Monday, January 30, 2012

Same Name?!--Helen

Helen probably brings up conflicting images--first there's Helen of Troy, so beautiful a war was fought over her. And then there's likely your next-door neighbor, your aunt, or the PTA president.
Helen (and medieval variant Ellen) were high on the charts for quite some time; only dropping off a couple generations ago. Other versions seem to be on everyone's lists, though, from the Latinate Helena to the "how-many-ways-can-we-spell-it?" Elena.

  • Alyona (ahl-YOH-nah)--Russian
  • Eilidh (AY-lee)--Scottish
  • Elaine (ee-LAYN)--English
  • Eleni (el-EH-nee)--Greek
  • Elina (EL-ee-nah)--Finnish
  • Ileana (ee-lay-AW-nah)--Romanian
  • Ilona (ee-LOH-nah, EE-lon-ah)--German, Hungarian
  • Léana (LAY-an-ah)--Irish
  • Lenka (LEN-kah)--Czech
  • Lenuta (len-OO-tsah)--Romanian
  • Nell (NEL)--English
  • Yelena (ye-LEH-nah, EE-leh-nah)--Russian

Friday, January 27, 2012

Usual Name, Unexpected Nickname--Elizabeth/Isabella

Elizabeth remains one of our enduring classics. Despite the fact that everyone is almost guaranteed to know at least one (probably more like 2 or 3), Elizabeth shows no sign of falling out of favor anytime soon. In fact, many of its spin-offs are also on the rise (Elsa, Elise, Eliza), and one has even overtaken the original--Isabella. Considering that girls' names tend to rise & fall with fashion, while boys' names tend to be stable and enduring, Elizabeth's permanence is pretty darned impressive.
I wonder which came first--the widespread use, or the wide variety of nicknames?

  • Bess (BES)--English
  • Bethan (BETH-an)--Welsh
  • Bettina (bet-TEEN-ah)--German
  • Buffy (BUF-fee)--English
  • Bizzy/Busy (BIZ-ee)--English
  • Els (ELS)--Dutch
  • Elsje (ELS-yeh)--Dutch
  • Erzsi (EHR-zhee)--Hungarian
  • Ibbie (IB-bee)--English
  • Ilsa (IL-sah)--German
  • Isa (EE-sah)--Scandinavian, Spanish
  • Libby (LIB-bee)--English
  • Liddy (LID-dee)--English
  • Lies (LEES)--Dutch, German
  • Liesel (LEE-zel)--German
  • Liisu (LEE-soo)--Estonian
  • Lili (LIL-ee)--French, German
  • Lisa (LEE-sah)--English
  • Lison (lee-ZOHN)--French
  • Špela (SHPEL-ah)--Slovene
  • Tetty (TET-tee)--English

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Random Fact of the Day:

Although English is technically a Germanic language, much of its vocabulary is an amalgam of words from many different sources. Words pertaining to politics, art, and war tend to be of French origin; nautical terms from Dutch, and scientific jargon from Latin, Greek, and Arabic. Common, everyday words tend to be from Old English, and sometimes Old Norse.
Because of its myriad of influences, English has more synonyms for common concepts than many languages.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Named Before Their Time

I know I can't be the only one who contemplates writers' choices of character names. Did they pick them for their history or meaning? Because of they felt right for the character? Or just because they sounded good?
I have to admit, when I read about real people with names that don't seem to fit their era, I feel admiration for their parents, who picked something that likely got lots of derisive comments and odd glances.
But, when I see fictional characters with names that don't fit their age or era (especially with shows that are supposed to be otherwise "realistic"), I just have to roll my eyes.
Double standard--probably.

  • Addison Montgomery, Private Practice (2007)
  • Elliot Reid, Scrubs (2001)
  • Finn Hudson, Glee (2009)
  • Harper Finkle, Wizards of Waverly Place (2007)
  • Jordan Sullivan, Scrubs (2001)
  • Murphy Brown, Murphy Brown (1988)
  • Piper Halliwell, Charmed (2000)
  • Remy "Thirteen" Hadley, House (2007)
  • Skyler White, Breaking Bad (2008)
  • Spencer Hastings, Pretty Little Liars (2010)

I also have to wonder--which popular names would have caught on without the characters? Hmmmm....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

You're a God, part the final.

Grab-bag time!

