All about the name Alexander

Copyright Юрий Абрамочкин (Yuriy Abramochkin)

In loving memory of my favourite writer, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, on what would’ve been his 99th birthday, I decided to have a post about his lovely name. I had a previous post about my favourite forms of the name, but that didn’t include all forms, nor did it include much background information.

Alexander is the Latinized form of the Greek Alexandros, which means “defender of man.” It’s composed of the elements alexo (to defend/help) and aner (andros in the genitive case) (man). As almost everyone knows, its most famous bearer has been Alexander the Great of Macedonia, who rose to become emperor of Greece, Egypt, Persia, and parts of India.

Alexander the Great’s fame and popularity was such that his name became widespread through many of the areas he’d conquered and ruled. Through the ages, famous bearers of the name in its various forms have included kings, emperors, tsars, popes, politicians, writers, scientists, inventors, explorers, artists, philosophers, and athletes.

Alexander the Great was also a fellow lefty!

Alexander was in the lower reaches of the U.S. Top 100 from 1880–96, and crept back into those ranges a number of times again over the years. It slowly began sinking in popularity in 1918, with a few years when it slightly rose in popularity. Its lowest rank was #233 in 1959.

After this, it began a nearly uninterrupted steady climb into the Top 10. Its highest rank was #4 in 2009. In 2011, it was #11.

The name is also popular in Iceland (#2), Canada (#6), Sweden (#7), Scotland (#8), Austria  and Australia (#9 in both), Mexico (#13), Denmark (#16), England and Wales (#21), Belgium (#22), Norway and New Zealand (both #30), Switzerland (#35), Ireland and Northern Ireland (#46 in both), Chile (#56), The Netherlands (#79), Poland (#93), the Czech Republic (#94), Hungary (#98), and Italy (#109).

Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, the future Empress Aleksandra of Russia, before so much sadness began invading her life

The feminine form Alexandra is also quite common, though not as much as its male counterpart. It entered the U.S. Top 100 at #945 in 1915, immediately dropped out the next year, returned at #992 in 1934, again dropped out, was #941 in 1936, and finally entered long-term at #866 in 1938.

The name slowly climbed to the Top 100, with some quite large leaps in the early Eighties. Its highest rank was #26 in 1995 and 1996. Alexandra’s popularity slowly diminished, and by 2016, it was #110.

Alexander is used in English, Greek, the Scandinavian languages, Icelandic, Hungarian, German, Dutch, and Slovak. Alexandra is used in English, German, Dutch, French, Hungarian, Portuguese, Greek, Icelandic, Italian, Spanish, the Scandinavian languages, Slovak, Czech, and Romanian.

U.S. inventor Alexander Graham Bell

Other forms of Alexander:

1. Aleksandr is Russian, Ukranian, and Armenian. Russian nicknames include Sasha, Sanya (my favourite writer’s own nickname), Shura, Sanyechka, Sashenka, Shurik, Sashura, and Shuryenka.

2. Aleksander is Polish, Estonian, Slovenian, Danish, and Norwegian. The variation Aleksandër is Albanian. Nicknames include Aleks and Olek (Polish); Sander and Alex (Norwegian and Danish); Sašo, Saša, Sandi, Aleks, and Aleš (Slovenian); and Skender (Albanian).

3. Alyaksandr is Belarusian.

4. Alexandru is Romanian, with the nicknames Sandu and Alex.

5. Aleksandar is Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian, and Croatian. Nicknames include Sasho (Bulgarian and Macedonian); Saša (Serbian and Croatian); Sandi (Croatian); Ace (Macedonian); and Aco and Aca (Serbian and Macedonian).

