Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Are They Really "Unisex" If They're Only Used On Girls?

When discussing unisex names online, I'm always surprised at how many people are shocked or sympathetic for their poor old Uncles Kelly or Courtney or Marion. It must have been so hard growing up with a girls' name! :p
I'm not going to get into how I feel about girl-names and "weakness", so bypassing that, do people not realize just how many of our established feminine names actually used to be commonplace on boys?
So, a list of feminine/unisex names that were formerly exclusively masculine, or are feminine in the U.S., but masculine in other regions:

  • Addison
  • Alexis (masculine in Europe & South America)
  • Ariel (masculine in South America)
  • Ashley
  • Aubrey 
  • Avery
  • Bailey (still masculine elsewhere*)
  • Beverly
  • Blair (still masculine elsewhere)
  • Brin/Bryn/Brynn (still masculine elsewhere)
  • Brook
  • Cameron (still masculine elsewhere)
  • Camille (still unisex in France)
  • Carol/Carroll/Karol (still masculine in Eastern Europe)
  • Charlie (still mostly masculine elsewhere)
  • Clair
  • Courtney
  • Dana
  • Elliott (still masculine elsewhere)
  • Emerson
  • Emery
  • Esme
  • Evelyn
  • Finlay/Finley (still masculine elsewhere)
  • Florence
  • Francis/Frances
  • Gale
  • Harley
  • Harlow
  • Harper
  • Hilary
  • Jamie (still mostly masculine elsewhere)
  • Jan (masculine throughout Europe)
  • Jean (masculine in France)
  • Jewel/Jewell
  • Jocelyn (still masculine in France)
  • Joyce
  • Kelly
  • Kelsey
  • Kendall
  • Kennedy
  • Kim (still masculine in Scandinavia)
  • Kristen (masculine in Scandinavia)
  • Lacy
  • Lauren
  • Laurie
  • Laverne
  • Leigh
  • Leslie
  • Lindsay
  • Lynn
  • Mackenzie (still masculine elsewhere)
  • Madison
  • Marion
  • Meredith (still masculine in Wales)
  • Morgan (still unisex elsewhere)
  • Page/Paige
  • Pearl
  • Quinn (still mostly masculine elsewhere)
  • Reece/Reese (still masculine elsewhere)
  • Remy/Remi (still masculine elsewhere)
  • Riley (still masculine elsewhere)
  • Robin (still masculine elsewhere)
  • Rory (still masculine elsewhere)
  • Sasha (still unisex throughout Europe)
  • Shannon 
  • Sharon (still unisex in Israel)
  • Shea/Shay (still mostly masculine elsewhere)
  • Shelby
  • Shelley
  • Shirley
  • Stacy
  • Sidney/Sydney (still masculine in the Netherlands)
  • Taylor
  • Teagan
  • Tracy
  • Vivian
  • Whitney

* for the purposes of brevity, "elsewhere" = "every English-speaking country apart from the U.S."

Still haven't decided if the U.S. is leading the trends, or is just crazy.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

<*insert semi-cheesy holiday title here*>

I swore I wasn't going to do a holiday-themed post, because they are everywhere, but I just couldn't resist.
So, for the season of giving, here's a compilation of names that mean "gift".
Whatever your holiday is, I hope it's a happy one!

  • Abishai (ah-bi-SHY, Hebrew)--"my Father's gift"
  • Ata (ah-tah, Arabic)
  • Csaba (CHAH-bah, Hungarian)
  • Devdan (dev-dahn, Indian [Hindi])--"gift of the gods". Variants include Debdan & Deodan.
  • Doron (doh-ROHN, Hebrew")
  • Ekrem (ek-REM, Turkish)--"most generous"
  • Gebbert (GEB-bert, German)--"brave gift"
  • Gennady (gen-AH-dee, Russian)--from Greek, "generous"
  • Isidore (IZ-a-dor or ees-ah-DOHR, Greek)--"gift from Isis"
  • Jesse (JES-see, Hebrew)
  • Mattan (mah-tahn, Hebrew)
  • Matthew (MATH-yoo, English)--from Hebrew, "gift of Yahweh". Variants include Matthias (Greek), Matteo (Italian), & Makaio (Hawaiian).
  • Shai (SHY, Hebrew)
  • Theodore (THEE-oh-dohr, Greek)--"gift of god"

