A name that arose from the earth

Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855), one of Poland’s great national poets, painted 1828 by Józef Oleszkiewicz

Adam means “man” in Hebrew, and may ultimately derive from the Akkadian word adamu (to make), the Hebrew word adamah (earth), or the almost-identical Hebrew word ‘adam (to be red; i.e., a reference to a ruddy complexion). All these etymologies obviously are very symbolic, given Adam is the name of the first man in the Biblical creation story.

The name is also used in English, German, French, Dutch, Georgian, Arabic, Catalan, Romanian, and the Scandinavian and Slavic languages. The variation Ádám is Hungarian; Ádam is Faroese; and Âdam is Jèrriais.

Adam has long been common in the Jewish world, but it didn’t become popular in Christendom till the Middle Ages. After the Protestant Reformation, it became even more popular. The name has been in the U.S. Top 500 since 1880, and began vaulting up the charts in the 1950s. It went from #428 in 1954 to #71 in 1970. Adam attained its highest rank of #18 in 1983 and 1984.

The name has remained in the Top 100 since. In 2018, it was #78. Adam is also #2 in Belgium, #3 in the Czech Republic (as of 2016), #5 in Hungary and France, #6 in Sweden, #9 in Ireland, #11 in Poland, #16 in Catalonia (as of 2016), #17 in The Netherlands, #18 in Northern Ireland (which hopefully soon will be reunified with the rest of Ireland), #24 in Scotland, #25 in Denmark, #36 in England and Wales, #39 in Israel (as of 2016), #40 in Norway, #41 in Spain, #43 in NSW, Australia, #44 in Slovenia, #50 in Switzerland and Austria, #51 in British Columbia, Canada, #55 in Italy, and #96 in New Zealand.

Adam was the name of one of my great-great-grandfathers, the father of the only great-grandfather I have memories of. Judging from the vintage newspaper stories I’ve found about him, he was quite the local character!

Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723–1790), author of one of the most boring books ever written, The Wealth of Nations

Other forms include:

1. Adamo is Italian.

2. Adán is Spanish.

3. Adão is Portuguese.

4. Ádhamh is Irish.

5. Aatami is Finnish.

6. Adomas is Lithuanian.

7. Akamu is Hawaiian.

8. Aadam is Estonian.

9. Aaden is Somali.

10. Adami is Greenlandic and old-fashioned Georgian.

11. Ādams is Latvian.

12. Adamu is Swahili, Amharic, and Hausa.

13. Adda is Welsh, though I’d avoid this in an Anglophone area. Unfortunately, many boys with names ending in A are teased, and there’s no saving grace of this being a widely-known male name like Nikita or Ilya.

14. Aden is Romansh.

15. Ārama is Maori.

16. Âtame is Greenlandic.

17. Áttán is Sami.

18. Hadam is Sorbian.

19. Jadóm is Kashubian.

20. Odam is Uzbek.

21. Adem is Turkish.

22. Y-adam is a rare Vietnamese form.

Feminine forms:

1. Adamina is English, Polish, and Romani.

2. Adama is Hebrew and English.

3. Adamella is a rare, modern English form. I’m really not keen on this name! Some names don’t naturally lend themselves to feminine versions, and look forced.

4. Adamia is English.

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Birth order names

I’ve always loved birth order names like Quintina and Octavia, though most people no longer have such large families, nor do they use birth order names very often in most cultures. For whatever reason, Quint- names seem the most common.

Unless otherwise noted, names ending in A and E are feminine; names ending in O, U, and consonants are masculine. U means “unisex.”

First:

Abaka means “firstborn” in Akan.

Adi (M) is Indonesian.

Baako (U) means “firstborn child” in Akan.

Berko means “firstborn” in Akan.

Eka (U) means “first, one” in Indonesian.

Ensio is Finnish.

İlkın is Azeri and Turkish.

Mosi (M) is Swahili.

Parvan is Bulgarian.

Prim is Russian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian.

Prima is Italian and Latin.

Primiano is Italian and Spanish.

