The many forms of Mary, and its plethora of nicknames

The Umileniye (Tenderness) ikon, believed to show Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, before which the popular St. Serafim of Sarov, Russia was fond of praying

Mary, the #1 female name in the U.S. from 1880–1946, #2 from 1947–52, #1 again from 1953–61, #2 again from 1962–65, in the Top 10 until 1971, and in the Top 20 until 1975, now positively feels like a breath of fresh air and an original choice after falling to #127.

This historically most common of all female names, across many languages, likewise was #1 for many years in Canada and other parts of the Anglophone world, but has now either fallen off the charts or diminished greatly in popularity.

Mary is to older generations what Jennifer is to my generation—you’ve known too many to count, since the name was so ubiquitous. (On a side note, I honestly can’t think of a single bad Jennifer I’ve ever known or known of. I have universally good associations with the name.)

This name has such a sweet simplicity, works well on all ages, and isn’t associated with just one type of girl or woman. It’s a truly timeless classic, borne by so many incredible women throughout history. Though I’m not Christian, I also find the image of Mary as a loving, universal mother figure very touching.

Mary Pickford, one of my favourite female actors of the silent era, and one of the most powerful women in Hollywood in her day

Other forms of this venerable name include:

1. Maria is German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Scandinavian, Catalan, Occitan, Dutch, Faroese, Basque, Sardinian, Corsican, Finnish, Romanian, Polish, Greek, Frisian, and English. Nicknames include Mitzi, Mia, Ria, Marita, Maja, Mariele, Meike, Mareike (German); Mariella, Marietta, Mimi (Italian); Mariona, Ona (Catalan); Mariazinha (Portuguese); Marzena, Maja, Marylka, Marika, Mania, Marysia, Marynia (Polish); Majken, Mia, My, Maja, Maiken (Scandinavian); Maike, Mareike (Frisian); Miep, Mies, Mieke, Ria, Mia, Meike, Marita, Mariska, Marike, Maaike, Marieke, Marijke, Mariëlle, Mariëtte (Dutch); Marietta, Marika (Greek); Marjatta, Maritta, Marika, Marita, Maarika, Marjukka, Marjut (Finnish); and Maia (Basque).

The alternate form María is Icelandic (nickname Mæja), Spanish (nicknames Marita, Maritza), and Galician (nickname Maruxa). Mária is Hungarian (nicknames Mariska, Marika, Marietta, Mari, Marica) and Slovak (nicknames Maja, Marika).

2. Marie is French and Czech. The Czech name pronounces the last two letters separately instead of as one. Nicknames include Marise, Manon, Marielle, Mariette, Marion (French) and Maja, Marika, Madlenka, Maruška, Mařenka, Majka, Máňa, Mánička, Márinka (Czech).

The awesome Queen Marie of Romania

3. Mariya is Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian. Nicknames include Manya, Masha, Marusya, Manyechka, Manyenka, Marusha, and Mashenka.

4. Mari is Breton, Welsh, Finnish, Estonian, and Scandinavian. Estonian nicknames include Maarika, Marika, and Mare.

5. Miriam is the original Hebrew form.

6. Mirjam is Hungarian, Dutch, German, Slovenian, Estonian, and Finnish. Nicknames include Miri (Hungarian) and Jaana, Mirja (Finnish).

7. Mariam is Armenian and Georgian.

8. Maryam is Arabic and Persian.

9. Mariami is Georgian.

10. Maryya is Belarusian.

Empress Maria Theresa

11, Meryem is Uyghur and Turkish.

12. Maryamu is Hausa, a Chadic language spoken in much of Western Africa.

13. Marja is Sorbian, Finnish, and Dutch. The alternate form Márjá is Sami.

14. Marija is Latvian, Lithuanian, Slovenian, Serbian, Macedonian, and Croatian. Nicknames include Mojca, Marica, Maja, Maša, and Mare.

15. Mele is Hawaiian and Samoan.

16. Mere is Maori.

17. Moirrey is Manx.

18. Màiri is Scottish.

19. Mair is Welsh.

20. Máire is Irish. Nicknames include Máirin and Mairenn.

Grand Duchess Mariya Nikolayevna of Russia, third daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Aleksandra

21. Miren is Basque.

22. Maarja is Estonian.

23. Malia is Hawaiian.

24. Mirjami is Finnish.

25. Marij is West Frisian and Dutch.

26. Miriama is Fijian and Maori.

27. Mareia is Romansh.

28. Mariamu is Swahili.

29. Maryat is Chechen.

30. Maryja is Vilamovian.

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The many Emil- names

Armenian–Austrian mathematician Emil Artin

The Roman family name Aemilius, derived from the Latin word aemulus (rival), has given rise to a number of both feminine and masculine names commonly used in the Indo–European and Finno–Ugric languages. While researching this post, I discovered far more forms of these names than I’d expected to.

