Names symbolic of short life

Content Warning: This post is about names befitting stillborns, infants with very short lives, and miscarriages.

I know this is a depressing, macabre topic no one should ever have to deal with, but fetal and neonatal deaths are an unavoidable fact of life. And as always, these names can also be used for fictional characters. I’ve used some of them for my own characters.

Though traditional Jewish Law dictates stillborns and infants who live less than 30 days shouldn’t be named or have Kaddish recited for them, I find it very meaningful to give such a child a simple but symbolic name. When I asked one of my rabbis about this, he said he’d never tell grieving parents not to say Kaddish for their dear baby, no matter what custom dictates.

Other traditions have different outlooks, and individuals of any faith or culture should make their own decisions. God forbid this should ever happen to me if I’m blessed with biological children before time runs out, but if it did, I’d opt against the name I’d previously chosen and instead use one of the following names, with the understanding this child would never be called that. A name that might seem corny or pretentious on a living child is transformed into something haunting and beautiful on one who was born asleep or barely lived.

Unless otherwise noted, all names ending in vowels are female, and all names ending in consonants are male.

Amala means “pure, clean” in Sanskrit.

Angel is rather self-explanatory.

Atropos (F) was the oldest the Three Fates, the one who cut the thread. Her Roman version was Morta.

Bedisa means “fate” in Georgian.

Blessing is self-explanatory.

Bracha means “blessing” in Hebrew. The male form is Baruch.

Clotho was one of the Three Fates, the one who spins the thread of Life. Her Roman version was Nona.

Dalisay (F) means “pure” in Tagalog.

Destiny is self-explanatory. This name has such a different image when used on a stillborn or someone who died in early infancy.

Faith is self-explanatory.

Glenda was created in the 20th century from Welsh elements glan (clean, pure) and da (good).

Heimarmene was the Greek goddess of the Fate of the Universe. The name may be derived from the verb meiresthai (to receive as one’s lot), from which the word moira (destiny, fate) also derives.

Hypnos was the Greek god of sleep, described as very kind, gentle, and calm. His Roman version was Somnus.

Inmaculada means “immaculate” in Spanish, after the Immaculate Conception. Other forms include Imaculada (Portuguese), Immaculata (Irish), Immacolata (Italian), and Immaculada (Catalan)

Innocent derives from the Latin Innocentius, ultimately from innocens (innocent). Other forms include Innocenzo (Italian), Innokentiy (Russian), Inocencio (Spanish), Innocenty (Polish), Innozenz (German), Inocentas (Lithuanian), Innocenz (German), Inocent (Croatian), and Inocenţiu (Romanian).

Female forms are Innokentiya (Russian, Bulgarian), Iñoskentze (Basque), Innocentia (Latin), Innocència (Catalan), Innocenta (Polish), Inocencia (Spanish, Portuguese), and Innocentja (Polish).

Juvenal means “youthful” in Latin, from original form Iuvenalis.

Kader (F) means “destiny, fate” in Turkish.

Kiyoshi (M) means “pure” in Japanese.

Lachesis (F) was one of the Three Fates, the one responsible for measuring the thread and determining length of life. Her Roman counterpart is Decima.

Memoria means “memory” in Italian.

Mneme means “memory” in Greek. She was one of the original Three Muses.

Mnemosyne was the Greek goddess of remembrance. Other forms include Mnemosina (Russian, Macedonian, Serbian, Tatar, Ukrainian, Azeri, Basque), Mnemosine (Italian, Portuguese), Mnémoszüné (Hungarian), Mnemozina (Bulgarian, Bosnian, Croatian), Mnemósine (Spanish, Asturian, Catalan), Mnemozino (Esperanto), Mnemasina (Belarusian), Mnēmosine (Latvian), Mnemosinė (Lithuanian), Mnemosin (Piedmontese), and Mnemosune (Afrikaans).

Neshama means “soul” in Hebrew. A diminutive form is Neshamaleh.

Oroitz means “memory” in Basque.

Peace is self-explanatory.

