The Os of Medieval names

Female:

Obedientia (Italian): “Obedient.”

Öborg (Swedish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Øyborg, from Old Norse roots ey (“island” or “good fortune”) and borg (castle).

Odelina (English): Nickname for a feminine form of Otto (fortune, wealth), such as Odilie, Odil, or Oda.

Odfrida (English): Feminine form of Ancient Germanic name Autfrid, from Ancient Germanic root auda (property, wealth) and Old High German root fridu (peace).

Odierna (Italian)

Olisava (Polish, Slavic)

Olova (English)

Ombeline (French): Feminine form of Humbelin, a Medieval nickname for Humbert (bright warrior). Its Ancient Germanic roots are hun (bear cub, warrior) and beraht (bright).

Oneka (Basque): Feminine form of Eneko, from possible roots ene (my) and ko (diminutive suffix).

Onesta (Italian): Either from noun onestà (honesty) or adjective onesta (sincere, honest). The masculine form was Onesto.

Opportuna (French): From Latin root opportunus (favourable, useful, suitable).

Orabile (Italian): From Latin root orabilis (invokable).

Oradina (Italian)

Orbita, Auribita (Basque): Possibly derived from Auria (golden) and Bita.

Orelia (Tuscan and Venetian Italian): Form of Aurelia, from Latin root aureus (gilded, golden).

Oretta (Italian)

Orienta (French): From Latin root oriens (east, rising, sunrise, daybreak, dawn).

Oriolda (English)

Orqina (Mongolian)

Orraca (Portuguese): Form of Spanish and Basque name Urraca, from Spanish word urraca (magpie), and Latin root furax (thievish).

Orsa (Italian): “Bear,” from Latin root ursus.

Orta (Basque): Possibly a feminine form of Orti, and thus a form of Fortuna. A more elaborated form was Ortissa.

Osaba (Basque): “Uncle.”

Osana (Basque): Possibly derived from root otzan (tame) or otso (wolf).

Oseva (English)

Osterlind (German): From Ancient Germanic roots austra (east) and lind (lime, linden tree, lime wood shield; soft, gentle).

Male:

Odder (Swedish): Derived from Old Norse name Oddr (point of a sword).

Oddolf, Oddulf (Swedish): Derived from Old Norse name Uddulfr, with roots oddr and ulfr (wolf).

Odinkar (Swedish): Derived from Old Norse name Óðinkárr, either from Old Danish root othankar/othinkar (raging, easily furious), or Old Norse roots óðr (rage, frenzy, inspiration) and kárr (“curly-haired” or “obstinate; reluctant”).

Ödmar (Swedish): Derived from Ancient Germanic name Audamar, from roots aud (fortune, wealth) and meri (famous).

Olivar (Catalan): Probably a form of Oliver.

Ølvir (Danish), Ølver (Swedish): Derived from Old Norse name Ǫlvér/Alvér, which in turn descends from Aluwīhaz. Its possible roots are allr (entire, all) or aluh (temple), and vér (fighter).

Omobono (Italian): Po Valley dialect for “good man.” This is the name of the patron saint of Cremona, Italy; shoemakers; tailors; and businesspeople. He devoted his life to peacemaking and charity.

Ordoño (Spanish): Possibly derived from Latin root fortunius (fortunate).

Ordulf (German): From Ancient Germanic roots ort (point) and wulf (wolf).

Orendel (Middle High German): Form of Old Norse name Aurvandill, via Old High German Orendil/Orentil. It either means “morning star, morning, beam,” or derives from roots aur (water) andd vandill (sword). Prince Orendel of Trier is the title hero of a 12th century German epic poem.

Orm (English, Danish, Swedish): Derived from Old Norse name Ormr (serpent, snake).

Ormsten (Swedish): Derived from Old Norse name Ormsteinn, from roots ormr and steinn (stone).

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Birth-related names

Seeing as today is my English birthday (my Hebrew birthday was the fifth night of Chanukah, 16–17 December),  here’s a list of names whose meanings relate to the words “birth” and “born.” Many of them are of African origin, particularly from the Akan language.

Unisex:

Abimbola means “born wealthy” in Yoruba.

Abiodun means “born on a festival” in Yoruba.

Abiola means “born in honour” in Yoruba.