Primien is French.

Primo is Italian.

Primož is Slovenian.

Primula means “very first” in Latin.

Primus is Latin.

Proteus is Greek.

Una is Latin. I love this name for an only child.

Second:

Duri (U) means “two” in Korean.

Dwi (U) means “two, second” in Indonesian.

Secunda/Secundus is Latin.

Segunda/Segundo is Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician.

Third:

Fereydoun is Persian.

Kunto (F) means “third child” in Akan. For obvious reasons, I would NOT recommend this in an Anglophone country!

Tercera/Tercero is Spanish.

Tércia/Tércio is Portuguese.

Tertia/Tertius is Latin.

Terza/Terzo is Italian.

Tri (U) means “three, third” in Indonesian.

Fourth:

Anan (U) means “fourth-born child” in Akan.

Catur means “fourth child” in Indonesian.

Raabi’a is Arabic.

Pompey is Latin, probably derived from a Sabellic word meaning “four.”

Quadrado is Portuguese.

Quadrat is French.

Quadrato is Italian.

Quadressa may very well be my own invention!

Quarta is Latin.

Quartilla is Latin.

Quartino is Italian.

Quarto is Italian.

Quartus is Latin.

Fifth:

Enu (U) means “fifth-born child” in Akan.

Quentin is English and French.

Quincia is Spanish and English. The alternate form Quincià is Catalan.

Quinciana/Quinciano is Spanish.

Quincio is Spanish. The alternate form Quíncio is Portuguese.

Quinta is Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Latin, Dutch, and English.

Quintana is English.

Quintavia might be my own invention too!

Quintessa is English.

Quintí (M) is Catalan.

Quintia is Latin and Dutch.

Quintiaan is Dutch.

Quintian is German and English.

Quintien/Quintienne is French.

Quintil is Occitan, French, and Catalan.

Quintila/Quintilo is Spanish and Portuguese.

Quintilio is Spanish and Italian.

Quintilla is Italian, English, Dutch, Afrikaans, and Latin.

Quintillia is English.

Quintillo is Italian.

Quintillu is Sardinian.

Quintijn is Dutch.

Quintina is Latin and English.

Quintinien is French.

Quintinu is Corsican.

Quinto is Italian.

Quintu is Corsican and Sicilian.

Quintus is Latin.

Quinzia/Quinzio is Italian.

Sixth:

Nsia (U) means “sixth-born child” in Akan.

Sesta/Sesto is Italian.

Sextus/Sixta is Latin.

Sixte (M) is French.

Sixtina is Latin, German, Dutch, and Latin American–Spanish.

Sixtine is French.

Sixto is Spanish.

Sixtus is Latin, though it’s truly derived from the Greek name Xystos (polished, scraped). It’s additionally considered to mean “sixth” because it was borne by the sixth pope after St. Peter.

Seventh:

Nsonowa (U) means “seventh-born child” in Akan.

Septima is Latin. The rare alternate form Septíma is Icelandic.

Septime is French.

Septimia is Romanian.

Septimio is Spanish and Portuguese.

Septimus is Latin.

Settima/Settimo is Italian.

Eighth:

Awotwi (U) means “eighth-born child” in Akan.

Octaaf is Dutch and Flemish.

Octave (M) is French.

Octavi (M) is Catalan.

Octavia is Latin, Spanish, and English. The alternate form Octávia is Portuguese, and Octàvia is Catalan and Occitan. I adore this name!

Octavian is Romanian.

Octaviana is Latin and Spanish.

Octaviano is Spanish.

Octavianus is Latin.

Octavie is French and Luxembourgish.

Octavien/Octavienne is French.

Octavio is Spanish. The alternate form Octávio is Portuguese.

Octavius is Latin.

Oktáv is Hungarian.

Oktavia is German. The alternate form Oktávia is Hungarian, and Oktavía is Icelandic.

Oktávián is Hungarian.

Oktavianas is Lithuanian.

Oktavijan is Croatian.

Oktavije is Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian.

Oktavijus is Lithuanian.