Pepromene was the Greek goddess of one’s individual fate. The name may derive from the verb peprosthai (to be fated, finished, fulfilled) or the noun pepratosthai (finite).

Qismat means “fate” in Arabic. This name is female in Sanskrit (Qismet) and Turkish (Kismet).

Remember, Remembrance. Though these were unisex names in Puritan times, Remember in particular has always sounded more feminine to me.

Safi (M) means “pure” in Arabic. The feminine forms are Safiya, Safiyyah (Arabic) and Safiye (Turkish).

Shalom means “peace” in Hebrew. This is a unisex name.

Syntyche means “common fate” in Greek.

Tahira means “pure, chaste, virtuous” in Arabic. In Turkish, it’s spelt Tahire. The male Arabic and Turkish form is Tahir.

Thuần means “pure, simple, clean” in Vietnamese.

Zachriel, Zechariel, Zachariel is the archangel who leads souls to judgment in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

Zaha means “pure, innocent, fresh, clean, clear” in Hebrew.

Zakiyya, Zakiya, Zakiah means “pure” in Arabic. The male form is Zaki. In Tatar and Bashkir, it’s spelt Zäki. The Hebrew form is Zakkai, Zakai, Zakay.

The Fs of Slavic names

Male:

Feofilakt is the Russian form of the Greek name Theophylatkos (watched by God). Beautiful meaning, but such a mouthful, and not the easiest name for a kid to learn to spell. The nickname is Filat.

Ferapont is the Russian form of the Greek name Therapon, which means “worshipper” or “servant.”

Ferekrat is the Serbian and Ukrainian form of the Greek name Pherekrates (to bring power). This was the name of an Ancient Greek comic poet.

Filaret is the Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian form of the Greek name Philaretos (virtuous friend; friend of virtue). This has become a new favourite Russian male name recently. I have two characters by this name, one minor and one an important secondary character. The meaning is very symbolic to both of them.

Filimon is the Russian form of the Greek name Philemon (affectionate).

Frontin (Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Ukrainian, Bosnian, archaic French), Frontyn (Polish) are forms of the Latin name Frontius (one with a small forehead).

Female:

Faina is Russian and Latvian, and may come from the Greek name Phaenna (shining). In some versions of Greek myths, she was one of the three Graces.

Faustyna is the Polish form of the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese name Faustina, which ultimately derives from Latin name Faustus (lucky, auspicious). I’ve always loved this name! The male form is Faustyn.

Fedra is the Bosnian, Croatian, Galician, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian form of the Greek name Phaedra (bright).

Flura is a Russian, Belarusian, Tajik, and Kazakh name I can’t find an etymology for.

Frina is the Russian form of the Greek name Phryne (a nickname meaning “toad,” literally “the brown animal”).

Frosina is the Macedonian form of the Greek name Euphrosyne (merriment, mirth). This is my favourite form of the name by a long shot!

The various forms of Daphne and Laura (and other laurel names)

Pauline as Daphne Fleeing from Apollo, ca. 1810, Robert Lefèvre

Daphne is a naiad in Greek mythology, a female nymph presiding over bodies of water such as lakes, fountains, springs, and brooks. She’s variously cited as the daughter of river god Peneus (Peneios) and nymph Creusa, or Ladon and Gaia.

Versions of Daphne’s story vary, but they all have the crux of Apollo falling in unrequited love with her after a curse from Eros (Cupid). As Apollo chased her, Daphne begged her father to save her, and she was turned into a laurel tree in the nick of time. Laurels thus became sacred to Apollo.

Daphne is also used in English and Dutch. The variation Daphné is French. Other forms include:

1. Daphnée is French.

2. Dafni is modern Greek.

3. Dafina is Macedonian and Albanian.

4. Dafne is Italian.

5. Daffni is Welsh.

6. Dapine is Georgian.

7. Dafna is Hebrew. I chose this as the last part of my Hebrew name (Chana Esther Dafna) for numerous reasons, all of them relating to how it means “laurel.” Primary among those reasons is honouring Stan Laurel, my humble way of saying thank you for how watching Laurel and Hardy on AMC got me through one of the darkest, most depressing periods of my life.

