The many forms of Hercules

Though many people would consider Hercules to be too pompous, pretentious, and over the top for real-life usage, there are quite a few different forms of the name. Perhaps they might work well on a fictional character or pet, or one of the foreign versions might sound a bit less strange in the Anglophone world. It’s also just neat to see how names morph into other forms in different languages.

1. Hercules, the most familiar form in the Anglophone world, is actually the Latinized form of the Greek original. Though I normally prefer the authentic Greek spellings, this is one I’m too used to seeing in its historically Latinized form. The variation Hércules is Brazilian–Portuguese.

2. Herakles is the Greek original, and means “glory of Hera.” The meaning is kind of ironic, given how much Hera hated him!

3. Herakleios is an elaborated Greek form.

4. Heraclius is the Latinized form of Herakleios. Two early saints and a 7th century Byzantine emperor bore this name.

5. Erekle is the historic Georgian form. Two kings from the Bagrationi Dynasty had this name.

6. Irakli is the modern Georgian form.

7. Irakliy is Russian.

8. Heraclio is Spanish. The variation Heráclio is Brazilian–Portuguese.

9. Iraklis is the modern Greek form.

10. Ercole is Italian.

11. Ercwlff is Welsh.

12. Hercule is French, and well-known as the name of detective Poirot in Agatha Christie’s mystery series.

13. Erco is Romansh, a Romance language spoken in southeastern Switzerland.

14. Gerakl is an alternate Russian form.

15. Herakliu is Albanian.

16. Herkules is Polish.

17. Iorcall is Scottish, in use since the Renaissance.

18. Heraklo is Croatian.

19. Herkül is Turkish.

20. Herculina is a feminine Latin form.

21. Eraclio is an alternate Italian form.

22. Heraklije is an alternate Croatian form.


Hecate and Hypnos

The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy, by William Blake, 1795

Hecate is the goddess of crossroads, witchcraft, magic, light, necromancy, ghosts, sorcery, entryways, herbs, and poisonous plants. She’s frequently depicted holding a key or two torches, and later on portrayed in triplicate. Hecate was one of the main deities worshipped by Athenians, since she was a protective goddess and bestowed daily blessings and prosperity upon families.

Hecate (Hekate) is possibly derived from hekas, “far off.” It may also mean “will.” Other suggested etymologies are Hekatos, an obscure epithet for Apollo, and translated as “the far-reaching one,” “the far-darter,” “she that removes or drives off,” or “she that operates from afar.” There may also be parallels with the Egyptian fertility goddess Heqet.

Until the late 19th century, most Anglophones pronounced the name with two syllables, even when properly spelt, due to the inaccurate spelling Hecat used in Arthur Golding’s 1567 translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Other names and epithets of Hecate include Melinoe, Soteria, Trivia (in Roman mythology), Triodia, Propolos, Propulaia, Trimorphe, Phosphoros, Lampadephoros, Kourotrophos, Kleidouchos, Enodia, Apotropaia, and Chthonia.

Hecate’s parents are Perses (a Titan) and Asteria (daughter of Titans), and her maternal great-grandparents are Gaia and Uranus. Zeus honoured her as most high, and gave her many gifts, even though she was descended from his enemies the Titans.

In some traditions, Hecate is a virgin goddess who never married or had a regular consort, though other traditions name her as the mother to Circe, Scylla, Pasiphaë, Pan, King Aletes of Colchis, and demigoddess Empusa.

In the modern era, Hecate is widely-revered by the Wiccan and other Neo-Pagan religious communities, as well as by Hellenists who’ve revived the ancient Greek religion.

Sleep and His Half-Brother Death, by John William Waterhouse, 1874

Hypnos is the god of sleep, and the son of primordial deities Nyx (personification of night) and Erebus (representing darkness). His Roman equivalent is Somnus. Alongside his twin brother Thanatos (god of Death), he lives in the underworld. Traditions vary on whether they live in Hades or Erebus.

