A look at some common name roots

For something a bit different, I got the idea to make a list of some common root elements in names. Knowing what these roots mean makes it easier to at least partially decipher a name’s meaning, and gives clues as to its linguistic origin. Another awesome bonus is learning a few words in languages you might never have considered studying!

In the interests of relative brevity, I’ve tried to keep this list to fairly common root elements. There are many more I’ve encountered, but many of them aren’t exactly found in names one commonly runs across in everyday life.

Abd-; Arabic word meaning “servant of.” Examples include Abdullah, Abd Al-Malik, Abd Al-Karim, Abd Al-Latif, and Abd Al-Rashid.

-Anthe-, -Antha-: Greek anthos (flower). Examples include Calanthe, Chrysanthemum, Ianthe, Diantha, Iolanthe, Erianthe, and Rhodanthe.

Av-, Ab-: Hebrew aba (father). Examples include Abner/Avner, Abraham/Avraham, Avniel, Abigail, Avidan, Aviella, Avshalom, Aviram, and Avihu.

(-)Ay-: Turkish word for Moon, and an element found in many other Turkic names (Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Azeri, Uyghur, Turkmeni). Examples include Feray, Aytaç, Aygün, Aysel, Ayberk, Aynabat, Aynur, Gülay, and Tuncay.

-Bert(-): Ancient Germanic beraht (bright). Examples include Albert, Robert, Bertha, Adalbert, Norbert, and Engelbert.

-Bek, -Beg, -Bey, -Boy: A Turkic military title meaning “master, chieftain.” Examples include Aybek, Aslanbek, Islambek, Mayrbek, Zaurbek, and Salambek. A name in this category I strongly recommend against in the Anglophone world is Urinboy!

Diet- (DEET): Ancient Germanic theud (people). Examples include Dietrich, Dietfried, and Dietmar.

-Din: Arabic word for religion and faith. Examples include Shams Al-Din, Ziya Al-Din, Izz Al-Din, Nur Ad-Din, and Salah Al-Din.

-El, -El(l)a, -Elle: Hebrew name for God. Examples include Daniel, Emanuel, Gabrielle, Ariella, and Daniela. Obviously, this only applies to names of Hebrew origin, not names like Isabelle, Arabella, and Ghisolabella.

(-)Fried: Ancient Germanic frid and Old English friþ (peace). Examples include Siegfried, Friedemann, Winifred, Friedrich, Manfred, and Friedhold.

(-)Gol-, (-)Gul-, (-)Gül-: Persian gol (rose, flower). This element is found in many Turkic as well as Persian names. Examples include Golnaz, Golnar, Gülnur, Patigul, and Annagül.

(-)Got-: Ancient Germanic Gott, God. Examples include Gottfried, Traugott, Gottlieb, and Gotthilf.

(-)Hard: Ancient Germanic hard (hardy, brave). Examples include Ekkehard, Leonhard, Richard, Bernard, Gerard, and Sieghard.

(-)Helm: Ancient Germanic word for helmet. Examples include Helmfried, Helmut, Wilhelm, Diethelm, Friedhelm, and Anselm.

(-)Hild-: Ancient Germanic (hild) and Old Norse (hildr) words for battle. Examples include Alfhild, Audhild, Brünhild, Clotilde, Hilda, Hildebrand, and Kriemhild.

Ia-, Io-: Greek ion (violet flower) and iole (violet colour). Examples include Ianthe, Ia, Iolanthe, Ione, and Iolanda.

Ing-, Yng-: After the Germanic god Ing. Examples include Ingrid, Ingo, Ingeborg, and Inga.

Is-: Ancient Germanic word for ice and iron (îs), and Old Norse word for ice (íss). Examples include Isolda, Isbert, Ijsbrand, Ísbjörn, Ísdís, Isfrid, Íshildur, Íslaug, Ismund, and Isulf.

-Khan, -Han: Turkic title meaning “ruler, leader.” Examples include Alikhan, Emirhan, Erhan, Khanpasha, Magomedkhan, Serhan, and Zelimkhan.

