A tame name

Father Damien (né Jozef De Veuster), St. Damien of Molokai, 1840–89, a Belgian priest who ministered to lepers in Hawaii and later died of the disease himself

The English, Dutch, and Polish name Damian (rendered as Damián in Spanish, Czech, and Galician) derives from Greek name Damianos. Its ultimate root is the Greek verb damazo, “to tame.”

The name became popular in Christian Europe because of St. Damian of Syria, who was martyred with his twin brother Cosmas in the early fourth century. Damian and Cosmas are the patron saints of doctors. Adding to the name’s popularity was St. Peter Damian in 11th century Italy.

I don’t understand people who think this lovely, historied name is unusable because of a character in a 1977 movie.

Self-portrait of Filipino Chinese painter Damián Domingo y Gabor,

Other forms of Damian include:

1. Damião is Portuguese.

2. Damien is French.

3. Damiaan is Dutch.

4. Damijan is Slovenian.

5. Damjan is Macedonian, Serbian, Slovenian, and Croatian.

6. Damyan is Bulgarian.

7. Demyan is Russian and Ukrainian.

8. Damiano is Italian.

9. Damià is Catalan.

10. Damiane is Georgian.

Pope Damian of Alexandria, ?–605

11. Damianu is Corsican.

12. Damijonas is Lithuanian.

13. Damión is Kashubian.

14. Demian is German. I have an American character by this name, after the Hermann Hesse novel Demian. Published in 1919, it was his breakthrough novel, and the first of his books I ever read, in 1994. It was life-changing!

15. Temyan is Mari, a Uralic language spoken in Russia.

Filipina writer and professor Damiana Eugenio, 1921–2014

Female forms:

1. Damiana is Italian and Polish.

2. Damjana is Macedonian, Serbian, Slovenian, and Croatian.

3. Damijana is Slovenian.

4. Damienne, or Damiène, is French.

5. Damia is English.

6. Damiani is Greek.

7. Damianne is English.

8. Demiana is Coptic.

A very Lordly name

Portrait of a Man, self-portrait of Greek-born painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos, El Greco (1541–1614), ca. 1595–1600

The English, German, Scandinavian, Dutch, and French name Dominic comes from the Latin name Dominicus, “of the Lord.” It was traditionally bestowed upon boys born on Sunday. In the Anglophone world, it came into widespread usage in the 13th century thanks to the popularity of St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order. Because of this namesake, the name is primarily used by Catholics.

Dominic entered the U.S. Top 100 in 2002, after a very long, slow rise from near the bottom of the chart. In 2018, it was #75. The name also enjoys popularity in England and Wales. It was on the Top 100 from the Nineties until 2007, fluctuated between #103 and #127 during the ensuing decade, and rose back to #100 in 2018.

Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757),
painted by Domingo Antonio Velasco

Other forms of the name include:

1. Dominik is German, Hungarian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Scandinavian, Russian, Ukrainian, Finnish, Croatian, and English.

2. Domenico is Italian.

3. Domingo is Spanish.

4. Domingos is Portuguese.

5. Domonkos is Hungarian.

6. Domen is Slovenian.

7. Dominykas is Lithuanian.

8. Dominique is French.

9. Dominicus is the full, formal Dutch name, though most Dutch people only use Latinate forms of their names on official documents.

10. Domenikos is Greek.

Polish–Lithuanian noble and politician Dominik Mikołaj Radziwiłł, 1643–97

11. Domhlaic is Irish.

12. Domenge is Gascon.

13. Domènec is Catalan.

14. Daminik is Belarusian.

15. Dominico is Italian.

16. Dominiks is Latvian.

17. Dominigu is Sardinian.

18. Dominig is Breton.

19. Dumenicu is Corsican.

20. Duminku is Maltese.

Self-portrait of U.S. painter Domenic Cretara, 1946–2017

21. Dumeni is Romansh.

22. Domokos is Hungarian.

23. Domenic is English.

24. Dominick is English.

25. Kominiko is Hawaiian.

26. Txomin (Cho-meen) is Basque.

Sister Maria Domenica Mazzarello (1837–81),
founder of the Salesian Sisters

Female forms:

1. Dominika is German, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Slovenian, Czech, and Slovak.

2. Dominica is English.

3. Domenica is Italian.

4. Dominga is Spanish.

5. Dominique is French.

6. Domnika is Macedonian and Kashubian.

7. Dominiki is Greek.

8. Dominyka is Lithuanian.

9. Domnica is Romanian and Moldovan.

10. Domencha is Aragonese.

French–American art collector, philanthropist, and human rights advocate Dominique de Menil, 1908–97