  • Atiya (AH-tee-yah, Arabic)
  • Dara (DAH-rah, Slavic)
  • Dîyar (DEE-yar, Kurdish)
  • Dorothea (doh-roh-THEH-ah, Greek)--"gift of god"
  • Eudora (yoo-DOHR-ah, Greek)--"good gift"
  • Gennadiya (gen-AH-dee-yah, Russian)--from Greek, "generous"
  • Godiva (god-EYE-vah or goh-DEE-van, Anglo-Saxon)--"gift of god"
  • Heba (HEB-ah, Arabic)
  • Isidora (is-ih-DOHR-ah, ee-see-DOHR-ah, Greek)--"gift from Isis"
  • Karima (kah-ree-mah, Arabic)--"generous"
  • Lahja (LAH-hya, Finnish)
  • Pandora (pan-DOH-rah, Greek)--"all gifts"
  • Sunniva (soon-NEE-vah, Norwegian)--from Old English, "gift of the sun". Another form is Synnove (sin-NOH-veh).
  • Theodora (theh-oh-DOHR-ah, Greek)--"gift of God"

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Usual Nickname, Unexpected Name--Callie

Callie is another example of a nickname that's become reasonably popular on its own. Originally a nickname for Caroline, I suspect it's another example of the R to L shift. This also helped distance it from Caroline, as it's not the most intuitive nickname in modern American English.

  • Apikalia (ah-pih-KAL-ee-ah, Hawaiian)--form of Abigail
  • Calanthia (kal-AN-thee-ah, English)--from Greek, "beautiful flower"
  • Calista (kal-IS-tah, English)--from Greek, "most beautiful"
  • Calliope (kal-EYE-oh-pee or kal-ee-OH-pay, Greek)--"beautiful voice"
  • Calogera (kah-loh-JEHR-ah, Italian)
  • Calypso (kal-IP-soh, Greek)
  • Catalina (cat-ah-LEE-nah, Spanish)--form of Katherine
  • Kalani (kal-AHN-ee, Hawaiian)
  • Kalina (kal-EEN-ah, Bulgarian)
  • Kalyani (kal-YAH-nee, Indian [Hindi])
  • Michalina (mee-kal-EE-nah, Polish)--feminine form of Michael

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Changing the spelling of a name, no matter how critics may rail against it, is really nothing new. But, while parents today change a spelling to make it "look better" or to be "more unique", in the past, spellings were often altered to make name look like it meant something better. I suspect the main culprits were those most likely to care about that sort of thing (not to mention most likely to be literate)--the clergy and the well-educated.
After all, it looks much better to say: "My daughter's name means 'pure'."
rather than: "We're not really sure where it came from. Possibly, it relates to a pagan goddess."

