All about Alexis

His Imperial Highness Sovereign Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Prince Aleksey Nikolayevich of Russia, now Holy Royal Martyr Saint Aleksey,
30 July/12 August 1904–17 July 1918

Alexis is a Greek name, also used in English, French, and German, derived from the verb alexo (to help, to defend). An Ancient Greek comic poet bore this name, as well as a few saints. The name Alexios (Alexius in Latin) is derived from Alexis.

Though most people today think of this as a female name, it’s always felt solidly male to me because it’s the traditional “translation” of the Russian name Aleksey, my fave male Russian name. I also think of French diplomat, historian, and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville, and Alexis St. Martin, a medical curiosity with a permanent hole in his stomach.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59), painted 1850 by Théodore Chassériau

In the U.S., this name entered the female Top 1000 in 1943, at #828. From 1960 through the present, it’s also been in the male Top 1000. Despite its greater popularity for girls, it hasn’t been anywhere near the bottom of the chart in all those years. In 2018, it was #445 for boys, #179 for girls.

Alexis was in the female Top 100 from 1982–84, and again from 1988–2015. It was Top 10 from 1996–2003, with the top rank of #3 in 1999.

In France, Alexis has been in the male Top 100 since 1974, and in the Top 20 from 1992–2006, with a top rank of #10 in 1997. In 2018, it was #79. Alexis is also very popular in Belgium, in the Top 100 since at least 2000 (with the sole exception of 2007), and #88 in 2018.

The S is silent in the French pronunciation, making it sound a bit like the Russian name Aleksey.

Byzantine statesman and military officer Alexios Apokaukos,
late 13th century–1345

Other forms of this name include:

1. Alessio is Italian.

2. Alejo is Spanish. This can also be a nickname for Alejandro.

3. Aleixo is Portuguese and Galician.

4. Alexej is Czech and Slovak. A common nickname is Aleš.

5. Aleix is Catalan.

6. Aleksi is Finnish and Georgian. One Finnish nickname is Ale.

7. Alyaksey is Belarusian.

8. Aleksy is Polish.

9. Oleksiy is Ukrainian. Nicknames include Oles and Olek.

10. Aleksej is Serbian, Slovenian, and Croatian.

1912 self-portrait of Russian–German painter Alexej von Jawlensky, né Aleksey Yavlenskiy (1864–1941)

11. Aleksey is Russian. I adore this name in large part because of Tsesarevich Aleksey, whom I’ve felt a suprarational soul connection to since learning about him at fifteen. I was compelled to write an alternative history where he’s rescued from the firing squad and becomes the greatest Tsar in history. His greatest act comes in Part IV, when he and his wife Arkadiya rescue nine million people from the Nazis during WWII, including the entire Jewish community of Hungary.

12. Elek is Hungarian.

13. Oleksa is Ukrainian.

14. Aleksije is Serbian.

15. Aleksejs is Latvian.

16. Aleksis is Lithuanian and Finnish.

17. Aleki is Samoan.

18. Aleksio is Albanian.

19. Aleksiy is Bulgarian.

20. Alesiu is Corsican.

Hungarian politician and activist Elek Köblös (1887–1938), a victim of the USSR’s Great Terror

21. Alexie is Romanian.

22. Aleksejus is Lithuanian.

Female forms:

1. Alessia is Italian.

2. Alèxia is Catalan. Other forms are Alexía (Icelandic) and Alexia (French and English). I’ve never been fond of this name, since alexia is an acquired form of dyslexia. It’s the same reason I’m not wild about the name Addison, with its association with Addison’s disease.

3. Alesia is Albanian.

4. Aleksiya is Russian and Bulgarian. This seems like a rather rare name.

5. Aleksia is Albanian and Scandinavian.

6. Aleksija is Serbian and Croatian.

The As of Estonian names

This year, my A to Z theme is Estonian names, with a focus on names unique to the language instead of Estonian forms of well-known names like Katherine, John, Mary, and Thomas. Because Estonian is a Finno–Ugric language, its uniqueness really shows in its native names. They’re far different from the Indo–European names they adopted into their own language.

Those familiar with Finnish will notice a fair amount of onomastic overlap, since the two languages are very similar. However, Estonian also has a lot of cognates with German and Russian, owing to the centuries of occupation under their hands. While Estonian is in the same language family as Hungarian, there’s little to no similarity between the Finnic and Ugric linguistic branches.