11. Domengina is Gascon.

12. Domenja is Provençal.

13. Domìniga is Sardinian.

14. Dumenia is Romansh.

15. Dumina is also Romansh.

16. Duminka is Maltese.

17. Daminika is Belarusian.

An Egyptian lotus and a Hebrew rose

U.S. suffragist and political activist Susan B. Anthony, 1820–1906

Susan, a name most popular from the 1940s–1960s, traces its etymology back to a rather unexpected source—Ancient Egypt. This is one Indo–European name that didn’t originate among the Vikings, Anglo–Saxons, Normans, Goths, Romans, or Greeks.

Sšn means “lotus” in Egyptian, and later morphed into the Ancient Hebrew word shoshan, “lily.” In Modern Hebrew, shoshan means “rose.” It gave rise to the name Shoshanah, and then was adopted by the Greeks as Sousanna.

Over time, it appeared in many European languages in various forms. In the Medieval Anglophone world, Susannah was sometimes used in honour of a woman falsely accused of adultery in the Book of Daniel, and another Biblical woman who ministers to Jesus. Only after the Protestant Reformation did it become more common, in the form of Susan.

French painter Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938) with her son Maurice

Susan was #80 when the U.S. began keeping name records in 1880, and left the Top 100 in 1885. It briefly returned in 1887, then dropped out again and gradually sank in popularity. During the 1930s, it slowly made its way back up the chart, and re-entered the Top 100 in 1937 at #97.

In 1945, it was #10, and entered the Top 5 in 1948. Apart from 1951 and 1966, when it was #6, Susan was in the Top 5 until 1968. Its all-time highest rank was #2, from 1957–60. In 1972, it fell off the Top 20, and left the Top 100 in 1985.

Susan’s last year on the Top 1000 was 2017, when it was #957.

Austrian-born painter Soshana Afroyim (née Susanne Schüller),

Other forms of the name include:

1. Suzanne is French, Dutch, and English.

2. Susanna is English, Dutch, Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, Catalan, Swedish, Estonian, and Finnish. The alternate form Súsanna is Icelandic, Faroese, and Irish; Susánna and Susánná are Sami.

3. Susannah is English.

4. Susana is Spanish and Portuguese.

5. Suzana is Serbian, Slovenian, Macedonian, Brazilian–Portuguese, Romanian, and Croatian.

6. Susanne is German and Scandinavian.

7. Syuzanna is old-fashioned Russian.

8. Suzanna is English.

9. Shoshana, or Shoshanah, is Hebrew.

10. Sawsan is Arabic.

Hungarian Princess Zsuzsanna Lorántffy (1602–1660), who founded and sponsored several schools, including schools offering girls a modern, equal education

11. Savsan is Tajik.

12. Sosamma is Malayalam, a language spoken in India.

13. Zsuzsanna is Hungarian.

14. Zuzanna is Polish and Latvian.

15. Zuzana is Czech and Slovak.

16. Huhana is Maori.

17. Zusana is Sorbian.

18. Syzana is Albanian.

19. Siùsan is Scottish.

20. Sósanna is a rare Irish form.

Polish poet Zuzanna Ginczanka, 1917–1945

21. Susaina is a Catalan variant, usually used on Mallorca.

22. Suzannah is English.

23. Suzonne is Norman.

24. Jujen is Marshallese.

25. Siwsan is Welsh.

26. Susane is English.

27. Suusan is Inuit.

28. Suzette is a French diminutive, also used in English as a full name.

29. Suzzanna is a rare English form.

30. Shushan is Armenian.

31. Susano is a male Filipino form.

All about Ruth

U.S. anthropologist and folklorist Ruth Benedict, 1887–1948

Ruth is an English, German, Dutch, Spanish, and Scandinavian name derived from the Hebrew Re’ut (friend), which later morphed into Rut (pronounced with a long U, not like the English word “rut”). Most people are familiar with it as the title character of the Book of Ruth. She left her homeland Moab behind to follow her mother-in-law Naomi back to Israel after a famine, and became King David’s great-grandma.

On the second day of Shavuot, this short book of the Bible is read, and many conversion certificates quote the moving words Ruth tells Naomi:

“Do not entreat me to leave you, and to return from following after you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people, and your God my God; where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more, if anything but death part you and me.”