  • Agnes--original form: Hagne (Greek, "chaste"). Changed to resemble Latin agnos, "lamb".
  • Anthony--original form: Antonius (prob. Etruscan, meaning unknown). Changed to resemble Greek anthos, "flower".
  • Avis--original form: Aveza (Germanic, "desired"). Changed to resemble Latin avis, "bird".
  • Beatrix--original form: Viatrix (Latin, "traveller"). Changed to resemble Latin beatus, "blessed".
  • Cyrus/Kyros--original form: Kurush (prob. Persian, meaning uncertain; poss. "sun", "caregiver", or "young"). Changed to resemble Greek kyrios, "lord".
  • Heloise/Eloise--original form: Helewidis (Germanic, "healthy and wide"). Changed to resemble Greek helios, "sun"
  • Ignatius--original form: Egnatius (Etruscan, meaning unknown). Changed to resemble Latin ignis, "fire".
  • Katherine--original form: Aikaterine (Greek, meaning uncertain). Changed to resemble Greek katharos, "pure".
  • Lance--original form: Lanzo (Germanic, "land"). Changed to resemble French lance, "spear".
  • Leopold--original form: Leudbald (Germanic, "of bold people"). Changed to resemble Latin leo, "lion".
  • Oliver--original form: prob. Alfher (Germanic, "elf warrior") or Aleifr (Norse, "ancestor's descendent"). Changed to resemble Latin oliva, "olive tree".
  • Percival--original form: Peredur (Welsh, meaning unknown). Changed to resemble French percer, "to pierce".
  • Philbert--original form: Filibert (Germanic, "very bright"). Changed to resemble Greek philos, "love".
  • Rose--original form: Rohese (Germanic, "of famous kind"). Changed to resemble Latin rosa.
  • Rosamund--original form: Rosmunda (Germanic, "horse protector"). Changed to resemble Latin rosa munda, "pure rose".
  • Skyler--original form: Schuyler (Dutch, "scholar"). Changed to resemble English sky.
  • Tristan--original form: Drustan (Pictish, "little riot"). Changed to resemble Latin tristis, "sad".
  • Veronica--original form: Pheronike (Greek, "bringer of victory"). Changed to resemble Latin vera icon, "true image".
  • Winifred--original form: Gwenfrewi (Welsh, "holy reconciliation"). Changed to resemble Old English win fred, "friend of peace".

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Usual Name, Unexpected Nickname--Katherine

There are about as many different ways to form nicknames as there are cultures. While many nicknames for our most enduring classics seem out of date or boring, an imported diminutive can be fresh & fun.
The first name I'm tackling in this new series is Katherine. Kate & Katie are just as popular as ever, Kathy is so 30 years ago, Kitty is somewhere between cobwebs and vintage-cute, while Kat is indie-cool.
That's about it for the usual English nicknames, I think, so how about....

  • Cadi (KAH-dee)--Welsh
  • Caja/Kaia/Kaia (KYE-ah)--Scandinavian
  • Cato (kah-TOH)--Dutch
  • Kadri (KAH-dree)--Estonian
  • Kai (KYE)--Scandinavian
  • Kaisa (KYE-sah)--Finnish, Estonian
  • Kari (KAHR-ee)--Norwegian
  • Kasia (KAH-shah)--Polish
  • Kata (KAH-tah)--Croatian, Finnish, Hungarian
  • Katenka (kah-TEN-kah)--Russian
  • Käthe (KET-eh)--German
  • Katia/Katja/Katya (KAHT-yah)--Dutch, German, Russian, Scandinavian
  • Kay (KAY)--English
  • Nienke (NEEN-keh)--Frisian
  • Nine (NEE-nah)--Frisian
  • Rina (REE-nah)--Dutch, Italian
  • Trine (TREE-neh)--Danish

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Same Name?!--Louis

Well, I did my favorite girl-name family not too long ago, so now I'm going to do my favorite set of boy-name variants. Louis probably brings to mind one thing--royalty. There have been no less than 18 King Louis of France, and several German/HRE kings as well. It's out-of-style here in North America, but unsurprisingly, still quite popular in Europe.

Original Germanic form: Chlodovech (no idea how to pronounce; not even going to try)
Latinized form: Ludovicus (loo-dov-EE-kus)

Modern forms:
  • Alaois (AH-leesh)--Irish
  • Aloysius (ah-loh-EE-see-us)--Dutch
  • Aloysius (ah-loh-IH-shus)--English
  • Aloysius (ah-LOY-zee-oos)--German
  • Alvise (ahl-VEE-zeh)--Italian
  • Clovis (KLO-vis)--Germanic
  • Koldo (KOL-doh)--Basque
  • Lajos (LAH-yosh)--Hungarian
  • Lewis (LOO-is)--English
  • Loïc (loh-EEK)--Breton
  • Lowe (LOO-veh)--Swedish. Also spelled Love.
  • Ludwig (LOOD-vik)--German
  • Luigi (LOOEE-jee)--Italian
  • Luis (loo-EES)--Spanish

