Online Medieval Sources Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography of Printed and Online Primary Sources for the Middle Ages

Source Details

Barney, Stephen A., ed., trans.; Lewis, W.J., ed., trans.; Beach, J.A., ed., trans.; Berghof, Oliver, ed., trans.; Hall, Muriel, ed., The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Text name(s): Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi Etymologiarum sive Originum Libri XX; The Twenty Books of Etymologies or Origins of Bishop Isidore of Seville

Number of pages of primary source text: 383


Dates: 615 - 636

Archival Reference: 

Original Language(s): 

  • Latin


  • Translated into English.

Translation Comments: 

Geopolitical Region(s): 

  • Europe
  • Spain

County/Region: Seville; Andalusia

Record Types: 

  • Letter
  • Law - Canon Law
  • Law - Treatise/Commentary
  • Treatise - Other
  • Treatise - Scientific/Medical

Subject Headings: 

  • Early Germanic Peoples: Goths, Franks, etc.
  • Clergy - Priests, Bishops, Canons
  • Clergy - Monks, Nuns, Friars
  • Classics / Humanism
  • Church Fathers
  • Architecture and Buildings
  • Agriculture
  • Education / Universities
  • Material Culture: Food, Clothing, Household
  • Medicine
  • Monasticism
  • Nobility / Gentry
  • Royalty / Monarchs
  • Science / Technology
  • War - Military History
  • Women / Gender


  • Index
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Introduction


Isidore, bishop of Seville, was an important writer in Visigothic Spain, producing many works on grammar, history, and theology, the most important of which is his Etymologies. The Etymologies, compiled from a wide variety of classical and early Christian sources, relates the origins of various words grouped thematically in 20 books under the following headings: 1) Grammar, 2) Rhetoric and Dialectic, 3) Mathematics, music, astronomy, 4) Medicine, 5) Laws and times, 6) Books and ecclesiastical offices, 7) God, angels, and saints, 8) The Church and sects, 9) Languages, nations, reigns, the military, citizens, family relationships, 10) Vocabulary, 11) The human being and portents, 12) Animals, 13) The cosmos and its parts, 14) The earth and its parts, 15) Buildings and fields, 16) Stones and metals, 17) Rural matters, 18) War and games, 19) Ships, buildings, and clothing, and 20) Provisions and various implements. The Etymologies is a staggering compilation of the knowledge, both sacred and profane, of Late Antiquity, and remained a hugely popular textbook throughout the Middle Ages. This edition also includes an appendix of the correspondence of Isidore and Braulio, bishop of Saragossa, who encouraged Isidore to compile the Etymologies.

Introduction Summary: 

The editor’s brief (29 pp) introduction provides a biographical sketch of Isidore, placing the Etymologies in the context of his larger body of work, and in the context of Visigothic Spain. The editors note Isidore’s wide array of sources, which include pagans such as Pliny, Ovid, and Vitruvius as well as Christians such as Ambrose, Augustine, and Boethius. The editors also discuss the character of the Etymologies, including Isidore’s royal and clerical audience, and the didactic intentions reflected in his simple prose style. They also discuss the great influence which the Etymologies had over education throughout the Middle Ages, noting the many scholars who would rely on Isidore, even into the 16th century. The editors also note previous editions of the Etymologies, and outline their own editorial conventions.

Cataloger: MCB