Online Medieval Sources Bibliography

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

Source Details

Lindsay, W.M., ed., Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi Etymologiarum sive Originum Libri XX (2 vols., Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Text name(s): Etymologiae; Origines; Etymologies; Origins; Epistolae; Letters

Number of pages of primary source text: 484


Dates: 610 - 636

Archival Reference: 

Original Language(s): 

  • Latin


  • Original language included.

Translation Comments: 

Geopolitical Region(s): 

  • Europe


Record Types: 

  • Other
  • Letter
  • Encyclopedia
  • Glossary / Dictionary

Subject Headings: 

  • Jews / Judaism
  • Science - Astronomy
  • Science / Technology
  • Monasticism
  • Medicine
  • Material Culture: Food, Clothing, Household
  • Education / Universities
  • Early Germanic Peoples: Goths, Franks, etc.
  • Clergy - Priests, Bishops, Canons
  • Clergy - Monks, Nuns, Friars
  • Classics / Humanism
  • Church Fathers
  • Architecture and Buildings
  • Agriculture
  • War - Military History
  • Science - Mathematics
  • Saints
  • Philosophy / Theology
  • Law - Secular
  • Grammar / Rhetoric


  • Introduction


Saint Isidore, Archbishop of Seville and Doctor of the Church, was one of the most significant figures of Visigothic Spain, exerting a tremendous influence in his own time (through his vigorous participation in the various synods of the early seventh century) as well as on education throughout the Middle Ages (through his extensive writings). His vast learning and debt to the Latin classics has led him to be considered “the last scholar of the ancient world.” The Etymologies, compiled from a wide variety of classical and early Christian sources, describes the origins of words grouped thematically in twenty 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 (including information on the Jews and pagan philosophers); 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. Even though the subject of Etymology occupies only one of the twenty books (Book X), Isidore’s concern with the origins of the words which describe his subject matter permeate the entire work. The Etymologies has been read as a source for ascertaining those parts of classical learning which early Christians thought particularly worthy of being preserved. It has also been used to reconstruct in part ancient texts that have not survived save in excerpted form in the Etymologies. This work was a central feature of education throughout the Middle Ages—often used in the place of the classical works themselves whose collective wisdom it represented—and its popularity endured even into the Renaissance. The first of the two volumes of this Oxford Classical Texts edition includes correspondence (five letters) between Isidore and Braulio, bishop of Saragossa, who encouraged Isidore to undertake the Etymologiae, as well as the brief dedicatory letter to Sisebut, King of Hispania. This is still the authoritative critical edition of the Etymologies.

Introduction Summary: 

The “Praefatio Editoris” (9 pp., in Latin) provides information on the manuscripts used in the present edition and notes some of the orthographical and grammatical peculiarities of Isidore’s Latin.

Cataloger: WLL