Feminine forms:
  • Aloisia (ah-loh-EE-zee-ah)--German
  • Lovisa (lov-EE-sah)--Swedish
  • Louise (loo-EEZ)--French
  • Ludwika (lood-VEE-kah)--Polish
  • Luisa (LOOEE-sah or LOOEE-zah)--Spanish, Italian

Thursday, December 8, 2011

You're a God, Part D

I admit, I've having a lot of fun doing this series. Apparently, I'm not as well-taught in history & mythology nearly as well as I thought, and I'm learning quite a bit!
Today's god-names are Germanic, a family of mythology that includes Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and of course, ancient German.

  • Bragi (BRAHG-ee, Norse)--god of poetry
  • Delling (DEL-ling, Norse)--father of the day, poss. god of the dawn
  • Donar (DON-ar, Germanic)--god of thunder, healing, protector of mankind. Norse equivalent is Thor.
  • Freyr (FRAYR, Norse)--god of sunshine, rain, & fertility. Also written as Frey.
  • Odin (OH-din, Norse)--god of war, poetry, death, & wisdom (among others). Anglo-Saxon equivalent is Woden; Germanic is Wodan or Wotan.
  • Tyr (TYUR or TEERH, Norse)--god of combat & justice. Anglo-Saxon equivalent is Tiw; Germanic is Ziu.

  • Eir (AYRH, Norse)--healing goddess. Modern form is Eira.
  • Ostara (OS-tah-rah, Germanic)--poss. goddess of dawn, or goddess of spring. Anglo-Saxon form is Eostre, from which the holiday Easter gets its name.
  • Freyja (FRAY-yah, Norse)--goddess of love, war, beauty, & fertility (among others). Modern form is Freya.
  • Iðunn (ee-THUN [th like in 'that'], Norse)--goddess of youth. Modern form is Idun. Anglicized as Idunn or Ithun.
  • Saga (SAH-gah, Norse)--goddess of poetry & history. Possibly another name for major goddess Frigg.
  • Siv (SEEV, Norse)--earth goddess. Also spelled Sif.
  • Skaði (SKAH-thee [th like in 'that'], Norse)--goddess of mountains & hunting. Anglicized as Skadi or Skathi.
  • Sól (SOHL, Norse)--sun goddess. Germanic equivalent is Sunna.
  • Vár (VAHR, Norse)--goddess of oaths & promises. Also written as Vór.
  • Verðandi (ver-THAHN-dee [th like in that], Norse)--one of the three goddesses of destiny, the others being Urðr & Skuld. Anglicized as Verdandi or Verthandi.
  • Vör (VURH, Norse)--goddess of wisdom.

Names derived from deities:

  • Andor (AHN-dor)--Norwegian, "Thor's eagle"
  • Tollak (TOL-lak)--Norwegian, "Thor's play"
  • Tore (TOO-reh)--Scandinavian, "Thor's warrior". Variants include Thore & Ture.
  • Tormod (TOR-mod)--Norwegian, "Thor's mind"
  • Torsten (TOR-sten)--Norwegian, "Thor's stone". Variants include Thorsten (Swedish, Danish) & Torsti (Finnish)
  • Torvald (TOR-vald)--Scandinavian, "Thor's ruler"

  • Idonea (ih-DOHN-ee-ah)--English, from Iðunn. Variant is Idony.
  • Inga (EEN-gah)--Scandinavian, from Germanic fertility god Ing. Variants include Inka.
  • Ingrid (EEN-grid)--Scandinavian, German; "beautiful Ing". Variants include Inger (Scandinavian) & Inkeri (Finnish).
  • Thora (THOR-ah)--Scandinavian, from Thor
  • Toril (TOR-il)--Norwegian, "Thor's battle"
  • Tyra (TYE-rah or TEE-rah)--Scandinavian,  from Thor

Monday, December 5, 2011

There's a Girl-Version?

