English, from the ancient Hebrew name Elisheba, "oath of God", via Greek Elizabet and Latin Elizabetha; NT Luke 1:5-41. Cognate with Elisheba: OT Exodus 6:23.
In medieval times Elizabeth was often rendered as Isobel and this interchangeability, including the many variants of both names, still persists, at least throughout Scotland where the names are fully synonymous.
Most spelling variations can be found using Soundex searches for Elizabeth and Elisabeth but Elixabeth has been recorded occasionally in the 1841 Census of Aberdeenshire which may need special care [even though it may be a misreading of the letter "z"].
We have evidence [from LG] of Elizabeth, or the pet name Betsy, being used for Bridget in a family of Irish extraction:
- "Bridget (was written) on some statutory records Bridget and some Elizabeth. And for some years I actually thought I was looking for two separate individuals. ... an unusual surname for this area helped. I then discovered most of those registered as Bridget in my family (1819-1930) were known as Elizabeth or Betsy. These names might be a family quirk but perhaps it could happen in other families of Irish extraction."
In old documents in Latin, Elizabeth/Elisabeth may be written as Elizabetha or as the abbreviation Eliza. In either case care must be taken to allow for Latin case endings.
While there appears to be no obvious etymological connection between Beatrice/Beatrix and Elisabeth/Elizabeth, anecdotal evidence [AC, BA, BH/GMcC] exists for the names being interchangeable in Scotland, possibly through the common pet name, Betty. One correspondent [AK] suggests that the names are etymologically similar but hard evidence does not appear in official sources.� In "Tracing Scottish Ancestors", Rosemary Bigwood asserts that Beatrix is Anglicized as Elizabeth but supporting sources are lacking.
Whyte notes that Bethia/Bathia and Elisabeth/Elizabeth share the pet name of Beth and a common Gaelic version of Elisaid. This suggests they are cognate and hence Bethia and Bethia are shown here as Lesser Synonyms for Elizabeth.
Although Elizabeth and Elspeth are frequently interchangeable for a single individual, one correspondent [J-AC] records several families with living children named Elizabeth and Elspeth at the same time in Moray, Scotland and several other such families have been found in Aberdeenshire. It is therefore suggested that care be taken when examining old records: synonymous names, in the sense used here, are not necessarily a single person!
A recent correspondent [BM] has reported one formal experience of a Scottish parent baptized Elma, being an elision of Elizabeth and Margaret, and a further example of Elma used as a pet name from the same derivation.
A correspondent [LP], commenting on the plethora of pet names for her own name, Elizabeth, sent the following anecdote:
- "My Gran used to tell me this old saying -
��������'Elizabeth, Betsy, Betty & Bess, went out to seek a bird's nest. Which one got it?'
"It took me an age to realise that they were all the same people! I also got called Beth or Bethea. I was a very confused child!"