6. Alessandro is Italian.

7. Aleksandro is Esperanto, with the nickname Aleĉjo.

8. Alexandre is French, Galician, Catalan, and Portuguese.

9. Aleksandrs is Latvian.

10. Aleksanteri is Finnish, with nicknames including Ale, Samppa, Santeri, and Santtu.

French writer Alexandre Dumas père

11. Alesander is Basque.

12. Aleksandras is Lithuanian.

13. Alasdair is Scottish. It’s most often Anglicized as Alastair.

14. Aleksandur is Faroese.

15. Aleksantare is Greenlandic.

16. Alagsantere is also Greenlandic.

17. Alekanekelo is Hawaiian.

18. Alessandru is Sardinian.

19. Alexandro is Brazilian–Portuguese and Spanish.

20. Alissandru is Sicilian.

Pope Alexander VII, né Fabio Chigi, 13 February 1599–22 May 1667

21. Alyksandr is Abkhaz and Ossetian.

22. Alyok is Mordvin.

23. Alastar is Irish.

24. Aleksandre is Georgian, with the nickname Sandro.

25. Alexandr is Czech, with the nickname Aleš.

26. Alexandros is Greek, with the nickname Alekos.

27. Eskender is Amharic.

28. Iskandar is Arabic, Indonesian, and Malaysian.

29. Sándor (SHAHN-dor) is Hungarian. One of the nicknames is Sanyi.

30. Sikandar is Pashto and Urdu.

Tsar Aleksandr II of Russia

31. Eskandar is Persian.

32. Alejandro is Spanish.

33. Sender is Yiddish.

34. Oleksandr is Ukrainian, with nicknames including Olek, Oles, and Sasha.

35. Chandy is Malayalam, a language spoken in India.

36. Eskendir is Kazakh.

37. Isgandar is Azeri.

38. Îskenderê is Kurdish.

39. Jinoquio is Romany Caló.

40. İskender is Turkish.

King Alexander of Greece, 1 August 1893–25 October 1920

41. Lixandro is Aragonese.

42. Lisandru is Sardinian and Corsican.

43. Lexu is Swiss–German.

44. Santӑr is Chuvash.

45. Xandru is Maltese.

Other forms of Alexandra:

1. Aleksandra is Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Polish, Slovenian, Serbian, Macedonian, Estonian, Latvian, Albanian, and Croatian. Its Russian nicknames are the same as those for Aleksandr. Sasha is also a Ukrainian nickname. Others include Sanda (Croatian), Saša (Slovenian and Croatian), Lesya and Alesya (Ukrainian), Ola (Polish), and Sashka (Macedonian and Bulgarian).

Queen Alexandra of England, née Princess of Denmark

2. Alexandrine is French and German.

3. Alexandrie is French.

4. Alessandra is Italian.

5. Alesandere is a rare, modern Basque name.

6. Alejandra is Spanish.

7. Aletsandra is Occitan.

8. Alyaksandra is Belarusian.

9. Alissandra is Sicilian.

10. Oleksandra is Ukrainian.

11. Alexandria is English. I always preferred this name with long As.

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All about the name John

In honour of John Lennon’s 37th Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I felt it would be fitting to do a post about this most historically common of all male names, in just about every single language.

John comes from the Hebrew Yochanan, which means “God is gracious.” Its massive popularity over the ages originated thanks to John the Baptist and John the Apostle (traditionally-attributed author of the fourth Gospel and Book of Revelations).

Initially, the name was more common among Eastern Christians in the Byzantine Empire, but it took off like wildfire in the West after the First Crusade. It was particularly popular in England, where roughly a fifth of all boys received this name during the Late Middle Ages.

U.S. President John Quincy Adams, 11 July 1767–23 February 1848

Over the centuries, the name John, in all its linguistic variations, has been borne by countless writers, musicians, artists, scientists, philosophers, emperors, kings, popes, military leaders, politicians, and countless other types of people.

John was #1 in the U.S. from 1880–1923, and remained in the Top 5 until 1972. It was in the Top 10 until 1986, and the Top 20 until 2008. As of 2016, it was #28, a rank it previously held in 2012. The name has never charted any lower than this, though it feels like a breath of fresh air and original choice these days.

English poet John Keats, as painted by William Hilton, Halloween 1795–23 February 1821

Though it’s been a good many years since John was as common and popular as it once was, its continued presence in the Top 30 is a credit to its enduring appeal. It also still enjoys respectable popularity in Ireland (#28), Northern Ireland (#44), Scotland (#56), Canada (also #56), New Zealand (#85), Sweden (#87), Australia (#97), and England and Wales (#120).

John also used to be very popular in Norway, with a high rank of #10 in 1947. It fluctuated in popularity over the years, fell off the Top 100 in 2003, came back the next year, and then fell off again.

King John of England, 24 December 1166–19 October 1216, painted by Matthew Paris

Other forms of the name include:

1. Ivan is Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Slovenian, Czech, Slovak, Serbian, Croatian, Belarusian, Bosnian, Italian, Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish. The variation Iván is Spanish and Hungarian. The proper pronunciation, Ee-VAHN, is so beautiful, but the Anglo EYE-vinn just throws this gorgeous name away.

