Names of darkness

Though I wrote a previous October post about names whose meanings relate to the word “night,” only two of those names related to the separate word “darkness.” Here, then, are names with just that meaning.

Unisex:

Yami means “darkness, dark” in Japanese.

Yuan can mean “evening darkness” in Japanese.

Male:

Afagddu means “utter darkness” in Welsh, from y fagddu. This was the nickname of Arthurian warrior Morfran.

Erebus is the Latinized form of Erebos, which means “nether darkness” in Greek.

Hela was the Vaianakh (Caucasian) god of darkness.

Húmi means “semi-darkness, twilight” in Icelandic.

Hymir means “darkening one” in Old Norse, from húm (semi-darkness, twilight). This was a giant in Norse mythology, and is also a modern, rare Icelandic name.

Ialdabaoth (or Ialdabaoth, Jaldabaoth, or Ildabaoth) was the first ruler of darkness in Phoenician, Gnostic, and Kabbalistic mythology.

Kek was the Ancient Egyptian primordial god of darkness.

Kud is the personification of darkness and evil in Korean mythology.

Orpheus may mean “the darkness of night” in Greek, derived from orphne (night).

Peckols was the Old Prussian god of darkness and Hell. The name derives from either pyculs (Hell) or pickūls (devil). His servants, the Pockols, are often compared to the Furies.

Saubarag means “black rider” in Ossetian. He was the god of darkness and thieves, comparable to Satan.

Female:

Brėkšta is believed to be a Lithuanian goddess, first written about by two Polish historians as Breksta and Brekszta. Jan Lasicki, writing circa 1582 and published 1615, believed she was the goddess of twilight. Theodor Narbutt, writing between 1835–41, believed she was the goddess of darkness and dreams.

Daikokutennyo means “She of the great blackness of the heavens” in Japanese. In her male form, Daikokuten, she’s a very popular, beloved household deity.

Dimmey is a rare Icelandic name derived from dimma (darkness) or dimmr (dark) and ey (island; flat land along a coast).

Iluna is a rare Basque name which may mean “darkness, dark, sombre, obscure, gloomy, mysterious.”

Orphne means “darkness” in Greek. She was an underworld nymph.

Rami means “darkness” in Sanskrit, Hindi, Nepali, Sinhalese, Punjabi, Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, Kannada, and Marathi.

Tamasvi means “one who has darkness inside” in Sanskrit.

Zulmat means “pitch darkness” in Uzbek.

Names starting with Pt and Ps

In addition to names starting with uncommon letters like X and Q, and uncommon letters substituting for more common ones (e.g., Ysabelle instead of Isabelle, Jozef instead of Joseph), I also love unusual letter combinations. Not very many names start with Pt or Ps, so they really stand out when encountered.

As many people probably know, most of these names are of Greek origin.

Unisex:

Psalm was one of those now-beyond-rare Virtue names the Puritans so loved.

Psophis was the name of four characters in Greek mythology, three female and one male. All are considered possible namesakes for the ancient Arcadian city of Psophis, near the modern-day village Psofida

Male:

Ptah possibly means “opener” in Ancient Egyptian. He was a demiurge, an artisan-like figure who creates, fashions, and maintains the material world. In Egyptian mythology, he thought the world into existence with his heart. Among other things, he was a god of architects, craftspeople, and the arts.

Ptolemaios means “warlike, aggressive” in Ancient Greek, from polemaios. This was the name of several Greco–Egyptian rulers of Egypt, and the famous Greco–Roman astronomer Ptolemy.

The Latinized form is Ptolemaeus; the German form is Ptolemäus; the French form is Ptolémée; the Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian form is Ptolemey; the Lithuanian form is Ptolemėjas; the Polish form is Ptolemeusz; the Romanian, Portuguese, and Catalan form is Ptolemeu; the Spanish and Galician form is Ptolomeo; and the Serbian and Croatian form is Ptolemej.

Psote was a Coptic saint from the 3rd century. His feast day is 21 December.

Psmith is a character in six P.G. Wodehouse books.

Ptahil was a Mandaean demiurge. The name possibly means “to mould God,” from Mandaic roots pth (to mould) and il (God). It may also be etymologically related to Ptah.

Pterelaos was the name of two figures in Greek mythology. The Latinized form is Pterelaus.

Ptous was a minor character in Greek mythology, as well as an epithet of Apollo and namesake of Boeotia’s Mount Ptous.

Female:

Ptolemais is the feminine form of Ptolemaios. I’ve also seen the rare form Ptolemea, which is used in English and at least a few other languages. I unfortunately couldn’t track down its etymology and linguistic usage, since it’s so rare.

