Eissen – Name for a village with very different spellings

In the period of history we find diverse spellings of the name. It begins in the early Middle Ages with the initial sound A and Ai. Aieshusun is the oldest form, followed by Aeissun, also Agissun and Agissen can be found. Then we register a change from the initial sound Ai or Aei towards Ey and Ei. We then read in old documents Eysne, Eyessen, Eisne, Eisnen, Eyhsen, Eihsen, Eißen and finally ending up with the today written form Eissen.

But in between we have to deal with the wording "Heisten" from a tradition from Corvey from the 12th century. There are a number of important evidence that with Heisten our Eissen is meant (more on this later).

How does it come to this different written representations? It is not surprising that the diphthong Ai finally ended up as Ei. But the very different forms raise a lot of riddles. We have to remember that there are no set standards writing to the late Middle Ages and even into the early modern period. This is true not only for the place name: people wrote to the articulation of a name. How a word, a name was heard, so they wrote it on their own discretion. For instance, the monks in their scriptoria and writing workshops were given a name of a place by a friar, on which there was something to report, the sound sequence took over the ear and put it on their sound feeling around in one, as they thought proper spelling, which corresponded to the sounds or the sound sequence. For the historians this frequently lead to problems to determine the true identity of a place.

The place name Eissen – can it be explained?

We already heard the place name Aieshusun for Eissen, as used in the monastery of Corvey. The endings -hus, -husun, -huso -husen, -hausen are in meaning to be equated. This ending point to the colonization of a living space (later village) in Saxon times. Such places are usually created in the era after the Saxon conquest or were at that time already existent. This means that Eissen must have been existed during this period.

Faster speaking transformed the suffixes -husen, -hausen etc. into shorter suffixes as -sen or -sun, like with Aeissun (see Helmarshausen). So even with Eissen. The first of the two s-phonems is not part of hausen/sun but belongs to the word stem Aieshus. We have around us excellent examples of this development. So has become Niehuesen into Niesen. Contrary to that we call Schweckhausen, where -hausen has been kept, Schwecksen in everyday language. We could cite many other examples like Frohnhausen, Frohnsen etc.

In east and south Westphalia, the primary word -hausen means a dwelling place consisting of one ore more (maybe noble) main farms along with several auxiliary farms. So it means an accumulation of houses.

In the case of one designation, namely in the monastery of Helmarshausen, they talk of „Villa Aeissun“ (= Eissen). The prefixed word Villa (today = representative residential house) is from Latin and meant house in the countryside, manor, rural property, accumulation of several houses in the countryside. But in Villa sticks our present word Weiler (small settlement).

Let us take a short look at the suffix -heim. The -heim points to an origin in Frankish times (from the 9./10. century). But it also happend that a place from Saxon times with appropriate name got the suffix -heim, neither it had a Saxon suffix before (Pickelsen - Peckelsheim).

Let us come to the much more difficult part, that is the interpretation of the first part of our village name. There have been several attempts to explain in the past, but most of them were not fully sufficient and left us back with much uncertainty. Howerver - the available considerations are worth to think about.

Pastor Ostendorf from Küllstedt near Göttingen has the opinion, that Aeissun originates from Asigsheim. Asig then shall depend on the name of the principal pantheon in the Germanic religion named Æsir, and so Aisgsheim = Eissen means a place where a sanctuary has existed. That could be true, especially if one considers that the field name Hibbeke shall come from „Hillige-Bicke“ (hillig as low german for holy) what might point to a holy place.

But Ostendorf’s version is contradicted by the fact that in none of the existing deeds a name like Asigsheim is mentioned. Furthermore the suffix -heim has, as we already know, Francish roots and is not connected to the Saxon times and the times of Germanic religion.

Joseph Rust (see Literature) can see a little point in this explination but than makes a clear constaint and says: „it (the explanation) might be true“.

Despite all the uncertain terrain one enters in this question I want dare to add another option. In the Old Saxon language ey (ei) means an area that is located at moist and watery place. It also means island (Eiland). Let us think of Nordern-ey (german island in the north sea) what has the meaning of: the eye in the north, that looks out of the floods (of the north sea). In Frisian the island is called Nordern-oge (eye in the north). Auge/Oge is the German word for the English word eye (the Angles and Saxons took their language with them when they settled over to the British islands).

Back to Eyssen/Eissen. Related to the naming the following explanation for the name of our village might be true: Eissen arised in the north of a moisty place at the source pond (Hibbeketeich) and the Siek beck, as well at western of the watery hollows of the Eggel brook and southern of the water courses that in the end create the Mühlbach (mill beck) and later the Eggel (beck). Also in the west there are some waterheads. That means: Eissen arised on a dry place that was surrounded by watery terrain. Eissen is an „eye“ that looks out of this wetlands.

Independent of attempts to explain the name like this there are some facts: the people were definitely attracted by mostly dry, not boggy, terrain that also supplied them with fresh spring water (source pond and Siek beck).