  • Amon (AH-mon, Egyptian)--god of creation. Later merged with the sun-god, Ra. Also transliterated as Ammon, Amun, or Yamanu.
  • Jarilo (yah-REE-loh, Slavic)--god of spring and fertility. Also spelled Yarilo.
  • Perun (PEHR-un, Slavic)--god of thunder
  • Tane (TAH-neh, Maori)--god of forests and animals
  • Tapio (TAH-pee-oh, Finnish)--god of forests and hunting

  • Aušrinė (ow-SHREE-neh, Lithuanian)--goddess of the morning star [the planet Venus] and dawn. 
  • Bastet (bahs-TET, Egyptian)--lioness/cat-goddess of the sun and fertility. Also transliterated to Bast or Baset.
  • Dalia (DAHL-yah, Lithuanian)--goddess of fate and property
  • Gabija (gah-bee-YAH, Lithuanian)--goddess of hearth and home.
  • Isis (EYE-sis, Egyptian)--goddess of motherhood & magic. Also transliterated as Iset.
  • Kolyada (kohl-YAH-dah, Slavic)--goddess of sun, particularly the winter solstice.
  • Marama (MAH-rah-mah, Maori)--goddess of the moon
  • Mielikki (mee-eh-lik-KEE, Finnish)--goddess of forests and hunting
  • Morana (MOR-an-ah, Slavic)--goddess of winter
  • Neith (NEETH or NAYTH, Egyptian)--goddess of war and hunting. Also transliterated as Neit.
  • Pele (PAY-leh, Hawaiian)--goddess of volcanoes, fire, and lightning.
  • Saule (SOW-lay, Lithuanian)--goddess of the sun, mother to the planets.
  • Tanith (TAN-ith, Phoenician)--goddess of the moon, fertility, and war. Other forms are Tanis and Tanit.
  • Vellamo (VEL-lah-moh, Finnish)--goddess of the sea
  • Zaria (ZAHR-yah, Slavic)--goddess of beauty
  • Živa (ZHEE-vah, Slavic)--goddess of love, fertility, and spring

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Usual Nickname, Unexpected Name--Bella

Fueled by Isabella's insane jump to the top, just-plain-Bella followed a few years after. The fact that it coincides with the Italian word for "pretty" certainly didn't hurt.
For now, Bella may be Twilight-tainted, but that will fade.

  • Amabel (AH-mah-bel, English)--from Latin, "lovable"
  • Arabella (air-ah-BEL-lah, English, Scottish)--prob. an invented name inspired by Annabella.
  • Belinda (bel-IN-dah, English)
  • Bellamy (BEL-ah-mee, English)--from French, "beautiful friend"
  • Bellatrix (BEL-lah-triks, Latin)--"warrior"
  • Bellona (bel-LOH-nah, Latin)--Roman goddess of war
  • Belphoebe (bel-FEE-bee, English)--"beautiful and bright"
  • Christabel (KRIS-tah-bel, English)--Also spelled Christabelle & Christobel.
  • Claribel (KLAIR-ih-bel, English)
  • Dulcibella (dul-si-BEL-lah, English)--from Latin, "sweet and beautiful"
  • Elizabella (ee-liz-ah-BEL-lah, English)--form of Elizabeth/Isabella.
  • Mehetabel (meh-HET-ah-bel, Hebrew)--"God makes happy"
  • Mirabella (MEER-ah-bel-lah, Italian)--"wonderful"
  • Orabela (oh-rah-BEL-lah, Esperanto)--"golden beautiful"
  • Rosabella (ROH-sah-bel-lah, Italian)--"beautiful rose"

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rare but Real (2010)

For some reason, I started browsing the names below the SSA's top 1000. These are the really rare names. (For privacy's sake, they don't publish the names given to fewer than 5 children. Why the cut-off is five, not 4 or 6, who knows?)
As you can imagine, most of the names are either imported or invented. There are a few names I'm surprised to see way down there at the bottom. They're not recent creations, or terribly uncomfortable to modern ears; they've just somehow been unnoticed by today's parents.
So, these are some of the names given to only 5 children in 2010.

  • Abednego
  • Anselm
  • Autry
  • Beauregard
  • Corentin
  • Donal
  • Einar
  • Hayato
  • Iestyn
  • Ingram
  • Iskandar
  • Joram
  • Kaloyan
  • Lewin
  • Montague
  • Nahuel
  • Oswin
  • Seymour
  • Tarquin
  • Thorsten

  • Aderyn
  • Astraea
  • Beata
  • Brigitta
  • Dafina
  • Eudora
  • Genoveva
  • Harumi
  • Hedy
  • Heloise
  • Iolana
  • Nesta
  • Paolina
  • Sarika
  • Sojourner
  • Sunita
  • Trilby
  • Xanthe

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Myth of the English Name

It seems to be a pretty common sentiment on forums--"I like _____, but I feel strange using it because we're not German/Spanish/Italian/Japanese." While I'm not advocating choosing names that would be impossible to pronounce in English, it should be noted that few names used in English are actually of English origin. Many of our most enduring classics are of Biblical origin, while others were imported by brave parents. Here're the 2010 top 10 from various English-speaking countries, with origins.
(for the U.S. & U.K. lists, I used the combined-spelling rankings.)
Asterisks indicate names that are top 10 in multiple countries.