Abiona means “born during a journey” in Yoruba.

Anan means “fourth-born child” in Akan, a Central Tano language spoken in Ghana, Benin, and Côte d’Ivoire.

Awotwi means “eighth-born child” in Akan.

Baako means “firstborn child” in Akan.

Dubaku means “eleventh-born child” in Akan.

Enu means “fifth-born child” in Akan.

Idowu means “born after twins” in Yoruba.

Nkruma means “ninth-born child” in Akan.

Nsia means “sixth-born child” in Akan.

Nsonowa means “seventh-born child” in Akan.

Female:

Abena means “born on Tuesday” in Akan.

Abra means “born on Tuesday” in Ewe, a Niger–Congo language spoken in Ghana.

Adwoa means “born on Monday” in Akan.

Afua means “born on Friday” in Akan.

Akinyi means “born in the morning” in Luo, a language spoken in Sudan, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.

Akosua means “born on Sunday” in Akan.

Akua means “born on Wednesday” in Akan.

Ama means “born on Saturday” in Akan.

Antigone is composed of the Greek elements anti (against, compared to, like) and gone (birth). Most people are familiar with this as the name of Oedipus’s firstborn daughter by his mother Jocasta.

Bosede means “born on Sunday” in Yoruba.

Chausiku means “born at night” in Swahili.

Esi means “born on Sunday” in Akan.

Portuguese and Brazilian stage actor Eugénia Câmara, 9 April 1837–28 May 1874

Eugenia is the female form of Eugene, the English, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, and Polish form of the Latin Eugenius, which in turn comes from the Greek Eugenios (well-born).

Other forms of the name include Yevgeniya (Russian), with nicknames including Zhenya, GenyaZhenyushka, and GenyushkaEugènie (French); Eugènia (Catalan); Eugénia (Hungarian and Slovak); Eugênia (Portuguese); Uxía (Galician); Evgenia (Greek); Eukene (Basque); Evgenija (Macedonian); Yevheniya (Ukrainian); Jevgeņija, Jevgēņija, Eiženija (Latvian); Evgeniya (Bulgarian); Eugenija (Lithuanian and Croatian); Evženie (Czech); and Yaŭheniya (Belarusian).

Iphigeneia means “strong-born” in Greek. Most people are familiar with this as the name of Agamemnon and Klytemnestra’s oldest daughter, who in some versions of the story was sacrificed to appease Artemis before the Trojan War, and in others became a priestess who rescued her brother Orestes and their cousin Pylades from being sacrificed to Artemis.

Other forms of the name include Iphigenia (Latin), Efigénia (Portuguese), Efigênia (Brazilian–Portuguese), Iphigénie (French), Ifigeniya (Russian), Ifigénia (Portuguese), Ifigenia (modern Greek), and Efigenia (Italian).

Lindita means “the day is born” in Albanian.

Lumusi means “born face-down” in Ewe.

Muirgen means “born of the sea” in Irish.

Mwanajuma means “born on Friday” in Swahili.

Naliaka means “born during the weeding season” in Luhya, a Bantu language spoken in Kenya.

Oni may mean “born in sacred abode” in Yoruba.

Renata is the feminine Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Slovenian, Polish, and Croatian form of the Latin Renatus (born again). Other forms include Renáta (Slovak, Czech, Hungarian), Renée (French), Renate (German, Dutch, Norwegian), and Rena (English).

Yaa means “born on Thursday” in Akan.

Silent actor Renée Adorée, 30 September 1898–5 October 1933

Male:

Abidemi means “born during father’s absence” in Yoruba.

Abioye means “born into royalty” in Yoruba.

Afolabi means “born into wealth” in Yoruba.

Akpan means “firstborn son” in Ibibio, a language spoken in Nigeria.

Amadi means “seemed destined to die at birth” in Yoruba.

Anuj means “born later, younger” in Sanskrit. This name is traditionally given to a younger brother.

Cináed (KIN-ahj) is a Scottish and Irish name meaning “born of fire.” It’s typically Anglicized as Kenneth, which is also the Anglicization of Coinneach (handsome).

Comhghán (COV-an) means “born together” in Irish.

Diogenes means “born of Zeus” in Greek.

