The many forms of Isaac

Isaac, like many other male Biblical names, has been rather popular in the U.S. in recent years. It entered the Top 100 in 1995, at #98, and has been in the Top 50 since 2001. Its most popular ranking to date came in 2013, when it was #29. Isaac has held steadily at #31 ever since.

The name is also very popular in Canada (#24), Australia (#14), England and Wales (#20), Mexico (#42), New Zealand (#30), Portugal (#40), Northern Ireland (a.k.a. Ireland by any other name) (#42), Scotland (#54), and Catalonia (#56). It’s additionally in the Top 100 in Spain (#82), France (#70), Chile (#70), and Ireland (#77).

Though my favourite of the Biblical Patriarchs is Jakob, I have a soft spot for Isaac. He’s kind of The Quiet One of the three Patriarchs, since he’s always passively acted on instead of acting in his own right, or copying things that already happened to his father (e.g., passing his wife off as his sister in Egypt, uncovering wells his father had dug).

Isaac means “to laugh,” from the Hebrew root tzachak. It was mostly a Jewish name in the English-speaking world until the Protestant Reformation. Famous bearers just about everyone has heard of were Sir Isaac Newton and the awesome writer Isaac Asimov.

This spelling is used in English, French, Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, and Spanish. Other forms of the name include:

1. Yitzchak is the original Hebrew form. Alternate transliterations are Yitzhak, Yitshak, Yitschak, Itzhak, Itshak, Itschak, and Itzchak. I love the cute nicknames Yitzi and Itzi. In the modern era, a very famous bearer was the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.

2. Isak is Scandinavian, Belarusian, Macedonian, Serbian, and Lao. The variation Ísak is Icelandic.

3. Isaak is German, Russian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Albanian, Esperanto, Greek, Mongolian,  and Ukrainian.

4. Izaäk is Dutch. Nicknames include Sjaak and Sjakie. The variation Izaak is Polish.

5. Izsák is Hungarian.

6. Iisakki is Finnish. Nicknames include Iikka and Iiro.

7. Izak is Slovenian and Croatian. The variation Izák is Czech and Slovak.

8. Izaokas is Lithuanian.

9. Ixaka is Basque.

10. Isxak (pronounced like Iskhak) is Tatar.

11. Ishoq is Uzbek.

12. Isaque is Brazilian–Portuguese.

13. Isaq is Ossetian and Uyghur.

14. Ishak is Arabic, Bosnian, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Bengali. The variation İshak (with a dot over the I) is Turkish.

15. Isaki is Ndebele, a Bantu language spoken in South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. This spelling is also used in Swahili. The variation Ísáki is Yoruba.

16. Ihaka is Maori.

17. Isac is Romanian and Portuguese.

18. Isacco is Italian.

19. Sahak, or Sahag (depending upon your form of the language), is modern Armenian.

20. Isahak is archaic Armenian, and considered a more scholarly form than Sahak.

21. Bonisac means “good Isaac” in Judeo–Provençal, a, Occitan dialect which sadly lost its last native speaker in 1977.

22. Higgin is a Medieval English diminutive. Another Medieval diminutive is Higg.

23. Itty is Malayalam, a language spoken in India. This may also be a form of Steven.

24. Jaziquet is Judeo–Provençal.

25. Saconet is also Judeo–Provençal.

26. Yeshak is Coptic.

27. Eisik is Yiddish. Another transliteration is Aizik.

28. Iisak is Estonian.

29. Ísakur is Faroese.

28. İshaq (with a dot on top of the I) is Azeri.

29. Isaakios is Greek.

30. Izarak is Haitian Creole.

31. Ixaj is Hmong.

32. Íosác is Irish.

33. Iskak is Javanese.

34. Aisak is Khmer.

35. Iskhaq is Kyrgyz.

36. Ysqaaq is also Kyrgyz.

37. Izaks is Latvian.

38. Aizeks is also Latvian.

39. Ițac is Romanian.

40. Iosag is Scottish.

41. Isxaaq is Somali.

42. Isaka is Swahili and Zulu.

43. Xịsæk is Thai.

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.