Nicknames include Vanya, Vanyechka, Vanyushka, Vanyusha, Vanyushechka, and Ivanko (Russian); Ivo, Vancho, Yanko (Bulgarian); Ivica, Ivo (Serbian and Croatian); and Vančo, Ivo (Macedonian).

Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, my fourth-favourite writer, 28 October/9 November 1818–3 September 1883

2. Ioann is the older Russian form.

3. Iwan is Polish and Welsh. The Polish one pronounces the W like a V.

4. Ivane is Georgian. The nickname is Vano.

5. Ioane is the older Georgian form.

6. Giannis is modern Greek.

7. Giovanni is Italian. Nicknames include Gianni, Gian, Vanni, and Giannino.

8. Gjon is Albanian.

9. Ion is Romanian and Basque. Romanian nicknames include Iancu, Ionuţ, Ionel, and Nelu.

10. Jon is Basque and Scandinavian. The variation Jón is Icelandic and Faroese. This is #4 in Iceland.

11. Ioan is Welsh and Romanian.

12. Joan is Catalan and Occitan.

13. Ganix is Basque.

14. João is Portuguese. This name is #2 in Portugal.

15. Yoan is Bulgarian.

Giovanni Boccaccio, author of The Decameron, 16 June 1313–21 December 1375, engraved 1822 by Raffaello Sanzio Morghen in the style of Vincenzo Gozzini

16. Jowan is Cornish.

17. Yahya is Persian, Arabic, and Turkish.

18. Janusz is Polish. One of the nicknames is Janek.

19. Johan is Dutch and Scandinavian. Nicknames include Hans, Hannes, Janne (Swedish); Hanke, Hanne, Hannes, Hans, Joop, Jo (Dutch); Jannik, Jannick, Hans (Danish); and Hans (Norwegian).

20. Jens is Scandinavian.

21. Jan is Scandinavian, Dutch, Catalan, Czech, Slovenian, German, and Polish. The variation Ján is Slovak, with the nickname Janko.

22. Yann is Breton, with the nickname Yannig.

23. Johann is German, with the familiar nickname Hans. The variation Jóhann is Icelandic.

24. Johannes is German, Dutch, Scandinavian, Estonian, and Finnish. The variant Jóhannes is Icelandic and Faroese.

25. Juhan is Estonian. The alternate form Juhán is Northern Sami.

German scientist and mathematician Johannes Kepler, 27 December 1571–15 November 1630

26. Juanne is Sardinian.

27. Giuanne is also Sardinian.

28. Yohanes is Indonesian.

29. Hovhannes is Armenian. Nicknames include Hovik and Hovo.

30. Ohannes is also Armenian.

31. Ghjuvan is Corsican.

32. Ean is Manx.

33. Juan is Spanish and Manx, with different pronunciations.

34. Xuan is Asturian.

35. Jaan is Estonian.

German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, 21/31 March 1685–28 July 1750, painted by Elias Gottlob Haussmann

36. Jean is French.

37. János is Hungarian, with nicknames including Jani and Jancsi.

38. Juhana is Finnish, with nicknames including Juho, Juha, Jussi, Jukka, Hannes, and Hannu.

39. Janne is also Finnish.

40. Joni is Finnish and Fijian.

41. Jani is also Finnish.

42. Juhani is another Finnish form.

43. Jouni is also Finnish.

44. Johano is Esperanto, with the nickname Joĉjo.

45. Yan is Belarusian.

French philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 28 June 1712–2 July 1778, painted by Maurice Quentin de La Tour

46. Yann is Breton and French.

47. Jovan is Macedonian and Serbian.

48. Xoán is Galician.

49. Jóannes is Faroese.

50. Keoni is Hawaiian.

51. Jānis is Latvian.

52. Jonas is Lithuanian.

53. Sjang is Limburgish.

54. Sjeng is also Limburgish.

55. Chuan is Aragonese.

Spanish artist Joan Miró, 20 April 1893–25 December 1983

56. Gensch is Sorbian.

57. Ghjuvanni is Corsican.

58. Gian is Romansh and Swiss–German.

59. Gioann is Piedmontese.

60. Ġwann is Maltese.