Eoghan may mean “born from the yew tree” in Irish.

Eugene is the male form of Eugenia. Other forms include Eugène (French), Eugen (German, Romanian, Slovak, Czech, Croatian), Eugenio (Spanish) and Italian, Eugeniusz (Polish), Eugenijus (Lithuanian), Ugène (Norman), Yevgeniy (Russian), Evžen (Czech), Eižens, Jevgeņijs, Jevgēņijs (Latvian), Uxío (Galician), Yevhen, Yevheniy (Ukrainian), Owain, Owen (Welsh), Evgeni (Bulgarian), Eugeni (Catalan), and Üschén (Alsatian).

South African writer Eugène Marais, 3 January 1871–29 March 1936

Gwydion means “born of trees” in Welsh.

Jumaane means “born on Thursday” in Swahili.

Kevin is the Anglicized form of the Irish Caoimhín, which in turn is derived from the Old Irish Cóemgein, “kind/gentle/handsome birth.”

Khamisi means “born on Thursday” in Swahili.

Kofi means “born on Friday” in Akan.

Kwabena means “born on Saturday” in Akan.

Kwadwo means “born on Monday” in Akan.

Kwaku means “born on Wednesday” in Akan.

Kwame means “born on Saturday” in Akan.

Kwasi means “born on Sunday” in Akan.

Manoja means “born of the mind” in Sanskrit.

Niraj means “water-born” in Sanskrit.

Nyongesa means “born on Saturday” in Luhya.

Ochieng means “born when the Sun shines” in Luo.

Odhiambo means “born on Afor [a day of the week]” in Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.

Okeke means “born on Eke [a day of the week]” in Igbo.

Okonkwo means “born on Nkwo [a day of the week]” in Igbo.

Okorie means ” born on Orie [a day of the week]” in Igbo.

Omondi means “born early in the morning” in Luo.

Otieno means “born at night” in Luo.

Pankaja means “born of mud” in Sanskrit.

French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist René Descartes, 31 March 1596–11 February 1650

Renato is the male Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Croatian form of Renata. Other forms include Renat (Russian), Renátó (Hungarian), Rinat (Tatar and Bashkir), and René (French, German, Spanish, Czech, Slovak).

Simiyu means “born during the dry season” in Luhya.

Sosigenes means “born safely” in Greek.

Suchart means “born into a good life” in Thai.

Taner means “born at dawn” in Turkish.

Urien means “privileged birth” in Welsh. Unfortunately, this is one of those names which I wouldn’t recommend in the Anglophone world, due to its similarity to the word “urine.”

Wafula means “born during the rainy season” in Luhya.

Wamalwa means “born during the brewing season” in Luhya.

Wanjala means “born during famine” in Luhya.

Wanyonyi means “born during the weeding season” in Luhya.

Wekesa means “born during harvest” in Luhya.

Yao means “born on Thursday” in Ewe.

Yaw means “born on Thursday” in Akan.

Olive names

Oliver has barreled up the U.S. charts in recent years, going from #173 in 2006 to #12 in 2016. The name is #1 in Canada, England and Wales, New Zealand, and Australia. It’s also very popular in Denmark (#4), Finland (#5), Norway (#2), Sweden (#7), Scotland (#3), Iceland (#6), Northern Ireland (#6), Hungary (#21), Ireland (#31), Galicia (#40), and the Czech Republic (#33).

The alternate form Olivér is Hungarian, and Ólíver, or Óliver, is Icelandic.

Olivia has likewise barreled up the U.S. charts, going from #248 in 1985 to a so far three-year reign as #2 from 2014–16. Olive, not too long ago largely written off as a musty old lady name, may be poised to become a replacement for Olivia, the way Jessica supplanted Jennifer and Amelia supplanted Emma supplanted Emily. It fell off the U.S. charts in 1951, and re-entered at #989 in 2007. In 2016, it was #272, while in Australia, it was #90, and in New Zealand, it was #43. In England and Wales, it was #176.

The alternate form Olívia is Hungarian, Slovak, and Portuguese. Ólivía is Icelandic.

There are several possible etymologies for Olivia, among them the possible connection to the Latin word oliva (olive). And though Oliver comes from either an Old Germanic name like Alfher (elf army, elf warrior) or an Old Norse name like Áleifr (ancestor’s descendant; the original form of Olaf), the spelling came to be changed by association with the Latin word oliva.