Psyche means “the soul” in Ancient Greek, from psycho (to breathe). In Greek mythology, she’s a mortal whom Eros (Cupid) marries and always visits under cover of night. Eros forbids her to look upon him, but on a visit home, Psyche’s two older sisters set a lot of trouble in motion by urging her to discover her mystery husband’s identity. There’s ultimately a happy ending.

Psamathe means “sand goddess” in Ancient Greek, from roots psammos (sand) and theia (goddess). She was a Nereid, wife of the god Proteus, mother of Phokus, goddess of sandy beaches. This was also the name of the mortal mother of renowned musician Linus, who was fathered by Apollo.

Some translations of Ovid render her name as Psamanthe. The French form is Psamathée.

Psappha is the Aeolian Greek form of Sappho, which possibly means “lapis lazuli” or “sapphire,” from sappheiros. The most famous bearer was the 7th century BCE poet, who lent her name to a now largely archaic word for lesbianism.

Psekas means “rain shower” in Ancient Greek. She was one of sixty Oceanid Nymphs who formed Artemis’s core retinue.

Ptolemocratia was a Latin name meaning “aggressive/warlike power,” from Ancient Greek roots polemeios (warlike, aggressive) and kratos (power).

Feline names

In the spirit of the month of Halloween, and because black cats are one of the animals associated with Halloween, here’s a list of names with meanings relating to the word “cat.” To simplify things, I’m only including names that actually mean “cat” itself, or are directly related to cats, not different kinds of cats like lions, jaguars, panthers, and tigers.

Unisex:

Popoki means “cat” in Hawaiian.

Female:

Aradia is a Neo-Pagan goddess (with claimed origins in Etruscan mythology), who can take the form of a cat. Her mother, the goddess Diana (Artemis), was in the form of a cat when Aradia was conceived.

Bast was the Egyptian goddess of cats, the Sun, and fertility. She’s usually depicted with the head of a cat or lioness. Her name became Bastet (a diminutive form) after Sekhmet became a more popular goddess.

Felina means “cat-like” in Latin.

Feline (Feh-LEE-nah) is Dutch. I’d obviously caution against this name in an Anglophone country!

Katida means “kittenish” in Esperanto.

Ketzeleh, or Ketzele, means “little kitten” in Yiddish. The more formal form of the name is Ketzel, which just means “kitten.”

Koneko can mean “child cat” (i.e., kitten) in Japanese.

Li Shou is a Chinese cat goddess who was selected by the creator deities to rule the world. Her cat nature kept getting the better of her, and she admitted she wasn’t up to the task. Li Shou named humans as the ones who should take over her job. Though humans gained the ability to speak in the cats’ place, they couldn’t understand the deities. The cats, who did understand the deities, were left in charge of keeping time. According to Chinese tradition, cats’ pupils control the height of the Sun above the horizon.

Mafdet was an Egyptian goddess depicted as a woman with a cat’s head, or a cat with a woman’s head. She protected against snakes and scorpions, and ripped out evildoers’ hearts, presenting them to Pharaoh like a cat presents dead mice to its owner.

Mee means “cat” or “noodle” in Hmong, depending upon how the vowels are pronounced.

Mineko can mean “beautiful cat” in Japanese.

Muezza was said to be Prophet Mohammad’s favourite cat. One story goes that he cut off a sleeve on his prayer robe rather than wake Muezza, who was sleeping on the sleeve.

Neko is a rare Japanese name which can mean “cat.”

Male:

Felinus is the male form of Felina.

Humans owe a huge debt of gratitude to the cat. If they hadn’t provided free pest control when we started living in towns and farming, civilisation would’ve proceeded much more slowly. They also helped to bring an end to the deadly first wave of the Black Plague in 1348, by killing all the diseased rats.

Sadly, due to Medieval superstitions and the obsession with rooting out “witchcraft” and evil, many European cats were murdered and made illegal as pets. It took a long time for the masses to make the connection between cats eating rats and the Plague diminishing.

Cats have long been considered good luck in Russia, Japan, and the Islamic world.

Busiris and Bremusa

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Busiris, also called Bousiris, is an Egyptian king who features in several Greek myths and legends. He took his name from a city called ḏdw in its native language (pronounced Djedu), a major necropolis and center of Osiris worship. The name thus derives from Osiris, whose etymology is unknown. The original Egyptian form of the name is Asar.

Busiris was one of Aegyptus’s 50 sons, all but one of whom were killed on their wedding night by the Danaides. The myth about the Danaides, the 50 daughters of King Danaus (Aegyptus’s brother), is pretty refreshing! Too many myths feature only huge amounts of sons, as though it’s impossible for anyone to ever have a girl, or like it’s realistic for everyone to only have boy after boy after boy.