Female:

Aasa means “meadow.”

Aave means “ghost.” This is also sometimes used as a male name.

Ainu, or Aine, means “the only one.” The Finnish forms are Aino and Aini. A very similar Estonian name, Aina, means “always.”

Aita means “to help.”

Alati means “always.”

Asta is a short form of Astrid (beautiful goddess). It’s the most popular name among women over age 85, and the average age of an Asta is 77.

Male:

Aare means “treasure.”

Aigar is of unknown origin, first appearing in the early 20th century.

Aimur means “generous amount.” The Finnish form is Aimo.

Alev means “burrow.”

Alvar means “elf warrior.” This name was adopted from Swedish and Old Norse.

Armas means “cute; lovely.” This is also a Finnish name.

Bright names

Though the vast majority of such names have sharply plummeted in popularity, there’s a large quantity of Germanic-origin names formed from the root beraht (bright). Robert is far and away the best-known, with other well-known (albeit not nearly as popular) names including Albert, Gilbert, Herbert, and Hubert. Let’s take a look at this category of names.

Albert (English, French, Dutch, German, Scandinavian, Catalan, Romanian, Hungarian, Icelandic, Slavic), Albèrt (Jèrriais), Alberto (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese), Alberte (Galician), Adalbert (German, Hungarian), Adalberto (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese), Albaer (Limburgish), Alpertti (Finnish), Aubert (French), Adelbert (German, Dutch), Albertas (Lithuanian), Albrecht (German), Ailbeart (Scottish), Alberts (Latvian), Albertu (Corsican), Alberzh (Breton), Alberta (English, Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Hungarian, Polish, Galician, Kashubian, Portuguese), Albertyna (Polish), Albertina (Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Kashubian, Galician), Alberte (French), Albertine (French): Noble and bright.

Bertha (English, German), Berta (Slavic, Hungarian, German, Spanish, Catalan, Italian), Berthe (French): Bright. This was my paternal grandma’s name, and she knew it was too unfashionable to merit a namesake. However, I’d love to use her middle name Violet as a middle name for a potential daughter.

Berthold, Bertold (German), Bertoldo (Italian), Bertil (Scandinavian): Bright ruler.

Bertram (English, German), Bertrand (English, French), Bertrando (Italian): Bright raven. I love this name!

Egbert (English, Dutch), Eckbert (German): Bright edge. Not a fan of this name!

Fulbert (French, German): Bright people.

Gaubert (French), Gualberto (Portuguese, Italian): Bright rule.

Gilbert (English, French, Dutch, German), Gilberto (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian), Gisbert (German), Gijsbert (Dutch): Bright pledge.

Herbert (English, French, Dutch, German, Swedish), Herberto (Spanish, Portuguese), Heribert (German): Bright army.

Hilbert, Hildebert (German): Bright battle.

Hubert (English, Dutch, German, French, Polish), Uberto (Italian), Hoebaer (Limburgish): Bright mind; bright heart.

Humbert (English, German, French), Umberto (Italian), Humberto (Portuguese, Spanish): Bright warrior.

Kunibert (German): Bright family.

Lambert (English, German, Dutch, French), Lammert (Dutch), Lambaer (Limburgish), Lamberto (Italian): Bright land.

Norbert (English, German, Dutch, French, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak), Norberto (Italian, Portuguese, Spanish), Norbaer (Limburgish): Bright north.

Osbert (English): Bright and good.

Philibert, Philbert (French), Filibert (German), Filiberto (Italian), Filbert (East African): Much brightness.

Rambert (German): Bright raven.

Siegbert (German): Bright victory.

Wilbert (Dutch): Bright will.

Wybert (Middle English): Bright battle.

All about Arthur

Stan Laurel (né Arthur Stanley Jefferson),
16 June 1890–23 February 1965

To mark the 55th Jahrzeit (death anniversary) of dear Stan Laurel, I’m shining the spotlight on his birth forename, Arthur. I love this timeless, classic name that works on any fellow of any age, from any background. If I’d been born male, I think Arthur would’ve been the perfect name for me.

Arthur’s etymology is unknown, though there are two posited meanings, the obscure Roman family name Artorius, or Celtic roots artos (bear) and viros (man) or rigos (king). The name is used in English, French, German, Dutch, and the Scandinavian languages. It rose to popularity in the Middle Ages thanks to legends about King Arthur, who probably wasn’t a real person (though he may have been based on real people).

