A name that fathered multitudes

Last known photo of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln alive

Abraham, a name many consider extremely old-fashioned, stodgy, geriatric, and/or religious, has never been quite as unpopular as its image suggests. While it’s never been Top 100 in the U.S. since records began being kept in 1880, it’s never sunk below #499 in 1967 either. Its highest rank to date was #124 in 1911. Abraham is currently on a surprising, gradual up-and-up, ranking at #164 in 2018.

The name is used in English, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, and the Scandinavian languages. The alternate form Ábrahám is Hungarian, and Ábraham is Faroese.. Its original form is the Hebrew Avraham (father of many/multitudes). While it’s long been popular in the Jewish world, it didn’t become common in Christendom till the Protestant Reformation.

Because Avraham and his wife Sarah were the founders of the Jewish nation, all converts’ Hebrew names end in bat/ben Avraham v’Sarah. Since we don’t have Jewish parents, the original parents of our nation become our symbolic parents.

Kurdish writer and politician Ibrahim Ahmad, 1914–2000

Other forms of the name include:

1. Avrum is Yiddish.

2. Aabraham is Finnish.

3. Aapo is another Finnish form.

4. Abram is Russian and Georgian.

5. Abraam is Georgian.

6. Abraão is Portuguese.

7. Ibrahim is Arabic, Albanian, Bosnian, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Dhivehi (a language spoken in the Maldives). The alternate form İbrahim is Azeri and Turkish, and Îbrahîm is Kurdish.

8. Ebrahim is Persian and Arabic.

9. Ibragim is Chechen and Ossetian.

10. Abramo is Italian.

U.S. General Abram Duryée (1815–90), who served in the Union Army in the Civil War

11. Bram is Dutch and English. Like many modern Dutch names, this too began as a nickname.

12. Braam is Limburgish and Dutch.

13. Ebrima is Western African.

14. Ibrahima is also Western African.

15. Brahim is Maghrebi Arabic, a dialect spoken in North Africa.

16. Aaprahami, or Aaprahammi, is Finnish.

17. Abrahán is Spanish.

18. Abraomas is Lithuanian.

19. Abreham is Ethiopian.

20. Âbréhan is Jèrriais.

Israeli soldier Avraham Avigdorov (1929–2012), recipient of the Hero of Israel award (now the Medal of Valour), in 1949

21. Âparâme is Greenlandic.

22. Ápparan is Sami.

23. Avraam is Romanian and modern Greek.

24. Avrom is Yiddish.

25. Brāhēm is Balochi, a language spoken in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

26. Ebәrham is Abkhaz.

27. Ibraahiim, or Ibraahim, is Somali.

28. Ibrahimu is Hausa, a language spoken in northern Nigeria.

29. Iprakhim is Chuvash.

30. Obran is Mordvin.

Irish writer Bram Stoker (1847–1912), best-known as the author of Dracula

31. Ôbróm is Kashubian.

32. Habraham is a rare Latin American–Spanish and French–African form.

Female forms:

1. Abra is English. This is also the Latin word for “maid.”

2. Avra is Hebrew. I’ve always really liked this name.

3. Abrahamina is Swedish. I’m not a fan of this one!

4. Abrahamine is Norwegian. I don’t like this one either.

5. Abarrane may be an obscure feminine form of Abraham. Its etymology is unknown.

All about Harold

“Here sits Harold, King of the English,” Scene 31 of the Bayeux Tapestry, depicting King Harold II (ca. 1022–14 October 1066)

The English name Harold derives from Old English Hereweald, and the roots here (army) and weald (ruler, power, leader). After the Norman invasion and occupation of England, Harold fell into general disuse, and was only revived in the 19th century.

The Ancient Germanic form Hariwald, or Chariovalda, dates back even earlier, to the first century of the Common Era. Another early, related form is Arioald. This name comes from Proto–Germanic *harja-waldaz, which has roughly the same meaning as Hereweald.

Haraldr, the Old Norse form, was also a common name during these long-ago centuries, in both Scandinavia itself and among many settlers in the Danelaw (Danish-dominated part of England).

