Grizzel Greedigut: A Name ‘No Mortall Could Invent’

Abstract : Citation : Online Sources : Other Notes

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Matthew Hopkins, the witch-finder general, stands in a room with two seated women and a number of animals.

The frontispiece to Matthew Hopkins’ The Discovery of Witches (1647) shows a number of purported familiars. “Griezzell Greedigutt” is named but not depicted. Image: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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.


Pentangelo, Joseph. 2019. Grizzel Greedigut: A Name ‘No Mortall Could Invent.’ Names 67(2), 78–88. [Online: December 2018]

Online Sources

Many of the sources that I refer to in this and my other works are publicly available online for free. This section provides links to all such sources. (It’s not my complete reference list.)

A True and Exact Relation of the severall Informations, Examinations, and Confessions of the late Witches, arraigned and executed in the County of Essex. 1645. London: M.S.
(Cornell – Transcription: Click the page number links to view scans from original.)

Gaule, John. 1646. Select Cases of Conscience Touching Witches and Witchcrafts. London: W. Wilson.

Hopkins, Matthew. 1647. The Discovery of Witches.
(Scans: EEBO – Login required. Transcription: EEBO TCP – No login)
* See note 2 below.

Stearne, John. 1648. A Confirmation and Discovery of Witchcraft. London: William Wilson.
( – Reprint)

Other Notes

Presentation History

This paper was presented at the American Name Society annual meeting in New York on January 5th, 2019. An earlier version was presented at the SQUID 13 conference at the Graduate Center, CUNY, April 27, 2018, as “Grizzel Greedigut: A Familiar’s Pedigree.”

Problems with Hopkins’ Discovery of Witches

Note that the most readily accessible version of Hopkins’ Discovery of Witches is the Project Gutenberg transcription, but I have found this version to be deficient, especially with regards to the familiars’ names, by cross referencing it with the scans of the actual pamphlet available through EEBO.

For example, in the answer to Query 4, the Gutenberg version lists “Elemanzer, Pyewacket, Peckin the Crown, Grizzel, Greedigut, &c.” as the names of the unseen imps. But in the scan of the original pamphlet, these names are “Elemauzer, Pyewacket, Peckin the Crown, Grizzel Greedigut, &c.” In sum: Elemauzer, not Elemanzer, is original, and Grizzel Greedigut is the name of one imp, not two. Note that this tallies more closely with the pamphlet’s famous frontispiece, which lists the names in question as “Ilemauzar” and “Griezzell Greedigutt.”

Unfortunately, the original scans are not immediately publicly accessible. They’re available through Early English Books Online, which requires a log in, but which many public libraries and academic institutions (e.g. the NYPL and the CUNY Graduate Center) have access to.

The good news is that what looks to be a felicitous transcription is also available through the EEBO TCP, with no login required.