Laur-: Latin family name Laurus (laurel, the symbol of victory). Examples include Laura, Laurence, Lauren, and Laurel.

Luc-: Latin lux (light). Examples include Lucia, Lucy, Lucius, Lucinda, and Lucilla.

(-)Mir(a): Old Slavic miru (peace, world). Examples include Miroslav, Vladimir, Zvonimira, Tihomir, Vitomir, Radomira, Miruna, Miroslava, Miran, Ljubomir, Krasimir, and Dragomir.

Ny-: Old Norse  (new). Examples include Signy, Dagny, Óðný, Ráðný, Nývarð, Nýbjörg, Ingny, Lingný, and Eirný.

Phil-: Greek philos (friend, lover). Examples include Philip, Philippa, Filomena, Theophil, Philbert, and Philomela.

Sieg-: Ancient Germanic sigu (victory). Examples include Siegmund, Sieglinde, Siegward, and Siegbert.

(-)Slav(a), (-)Sława(a): Old Slavic slava (glory). Examples include Slavomir, Borislava, Bronisława, Desislav, Miloslav, Mstislav, Radoslava, Rostislav, and Vyacheslav.

-Wen, -Wyn: Welsh gwen (white, fair, blessed), gwyn (white, fair), and wyn (white). Male names end in -wyn, and female names end in -wen. Examples include Ceridwen, Bronwen, Arwen, Branwen, Carwyn, Dilwyn, Heddwyn, Caerwyn, and Gwendolyn.

-Ya(h), -Ja(h), -Iah: One of the Hebrew names for God. Examples include Adoniyah, Isaiah, Josiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Talya, and Hezekiah.


Violet names

Violet Jessop (1887–1971), survivor of the sinking of the Titanic and Brittanic, and a collision of the Olympic, the oldest of the three sister ships

Violet is one of many formerly unfashionable names which has seen a stunning vault up the charts in recent years. It entered the U.S. Top 100 in 1901, at #91, and attained its highest rank of #74 in 1919. It slowly descended the chart, and fell out in 1972. In 1973, it returned at #926, but fell out again in 1975. Violet came back in 1981–82, and didn’t enter again till 1998.

In 2016, it had jumped quite a bit to become #47. The name seems to still be rising. It’s even more popular in Canada (#32), New Zealand (#44), and Australia (#43). It’s also popular in England and Wales (#65) and Scotland (#94).

Other forms of the name, and names whose meanings relate to the word “violet,” include:

1. Violette is French.

2. Violetta is Russian, Italian, and Hungarian. The alternate form Víóletta is Icelandic.

3. Violeta is Spanish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Serbian, and Macedonian.

4. Wioletta is Polish.

5. Wioleta is an alternate Polish form.

6. Ibolya (EE-bo-yah) is Hungarian.

7. Vjollca is Albanian.

8. Violetë is also Albanian.

9. Viola is English, Italian, German, Czech, Hungarian, and Scandinavian. The alternate form Víóla is Icelandic and Faroese.

10. Wiola is Polish.

U.S. artist Violet Oakley (1874–1961)

11. Iole is Greek.

12. Violante is Italian.

13. Yolande is French, and may be derived from Violante.

14. Yolanda is Spanish and English.

15. Jolanda is Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Croatian.

16. Jolana is Czech and Slovak.

17. Iolanda is Romanian, Italian, and Portuguese.

18. Jolanta is Polish and Lithuanian. One of the Polish nicknames is Jola.

19. Ljubica can mean “little violet” in Serbian and Croatian, in addition to “little love.”

20. Ione means “violet flower” in Greek.

French ballerina and choreographer Violette Verdy, née Nelly Armande-Guillerm (1933–2016)

21. Sigalit means “violet flower” in Hebrew.

22. Sigal means “violet, purple” in Hebrew.

23. Iolanthe is Greek and English, and means “violet flower.” Given the spelling and sound, its creation was doubtless influenced by Yolanda.

