Englishman called Brun.
All the relevant material for the spellings Brun, Brune, Bruno, and Brunus is gathered here for convenience under the form Brun; some of the individuals concerned will undoubtedly have been called Bruna rather than Brun but it is impossible to distinguish systematically between the two forms of the name.
Landowners called Brun ran up the social scale from a free peasant of Bury St Edmunds abbey with 5 acres to several men with 5 or 6 hides or carucates; they included two reeves and two priests, tending to confirming the impression given by the non-Domesday evidence about the social groups in which this name was used in the eleventh century.