8. Defne is Turkish.

Laura Bridgman (1829–1889), America’s first blind-deaf person to get a full education and become a celebrity, fifty years before Helen Keller

Laura, which comes from the Latin name Laurus, is English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Scandinavian, Romanian, Finnish, German, Dutch, Estonian, Hungarian, Slovenian, Polish, and Croatian.

It’s been an English name since the 13th century, and was extremely popular in the U.S. until it began a rapid decline in the late 19th century. Laura was #17 in 1880, and stayed in the Top 100 till 1934, sinking in popularity a little bit more almost every year. It was Top 100 again from 1945–2001, attaining its highest rank of #10 in 1969. In 2017, it was #340.

Laura has greater popularity in Europe. It’s #6 in Austria; #11 in Denmark; #12 in Switzerland; #13 in Portugal; #14 in Hungary; #16 in the Czech Republic and Poland; #22 in Galicia; #31 in Spain; #37 in Belgium; #40 in Slovenia; #47 in Catalonia; #58 in Italy; #63 in Ireland; #78 in Bosnia; #101 in The Netherlands; and #104 in France.

Laura de Noves (1310–1348), Petrarch’s great muse and unrequited love, similar to Dante’s love for Beatrice

Other forms of Laura include:

1. Lára is Icelandic (and not to be confused with the Russian Lara, a nickname for Larisa).

2. Laure is French.

3. Lavra is Slovenian.

4. Lowri is Welsh.

5. Laoura is modern Greek.

6. Lâvara is Greenlandic.

7. Lora is English and Italian.

8. Loretta is English and Italian.

9. Lauretta is Italian. This is the name of one of the members of the brigata, the ten storytellers, in The Decameron.

10. Laurette is French.

American actor Loretta Young (1913–2000) with Lon Chaney, Sr.

 Other laurel-related names:

1. Kelila, or Kelilah, means “crown of laurel” in Hebrew.

2. Lalela means “laurel” in Hawaiian.

3. Lovorka means “laurel tree” in Croatian.

The many forms of Philip (and other horsey names)

Philip the Apostle, by Peter Paul Rubens

In spite of being considered somewhat outdated or geriatric these days, I’ve always quite liked the name Philip. It’s a solid classic that could use a comeback. Perhaps my positive opinion was influenced by having two friends named Philip in junior high, both of them great guys.

Philip means “friend/lover of horses,” from Greek philos (lover, friend) and hippos (horse). One of the Twelve Apostles, Philip was originally much more popular among Eastern Christians. In the Middle Ages, it became more common in the West.

Philip sank in popularity in the Anglophone world in the 17th century, thanks to King Felipe II of Spain launching the Armada against England. It became popular again in the 19th century.

Infante Felipe of Spain, Duke of Parma (1720–1765), by Louis-Michel van Loo

The one-L spelling was in the U.S. Top 100 from 1880–1971, and again from 1973–88. It then began a slow decline, though in recent years, it’s gradually begun moving up. Its highest rank to date was #52 in 1941.

In 2017, it was #424 in the U.S.; #414 in England and Wales; #81 in Norway; #74 in Sweden; #39 in Denmark; and #206 in The Netherlands.

The two-L variant has always been less popular than the one-L, though it was Top 200 in the U.S. from 1880–1936, and Top 100 from 1937–91. Its highest rank to date was #64 in 1950. In 2017, it was #424 (same as the one-L spelling).

King Philippe IV the Fair of France (1268–1314), by Jean du Tillet

Other forms include:

1. Felipe is Spanish and Portuguese.

2. Felip is Catalan.

3. Philippe is French.

4. Philipp is German.

5. Filip is Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian, Polish, Czech, Dutch, Scandinavian, Bulgarian, Slovak, Macedonian, Hungarian, Finnish, and Croatian.