Hypnos lives in a large cave, at the origin of the river Lethe, where night and day meet. A number of poppies and other hypnotic plants grow by the entrance of the cave. He sleeps on an ebony bed, and no light or sound ever enter his dwelling-place.

According to Homer, Hypnos lives on the island of Lemnos, which was sacred to Hephaestus, god of metallurgy. Later on, Lemnos became Hypnos’s very own dream-island. His children Morpheus, Phantasos, and Phobetor are the gods of this dream of Lemnos.

Night and Sleep, by Evelyn De Morgan, 1878

In The Iliad, Hypnos uses his powers to trick Zeus and help the Greeks to win the Trojan War, at the behest of who else but Hera. This wasn’t the first time Hypnos had tricked Zeus at Hera’s behest, and Hypnos was loath to do it again. The previous time, Zeus was really pissed when he awoke, and went on a rampage looking for Hypnos. Hypnos escaped by hiding with his mother Nyx.

Hypnos agreed to help Hera only after she promised him Pasithea as a wife. Pasithea is among the youngest of the Graces, and the goddess of relaxation or hallucination. Hypnos had wanted to marry her for a really long time, and now was finally able to get her as a reward. He made Hera swear by the river Styx and call upon all the underworld deities so she wouldn’t go back on her promise.

As Zeus slept, Hypnos told Poseidon he could give the Greeks their victory. Poseidon was very eager to do this, and the war’s course of victory shifted away from the Trojans. Zeus never discovered Hypnos’s role in this.

Hypnos, whose name appropriately means “sleep,” is described as gentle and calm, since he helps humans in need of sleep. He owns at least half our lives, since that’s how much time we devote to sleep!

The many forms of Jerome

In honor of the 65th Jahrzeit (death anniversary) of the legendary comedian Curly Howard (Jerome Lester Horwitz; Hebrew name Yehudah Leib ben Shlomo Natan HaLevi), I decided to present the name Jerome in all its forms today. I really, really love this name, both because of Curly and the awesome Saint Jerome.


Saint Jerome (né Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius) was a man of letters, and a very popular patron saint of writers. He’s also the patron saint of librarians, Biblical scholars, archaeologists, archivists, translators, libraries, schoolchildren, and students. Many writers choose him as their patron saint because they feel he understands them at a deeper level, with that common bond. (You can read more about him at his Find A Grave memorial, which I wrote the bio for.)

One of my characters, a radical priest from Kassel, Germany, Father Rudi, names his church after Saint Jerome, since he relates so strongly to his love of learning, knowledge, and the written word.


Most Stooges fans name Curly as their favorite, and it’s really easy to see his appeal. He was one of the greatest physical comedians of all time, and seemed like a really kind, sweet person in private life. He didn’t deserve to die so young, and to be forced to work through deteriorating health until he finally had a major stroke during the filming of Half-Wits Holiday. When I found out Curly had a real-life limp, I no longer felt ashamed and upset about my own limp. He’s my limping hero.

After his major stroke, frequent director Jules White was visiting him at home, and Curly got really pensive and sad for a moment. He broke the silence by asking, “I’ll never be able to make children laugh again, will I, Jules?” He must be happy, in the other world, to know he’ll make children laugh for eternity.

Jerome is the English form of the original Greek Hieronymos, which means “sacred name.” It derives from hieros (sacred) and onoma (name). The name really came into prominence during the Middle Ages, particularly France and Italy, in honor of Saint Jerome. It appeared in England in the 12th century.

Other forms of the name:

1. Jérôme is French.

2. Jeroen is Dutch.

3. Hieronymus is a longer Dutch form.

4. Jeronymus is yet a third Dutch form.

5. Girolamo is Italian.

6. Gerolamo is an alternate Italian form.

7. Jerónimo is Spanish and Portuguese.

8. Gerónimo is an alternate Spanish form.

9. Jerônimo is Brazilian–Portuguese.

10. Geròni is Gascon.

11. Ġlormu is Maltese.