61. Hoani is Maori.

62. Hone is also Maori.

63. Jardani is Caló Romany.

64. Jeian is Filipino.

65. Sione is Tongan.

Romanian writer Ion Creangă, 1837/39–31 December 1889

66. Tihoti is Tahitian.

67. Xán is Galician.

68. Yehya is Uyghur.

69. Yohana is Swahili.

70. Yohannes is Amharic.

71. Jaqiya is Kazakh.

72. Iefan is Welsh. The more familiar Anglicization is Evan.

73. Ifan is also Welsh, with the nickname Ianto.

74. Ioannis is modern Greek.

75. Eoin is Scottish and Irish.

Polish sci-fi writer Janusz Andrzej Zajgel, 15 August 1938–19 July 1985

76. Seán is Irish.

77. Iain is Scottish.

78. Ian is also Scottish.

79. Siôn is Welsh.

80. Yoann is Breton and French.

81. Giuàn is Lombard.

82. Giuvanni is Sicilian.

83. Yovaan is Tamil.

84. Hankin is a Medieval English nickname.

85. Jankin is another Medieval English nickname.

86. Jackin is a variation of Jankin, and the origin of the nickname Jack.

When Y replaces I

Another of my favourite onomastic letter swaps is that of I for Y. This occurs in many Polish and Ukrainian names, and is an easy way to spot a Polish name in particular. I also love when this switch occurs at the beginning of a name. It’s so unexpected, and really adds a special something to make a name truly stand out. When Y occurs as the first letter, it tends to be in older Spanish and French names, though a few are also Dutch and Scandinavian.

Some fellow name nerds, who often act more like name snobs, might think this looks illiterate and/or like a kreatyv spylyng, but that attitude just reveals how narrow their view is. A legitimate spelling variation may have been chosen because the parents wanted to honour their ethnic heritage or a particular person by that name. Perhaps they also just liked how it looked.

Besides, many of these names aren’t exactly in the Top 100. I don’t think anyone choosing them, in any spelling, is trying to be trendy.

Female:

Albertyna

Augustyna

Beatrycze is the only female Polish name ending in E.

Benedykta

Brygida

Cecylia

Celestyna

Edyta

Ernestyna

Eryka

Felicyta

Florentyna

Fryderyka

Geraldyna

Halyna

Henryka

Iryna

Izydora, Isydora

Judyta

Justyna

Kateryna, Katarzyna, Kataryna

Klarysa

Klementyna

Krystyna, Khrystyna, Krystiana

Larysa

Lucyna

Marharyta

Martyna

Maryna

Matylda

Mykhayla, Mykhaila

Myroslava

Otylia

Patrycja

Rozyna

Sybilla

Sydonia

Ulryka

Valentyna, Walentyna

Vasylyna

Władysława

Ydoya is a variant of the Spanish Idoya, which may mean “pond” in Basque.

Ygraine is a variant of Igraine, King Arthur’s mother. It was used in the BBC series Merlin (2008–12).

Ylane

Yleana

Ylenia

Ylse

Ymbjørg is a regional Norwegian form of Ingeborg, which means “Ing saves/helps/rescues.”

Ynez, Ynes, Ynès

Yngva

Yngveig

Yngvil, Yngvill (Ing’s battle)

Yngvör, Yngvor (Ing’s spring)

Ysabeau

Ysabella

Ysabelle, Ysabel, Ysbal

Ysabet

Ysaline

Ysanda

Ysanne

Ysemay

Ysentrud means “iron strength” in Ancient Germanic.

Yseult, Ysolt, Yseut

Ysidra

Ysmaine

Ysoria

Yvaine

Yveline

Yveta, Yvetta

Yvette

Yvonne

Yvonni

Ywona

Yxta

Yzavela

Zozyma

Zygfryda

Zyta

Male:

Alaryk

Augustyn

Benedykt

Borys

Bożydar

Celestyn

Cyryl

Davyd

Denys

Dmytro

Eryk

Ferdynand

Floryn, Florentyn

Fryderyk

Gavrylo

Henryk

Izydor

Justyn

Klymentiy

Korbyn

Kostyantyn

Kryspin, Kryspinian, Kryspus

Krystyn, Krystian

Krzysztof

Kyrylo

Maksym

Maksymilian

Martyn

Maurycy

Mykhayil, Mykhaylo, Mykhailo

Mykola is the Ukrainian form of Nikolas.