6. Filipp is Russian.

7. Pylyp is Ukrainian.

8. Pilypas is Lithuanian.

9. Filips is Latvian.

10. Filippo is Italian.

King Felipe II (1527–1598), by Tinian

11. Vilppu is Finnish.

12. Pilib is Irish.

13. Filib is Scottish.

14. Fülöp is Hungarian.

15. Filippos is Greek.

16. Piripi is Maori.

17. Filpa is Sami.

18. Phélip is Gascon.

19. Phillippus is Afrikaans.

20. Pilibbos is Armenian.

21. Pilipe is Georgian.

22. Ph’lip is Jèrriais.

Queen Filipa of Portugal (1360–1415), by António de Holanda

Feminine forms:

1. Philippa is English and German.

2. Philipa is English.

3. Phillipa is English.

4. Filipa is Portuguese.

5. Filippa is Italian, Greek, and Swedish.

6. Philippine is French.

7. Felipa is Spanish.

8. Filipina is Polish.

9. Filippina is Italian.

French poet, historian, and soldier Théodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné, 1552–1630

Other horse-related names:

Unisex:

1. Agrippa is a Latin name which may mean “wild horse,” from Greek roots agrios (wild) and hippos. Other forms include Agrippina (a Latin diminutive) and Agrafena (Russian, feminine only).

Female:

1. Alkippe comes from Greek alke (strength) and hippos.

2. Eowyn means “horse joy” in Old English, from eoh (horse) and wyn (friend). As most people know, this was invented for LOTR.

3. Epona means “horse” in Gaulish, from epos. She was the Celtic goddess of horses.

4. Jorunn means “horse love” in Norwegian, from Ancient Scandinavian jór (horse) and unna (love).

5. Rosalind means “tender/soft/flexible horse” in English, from Germanic hros (horse) and lind.

Rosamund Clifford, mistress of King Henry II of England (before 1150–ca. 1176), by John William Waterhouse

6. Rosamund means “horse protection” in English, from Germanic hros and mund.

7. Hippolyte means “freer of horses” in Greek, from hippos and luo (to loosen). Other forms include Hippolyta (Latin) and Ippolita (Russian).

8. Farnaspa means “horse glory” in Ancient Persian.

9. Lysippe means “she who lets loose the horses” in Greek.

10. Zeuxippe means “bridled horse” in Greek.

Hippocrates, ca. 460–370 BCE

Male: 

1. Archippos means “master of horses” in Greek, from archos and hippos.

2. Ashwin means “possessed of horses” in Hindi and several other Indian languages.

3. Eachann means “brown horse” in Gaelic, from each (horse) and donn (brown).

4. Hippocrates means “horse power” in Greek, from hippos and kratos (power).

5. Hippolytos is the male form of Hippolyta. Other forms include Ippolit (Russian), Ippolito (Italian), Hippolyte (French), Hipólito (Spanish and Portuguese), and Hipolit (Polish).

6. Tasunka means “his horse” in Sioux.

7. Xanthippos means “yellow horse” in Greek, from xanthos (yellow) and hippos.

8. Ajwad means “horses” in Arabic.

9. Alabandos means “horse victory” in Greek.

10. Aristippos means “the best horse” in Greek.

Hipólito José da Costa Pereira Furtado de Mendonça (1774–1823), Father of the Brazilian Press

11. Chrysippos means “horse of gold” in Greek.

12. Dexippos means “horse reception” or “to receive horses” in Greek.

13. Lysippos is the male form of Lysippe.

Names starting in Rh

Though names starting in Rh aren’t quite as unusual as those starting in Ps and Pt, that’s still not exactly the most common starting syllable. Most of these names are Greek and Welsh.

Female:

Rheia (Latinized Rhea) was the mother of Zeus, Hera, Hestia, Demeter, Hades, and Poseidon. It possibly is derived from the root era (ground) or rheo (to flow).

Rhian means “maiden” in Welsh, from rhiain. Alternate forms are Rhianu and Rhianydd; an elaborated form is Rhianedd (maidens).

Rhiannon is a well-known Welsh name probably derived from Old Celtic Rigantona (great queen). She may have been a Celtic goddess of the Moon and fertility.