Jocasta and Jason

Painted by Robinet Testard

Jocasta (Iokaste) is well-known as the mother and wife of Oedipus Rex, and the mother and grandmother of Antigone, Ismene, Polynices, and Eteocles. Her father was Menoeceus of Thebes, and her first husband was King Laius. The Oracle of Delphi told Laius not to have a child with Jocasta, since that boy would kill him and marry Jocasta. In another version, the Oracle told Laius he could only save Thebes if he died childless.

Laius got drunk and slept with Jocasta, and out of this union came Oedipus. Jocasta gave Oedipus to Laius to dispose of. Either Jocasta or Laius pierced and pinned his ankles together, which caused his limp.

Oedipus was saved by Laius’s shepherd, and raised by King Polybus and Queen Merope of Corinth. Years later, the Oracle told Oedipus he’d murder his father and marry his mother. Horrified, he decided not to return home. On the road, he ran into Laius, got into a fight with him, and killed him.

Oedipus defeated the evil Sphinx by answering its riddle, and the Thebans happily chose him as their new King. Oedipus accepted the throne and married Jocasta, not minding she was at least fifteen years his senior. They had four kids together, so Jocasta couldn’t have been that far up in years.

Thebes was hit by a plague of infertility, and the Oracle said Laius’s murderer needed brought to justice. The blind seer Tiresias, who’d had the unique experience of being both male and female, indicated Oedipus as the murderer. Jocasta tried to calm Oedipus down by telling him the story of her firstborn son, but this only made him even more on-edge, as he began to suspect he really were the guilty party.

Oedipus Separating from Jocasta, by Alexandre Cabanel, 1843

Oedipus was relieved to get news of Polybus’s death, believing the prophecy couldn’t be fulfilled anymore. However, Merope was still alive, so Oedipus didn’t want to attend the funeral. Once the messenger said Oedipus was adopted, Jocasta realised the truth, and begged him to stop searching for Laius’s murderer. Oedipus believed she was ashamed of his possible low birth, but then he got verification of his origins.

When Oedipus went to find Jocasta, he discovered she’d hanged herself. In the version by Euripides, Jocasta committed suicide after her sons killed one another fighting over the throne.

Jocasta is of unknown etymology.

Mlle. Clairon en Médé, by Charles-André van Loo, 1760

Jason (Iason) is the heroic leader of the Argonauts, the son of King Aeson of Iolkos, and great-grandson of Hermes. Nine different mothers are named, though Jason’s father is Aeson in all traditions. Aeson’s half-brother Pelias (son of Poseidon) overthrew Aeson, and killed everyone in Aeson’s family except Aeson himself. Infant Jason was saved when women clustered around him and cried as though he’d been stillborn. He was raised by the Centaur Chiron.

Pelias, still terrified he’d be overthrown, consulted the Oracle, and was told to watch out for a man with one sandal. Years later, Jason came to Iolkas and lost a sandal while helping an old woman (Hera in disguise) to cross the river Anauros. Hera blessed him, and Jason was announced as a man with one sandal. Jason told Pelias that throne was his, and was sent on a quest for the Golden Fleece in Colchis.

Jason and his Argonauts had many adventures during this quest, both there and back. In Colchis (modern-day Georgia), Medea fell in love with Jason, and helped him in his quest. Jason was quite the turncoat after he and Medea settled in Corinth, and left her for Princess Creusa. Medea took revenge by giving Creusa a wedding dress which stuck to her skin and burnt her to death. King Creon burnt along with Creusa as he tried to save her.

Since Jason had broken his vow to Hera to love Medea forever, he was cursed to die alone and unhappy. He was killed when the rotting Argo ship fell on him.

Jason is derived from iasthai, “to heal.” This name wasn’t used in the Anglophone world till after the Protestant Reformation, and suddenly began barrelling up the charts in the 1960s. In 1971, it entered the Top 10 at #8, and from 1973–83, it was #2, #3, and #4. I’m honestly shocked it’s still hanging around in the Top 100, since every other guy within ten years of my age is already named Jason!

Ixion and Io

The Torture of Ixion, by Giovan Battista Langetti

Ixion is a demigod and King of the Lapiths, Thessaly’s most ancient tribe. Depending upon the myth, his father was the god Ares, Leonteus, Antion, or Phlegyas. Ixion’s son is Pirithous (Peirithoös), though this son may have really been fathered by the always-horny, always-philandering Zeus.