Female:

1. Emily is English. It only came into widespread use after Germany’s House of Hanover rose to the British throne in the 18th century. Princess Amelia Sophia was usually called Emily in English, though Amelia is etymologically unrelated. The name was in the Top 100 in the U.S. from 1880–99, ducked back in from 1901–02 and 1913–16, and then began sinking in popularity.

During the Sixties, it began jumping up the charts, and landed at #1 in 1996. It was dethroned by Emma in 2008, though it’s still in the Top 10. It’s #1 in Ireland and Northern Ireland; #2 in Scotland; #3 in Canada and England and Wales; and #7 in Australia and New Zealand. The name has also become popular in countries where it’s not a traditional name in the national language, such as Chile, The Netherlands, Italy, and the Czech Republic.

U.S. poet Emily Dickinson

2. Emilia is Italian, Spanish, Scandinavian, German, Dutch, Finnish, Romanian, Polish, and English. It’s #102 in the U.S., and rising fast as the next replacement for Emily and Emma. The alternate form Emília is Hungarian, Slovak, and Portuguese. Emilía is Icelandic.

3. Emilie is German and Scandinavian. This was the name of Oskar Schindler’s wife. The alternate form Émilie is French, and Emílie is Czech.

4. Emilija is Slovenian, Macedonian, Lithuanian, Serbian, and Croatian. The alternate form Emīlija is Latvian.

5. Emiliya is Russian and Bulgarian.

6. Emiliana is Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. The alternate form Emilíana is Icelandic.

7. Émilienne is French.

8. Eimíle is Irish.

9. Aimel is Manx.

10. Emere is Maori.

11. Emilinia is Filipino.

12. Emilene is Basque.

13. Emilijana is Serbian and Croatian.

14. Emille is a rare Basque form.

15. Imîlia is Greenlandic.

16. Aimilia is Greek.

Polish soldier and national shero Emilia Gierczak, 25 February 1925–17 March 1945

Male:

1. Emil is German, Scandinavian, Polish, Russian, Slovenian, Romanian, Czech, Bulgarian, Slovak, Hungarian, Serbian, Macedonian, Icelandic, English, Arabic, Azeri,  and Croatian. The name is #5 in Norway, and #4 in Denmark.

2. Émile is French.

3. Emīls is Latvian.

4. Emilis is Lithuanian.

5. Emilio is Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

6. Emiel is Dutch.

7. Emilios is Greek.

8. Aimilios is also Greek.

9. Eemil is Finnish.

10. Eemili is also Finnish.

11. Emilli is Basque.

12. Emili is Catalan.

13. Émilien is French.

14. Emiliano is Italian and Spanish.

15. Emilian is Romanian.

French writer Émile Zola

16. Yemelyan is Russian.

17. Omelyan is Ukrainian.

18. Emilijus is Lithuanian.

19. Emilius is the official Dutch form.

20. Emiliy is Russian.

21. Emeliane is Georgian.

22. Emilianus is another official Dutch form.

23. Emilijan is Serbian and Croatian.

24. Emiliyan is Bulgarian.

25. Emiljano is Albanian.

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.

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.

My favorite forms of Theodore

Theodore is probably my third-favoritest male name of all time, after only Samuel and Peter. If I ever have children, and I have at least three boys, I’ll name the third Theodore, in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt. I’ve just always adored the name, and the nickname Teddy. It also has a lot of awesome foreign variants. My favorites include:

1. Fyodor. This is the Russian form, which some people erroneously transliterate as Fedor or Feodor. The Russian letter Ë transliterates as YO, not E or EO. The modern transliteration Fyodor makes the pronunciation so obvious and immediately clear, whereas Fedor and Feodor suggest much different pronunciations to me. I also love the nickname Fedya, which has cute superdiminutives including Fedyushka, Fedyushenka, and Fedyushechka.

2. Teodor. This is the spelling used in much of Central, Eastern, Southern, and Northern Europe. I’m particularly fond of the Polish nickname Dorek.

3. Théodore. This is the French version. I’m a sucker for names with accent marks.

4. Todor. This is the Macedonian, Serbian, and Bulgarian form.

5. Theodor. This is the German form.

6. Teodoro. This is the Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese form.

7. Tivadar. This is the Hungarian form. An alternate version is Tódor.

8. Fedir. This is the Ukrainian form.

9. Teodoras. This is the Lithuanian form.

10. Tudor. This is the Romanian form, and apparently quite popular at the moment.