Busiris was described by Isocrates as a villainous king and the founder of Ancient Egyptian civilisation. He was the son of Poseidon and Anippe, and maternal grandson of river god Nilus. He had a model constitution which Isocrates used as a parodied contrast to Plato’s Republic. He sacrificed all his visitors, until Hercules showed up during his Eleventh Labor, the quest for golden apples. Hercules escaped his shackles at the last minute and killed Busiris.

Busiris is also claimed as the founder of the line of kings of Thebes (i.e., the Eleventh Dynasty). He also appears as the leader of a revolt in Roman satirist Lucian’s True History, parodies of travel stories.

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5

Bremusa was born in 1204 BCE in Themiskyra, and was one of the twelve Amazonian warriors who fought with Queen Penthesilea during the Trojan War. The Amazons were on the Trojans’ side, and came to rescue them from the Greeks. Before reaching Troy itself, however, Queen Penthesilea needed to purify herself for the accidental killing of her sister Hippolyta.

Troy was in mourning for Hector, who’d been slain by Achilles. Thus, the sight of the Amazons came as a most welcome relief, particularly to King Priam, who promised to reward Queen Penthesilea richly. King Priam put the Amazons up in his palace for the night.

Next morning, the Amazons went into battle and fought as well as any male army, but all but one of them perished. Queen Penthesilea herself was beaten to death by Achilles, and Bremusa was killed by Cretan commander Idomeneus. She uttered a last gasp of life as the spear entered her right breast.

Epic poet Kointos Smyrnaios (Quintus Smyrnaeus) compared Bremusa’s perishing to an ash tree felled by a woodcutter’s axe, with a dry roar.

The name Bremusa means “raging female.”

Soulful, spirited names

Continuing with the October theme of Halloween-related names, these are some names whose meanings contain the element “soul” or “spirit.” Before Halloween became all about costumes, ghost stories, and trick-or-treating, it was All Souls’ Day and All Hallows’ Eve. I do believe the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest on that day, with the souls of the departed closer to us than at any other time.

Unisex:

Jing can mean “spirit, essence” in Chinese.

Ling can mean “soul/spirit” in Chinese.

Xinyi is a Chinese name which can be composed of the elements xin (soul, heart, mind) and yi (harmony, joy).

Male:

Akhenaton possibly means “spirit of Aton” in Ancient Egyptian. Aton, which means “solar disc,” was an Egyptian sun god. Pharaoh Akhenaton believed Aton was the only god, and changed his name from Amenhotop IV to honor Aton.

Chetan means “soul, conscious, visible” in Sanskrit.

Chí means “spirit, will” in Vietnamese.

Dušan means “spirit, soul” in Czech, Slovakian, Slovenian, Macedonian, Serbian, and Croatian. The base nickname form is Duško.

Ercan is a Turkish name derived from the elements er (brave man) and can (soul, life).

Euthymius is the Latinized form of the Greek Euthymios, which means “in good spirits.”

Hugh is an English name derived from the Old Germanic word hug, “heart, mind, spirit.”

Hugleikr is an Old Norse name derived from the elements hugr (heart, mind, spirit) and leikr (play).

Imamu means “spiritual leader” in Swahili.

Nurzhan means “light soul” in Kazakh.

Raijin means “thunder spirit” or “thunder god” in Japanese. He was the god of storms and thunder. A variant spelling is Raiden.

Ruh means “spirit” in Arabic.

Spyridon, or Spiridon, is a Greek and Slavic name which either means “spirit” (from the Latin word spiritus) or “basket” (from the Greek word spyridion). Greek diminutives are Spiros, Spiro, Spyro, and Spyros. The Spanish form is Espiridión. One of my favoritest secondary characters in my Russian historicals is a priest named Father Spiridon.

Female:

Alma means “soul” in Spanish. The name is also used in Italian and English. It was rarely used before the 1854 Battle of Alma during the Crimean War. In spite of the Spanish meaning, it’s believed the name was more inspired by the Latin word almus, “nourishing.”

Anima means “spirit, soul” in Latin. This is also the name of the feminine aspect of one’s true inner self in Jungian psychology.

Aruzhan means “beautiful soul” in Kazakh.

Cansu is a Turkish name composed of the elements can (life, soul) and su (water).

Dušana is the feminine form of Dušan. Nickname forms include Dušanka and Dušica.

Enid means “soul” or “life” in Welsh.

Janan means “soul” or “heart” in Arabic.

Kokoro can mean “soul, heart, mind” in Japanese.

Linh means “soul, spirit” in Vietnamese.

Neshama means “soul” in Hebrew.

Psyche means “the soul” in Greek, derived from psycho, “to breathe.”

Spyridoula is the feminine form of Spyridon.

Tímea is a Hungarian name which was created by famous novelist Mór Jókai in his 1873 book The Golden Man. It was based on the Greek word euthymia, “good spirits, cheerfulness.” I have a secondary character by this name.