Arthur was #14 in the U.S. in 1880, when name records were first collected. It alternated between #14 and #15 till 1904, and remained in the Top 20 till 1926, the Top 50 till 1953, and the Top 100 till 1969. The year I was born, it was #143. In recent years, it’s been on a gradual rise. Arthur was #229 in 2018.

The name is also popular in Belgium (#1), France (#7), England and Wales (#7), Denmark (#17), Northern Ireland (#21), Switzerland (#42), Scotland (#46), New Zealand (#63), and Ireland (#73).

Tapestry of King Arthur, ca. 1385

Other forms of this lovely name include:

1. Artur is Slavic, Estonian, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Armenian, Albanian, Uzbek, Turkish, Ossetian, Romanian, Scandinavian, and Basque. It’s currently #40 in Portugal, #49 in Poland. The alternate form Artúr is Slovak, Hungarian, and Irish.

2. Arturo is Spanish and Italian.

3. Artturi is Finnish. Nicknames include Arttu and Arto.

4. Artair is Scottish.

5. Artūrs is Latvian.

6. Arzhur is Breton.

7. Arturi is Georgian and Albanian.

8. Arthouros is Greek.

9. Artūras is Lithuanian.

10. Arturu is Maltese.

Italian–American political activist and poet Arturo Giovannitti, 1884–1959

11. Èrthu is Norman and Jèrriais.

12. Tuur is Limburgish.

13. Artús is Occitan and Asturian.

Female forms:

1. Arturiana is Romanian.

2. Artura is a rare English, Spanish, and Italian form. The alternate form Artūra is Lithuanian.

3. Arthurine is French.

4. Arthurina is English.

5. Arthuria is English.

6. Artha is English.

7. Artūrė is Lithuanian.

All about Emanuel

U.S. actor Edward G. Robinson, né Emanuel Goldenberg, 1893–1973

Emanuel is the Romanian, Scandinavian, German, Portuguese, English, Czech, Slovak, and Croatian form of the Hebrew Imanuel (God is with us). In the Book of Isaiah, this is foretold as the name of the Messiah. Somewhat surprisingly, the name didn’t become popular in the Anglophone world till the 16th century (with the spellings Emmanuel and Immanuel). In continental Europe, it’s always been far more popular.

The variation Emánuel is Hungarian; Emanuël is Dutch; Emanúel is Icelandic; and Émanuél is Kashubian. I’ve really grown to love this name, not least because it was the birth name of one of my favourite male actors of the sound era!

Other forms include:

1. Emmanuel is French and English. The variation Emmanúel is Icelandic, and Emmanuël is Dutch.

2. Immanuel is German and English. The variation Immanúel is Icelandic, and Immanuël is Dutch.

3. Emmanuil is Russian. One of the nicknames is Emik.

4. Emmanouil is Greek.

5. Emanuil is Bulgarian. This is also a rare Croatian and Romanian variant.

6. Emanoil is Romanian.

7. Imanol is Basque.

8. Manu is Finnish.

9. Emanuele is Italian.

10. Manuel is Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, German, and English.

Greek aviation pioneer Emmanouil Argyropoulos, 1889–1913

11. Manoel is Brazilian–Portuguese.

12. Manel is Catalan.

13. Emanuels is Latvian.

14. Emaneulu is Samoan.

15. Emanuelis is Lithuanian.

16. Emmanwel is Maltese.

17. Manvel is Armenian.

18. Manyl is Mari, a Uralic language spoken in Russia.

19. Amaniu is Gascon.

20. Ammanuel is Ethiopian.

Russian politician Emmanuil Aleksandrovich Vatatsi, 1856–1920

Female forms:

1. Emanuela is Italian, Romanian, Czech, Slovak, and Croatian; Émanuela is Kashubian; and Emanuéla is Hungarian.

2. Emmanuelle is French.

3. Manoela is Brazilian–Portuguese.

4. Manuela is Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, German, Galician, Slovenian, and Croatian. The variation Manuéla is Hungarian.

5. Immanuelle is Filipino.

6. Emmanuella is English.

7. Enmanuela is Galician.

8. Emmanuele is French.

9. Emmanuela is a rare Italian and modern Greek form.

10. Emmanouella, or Emmanouela, is Greek.