King Harald V of Norway (born 1937, reigning since 1991), circa 1956–57

Harold was #116 when the U.S. began keeping name records in 1880, and moved into the Top 100 in 1884, at #85. It jumped up the charts every year until attaining its highest rank of #12 in 1915. Until 1928, Harold went back and forth between #12, #13, and #14. It slowly descended in popularity during the ensuing years, and remained in the Top 100 till 1966. In 2018, it was #797.

Though many deride Harold as a geriatric, outdated name, I’ve always found it sweet and charming. It seems like the name of a serious, studious fellow. On a personal level, I’ve become even fonder of it since discovering the great comedian Harold Lloyd (1893–1971), one of the Big Three comics of the silent era.

Harold is one of my heroes because he was a fellow burn survivor, and resolved to become an even stronger performer after almost dying in a 1919 accident with a prop bomb. Many people would’ve given up and retreated from acting altogether, but Harold didn’t let the loss of two fingers, temporary blindness, and a long, touch-and-go hospital stay keep him from his life’s calling.

Other forms of Harold include:

1. Harald is Scandinavian and German, and has been borne by three kings of Denmark, five kings of Norway (including the current king), and three earls of Orkney.

2. Haraldur is Icelandic.

3. Haroldo is Spanish and Portuguese.

4. Harri is Finnish and Welsh.

5. Aroldo is Italian.

6. Aroldos is a rare Greek form.

7. Haroldas is Lithuanian.

8. Harailt is Scottish.

9. Harolyn is a rare, English feminine form. I’m not really a fan of this name!

Happy Halloween!—Orange names

Happy Halloween! Here’s a list of names whose meanings relate to the word “orange” (the colour). In some languages, the word for the fruit and colour are identical, while in others they’re different. As always, some of these names might sound much better on pets, stuffed animals, dolls, or fictional characters. I obviously wouldn’t recommend using some of these word names on real people in countries where that language is spoken.

Alani is Hawaiian, and refers to the colour, fruit, and flower.

Arancia is Italian.

Aranciu is Corsican.

Kamala is Bengali.

Karaka is Maori.

Kesari is Marathi.

Lalanje is Nyanja, a Bantu language primarily spoken in Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Laranja is Basque and Portuguese.

Laranxa is Galician.

Namunu is Southern Sotho.

Naranja is Spanish.

Narıncı is Azeri.

Narinja is Telugu.

Oren is Malaysian and Welsh. This has a completely different etymology from the Hebrew name meaning “pine tree.”

Orenji is Japanese. I’m 99% sure this is a very modern, unusual name inspired by the English word, not a historic, native Japanese name.

Porteqalî is Kurdish.

Portokalea, or Portokali, is Greek.

Portokhali is Georgian.

Santara is Hindi.

Satara is Punjabi.

Sienna is a modern English name meaning “orange-red,” derived from the Italian city Siena. The city’s clay is sienna in colour.

Suntala is Nepali.

Taronja is Catalan.

Masked names

Continuing the Halloween theme for October, here are some names related to the word “mask.” Almost all of them are Ancient Germanic or Old Norse in origin, and thus not so realistic for a modern, real person. Unless otherwise specified, all these names are male.

Adalgrim means “noble mask,” from Old High German adal (noble) and Old Norse grîma (mask).

Aldgrim means “old mask,” from Gothic alds and Old High German alt (old) and Old Norse grîma. This name may also be an alternate form of Adalgrim.

Alfgrim is a Middle English and German name meaning “elf mask,” from roots alf and grim.

Arngrímr comes from Old Norse ǫrn (eagle) and grímr (person wearing a mask).

Ásgrímr comes from Old Norse áss (god) and grímr.

Aurgrímnir comes from Old Norse aur (clay, sand) and grímr or grimmr (grim). This is the name of a jötunn, a type of otherworldly creature in Norse mythology.

Auðgrímr comes from Old Norse auðr (riches, fortune, prosperity) and grímr.

Biligrim comes from Ancient Germanic bili (gentleness) and Old Norse grímr.

Ebergrim comes from Old High German ebur (wild boar) and Old Norse gríma (mask).

Edlgrímr comes from Old Norse eldr (fire) and gríma.

Frotgrim comes from Old High German frôd (cautious, prudent) and Old Norse gríma.