12. Hieronim is Polish and Slovak.

13. Ieróim is Irish.

14. Iyeronim is Russian and Ukrainian.

15. Ieronim is Romanian.

16. Ieronymos is modern Greek.

17. Jarolím is Slovenian.

18. Jaronas is Romansh, a Romance language primarily spoken in southeastern Switzerland.

19. Jeromos is Hungarian.

20. Jeronim is Croatian and Albanian. The Croatian nickname form is Jerko.

21. Jeroni is Catalan.

22. Jeronimas is Lithuanian.

22. Jeroným is Czech.

23. Jeroom is a rare, outdated Dutch and Flemish form.

24. Jiròni is Occitan.

25. Sierôm is Welsh.

26. Xerome is Galician.

27. Yeronim is Bulgarian.

28. Zirominu is Sardinian.

29. Giròlamu is Sicilian.

30. Jerom is Breton.

31. Hieronīms is Latvian.

32. Hieronimo is Esperanto.

The many forms of Helen

Once a Top 10 name in the U.S., spending many years as high as #2, the name Helen has now slipped to #419. It’s had a similar downward slide in Canada and the U.K. However, it’s a solid classic which ages very well, and has so many lovely forms in other languages.

1. Helena is my favorite form of the name, used in German, Czech, Dutch, Polish, the Scandinavian languages, Slovenian, Slovak, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Icelandic, Estonian, Finnish, and Croatian. The Hungarian form is Heléna. My favorite pronunciation is Heh-LAY-nah. It can also be pronounced with a silent H, as in Galician and Portuguese.

2. Elena is Spanish, German, Bulgarian, Romanian, Macedonian, Slovak, and Lithuanian.

3. Yelena is Russian. Besides Lena, one of the base nickname forms is Lyolya.

4. Jelena is Serbian, Estonian, Latvian, Slovenian, Lithuanian, and Croatian. An alternate Latvian form is Jeļena.

5. Hélène is French. This was one of my least favorite characters in War and Peace!

6. Heleen is Dutch.

7. Ellen was never quite as popular as Helen, though it enjoyed many years in the Top 100. As of 2015, it had dropped to #705 in the U.S. It’s more popular in Europe, at #18 in Sweden, #23 in Finland, #29 in Denmark, #56 in Ireland, #82 in the Czech Republic, and #89 in Northern Ireland.

8. Elin is Welsh and Scandinavian. This name is quite popular, at #16 in Switzerland, #25 in Iceland, #30 in The Netherlands, and #37 in Sweden.

9. Ileana is Romanian, Italian, and Spanish. Romanian diminutives are Ilinca and Lenuța. This was the name of the youngest daughter of the awesome Queen Marie of Romania, and from all accounts was a truly lovely, caring, compassionate person.

10. Ilona is Hungarian.

11. Elina is Swedish and Finnish. The Latvian version is Elīna, and the Old Norse form is Elína.

12. Elaine is English, adopted from an Old French form of Helen.

13. Elene is Georgian and Greek.

14. Eleni is another Greek form.

15. Helene is German and Scandinavian.

16. Eliina is Finnish.

17. Elen is Welsh.

18. Olena is Ukrainian.

19. Léan is Irish.

20. Alena is Belarusian.

21. Elna is a southern Swedish form of Elin, as well as a Dutch and Danish nickname for Helena.

22. Halena is an obsolete Ukrainian form.

23. Heghine is Armenian.

24. Héilin is another Irish form.

25. Heleainná is Sami, a native Siberian language. A simpler Sami form is Helená.

26. Heleni is Brazilian–Portuguese.

27. Heleno is Esperanto, and yes, that is supposed to be a female name. Traditionally, O is a feminine ending in Esperanto, though many female Esperantists have modified their names to end in the more familiar A.

28. Helina is a rare Estonian and obsolete Swedish form.

29. Helle is Estonian.

30. Léana is another Irish form.

“New” names

To mark the approaching New Year, here are some names whose meanings relate to the word “new.”


Addis means “new” in Amharic.

İlkay means “new Moon” in Turkish.

Nukartaava means “his/her new little sibling” in Greenlandic.


Abhinav means “very new, nascent” in Sanskrit.

