Vol. 67 No. 2 (2019)

Grizzel Greedigut: A Name ‘No Mortall Could Invent’

Published 2019-04-03


  • Commemorative naming,
  • apotropaic names,
  • continuing bonds,
  • infant mortality,
  • bereavement,
  • personhood,
  • UK
  • ...More


Matthew Hopkins, England’s most notorious witch hunter, rested his reputation on his experience in confronting the supernatural. To this end, he greatly exaggerated the intensity of his first encounter with an accused witch, Elizabeth Clarke. In Hopkins’ account, Clarke mentioned a familiar named Grizzel Greedigut. But earlier publications show that this did not happen, and that Hopkins appropriated the name from the dubious confession of another woman, Joan Wallis. Today, we have largely accepted Grizzel Greedigut as a bizarre, nonsensical name, but it would not have been all that absurd at the time. Grizzle often described grey animals, and Grissel was a fairly popular name, an abbreviation of Grisilde. Greedigut meant ‘glutton,’ and was the name English colonials used for the American anglerfish. Without knowing more about the name’s historical context, we fall for Hopkins’ cynical ploy to maximize the strangeness of his encounter.


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