What's in a name

NL version

Origin of our name

The family name Vansieleghem/ Van Sieleghem/ Van Zieleghem/ Vanzieleghem and Sieleghem is one of the most fascinating names that you can imagine. The earliest recorded mention appears in 1080 in a charter of the "chapter of Harelbeke", whereat a "Gummarus de Sillenghem" acts as a witness for the Count of Flanders. As such this family name is one of the oldest in our regions. The origin of the name which clearly refers to a settlement, isn't entirely clear: some refer to a (imaginary?) township in the region of Kortrijk or Oudenaarde. The family "de Sedelghem" claims (our?) forefather in their family tree. A valueable report might be the following: in the city accounts of Bruges in the years 1300 and 1301 the name "Eulars de Sinnenghem" is noted next to the form "Eulars de Sillenghem". It is about a knight in service of the French king, receiving his pay each year. Sinnenghem is a place name in the County of Artois, that sometimes is spelled as Sillenghem. The contemporary form is Seninghem (on the road between Boulogne-sur-Mer and Saint-Omer). The spellings "Van Sieleghem", "Van Zieleghem" etc. are used interchangeably in past charters. In some charters the same person might be called Vansieleghem one year, and the next he might be called "Van Zieleghem". Our different families probably have a common ancestry. The family name Vanzieleghem is most commonly found on the axis of Ostend - Kortrijk, with some outliers in Knokke, Bruges, Ghent, Leuven and Detroit.

The family name (VAN) S(Z)I(E)LEG (H)EM

The name (Van) S(Z)i(e)leg(h)em is not found too frequently, but is still a typical West-Flemish surname. In the West-Flanders' phone book it appears 67 times, in the following forms: Sileghem (Kortrijk 4x, Roeselare 1x), Van Sielegem (Ostend 1x), Van Sieleghem and Vansieleghem (Bruges 6x, Ostend 13x, Roeselare 4x, Veurne 1x), Vanzieleghem (Bruges 2x, Ypres 1x, Kortrijk 10x, Ostend 2x, Roeselare 21x, Veurne 1x). Vanzieleghem is clearly the most common spelling. In East-Flanders we find one occurence of Sileghem in Merchtem, Silighem once in Londerzeel, Van Sieleghem once in Knesselare and Van Zieleghem once in Gentbrugge. The oldest known mention is the one from 1080: "S. Gumari de Sillenghem"(1). In 1242 mention is made of "Danckino de Sieldeghem", as vassal of the lord of Aishove which lay just under Kruishoutem(2). In the second half of the fourteenth century we find the name Zieldeghem, van Zieldenghem, van Sieldeghem, -ghen in Emelgem, Ingelmunster, Izegem and Ledegem(3). We add the following as well: 1372 Jhan van Sieldenghem; 1368 Wouter van Sieldenghem (also in 1370)(4). A certain Jan van Zieldeghem lived in 1382 in the viscounty Ieper-Ambacht and owned 6 bunder of estate in Lendelede(5). In Kortrijk: 1423 Joes' children van Zieldeghem; 1423 Weykin van Zieldeghem f. Joes(6). In Kruishoutem we find in 1419 Raes Van Zildeghem "jaerlyx gaf te zijne jaerghetide op Sildegem"(7). To which settlement does this name refer? DE FLOU(8) calls Zieldeghem a "no longer known estate in the castellany Kortrijk". But the excerpt from 1419 quoted by us shows that Zildegem was a place name in Kruishoutem, just outside the castellany Kortrijk. In the obituary of Kruishoutem from 1419(7) we find other examples that date back to 1250: "lant te sildighem; op sildighem; up eenen buelc te sildighem; tusschen Aeyshove ende zildighem jeghen den hofbrouc; een buelke tsildighem". GYSSELING(9) considers the name Sillenghem from 1o8o(1) as the oldest name of Zedelgem, even though it's called Sedelingem in 1089. We also believe that Gummarus de Sillenghem, who's named in a text from Harelbeke in 1080. Doesn't belong in Zedelgem, because all witnesses from this act come from the region between the Leie and the Scheldt(10). To this day the street name still exists in Kruishoutem. The local pronounciation is "zijlegem" which corresponds best to the spelling "Sileghem". DE VRIES(11) mentions this name as "Zijldegem". He can only guess at the patronymic in the first part; he thinks it refers to Sigiwald. If we start our assumptions from the form Zildegem (Zijldegem), i.e. "sildinga haim", then we too see Sigiwald as the only possible patronymic. The transition to Silegem is in that case just a ld-l-assimilation. In our opinion it is however clear that the form "silengem" is more recent. The patronymic can then be "sidulo"(9) or "silo". Which was attested by FOERSTEMANN(12) in the eigth century as "sigilo" from "sigu" or "victory". MORLET(13) names the following "sil"-names: Silibaldus, Silibertus, Silefredus, Silardus, Silleranus, but is also groping in the dark when it comes to its etymology. We find the name Selefridus appearing in Gent during the year 1239 as "Selvert van der Muden"(14). In any case Zi(j)legem goes back to "silinga haim", "home of the people of Silo", wherein only the etymology of "silo" stays somewhat of a mystery. The ie-spelling (Sieldenghem, Sieleghem) aside from the original Sileghem can be explained by the change to an open syllable. This is the same as what happened with Zielaerd from Aarsele in 1382(3), changing into Silhard (FOERSTEMANN l.c.) and Silardus (MORLET l.c.). The "d" in "Sieldengem" can be explained through segmentation of l, such as in "elders" from "elre", "volder" from "volre", "heldsbroch" from "elsbroec"(15), "teldre = telre", "kelder" from "kelre".