Grímr is the Anglo–Saxon, Old Swedish, Old Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish form of Grímr (mask, helmet), which was popular till the 12th century. This is also another name for the god Odin.

Grimbald comes from Old Norse grîma and Old High German bald (brave, bold).

Grimbert comes from Old Norse grîma and Old High German beraht (bright).

Grimburg comes from Old Norse grîma and Old High German burg (fortress), or Gothic bairgan and Old High German bergan (to preserve, save, keep).

Grimfrid comes from Old Norse grîma and Old High German fridu (peace).

Grimhard comes from Old Norse grîma, and Gothic hardus and Old High German hart (hardy, brave).

Grímheiður is Icelandic, derived from roots grímr (person wearing a mask) and heiðr (bright, cloudless, clear).

Grimland comes from Old Norse grîma and land (land).

Grímr means “masked person” or “shape-changer” in Old Norse, from gríma (mask, helmet). Since this was also a name for Odin, it may have been given to human boys in the hopes they’d walk through life with Odin’s protection.

Grimulf comes from Old Norse grîma and Gothic vulfs (wolf).

Grímúlfur is an Icelandic name derived from Old Norse grim (mask, helmet) and ulfr (wolf).

Grimward comes from Old Norse grîma and Old High German wart (guard).

Grimwald derives from Ancient Germanic grim (mask) and walk (power, ruler, leader).

Hadegrim comes from Old High German hadu (battle) and Old Norse grîma.

Hafgrímr comes from Old Norse haf (ocean, sea) and grímr (person wearing a mask).

Hallgrímr comes from Old Norse elements hallr (rock) and grîma.

Hardgrim comes from Gothic hardus and Old High German hart (brave, hardy), and Old Norse grîma.

Hildegrim comes from Old Norse hildr (battle) and grîma.

Hildigrímr comes from Old Norse hildr and grímr (person wearing a mask).

Hólmgrímr is an Icelandic name formed from holmr (small island) and grímr.

Hrafngrímur is an Icelandic name derived from Old Norse hrafn (raven) and grim (mask, helmet).

Isangrim comes from Ancient Germanic isan (iron) and Old Norse grîma.

Isgrim comes from Ancient Germanic îs (ice) and Old Norse grîma.

Járngrímur is an Icelandic name formed from jarn (iron) and grímr.

Jógrímr comes from Old Norse iór (horse) and grímr.

Kolgrímur is Icelandic and Faroese, derived from Old Norse kolr (black, coal, dark) and grim (mask, helmet).

Kriemhild (F) derives from Ancient Germanic grim and hild (battle). This name is famous as a character in the Nibelungenleid saga.

Landgrim comes from Ancient Germanic land and Old Norse grîma.

Liutgrim comes from Old High German liut (people) and Old Norse grîma.

Madalgrim comes from Gothic mathi (meeting place) and Old Norse grîma.

Margrímur is an Icelandic name derived from marr (ocean, sea, lake) and grímr (person wearing a mask).

Menkao (F) can be derived from Japanese elements men (mask) and kao (face).

Moye derives from Chinese elements mo (mask) and ye (deed, job, occupation, karma).

Radgrim comes from Old High German rât (counsel) and Old Norse grîma.

Rotgrim comes from Ancient Germanic hróthi (fame) and Old Norse grîma.

Sigurgrímur is an Icelandic name formed from sigr (victory) and grímr.

Skallagrímr comes from Old Norse skalli (bald head) and grímr.

Stafngrímr derives from Ancient Germanic stafn (stern/prow of a ship) and grímr.

Steingrímur is an Icelandic name derived from Old Norse steinn (stone) and grímr.

Tegrimo may be a nickname for Teudegrimo, the Italian form of an Ancient Germanic name derived from þeud (people) and grim.

Thancgrim comes from Ancient Germanic thanc and Old High German dankjan (to think) or dank (thanks), and Old Norse grîma.

Theudegrim comes from Ancient Germanic þeud and Old Norse grîma.

Þórgrímr comes from Thor/Þórr (thunder) and grímr. The modern Norwegian form is Torgrim.

Víggrímur is a Faroese name derived from víg (battle, fight) and grímr.