Arata can mean “new, fresh” in Japanese.

Navendu means “new Moon” in Sanskrit.

Navin means “new” in Sanskrit.

Neophytos means “newly planted” in Greek.

Neville means “new town” in Norman French.

Newton means “new town” in Old English.

Novak means “new” in Serbian. This is also a surname.

Novomir means “new world” and “new peace” in Russian. This was one of those invented names most popular in the early decades of the USSR.

Nowomił means “new and gracious” or “new and dear” in Polish.

Nowomysł means “new thought” in Polish,

Nýr means “new, young” in Old Norse.

Nýrádr means “new advice/counsel” in Old Norse.

Nývard means “new guard” in Icelandic.

Tan means “new” in Vietnamese.

Tazen is a contemporary Turkish name meaning “new, fresh.”

Toyotoshi can mean “abundant new year” in Japanese.

Xavier is an English, French, Catalan, Old Spanish, and Portuguese name derived from Etxaberri, a Basque place name meaning “the new house.” The Catalan nickname is XaviJavier is the modern Spanish form, Xabier (Xabi) is Basque and Galician, Xaver is German, Saveriu is Corsican, Saverio is Italian, Ksawery is Polish, Ksaver is Slovenian, Serbian, and Croatian, Ksaveriy is Russian and Bulgarian, Ksaveras is Lithuanian, Saver is Maltese, Xaveriu is Romanian, and Xaverius is Dutch and Indonesian.


Alený means “new elf” in Old Norse.

Árný means “new year” in Icelandic. The Norwegian form is Årny.

Ásný means “new god” in Icelandic and Old Norse.

Ayça means “new Moon” in Turkish.

Dagny is a Scandinavian name which means “new day” in Old Norse. The Icelandic (and original Old Norse) variant is Dagný, and the Latvian version is Dagnija. One of my favoritest secondary characters is named Dagnija.

Eirný means “new peace” in Icelandic and Old Norse.

Eiðný means “new oath” in Icelandic.

Friðný means “new love” and “new peace” in Icelandic.

Fróðný means “clever/wise new Moon” in Icelandic.

Gestný means “new guest” in Icelandic.

Gíslný means “new pledge” or “new hostage” in Icelandic.

Guðný means “new gods” in Icelandic and Old Norse.

Hagný means “new pasture/enclosure” in Old Norse.

Hallný means “new rock” in Icelandic.

Hatsune can mean “new sound” in Japanese.

Hatsuyuki can mean “new snow” in Japanese.

Heiðný means “new and clear” in Icelandic.

Helny is a modern Swedish name meaning “holy and new.”

Hjörný means “new sword” in Icelandic. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t use this in an Anglophone country.

Hróðný means “new Moon fame” in Icelandic and Old Norse.

Ijeoma means “a new beginning” in Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. This is also the salutation used to wish someone safe travels.

Leikny means “new game” in Norwegian.

Lingný is a contemporary Icelandic name meaning “new heather.”

Magný means “new Moon strength” in Icelandic.

Neaira means “new rising” in Greek. The Latinized form is Neaera.

Newbihar means “new spring” in Kurdish.

Nova is an English name derived from the Latin word nova, “new.” It was first recorded as a name in the 19th century. Besides being a nickname for the below-mentioned Novomira, it can also be a nickname for the Russian name Zinoviya and its Greek forms Zenovia and Zinovia.

Novomira is the feminine form of Novomir. Nicknames can be Nova and Mira.

Nûber means “new sprout/shoot” in Kurdish.

Nutan means “new” in Sanskrit.

Nýbjörg means “new help/deliverance” in Icelandic.

Nyfrid means “new love” in Norwegian.

Sæný means “new sea” in Icelandic.

Signý means “new victory” in Old Norse. The modern Scandinavian forms are Signe and Signy.

Unni is a Scandinavian name which may mean “new wave.”

Vårny means “new spring” in Swedish.

Xaviera is the English feminine form of Xavier. Saviera is Italian, Xavière and Xavérie are French, Ksavera is Lithuanian, and Ksawera is Polish.