(1) M. GYSSELING - A.C.F. KOCH, Dip1omata Belgica ante annum millesimum centesimum scripta, Brussel, 1950, 261, nr. I53.
(2) E. COPPIETERS STOCHOVE, Cartulaire de I'abbaye d'ELseghem. Hand. Gesch. en Oudh. Gent, 1907, 119.
(3) F. DEBRABANDERE, Studie van de persoonsnamen in de kasselrij Kortrijk, 1350-1400, Handzame, 1970, 405.
(4) RAK, Gerecht 1367-80, f° 22V°, 80v°, 17.
(5) E. SABBE, Grondbezit en landbouw, economische en sociale toestanden in tie Kastelenij Kortrijk op bet einde der XIVe eeuw. Hand. Kon. Gesch.Oudh. Kring Kortrijk, XV (1936), 412.
(6) F. DEBRABANDFRE, Kortrijkse persoonsnamen omstreeks 1400. Tongeren. 1958, 183.
(7) L. GOEMINNE, Oude plaats- en persoonsnamen te Kruishoutem. Hand. Gesch. Oudh. Kring Oudenaarde, XI (1958), 228, 213-4.
(8) K. DE FLOU, Woordenboek der Toponymie van Westelijk Vlaanderen, XVIII, 485, 487. Hij vermeldt verder de familienaam (van) Zie1eghem in Ardooie, Brugge, Kortrijk, Torhout.
(9) M. GYSSELING, Toponymisch woordenboek. 1960, 1099.
(10) Dr. M. Gysseling sloot zich bij onze opvatting aan en schreef: "1080 Sillengem zou inderdaad zeer goed Zildegem onder Kruishoutem kunnen zijn".
(11) J. DE VRIES, Woordenboek der Noord- en Zuidnederlandsre plaatsnamen (Aula 85), 1962, 199.
(12) E. FOERSTEMANN, Altdeutsches Namenbuch. I. Personennamen, Bonn, 1900, 1336.
(13) M.Th. MORLET, Les noms de personne mr le territoire de l'ancienne Gaule dii VI° an XII° siècle. I. Les noms issus du Germanique continental et les créations gallo-germaniques, Paris, 1968, 200.
(14) C. TAVERNIER-VEREECKEN, Gentse naamkunde van ca. 1000 tot 1253, 1968,
(15) A. VAN LOEY, Middelnederlandse spraakkunst, II,. Klankleer, 1957, § 115