(or in rare cases, a boy-version).
Most names that you can think of likely have both an established male & female version, or are considered unisex nowadays. To modern ears, some seem more than a bit old-fashioned or contrived (Adamina? Jamesetta?), while others are readily accepted (Alexandra, Charlotte).
There are quite a few names, though, where either the female versions are established elsewhere but haven't been imported into English usage, or have been forgotten entirely.

  • Alastriona (al-as-TREE-nah)--Irish, fem. of Alastar [Alexander]
  • Auda (AW-dah)-Germanic, fem. of Otto
  • Axelle (aks-EL-leh)--French, fem. of Axel/Aksel
  • Cassia (KASH-ah or KAS-see-ah)--Latin, fem. of Cassius
  • Damiana (dah-MYAH-nah)--Italian, fem. of Damian
  • Davina (dah-VEE-nah)--Scottish, fem. of David
  • Donella (don-EL-lah)--Scottish, fem. of Donald
  • Doriane (doh-ree-AHN)--French, fem. of Dorian
  • Edmée (ed-MAY)--French, fem. of Edmund
  • Erna (ER-nah)--German, fem. of Ernest
  • Enat (EHN-at)--Irish, fem. of Aidan
  • Finsha (FIN-sha)--Irish, fem. of Finn, Finnian
  • Finnat (FYIN-naht)--Irish, fem. of Finn, Finnian
  • Kenna (KEN-nah)--Scottish, fem. of Kenneth
  • Maura (MOW-rah)--Spanish, fem. of Maurice
  • Owena (oh-WEN-ah)--Welsh, fem. of Owen
  • Petra (PEH-trah)--Greek, fem. of Peter
  • Piera (PYEHR-ah)--Italian, fem. of Peter
  • Riona (REE-on-ah)--Irish, fem. of Ryan
  • Saveria (sah-VEHR-yah)--Italian, fem. of Xavier
  • Tamsin (TAM-zin)--Scottish, fem. of Thomas
  • Yonit (yo-NEET)--Hebrew, fem. of Jonah
  • Zaharina (zah-hah-REE-nah)--Bulgarian, fem of Zachariah/Zachary

  • Agathon (ah-GATH-on)--Greek, masc. of Agatha. Swedish form is Agaton.
  • Amé (ah-may)--French, masc. of Amy/Aimée.
  • Cătălin (cah-tah-LEEN)--Romanian, masc. of Katherine
  • Clarus (CLAIR-us)--Latin, masc. of Claire/Clara. French form is Clair.
  • Laurus (LAUR-us)--Latin, masc. of Laura

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Same Name?!--Alice

This is one of my favorite name families! Like Elizabeth, Alice has some pretty surprising variants--or should I say, is, a surprising variant. The original form was the Germanic Adelheidis, and over time various syllables were cropped out in a plethora of ways.

Original Germanic form: Adelheidis (ah-del-hye-dis)
Modern English form: Alice (AL-is)

  • Adelaide (AD-el-ayd)--English
  • Adélaïde (ad-el-ah-EED)--French
  • Adelaide (ad-el-IDE-eh)--Italian
  • Adelais (AH-del-ay-ees)--Germanic
  • Aileas (AH-les or EH-les)--Scottish 
  • Ailís (AY-leesh)--Irish 
  • Aleida (AH-lye-dah)--Dutch, German
  • Alica (ah-LEE-tsah)--Slavic
  • Alicia (ah-LEE-sha or ah-LEE-syah)--English, Spanish 
  • Alida (ah-LEE-dah)--German
  • Alisa (ah-LEE-sah)--Russian 
  • Alison (AL-ih-son)--English, French
  • Alix (ah-LEEKS)--Medieval French
  • Aliz (AH-leez)--Hungarian
  • Alys (AL-is)--Welsh
  • Elke (EL-keh)--Frisian
  • Heidi (HYE-dee)--German, Scandinavian