Mykyta is the Ukrainian form of Niketas.

Narcyz

Patryk

Pylyp is the Ukrainian form of Philip.

Roderyk

Ryszard

Seweryn

Spyrydon

Szymon

Tymon

Tymoteusz

Tytus

Ulryk

Valentyn

Vasyl

Volodymyr is the Ukrainian form of Vladimir.

Władysław

Ygnacio

Ylan, Ylann

Ymbert

Yngvar

Yngve

Ysbert is the West Frisian form of Isbert, which means “bright ice” in Ancient Germanic.

Ysbrand means “iron wolf” and “ice wolf” in Dutch. The West Frisian forms are Ysbrân and Yssebrand.

Ysidro

Yves

Yvo

Yvor

Zygfryd

Zygmunt

When Z replaces S

I love the flair and extra personality brought to a name when Z is used in place of S. Whereas names using K instead of C tend to be from a wider range of languages, switching out S for Z seems to be mostly a feature of Slavic languages, Hungarian, Armenian, Lithuanian, and Latvian.

Elizabeth seems about evenly split. A Z is used in English, Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Slovenian, Polish, and Croatian, while S is used in most other languages’ versions.  Over time, I’ve grown to far prefer the spelling Elisabeth, and love variants such as Eliisabet, Elisabeta, and Elisabetta.

Names using Z in place of the S expected in the Anglophone world include:

Female:

Anastazija, Anastazie, Anastázia, Anasztázia

Izabella, Izabela, Izabelė

Izaura

Izida (most Slavic languages’ form of Isis), Izīda (Latvian form), Izidė (Lithuanian form), Izyda (Polish form)

Izolda

Izydora, Izidóra

Jazmín

Jozefa, Jožefa, Józefa

Jozefina, Józefina, Jozefína, Jozefien, Jozefine

Jozette

Jozina, Jozine, Jozien

Kazimiera, Kazimira

Luiza, Louiza

Roza, Róža, Róża, Ruža, Róza, Rožė, Růžena

Rozalia, Rozalija, Rozalie, Rozália, Rozālija, Rozálie

Tereza, Terezie, Teréz, Terézia, Terezija

Zabel (Armenian form of Isabella)

Zofia, Zsófia, Žofia, Žofie

Zsuzsanna, Zuzana, Zuzanna, Zane

Male:

Ambroży, Ambrož, Ambrozije

Anastazy

Izaak, Izsák, Izaäk, Izák, Izak, Izaokas

Izaiaš, Izaija

Izydor, Izidorius

Jozef, Józef, Jožef, József, Jozefo

Jozias

Jozue (Czech and Slovak form of Joshua), Jozuė (Lithuanian form)

Kazimir, Kazimierz, Kázmér, Kazimír, Kazimieras

Zelig

Zurab (Georgian form of Sohrab, which means “shining” or “red water” in Persian)

Zygfryd

Zygmunt, Zikmund, Zsigmond, Žigmund, Žiga

Fearful, terrifying names

What better theme for Halloween names than fear and terror?

Unisex:

Jigme means “no fear” in Bhutanese.

Female:

Alruna is a German name with several possible etymologies, including “secret terror.”

Ótta is an Icelandic name derived from the Old Icelandic word ótti, “fear, dread, terror.”

Paventia, or Paventina, was a Roman goddess who protected children from fears and comforted the frightened. The name derives from the Latin word pavor, “fear.”

Male:

Agnar is an Icelandic and Norwegian name derived from the Old Norse Agnarr, which can mean “terror warrior.”

Amund is a Norwegian name derived from the Old Norse Agmundr, which can mean “protection from terror.”

Atreus means “fearless” in Greek.

Deimos means “terror” in Greek.

Gardomir can mean “fearsome peace” in Polish.

Khasar means “a fearsome dog” in Mongolian.

Łękosław means “fear of glory” in Polish.

Neboje means “fearless” in Serbian.

Óinn is an Old Norse name meaning “to be frightened.”

Óttarr roughly means “terror army” or “fear army” in Icelandic.

Strachomir roughly means “to fear peace” in Polish.

Strachosław roughly means “to fear glory” in Polish.

Strahinja means “dread, fear” in Serbian and Croatian.

Uggr means “fear, apprehension” in Old Norse.