Ixion married Dia, daughter of Deioneus (or Eioneus), and promised Deioneus a very valuable present as the bride price. When Ixion failed to deliver, Deioneus stole some of Ixion’s horses. Ixion pretended not to care, and invited him to a feast in Larissa, capital of Thessaly.

When Deioneus arrived, Ixion pushed him into a bed of burning coals and wood. After the murder, Ixion went crazy. To make matters even worse, the neighbouring princes were so horrified by Ixion’s violation of xenia (hospitality), they refused to perform catharsis, the rituals which would cleanse him of his guilt. Ixion, the first person in Greek mythology guilty of murdering his own kin, became an outcast and outlaw.

Ixion Précipité Dans les Enfers, by Jules-Élie Delaunay, 1876

Zeus took pity on him, brought him up to Olympus, and introduced him by the table of the deities. Ixion once again violated xenia by lusting after Hera and not showing any gratitude towards his host. When Zeus discovered what was going on, he made a cloud that looked like Hera, henceforth called Nephele, and tricked Ixion into coupling with it. The Centaurs, also called Ixionidae, arose from this union.

Ixion was kicked out of Olympus and blasted with a thunderbolt. Zeus then ordered Hermes to bind Ixion to a fiery, winged, perpetually-spinning wheel. Originally, this wheel went through the heavens, but later myths moved it to Tartarus, a deep abyss used as a torture chamber and the prison for the Titans. The torture had a brief reprieve when Orpheus played his lyre during his trip to the underworld to rescue Eurydice.

Ixion possibly derives from ixos, which means both “birdlime” and “mistletoe.”

Giove e Io, by Paris Bordone, 1550s

Io is the daughter of Ianchus, first King of Argos, and Oceanid Melia, according to the majority of traditions. She served as a priestess of Hera in Argos, a cult of worship her father allegedly brought to the area. When Zeus saw this beautiful mortal, he once again began thinking with the wrong head. In some versions, Io initially rejected his advances, until her father kicked her out of the house based on oracles.

According to some traditions, Zeus turned Io into a heifer to hide her from Hera, but the deception failed, and Hera begged Zeus to give her the heifer as a gift. After Zeus granted her request, Hera sent the hundred-eyed giant Argos Panoptes to spy on Zeus and prevent him from visiting Io. In turn, Zeus sent Hermes to distract and eventually kill Argos Panoptes.

Juno, Jupiter, and Io, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Zeus freed Io, who was still in the form of a heifer, and Hera was not pleased. She sent a gadfly after Io, compelling her to forever wander the world without rest. Eventually, Io crossed the path between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara (called Propontis in classical antiquity). This strait became known as the Bosphorus, which means “ox passage.”

By the now-Bosphorus, Io met Prometheus, who was still chained to Mount Caucasus as eternal punishment for having given fire to humans. Prometheus told Io she’d be restored to human form and become the progenitor of Hercules, the greatest of all heroes. Io fled across the Ionian Sea to Egypt, where Zeus transformed her back into a human. In Egypt, she birthed Epaphus and Keroessa, both fathered by Zeus.

On 7 January 1610, Galileo Galilei officially discovered a moon of Jupiter which was later named after Io.

Io means “Moon” in the Argive dialect.

The many forms of Jakob

Regular readers of both this blog and my main blog may have noticed I consistently use the spelling Jakob instead of the more common Jacob. While I personally think the K makes it stand out and gives it an added boost of personality (particularly considering how super-popular it’s been for so long), my main reason is that the first Jacob I knew was a terrible bully. Even after meeting wonderful Jacobs who were nothing like the first, that association stayed. Using the K spelling takes the sting out of the name for me. It doesn’t make me think of him.

The conventional English spelling Jacob has been in the Top 10 in the U.S. since 1993. From 1999–2012, it was #1. As of 2015, it was #4, and also enjoying high popularity in Canada (#6), Australia (#11), New Zealand (#10), Northern Ireland (#12), England and Wales (#5), and Scotland (#11). My spelling, Jakob, was #3 in Austria, #15 in Norway, and #6 in Slovenia.