24. Ianthe means “violet flower” in Greek.

25. Calfuray is Mapuche, an indigenous language spoken in Argentina and Chile.

26. Banafsha, or Benafsha. is Persian.

27. Banovsha is Azeri.

28. Fioled is Welsh.

29. Fjóla is Icelandic and Faroese.

30. Ia is Greek and Georgian.

U.S. silent actor Viola Dana (1897–1987)

31. Kalili is a type of Hawaiian violet.

32. Manishag is Armenian.

33. Manoushag is also Armenian.

34. Manushaqe is Albanian.

35. Menekşe is Turkish.

36. Shouka can mean “violet sun fragrance” in Japanese.

37. Sumika can mean “violet summer,” “violet poetry,” “violet song,” “violet mist,” “violet river,” “violet air,” and “violet sky” in Japanese.

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.

The many forms of Gabriel and Gabriella

Gabriel entered the U.S. Top 100 in 1976, at #81, and stayed near the lower reaches of the chart till falling out in 1988. It re-entered at #82 in 1991, and began steadily climbing up the charts. Its highest position to date has been #21, in 2010. As of 2016, it was #25.

The name is also rather popular in France (#1), Switzerland (#4), Romania (#4), Belgium (#11), Portugal (#11), Croatia (#19), Chile (#19), Galicia (#25), Canada (#27), Italy (#27), Mexico (#35), Iceland (#37), Austria (#38), Spain (#39), Sweden (#42), Poland (#46), Norway (#47), Catalonia (#55), Slovenia (#66), England and Wales (#67), Australia (#78), New Zealand (#89), and the Czech Republic (#92).

This spelling is used in English, French, Finnish, the Scandinavian languages, Slovak, Czech, German, Georgian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish. The alternate form Gabriël is Dutch, Gábriel is Hungarian, and Gabríel is Icelandic.

Gabrielle, one of the feminine forms, is English and French. In France, it’s #74, and in the U.S., it’s fallen to #225, after peaking at #46 in 1999. The alternate form Gabriëlle is Dutch.

Gabriella is English, Hungarian, Swedish, and Italian. In the U.S., it’s #61, down from a peak of #33 from 2009–11. The alternate form Gabriëlla is Dutch, and Gabríella is Icelandic.

Gabriela is Polish, Bulgarian, Slovak, Czech, German, Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese, and Croatian. It’s #8 in Romania, #19 in Poland, #29 in Portugal, #30 in the Czech Republic, #36 in Croatia, #50 in Mexico, #56 in Chile, #73 in Spain, and #252 in the U.S. The alternate form Gabríela is Icelandic.

Other forms include:


1. Gabriels is Latvian.

2. Gabrielius is Lithuanian.

3. Gavriel is the original Hebrew. It means “God is my strong man.”

4. Gavrel is Yiddish.

5. Gavriil is Russian.

6. Gavril is Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Romanian.

7. Gavrail is Bulgarian.

8. Gábor is Hungarian.

9. Gavrilo is Serbian. This form was famously borne by Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and started the First World War.