Walagrim comes from Old High German walah (traveller, wanderer, foreigner) and Old Norse grîma.

Waldgrim derives from Gothic valdan (to reign) and Old Norse grîma.

Wilgrim comes from Gothic vilja (desire, will) and Old Norse grîma.

Witchy names, Part I

Since the wonderful month of October has begun, I’m featuring Halloween-themed names for the next four weeks. I’ve showcased quite a few Halloweeny names in years past, with meanings related to words like “dust,” “skeleton,” “ghost,” “spider,” and “bat,” but there are some name meanings I didn’t yet spotlight.

Let’s get started with the names of witches from literature and mythology. As always, these names can also be used for pets, dolls, stuffed animals, or fictional characters. Unless otherwise noted, all these names are female.

Acanthis is the Latinized form of the Greek Akanthis (prickly). It’s the name of the thistle finch bird, after a character in Greek mythology. She and her family were turned into animals by Zeus after her brother was eaten by a horse. This name was also used for an old witch by first century BCE Roman poet Propertius.

Aradia may be a Tuscan form of Erodiade, the Italian feminine form of Greek name Heroides (i.e., Herod), which probably means “song of the hero.” In American folklorist Charles Leland’s 1899 book Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, she’s a regional Italian goddess who gives women the gift of witchcraft.

Brisen is an Arthurian witch. The name may be derived from Old Norse brisinga (glowing, twinkling), which in turn relates to goddess Freya’s famous brísingamen necklace.

Carline means “witch, old woman” in Lowland Scots.

Duessa was created by English poet Edmund Spenser for his 1590 epic poem The Faerie Queene. It may mean “disunity,” “second,” or “duplicitous,” from Latin duo (two) and a feminine suffix. Duessa is an ugly, evil witch allegorically representing Mary, Queen of Scots and the Roman Catholic Church. Not exactly the most positive of these names!

Eidyia means “to know” or “to see” in Greek, from eidos. She’s the mother of sorceress Medea, and may personify the eye’s magical power. In Greek superstition, the eye was the source of a witch’s supernatural powers, and strengthened by the sun’s beams.

Elphaba is the protagonist of Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s derived from LFB, the initials of L. Frank Baum (author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz).

Endora probably derives from the Witch of Endor, whom King Saul consults in the First Book of Samuel. It was used for a character on popular U.S. TV show Bewitched (1964-1972).

Errafaila is a Medieval Basque witch.

Glinda is the Good Witch in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It may be based on modern Welsh name Glenda, composed of elements glân (pure, clean) and da (good).

Heiðr is a unisex name in Norse mythology. Its uses include that of an epithet for good witches.

Jadis is the White Witch in CS. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series. It may be based on Persian jadu (witch) or French jadis (of old, long ago).

Meroë is a witch in Roman poet Lucius Apuleius’s second century novel The Golden Ass. It’s probably based on the name of an ancient city along the Nile.

Morgause is an Arthurian witch, Queen of the Orkneys, and King Arthur’s halfsister. The earliest form of her name is Orcades, which probably derives from Celtic *forko– (piglet). It may have mutated into Morcades and Morgause through confusion with Morgan.

Nessarose is the Wicked Witch of the East in Wicked.

Pamphile is the feminine form of Greek name Pamphilos (friend of all). Bearers include a legendary woman who invented silk weaving, a respected first century historian, and a witch in The Golden Ass.

Pieta means “witch of the moon” in Old Karelian Finnish.

Proselenos is an elderly witch in Roman writer Petronius’s first century novel The Satyricon. It means “before the Moon” or “older than the Moon” in Greek.

Spīdola is a witch in Latvian national epic Lāčplēsis. She’s enslaved by the Devil, but eventually rescued by hero Koknesis, who becomes her husband.

Sycorax is a powerful witch in Shakespeare’s 1611 play The Tempest. There are several theories about its etymology, including “Scythian raven,” “heartbreaker,” and “pig crow.”

Rokapi (M) is the leader of the kudiani, a mythological Georgian group of witches. Supreme god Ghmerti punished him by chaining him to an underground column, where he ate human hearts brought to him by other kudiani. Rokapi tried to escape every year, but always failed.

Zinta means “witchcraft, magic, charms” in Latvian.