The spelling Jacob is used in English and Dutch. Other variants, starting with the one I prefer, are:

1. Jakob is German, Scandinavian, Slovenian, and Icelandic, as well as an alternate Dutch spelling. It still rankles when I remember one of the know-it-all agents who dogpiled me in a pitchfest some years back, insisting (based on something like three lines of a pitch!) I hadn’t done my research and didn’t know jack due to my usage of the spelling Jakob on a Dutch character. Um, no, it’s a legit Dutch spelling variation, and the reason for it is explained in the story. Odd how everyone else has praised my attention to historical accuracy and detail, including the names I choose. Yet another reason why I went indie.

Jockel is the German nickname; Jaša and Jaka are Slovenian; Jeppe and Ib are Danish; and Jaap, Jaapje, Jaapetje, Jop, Koos, Kobus, Kobe, Coos, and Cobus are Dutch.

The slight variation Jákob is a lesser-used Hungarian form, though the more widely-used Hungarian form is…

2. Jakab. Nicknames for both include Jaksi, Jákó, Jaksa, Jaki, and Koba.

3. Jakub is Polish, Czech, and Slovak, with the cute Polish nickname Kuba. Slovak and Czech nicknames include Jašek, Kuba, Kubík, Kubíček, Jakoubek, and Jakes.

4. Jakov is Serbian, Macedonian, and Croatian. The Serbian and Croatian nickname is Jakša.

5. Japik is Frisian.

6. Jokūbas is Lithuanian.

7. Jēkabs is Latvian.

8. Jakes is Basque.

9. Jaakko is Finnish.

10. Jaakoppi is also Finnish.

11. Jaakob is a third Finnish form, and Estonian. The nickname for all three is Jaska.

12. Jaagup is Estonian. The nickname is Jaak.

13. Jákup is Faroese.

14. Jacobo is Spanish.

15. Jago is Cornish.

16. Jaume is Catalan. The nickname is Jaumet.

17. Jacques is French.

18. Jaques is Jèrriais. Nicknames include Jacot and Jaquinot. An alternate Jèrriais form is Jâcob.

19. Iago is Galician and Welsh, and of course the familiar name of the antagonist of Othello.

20. Jacó is Portuguese.

21. Iakob is Georgian, with the nickname Koba.

22. Yakov is Russian and Bulgarian, with the nickname Yasha. This is one of the irregular patronymics, with the male form Yakovlevich and the feminine Yakovlevna.

23. Yakiv is Ukrainian and Belarusian.

24. Yakub is an alternate Belarusian form, as well as Arabic. The Belarusian and Ukrainian nickname for both Yakiv and Yakub is Yakush.

25. Ya’akov is Hebrew.

26. Akiva is a variant Hebrew form. Rabbi Akiva was a famous First Century scholar who was an illiterate shepherd till he was 40. His wife Rachel saw something special in him, and pushed him to start learning and go off to study. He became a great sage, in spite of having no formal Jewish background or even the ability to read and write.

27. Yankel is Yiddish.

28. Kapel is also Yiddish.

29. Koppel is a third Yiddish form.

30. Jacopo is Italian.

31. Giacobbe is an alternate Italian form.

32. Iacopo is also Italian. The nickname for all three is Lapo.

33. Yaqub is a variant Arabic transliteration.

34. Hagop is Armenian.

35. Hakob is an alternate Armenian form. Eastern and Western Armenian pronounce certain letters differently, and have other significant linguistic differences.

36. Yakup is Turkish.

37. Seumas is Scottish.

38. Iakopa is Hawaiian.

39. Hemi is Maori.

40. Yago is an alternate Spanish form.

41. Iacob is Romanian.

42. Iacov is also Romanian.

43. Iakovos is Greek.

44. Jaimé is Filipino.

45. Yakaŭ is an alternate Belarusian form.

46. Jakobo is Esperanto.

47. Jappe is West Frisian.

48. Jeikobu is Japanese.

49. Küba is Vilamovian, a Germanic language spoken in Poland.

50. Ukba is Aramaic.

51. Xacobe is Galician.

52. Yaghoub is Persian.

53. Yakobo is Swahili.

54. Yaqup is Bashkir, a Turkic language spoken in Russia.

55. Yoqub is Uzbek.

56. Séamus is Irish.

57. Séamas is also Irish.