If the trendiness and popularity of those names puts you off, there are plenty of other forms of these names.

Male:

Oilibhéar is Irish.

Oliber is Gascon. This spelling is considered archaic today.

Ólivar is Faroese.

Oliverio is Latin American–Spanish.

Olivers is Latvian.

Olivey is modern Gascon.

Olivier is French and Dutch.

Oliviero is Italian.

Olivur is Faroese.

Oliwer is Polish.

Oliwier is an alternate Polish form.

Oliwjer is also Polish.

Ölu is Swiss–German.

Female:

Moria was the word for a sacred olive tree in Ancient Greek.

Oliivia is Estonian.

Oliva is Latin.

Olivera is Serbian, Macedonian, and Croatian.

Olivette is French, from the title character of Edmond Audran’s 1879 opera Les Noces d’Olivette.

Oliviana is English, Spanish, and Italian.

Olivie is French and Czech. In Czech, the last two letters are pronounced separately instead of as one.

Olivienne is English.

Oliviera is Italian.

Oliviette is English.

Olivija is Macedonian, Lithuanian, and Croatian. The alternate form Olīvija is Latvian.

Olivina is Faroese.

Oliviya is Bulgarian.

Oliwia is Polish.

Ouliva is Asturian, a language spoken in northern Spain.

Urania and Uranus

Note: The Urania section is edited and fleshed-out from last year’s A to Z post. It was really hard to find anyone from Greek mythology whose name starts with a U (either in the original Greek or Latinized forms), so it was a rather foregone conclusion.

The Muses Urania and Calliope, by Simon Vouet, ca. 1634

Urania (Ourania) is one of the nine Muses, conceived and born when Zeus and Mnemosyne slept together on nine consecutive nights. Some sources name her as the oldest of the Muses. From her mother, she inherited grace and beauty, and from her father, she inherited majesty and power.

She’s the Muse of astronomy, and foretells the future through the stars. Urania most loves those who love philosophy and the heavens. Those who’ve been taught by her are raised into the heavens, since the power of thoughts and imagination lift the human soul to heavenly heights.

Urania, by Giuseppe Fagnani, 1869

Urania wears a cloak embroidered with stars, and a crown of stars. She’s also usually depicted with a celestial globe, to which she points with a staff. Urania keeps her eyes focused on the stars, her realm.

Some sources name her as the mother of musician Linus (by Apollo), and the god Hymenaeus (by Dionysus). Hymenaeus is the winged god of marriage ceremonies, song, and inspiring feasts. He was supposed to attend every wedding, for if he didn’t, the marriage would be a disaster.

In the Renaissance, she became a popular Muse for poets.

Urania is derived from ouranios, “heavenly.”

Uranus (Ouranos) is one of the fifteen primordial deities. He represents the sky, and was asexually conceived by his mother Gaia. Other sources cite his father as Aether, the personification of upper air; still other sources name his parents as Aether and Hemera (personification of day), or cite his mother as Nyx (personification of night).

Since the Greek deities were one big dysfunctional family, Uranus later married Gaia and had many children with her—the Titans, the Giants, the Cyclopses, the Furies, the Meliae (ash tree nymphs), and the Hecatoncheires (Hundred-Handed Ones).

Every night, Uranus coupled with Gaia, but he hated all his kids, and began hiding them deep in Tartarus, causing great pain to Gaia. Since she personified the Earth, these kids were in her physical body and unable to get out. Hoping to end this situation, Gaia made an adamantine sickle and told Kronos to lie in wait to ambush Uranus.

Detail of The Mutiliation of Uranus by Saturn, by Giorgio Vasari

Kronos leapt out and castrated Uranus next time he came to couple with Gaia. Aphrodite was born from the severed genitals falling into the sea, and the blood drops falling to the ground created the Giants, the Meliae, and the Furies. Some sources say the blood also birthed the Telchines, the original inhabitants of Rhodes.

After Uranus’s overthrow, Kronos re-imprisoned the Hecatoncheires and Cyclopses in Tartarus. Gaia and Uranus told him he’d be overthrown by his own children, so Kronos swallowed each at birth to prevent this. Only Zeus avoided this fate, due to his mother Rhea and grandmother Gaia’s clever thinking.

