Etymology of Surname De Apapis

Hi Latin Discussion,

Charles here. I am new to this forum and have joined principally to see if I can find assistance tracing my surname etymology.

The surname "Apap" is a shortening of "De Apapis", which was used from at least the 1400s up until the 1700s in Gozo, Malta in its longer form. Family tradition is that the surname derives in some form from the latin Apis, meaning bee, which features on our family crest and may link to the knight's templar.

I have almost no knowledge of Latin but have tried to research these claims further to see how De Apapis could have come from Apis. The closest variant word I have been able to find is the dative or ablative form Apibus. Could someone with a more substantial knowledge of Latin provide some insight into whether this is a reasonable etymology and whether there is any attested variant of Apibus that could be Apapis?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Hi,

I really don't know, but I might as well share what I found just in case it happened to be correct. This source says that the name Apap or de Apapis seems to be of Greek origin. So I looked up in a Greek dictionary what would have been the lemma form (nominative singular) of Apapis in Greek, and there is indeed such a word (ἀπάπη, a-pa-pe) meaning "dandelion": http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0057:entry=a)pa/ph
thank pacifica, this is interesting.

Do you know what form of the word Apape would have been Apapis? Is it plural?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Yes, it would be an ablative plural Latinized form of the Greek word. The ablative is the case (grammatical form) required after the Latin preposition de (here translating to "of"). So, if the interpretation is correct, de Apapis would mean literally "of the dandelions".
 
Last edited:

Etaoin Shrdlu

Civis Illustris
I suspect it's one of those cases where the lack of evidence means there's not much hope of being definitive on the subject; you can pretty much make out a case for whatever you fancy. For what it's worth, neither derivation sounds terribly persuasive to me, as neither insects nor flowers fall into any of the traditional categories for surnames (father, location, occupation, quirk), unless you class beekeeper as an occupation, and there aren't any parallels I know for this. If I went for a WAG, and this being Malta, I'd like to get Arabic abd (servant) or abu (father) into it, as they're both found as components of actual names.
 

Hemo Rusticus

J. Wellington Wimpy
Charles De Apapis dixit:
Could someone with a more substantial knowledge of Latin provide some insight into whether this is a reasonable etymology and whether there is any attested variant of Apibus that could be Apapis?
This is a very plausible etymology for the reason Etaoin found unconvincing (or rather found only remotely convincing). There is linguistic-folkloric evidence, particularly abundant in Lithuanian (you might look under 'honey' in this book), that the beekeeper was a wealthy & important person since Indo-European prehistory, honey being the main indigenous sweetener (whereas sugar was found later by, & brought in from, the Eastern branch of IE tribes) & of course used in the production of 'mead' (cognate with the IE word for 'sweet'). It is generally agreed that the Latin word apis is not native to the language, & some linguists, including the somewhat radical Theo Vennemann, point to a Semitic origin. I think we're all familiar with the Biblical phrase 'land of milk & honey' as representing richness & prosperity. But enough speculating on the historical validity of beekeeper-as-status-symbol, because I really don't know enough to make a solid argument.

As to the spelling, it isn't too surprising. A Vulgar/Popular Latin phrase that continues to be productive in Modern Italian is the pleonastic de ab 'from-from', as we see in Leonardo da Vinci. It seems possible that the 'true etymology' of the name would have been de ab apibus or something like it, resulting in the corrupt understanding (or 'metanalysis') that ab 'from' is rather part of the word apibus. Confusion of voicing/sonancy (b > p, or vice versa) is as routine as the buzzing of bees & shouldn't give us cause to wonder.
 
Last edited:

Hemo Rusticus

J. Wellington Wimpy
I will mention that I really like Pacifica's proposal also, although I find it a little less likely (maybe your ancestor owned a very successful flower shop? even though I guess dandelions are weeds...).
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

Civis Illustris
This is a very plausible etymology for the reason Etaoin found unconvincing (or rather found only remotely convincing).
I just want some parallels for 'beekeeper' being used as a surname in some language or other. Even a reference to beekeeping as someone's main occupation might strengthen the argument.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
I just want some parallels for 'beekeeper' being used as a surname in some language or other. Even a reference to beekeeping as someone's main occupation might strengthen the argument.
I found this for the German surname Zeidler (I have to admit that I've only just learnt that Zeidler means beekeeper; the word is no longer in use):

Opera Momentaufnahme_2019-12-27_101616_forebears.io.png


Imker
is less common, but it exists as well:
Opera Momentaufnahme_2019-12-27_101750_forebears.io.png
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
I'm not confident with Spanish (meaning that I don't really speak it), but I also found this:


Opera Momentaufnahme_2019-12-27_102702_forebears.io.png
 

Hemo Rusticus

J. Wellington Wimpy
Bitmap dixit:
I found this for the German surname Zeidler (I have to admit that I've only just learnt that Zeidler means beekeeper
Crikey, man! How'd you come across that? It's gold, pure gold!
 

Matthaeus

Vemortuicida strenuus
Lol APAP is a popular painkiller here in Poland.
 

Hemo Rusticus

J. Wellington Wimpy
Lol APAP is a popular painkiller here in Poland.
Kinda makes me think of ipecac, an emetic syrup the potency of which I myself have yet to try.
 

Hemo Rusticus

J. Wellington Wimpy
:vomit:
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Does that mean you've just tried? Lol.
 
Top