10. Gabrijel is Slovenian and Croatian.

11. Havryyil is Ukrainian.

12. Kaapo is Finnish. An alternate form is Kaappo.

13. Kaapro is also Finnish.

14. Gabriele is Italian.

15. Jabril is Arabic.

16. Jibril is also Arabic.

17. Dzhabrail is Chechen.

18. Cabbrieli is Sicilian.

19. Djibril is Western African.

20. Džibril is Bosnian.

21. Cebraîl is Kurdish.

22. Cəbrayil is Azeri.

23. Crabiele is Sardinian.

24. Gabirel is Basque.

25. Gabrielo is Esperanto.

26. Gābriyēl is Telugu.

27. Kapriel is Armenian.

28. Gabriyel is also Armenian.

29. Gaibrial is Irish.

30. Gavrylo is Ukrainian.

31. Gēbriyal is Kannadan.

32. Gēbriyala is Hindi and Gujarati.

33. Habryyel is Belarusian.

34. Haŭryil is also Belarusian.

35. Jebreil is Persian.

36. Jiboraeel is Bengali.

37. Jibriil is Somali.

38. Kapeliela is Hawaiian.

39. Kâpriale is Greenlandic.

40. Kēpriyal is Tamil.

41. Xhebraili is Albanian. The XH sound is pronounced like the J in Jupiter.

42. Zibrail is Sylheti.

43. Cebrail is Turkish.


1. Gavriela, or Gavriella, is Hebrew.

2. Gavrilla is an alternate Hebrew form.

3. Gavrela is Yiddish.

4. Havyryyila is Ukrainian.

5. Kaapriella is Finnish.

6. Gabrielė is Lithuanian.

7. Gabriele is German.

8. Gabrijela is Croatian.

9. Gavrila is Romanian. An alternate form is Gavrilă.

The many forms of Samuel

It’s never been a secret that Samuel is my absolute favoritest male name! If I’m ever blessed with kids before I’m too old, and I have a boy (like I’ve dreamt about constantly for many years), his name will absolutely be Samuel. First and foremost, it’s after the Prophet Samuel. Other awesome namesakes are Samuel P. Gompers, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), and Shemp Howard (Samuel Horwitz). In fact, I plan to call him Shemp for short, since I’m such a massive Stooges fans!

Since I love this name so much, and there’s no chance I’m naming my potential firstborn son anything else (particularly considering I might not have a second chance to name a boy!), its rising popularity concerns me. It’s been Top 30 in the U.S. since 1996, and doesn’t show any signs of shooting down the charts. In 2016, it was #21.

Ultimately, this name means so much to me, it doesn’t matter if anyone thinks I was just mindlessly choosing a popular name. I’ve never been a crowd-follower, and I highly doubt anyone would ever mistake me for one!

Samuel is also currently popular in Austria (#22), England and Wales (#23), Canada (#21), Australia (#15), the Czech Republic (#29), Finland (#35), Belgium (#46), New Zealand (#16), Ireland (#41), Italy (#40), Galicia (#43), The Netherlands (#64),  Northern Ireland (#47), Norway (#76), Switzerland (#8), Scotland (#39), Portugal (#48), Spain (#36), Sweden (#74), Mexico (#49), Hungary (#93), France (#48), Chile (#68), and Catalonia (#80).

As indicated above, the spelling Samuel is used in English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, the Scandinavian languages, Portuguese, Czech, and Finnish. It’s also used in Slovak and Polish. The Hungarian variation is Sámuel, with the nickname Samu; the Dutch form is Samuël; and the Icelandic form is Samúel. Other forms include:

1. Sh’muel is the Hebrew original, and means “God has heard,” in reference to Chana (Hannah)’s heartfelt prayer for a child being answered. A common nickname is Shmuley, alternately spelt Shmuli.

2. Samuli is Finnish. Nicknames include Samppa (the name of a well-known body modification artist who travels to different shops to do things like ear-pointing and repairing stretched piercings people don’t want anymore), Sami, and Samu.

3. Samuil is Bulgarian and Russian. Russian nicknames include Sanya, Sanka, Samonya, Samokha, Samoshka, Samko, Samosha, Sanchik, Samunka, Sansha, Samunya, and Samukha.

4. Samoil is Macedonian.

5. Samuele is Italian.

6. Sawyl is Welsh.

7. Hāmiora is Maori.

8. Hāmuera is also Maori.

9. Kamuela is Hawaiian.

10. Saamuel is Estonian.

11. Sámal is Faroese.

12. Sameli is Finnish.

13. Samhail is Irish.

14. Samoel is Georgian.

15. Samouil is modern Greek.

16. Sämu is Swiss–German.

17. Samuelis is a rare Lithuanian and Dutch form.

18. Samuilo is a rare Serbian form.

19. Samuyil is Ukrainian.

20. Samvel is Armenian.

21. Shamil is Tatar, Chechen, Dagestani, Kazakh, Avar, Abkhaz, Azeri, and Circassian.

22. Sumayl is Moorish.

Feminine forms:

1. Samine is Norwegian.

2. Samuella is English and Dutch.

3. Samuelita is Spanish.

4. Samuelette is English.

5. Samuelle is French and English.

6. Samulina is Faroese and Medieval English.

7. Samuline is Norwegian.