Latvian lawyer, writer, and politician Ruta Šaca-Marjaša (1927–2016)

Though the name has long been common in the Jewish world, it didn’t come into widespread usage in the Christian world till the Protestant Reformation. Ruth received a big boost of popularity several centuries later, from U.S. President Grover Cleveland’s firstborn child, born in 1891. She was born between his two non-consecutive terms, and sadly died of diphtheria in 1904.

Ruth was #93 in the U.S. when name popularity records began in 1880, and it jumped from #19 to #5 after the birth of Ruth Cleveland. In 1893, it was #3. The next two years, Ruth was #6, and it remained at #5 until 1907. It then was #4 for two years, then back to #5 again till 1922.

The name remained in the Top 10 till 1930, and was Top 20 till 1937. Ruth left the Top 50 in 1951, and left the Top 100 in 1962. In 2018, it was #265.

Ruth Cleveland

Other forms of the name include:

1. Ruta is Polish, Ukrainian, and Maori. The alternate form Rūta is Latvian and Lithuanian.

2. Rute is Portuguese.

3. Ruut is Finnish and Estonian.

4. Rut is Hebrew, Spanish, Icelandic, Scandinavian, Sorbian, Italian, Maltese, Indonesian, Afrikaans, and German. The alternate form Rút is Czech and Slovak.

5. Ruf is Russian. I’ve never been a fan of Russian names where TH is replaced by F in the middle of the name. It just sounds ugly to my ears.

6. Rutt is Estonian.

7. Hrut is Armenian.

8. Hirut is Amharic.

9. Luka is Hawaiian, and not to be confused with the entirely separate name with the same spelling which is several languages’ form of Luke.

10. Luti is Nyakyusa, a language spoken in Tanzania and Malawi.

11. Rutu is Maori and Yoruba.

All about Tobias

Scottish writer Tobias Smollett (1721–71), painted ca. 1770

Tobias is the Greek form of Hebrew names Toviyahu and Toviyah (God is good). Besides Greek, this form of the name is also used in English, German, Slovak, Portuguese, and the Scandinavian languages. The alternate form Tobiáš (To-bee-AHSH) is Czech; Tóbiás (same pronunciation) is Hungarian; Tobías is Spanish, Catalan, and Galician; and Tóbías is Icelandic.

Though the name only enjoys modest popularity in the U.S. (#275 in 2018, with a high of #246 in 2016), it’s much more popular in Austria (#10), Norway (#17), the Czech Republic (#24 as of 2016), The Netherlands (#50), England and Wales (#98).

Tobias enjoys the most sustained popularity of all in Austria. It started at #39 in 1990 and jumped into the Top 10 in 2000, at #9. The name was #3 from 2002–04, #2 from 2005–09, #4 from 2010–12, and #1 in 2013. It’s been in the Top 10 for almost twenty years.

Brazilian poet, philosopher, literary critic, and jurist Tobias Barreto de Meneses, 1839–89

Other forms of this lovely name include:

1. Tobiasz is Polish.

2. Topias is Finnish. One of the nicknames is Topi.

3. Tobia is Italian.

4. Tobiah is an alternative, old-fashioned Hebrew transliteration.

5. Tuviyah, Tuviah, Tuvya, or Tuvia is modern Hebrew.

6. Tevye is Yiddish. Probably everyone knows this name as the protagonist of Fiddler on the Roof!

7. Tobie is French.

8. Tobies is a rare Catalan form.

9. Tobit is Amharic. This is also the title character of a book of the Bible.

10. Tobejas is Sami.

Polish-Belarusian partisan hero Tuvia Bielski, who together with his three brothers saved over 1,200 people from the Nazis (1906–87); image used to illustrate subject under fair use rationale

11. Thobias is a Scandinavian variant.

12. Tobiasi is Kven, a Finnic language spoken in northern Norway.

13. Tobiôsz is Kashubian.

14. Tobyś is Vilamovian.

15. Tovias is a rare modern Greek form.

16. Toviya is Russian.

17. Tovija is Serbian.

18. Tobija is Slovenian.

19. Toby is English. This is also sometimes used as a female name.

20. Toviy is Russian.

Polish-Israeli Nazi-hunter Tuviah Friedman, 1922–2011

Female forms:

1. Tobina is a rare Swedish form.

2. Tobia is also a rare Swedish form.