  • Boys
    • Jack*--Hebrew (Biblical) [John], via Greek & medieval English
    • Cooper--medieval English
    • Oliver*--Germanic, via French
    • Noah*--Hebrew (Biblical)
    • Thomas*--Aramaic (Biblical), via Greek
    • Lucas*--Greek (Biblical), via Latin
    • Lachlan--Scottish
    • William*--Germanic
    • Jackson*--modern English
    • Charlie*--Germanic, via French
  • Girls
    • Lily*--Latin (Anglicized)
    • Ruby*--Latin (Anglicized)
    • Charlotte*--Germanic, via French
    • Chloe*--Greek
    • Sophie*--Greek
    • Olivia*--early modern English
    • Isabella*--Hebrew (Biblical) [Elizabeth], via Provenҫal
    • Mia--Hebrew (Biblical) [Mary], via Latin
    • Emily*--Latin (Anglicized)
    • Ava*--Hebrew (Biblical) [Eve], via Latin

  • Boys
    • Liam--Germanic, via Irish
    • Ethan*--Hebrew (Biblical)
    • Jacob*--Hebrew (Biblical), via Latin & Greek
    • Logan--Scottish
    • Owen--Greek, via Welsh
    • Noah*--Hebrew (Biblical)
    • Alexander*--Greek
    • Nathan--Hebrew (Biblical)
    • Benjamin--Hebrew (Biblical)
    • Lucas*--Greek (Biblical), via Latin
  • Girls
    • Olivia*--early modern English
    • Emma*--Germanic
    • Sophia*--Greek
    • Ava*--Hebrew (Biblical) [Eve], via Latin
    • Chloe*--Greek
    • Abigail*--Hebrew (Anglicized)
    • Emily*--Latin (Anglicized)
    • Lily*--Latin (Anglicized)
    • Madison*--modern English
    • Charlotte*--Germanic, via French

U.K. (England & Wales only)
  • Boys
    • Oliver*--Germanic, via French
    • Jack*--Hebrew (Biblical) [John], via Greek & medieval English
    • Harry--Germanic, via medieval English
    • Charlie*--Germanic, via French
    • Alfie--Old English
    • Thomas*--Aramaic (Biblical), via Greek
    • William*--Germanic
    • Joshua--Hebrew (Biblical)
    • Mohammed--Arabic
    • George--Greek
  • Girls
    • Lily*--Latin (Anglicized)
    • Olivia*--early modern English
    • Amelia--Germanic
    • Isabelle--Hebrew (Biblical) [Elizabeth], via Provenҫal
    • Emily*--Latin (Anglicized)
    • Sophie*--Greek
    • Jessica--Hebrew (Biblical) [Iscah], via early modern English
    • Ruby*--Latin (Anglicized)
    • Maisie--Greek [Margaret], via Scottish
    • Chloe*--Greek

United States:
  • Boys
    • Aiden--Irish
    • Jayden--American
    • Jacob*--Hebrew (Biblical), via Latin & Greek
    • Kaden--American
    • Ethan*--Hebrew (Biblical)
    • Jackson*--modern English
    • Michael--Hebrew (Biblical)
    • Alexander*--Greek
    • William*--Germanic
    • Noah*--Hebrew (Biblical)
  • Girls
    • Sophia*--Greek
    • Isabella*--Hebrew (Biblical) [Elizabeth], via Provenҫal
    • Olivia*--early modern English
    • Chloe*--Greek
    • Emma*--Germanic
    • Emily*--Latin (Anglicized)
    • Abigail*--Hebrew (Anglicized)
    • Madison*--modern English
    • Ava*--Hebrew (Biblical) [Eve], via Latin
    • Addison--modern English

So, out of the 80 names above, there are 43 unique names (27 boys, 16 girls):
1 is Arabic.
1 is Aramaic (Biblical).
1 is Irish.
2 are Scottish.
3 are Latin.
7 are Greek: 1 is Biblical; 1 is a Scottish variation; 1 is a Welsh variation.
8 are Germanic: 1 is an Irish variation; 3 are English variations; 3 are French variations.
8 are English: 5 are Modern; 3 are Old, Medieval, or Early Modern.
13 are Biblical Hebrew: 1 is an English variation; 1 is a Provenҫal variation; 2 are Latin variations.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The 'I's Have It.