On 13 March 1781, the seventh planet was discovered and named after Uranus.

Uranus, like Urania, is derived from ouranios, “heavenly.”

Orithyia and Orestes

Orithyia (Oreithyia) is the daughter of King Erechtheus and Queen Praxithea of Athens. Boreas, the god of the north wind, lusted after her, but Orithyia rebuffed his advances. Since violence came naturally to Boreas, he decided to rape her.

One day, while Orithyia was playing by the river Ilisos, Boreas absconded with her and took her to Sarpedon’s Rock, near Thrace’s Erginos River. After her arrival, Boreas wrapped her in a cloud and raped her. This forced union produced four children, daughters Chione and Kleopatra, and sons Kalais and Zetes.

The girls became wind nymphs, and the boys were known as the Boreads, wind brothers. Her sons later grew wings like Boreas, and joined the Argonauts to look for the Golden Fleece.

The Abduction of Orithyia, in the style of Francesco Solimena, 1730

Aeschylos wrote a satyr play (akin to burlesque) about Orithyia’s rape, which is now lost. Plato also mentioned her, claiming a potential realistic explanation for her story. A gust of northern wind on the rocks of Ilisos may have killed her, and the people believed she was taken away by Boreas. In another account, Plato suggests she were taken from the Areopagus, a prominent rock outcropping by the Acropolis, where murderers were tried.

Orithyia later became the goddess of cold mountain winds. The Athenians prayed and made sacrifices to Orithyia and Boreas during the Greco–Persian Wars.

Oreithyia (Orithyia) is derived from the elements oreios (of the mountains) and thyias (possessed, inspired woman).

The Remorse of Orestes, a.k.a. Orestes Pursued by the Furies, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1862

Orestes is one of the four children of King Agamemnon and Queen Klytemnestra of Mycenae. According to Homer, he was in Athens when his famous father returned from the Trojan War, and thus absent when his mother murdered his father. Seven years later, Orestes came home to avenge his father’s death, and killed both his mother and her lover Aegisthus.

According to the awesome poet Pindar, Orestes was shuttled out of Mycenae by either his sister Elektra or his nurse Laodamia (Arsinoe) when Klytemnestra wanted to kill him. He found refuge in the village of Phanote (now Raveni), on the right bank of the river Thyamis and on Mount Parnassos. King Strophios of Phokis took care of him, and Orestes became bosom buddies with Prince Pylades. Orestes and Pylades are also cousins.

The Return of Orestes, by Anton von Maron, 1786

When Orestes was twenty, his sister Elektra urged him to come home to avenge their father’s murder. Apollo also urged him to do the deed. Orestes came home with Pylades. After committing matricide, Orestes went mad, and the Furies began pursuing him. It was the Furies’ job to punish anyone who’d violated familial ties.

Orestes sought shelter in the temple of Delphi, but to no avail. Finally, Athena admitted him to the Acropolis in Athens and arranged a trial before twelve judges, herself included. The Furies wouldn’t relent, but Orestes maintained he did the right thing, and that Apollo ordered it.

Athena was the last judge to vote, and chose acquittal. The votes were tied, thus resulting in acquittal. To show his gratitude, Orestes dedicated an altar to Athena. According to Euripides, Orestes’s punishment continued even after his acquittal, as Apollo ordered him to go to Tauris, take Artemis’s fallen statue, and bring it to Athens. This quest was meant to provide escape from the Furies.

Pylades and Orestes Brought as Victims before Iphigenia, by Benjamin West, 1766

In Tauris, both Orestes and Pylades were imprisoned, since the Tauris custom was to sacrifice all Greek strangers to Artemis. The priestess entrusted with the sacrifice was none other than Iphigenia, Orestes’s sister. She offered to release him if he brought a letter home. Orestes refused, but begged Pylades to do it for him. In the end, all three of them escaped together with the statue.

Back in Mycenae, Orestes took the throne and killed Aegisthus’s son Aletes. Argos and Lakonia were added to the kingdom. He died of a snakebite in Arkadia.

Orestes means “mountaineer,” and is derived from orestias, “from the mountains,” and oros, “mountain.”