Oktavíus is Icelandic.

Oktaviy is Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian.

Oktaviya is Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian.

Oktawia/Oktawius is Polish.

Otávia/Otávio is Brazilian–Portuguese.

Ottavia, Ottaviana, Ottaviano, and Ottavio are Italian.

Ninth:

Nkruma (U) means “ninth-born child” in Akan.

Nona is Latin and English.

Nonius/Nonia is Latin.

Noniana/Noniano is Italian.

Nonio is Spanish and Italian.

Nonus is Latin.

Novena is Spanish.

Nuno is Portuguese and Spanish. The alternate form Nuño is Medieval Spanish.

Tenth:

Decia is Italian.

Decima is Latin. If you’re wondering, the word “decimate” indeed comes from the Latin word for “ten.” When Romans killed their enemies, they put them in a line and beheaded every tenth one.

Decimo is Italian. The alternate form Décimo is Spanish and Portuguese.

Decimus is Latin.

Décio is Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

Eleventh:

Dubaku (U) means “eleventh-born child” in Akan.

Duku (U) means “eleventh-born” in Akan.

Miscellaneous:

Achan means “female child in the first pair of twins” in Dinka.

Afafa means “the first child of the second husband” in Ewe.

Aino (F) means “the only one” in Finnish.

Akpan means “firstborn son” in Ibibio.

Alaba means “second child after twins” in Yoruba.

Babirye (F) means “first of twins” in Luganda.

Buyon is the traditional Batonu name for a fourth-born daughter.

Gorou means “five son” in Japanese, traditionally given to fifth sons.

Hachirou means “eight son” in Japanese, traditionally given to eighth sons.

Ichirou means “one son” in Japanese, traditionally given to firstborn sons.

Isingoma (M) means “first of twins” in Luganda.

Jirou means “two son” in Japanese, traditionally given to secondborn sons.

Juurou means “ten son” in Japanese, traditionally given to tenth sons.

Kato (M) means “second of twins” in Luganda.

Kurou means “nine son” in Japanese, traditionally given to ninth sons.

Nakato (M) means “second of twins” in Luganda.

Prvul means “firstborn son” in Vlach.

Rokurou means “six son” in Japanese, traditionally given to sixth sons.

Saburo means “three son” in Japanese, traditionally given to third sons.

Shirou means “four son” in Japanese, traditionally given to fourth sons.

Wasswa (M) means “first of twins” in Luganda.

Winona means “firstborn daughter” in Dakota.

Xwm (SIM) means “second son” in Hmong.

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.

Toumaï

Copyright Didier DescouensCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

Toumaï means “hope of life” in the Nilo–Saharan Daza language of Chad. Traditionally, it’s given to children born just before the dry season. It’s also the nickname of a Sahelanthropus tchadensis skull, five pieces of jaw, and a few teeth.

Toumaï, discovered by Ahounta Djimdoumalbaye in July 2001 in Chad’s Djurab Desert, is roughly seven million years old, and our currently oldest known hominin ancestor. (Hominins are humans and our ancestors in the Homo genus; hominids are non-human primates and the Homo genus.)

I really, really love the name Toumaï. Not only does it have an attractive sound, but it’s got such a powerful symbolism. It really gives me goosebumps.

Model of the head and shoulders of an adult male Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Hall of Human Origins, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
Copyright Tim Evanson; source http://www.flickr.com/photos/23165290@N00/7283201268/

Paleoanthropology has been one of my passions since second grade (almost thirty years), as well as being my dream career. It’s such a beautiful, perfect blend of science and history. While my personal favourite prehistoric ancestors have always been the Neanderthals (whose name does not deserve to be used so pejoratively!), I also have great love for our much more ancient ancestors.

This would be a great name (in either the front or middle position) for a child born very sickly, or after many years of infertility. It would also work very well if you follow the custom of adding a name after surviving a serious illness or accident, for good luck.

Our ancestor Toumaï, 230,000 generations before us, truly represents our hope of life, and the genesis of our long journey to Homo sapiens.

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.