It occurred to me the other day that I is a most underused vowel. If you're watching the final round of Wheel of Fortune, no one ever picks I as their vowel. If you ask someone to start listing names that start with I, they'll probably go though Isaac, Ian, Isaiah, Isabel/Isabella, Irene, Iris, maybe even Imogen, Ivan, Ivy, or Isla. The popular list pretty much stops there, though. Admittedly, O & U are even rarer as name-starters, but from some reason, I feel I-names should be more common.

  • Iago (ee-AH-goh, Galician & Welsh)--from Hebrew James/Jacob
  • Idan (ee-dahn, Hebrew)--"era"
  • Idris (ID-ris, Welsh)
  • Ignatius (ig-NAY-shus, English)--from Latin/Etruscan. Other forms include Ignacio (ig-NAH-cee-oh, Spanish), Iñaki (een-YAH-kee, Basque), and Ignace (IN-yahs, French)
  • Iker (EE-ker, Basque)
  • Ikram (ik-rahm, Arabic)--"honor"
  • Imre (EEM-reh, Hungarian)--form of Emmerich
  • Ingo (ING-oh, German)
  • Ingram (ING-ram, English)
  • Iokua (ee-oh-KOO-ah, Hawaiian)--form of Joshua
  • Isamu (ih-sah-moo, Japanese)--"courage"
  • Ishmael (ISH-may-el, English)--from Hebrew, "God will hear".
  • Isidore (IZ-ih-dor or ees-ih-DOR, English & French)--from Greek. Also spelled Isadore, Isador, Isidor, or Izidor.
  • Iskandar (is-KAN-dar, Arabic & Indonesian)--from Greek Alexander.
  • Ivailo (ee-VYE-loh, Bulgarian)--"wolf". Also spelled Ivaylo.
  • Ivor (EE-vor or EYE-vor, English)--from Norse, "bow warrior"

  • Ianthe (ee-AN-thee or eye-AN-thee, Greek)
  • Idonea (id-OH-nee-ah, English)--from Norse Iðunn. Other versions include Idony (ID-oh-nee) and Idun (ee-DUN).
  • Idoya (ee-DOY-ah, Spanish)--Also spelled Idoia.
  • Idriya (ee-dree-ah, Hebrew)
  • Ilana (ee-lah-nah, Hebrew)
  • Ilaria (ee-LAR-ee-ah, Italian)--form of Hilary.
  • Ilkay (il-KYE, Turkish)--"new moon"
  • Ilona (EE-lon-ah or ee-LOH-nah, Hungarian)--from of Helen.
  • Imelda (ee-MEL-dah, Spanish)--from German Irmhild.
  • Indira (in-THEER-ah, Indian [Hindi])--"beauty"
  • Iolana (ee-oh-LAH-nah, Hawaiian)--"to soar"
  • Iro (EER-oh, Greek)--modern form of Hero.
  • Ismene (IS-men or ees-MAY-nay)--Greek, "knowledge"
  • Isolde (ee-ZOL-deh, German & English)--poss. from Celtic "fair to behold". Variants include Eseld, Esyllt, Iseult, Isotta, and Yseult.
  • Izumi (iz-oo-mee, Japanese)--"fountain"

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Same Name?!--Elijah

Elijah is a name I looked up on a whim, and was amazed by the diversity of its variants. It's another Biblical name, but unlike most classic names from the Bible (with the notable exception of Elizabeth), Elijah has several familiar and popular forms.

Original Hebrew form: Eliyyahu [ אֱלִיָּהוּ] (el-lee-YAH-hoo)
Greek & Latin transliteration: Elias (el-EE-as)

Modern forms:
  • Elia (AY-lee-ah)--Dutch & Italian
  • Elias (EL-ee-as, el-EYE-as)--German, English, Scandinavian, Spanish
  • Elie (EL-ee)--French
  • Elliott (EL-ee-ot)--English
  • Elis (EL-lis)--Medieval English. Gave rise to the surname Ellis.
  • Illés (il-YESH)--Hungarian
  • Iliya (eel-EE-yah)--Bulgarian. Feminine is Ilina.
  • Ilya (eel-YAH)--Russian
  • Ilyas (eel-YAS)--Arabic

Oh, and Happy New Year!