Rhoda is an English name derived from the Greek word rhodon (rose). Though it’s found in the Bible, it only came into known English usage in the 17th century.

Rhona is a Scottish name, possibly derived from the Hebridean island Rona. It means “rough island” in Gaelic.

Rhonda either comes from the name of the Rhondda Valley of South Wales (and thus means “noisy”), or was intended to mean “good spear,” from Welsh roots rhon (spear) and da (good).

Rhonwen means “fair hair” or “fair spear” in Welsh, from elements rhon (spear) or rhawn (hair), and gwen (blessed, fair, white). I love this name, and used it on an unplanned secondary character loosely based after a friend from the second of my three high schools.

Rhosyn is a rare, modern Welsh name meaning “rose.”

Rhagnell was a mythical Welsh princess.

Rhanis was one of the sixty Oceanid Nymphs who formed the core of Artemis’s retinue. It means “raindrop” in Ancient Greek.

Rhema is a rare American name, taken from a Greek word meaning “that which is spoken” and referring to the Christian concept rhematos Christou, “the word of Christ.”

Rheta means “speaker” in Greek.

Rhiainfellt means “lightning maiden” in Welsh, from the word rhiain (maiden) and Celtic roots *rgan– (queen) and mellt (lightning). She was a 7th century queen of Northumbria.

Rhianwen means “fair maiden” or “blessed maiden” in Welsh, from roots rhiain and gwen.

Rhodanthe means “rose flower” in Greek, from roots rhodon and anthos.

Rhodd means “gift” in Welsh.

Rhodope means “rosy-faced, rosy” in Greek, from rhodopos. In Greek mythology, she was the wife of King Haemos of Thrace.

Rhoeo means “stream, flow” in Ancient Greece, from root rhoe. She was impregnated by Apollo, and in a story very similar to that of Danäe and Perseus, her father put her in a chest and sent her out to sea.

Rhadine was the star-crossed lover of Leontichos in Greek mythology. Their love was the subject of a now-lost poem, quoted and given a synopsis by historian Strabo.

Rhoswen means “beautiful rose” in Welsh, from roots rhos and gwen.

Male:

Rheinallt is the Welsh form of Reynold, which is derived from the Germanic Raginald and the roots ragin (advice) and wald (rule).

Rhisiart is the Welsh form of Richard, which means “brave power” and derives from Germanic roots ric (rule, power) and hard (brave, hardy).

Rhett comes from a surname Anglicized from the Dutch de Raedt. Its root is raet (advice, counsel). Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows the most famous bearer is Rhett Butler of Gone with the Wind!

Rhodri comes from the Welsh roots rhod (wheel) and rhi (king). A 9th century king had this name.

Rhydderch means “reddish-brown” in Welsh, and is also used as a Welsh form of Roderick (famous power). The latter derives from Germanic roots hrod (fame) and ric (power).

Rhys means “enthusiasm” in Welsh.

Rhadamanthos (Rhadamanthys) may be derived from rhadamnos (branch) and anthos (blossom), or from Rho-t-Amenti (King of Amenti, the realm of the dead), an epithet of the Egyptian god Osiris. In Greek mythology, he was a son of Zeus and Europa, brother of King Minos of Crete, and a judge of the underworld. His name is the origin of the English adjective “rhadamanthine,” inflexibly just or severe.

The Latinized form is Rhadamanthus, and the French form is Rhadamanthe.

Rhain means “stretched-out” or “stiff” in Welsh. This was the name of a son of legendary 5th century King Brychan Brycheiniog, and by a 9th century king of Dyfed.

Rhetorios means “public speaker, orator” in Greek. The Latinized form is Rhetorius. This is obviously the root of “rhetoric.”

Rhidian is possibly a Welsh form of the Irish name Ruadhán, a diminutive of Ruadh (red).

Rhion is both a masculine form of Rhian and a modern form of Ryan (little king).

Rhiwallon is the Welsh form of Old Celtic *Rigovellaunos, which possibly means “lord-ruler” or “most kingly.”

Rhoys is the Welsh form of Roy, which also derives from Ruadh.