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.


Steely, metallic names

I recently discovered the History Channel’s series Forged in Fire, a reality show wherein four smiths compete to make the best weapon. Smithery and metallurgy are stereotypically male pursuits, but I’ve always been really proud of being very tomboyish.

It therefore wasn’t too much of a surprise that almost all of the names I found with meanings relating to steel, metal, iron, copper, and bronze are male names. Many of these names are also Mongolian or from Turkic languages.


Aenea means “bronze” or “copper” in Latin. This was possibly also created as a feminine form of Aeneas, which means “praise.”

Aramita is a Spanish name possibly derived from the Latin aramen, and ultimately aeramen, which means “copper, bronze.”

Kaneru means “bronze” in Japanese.


Batbold means “bold steel” in Mongolian.

Berbolat is a Chechen name derived from the Turkish military title bek (or beg), which means “master, chieftain,” and the Turkic element bolat (or bulat), which means “steel,” and ultimately derives from the Persian pulad.

Bolat means “steel” in Kazakh.

Çelik means “steel” in Turkish.

Chuluunbold means “stone steel” in Mongolian.

Demir means “iron” in Turkish.

Elidur is an archaic Welsh name, the first element of unknown etymology, and the second probably derived from dur (steel). In the 19th century, the name was resurrected as Elidor.

Ferruccio means “little iron” in Italian.

Ganbaatar means “steel hero” in Mongolian.

Ganbold means “steel steel” in Mongolian.

Gansükh means “steel axe” in Mongolian.

Gantulga means “steel hearth” in Mongolian.

Ganzorig means “steel courage” in Mongolian.

Gobán possibly means “little smith” in Irish.

Goibniu means “smith” in Irish. He was a smith god, and provided weapons for the Tuatha De Danann.

Hephaestus is the Latinized form of the Greek Hephaistos, the god of fire, forging, and metallurgy. He was also a fellow limper.

Ilmarinen is a Finnish name which partly derives from ilma (air). He’s an immortal smith in Finnish mythology, and the creator of the sky and the magic mill Sampo.

Kaneki can mean “metal tree” in Japanese.

Kañ-ool means “steel boy” and “steel son” in Tuvan, a Turkic language spoken in south-central Siberia.

Khurşӑ means “steel” in Chuvash, a Turkic language spoken in central Russia.

Nurbolat is a Kazakh name composed of the elements nur (light) and bolat (steel).

Pola means “steel” in Kurdish.

Rentarou can mean “son of thick smelt metals” in Japanese.

Shoiynbai means “made of steel” in Kazakh.

Solon possibly means “lump of iron” in Greek.

Ståle means “steel” in Norwegian. The original Old Norse version was Stáli.

Talos was a bronze-winged automaton in Greek mythology, given to Europa for protection against invaders and pirates.

Temujin means “of iron” in Mongolian.

Timur is derived from the Turkic name Temür (iron), and is used in Uzbek, Kazakh, Tatar, Chechen, and Russian.

Tömörbaatar means “iron hero” in Mongolian.

Trahaearn means “very much like iron” in Welsh.

Tunç means “bronze” in Turkish.

Tuncay means “bronze Moon” in Turkish.

Yerbolat roughly means “steel male” or “male of steel” in Kazakh.

Zhelyazko means “iron” in Bulgarian.

Zarema and Zoriy


Zarema is a modern Russian name. No meaning was given for it at the Russian language baby names site I found it at; as far as I can tell from further searching, it’s of Chechen origin. The one site which gave a meaning said it may mean “sweet water” or “war maid.” This name is also possibly derived from the Persian name Zareen, meaning “golden.”

I personally tread very carefully when taking any name site besides Behind the Name as an accurate source for name meanings. It’s all about vetting your sources. I’ve found out a lot of names don’t have the meanings I was led to believe they had. Honestly, a lot of name sites are garbage, the way they lump names in categories they clearly aren’t part of, and by giving blatantly untrue meanings and etymologies. Zarema is obviously a very real name, but I’m not going to definitively give it a meaning or etymology in the absence of scholarly sources.

Zoriy is a modern Russian name, not an invented Soviet name. It means “morning” in the adjectival form. Russian is such an amazingly rich language, with so many forms of words branching off from one simple root. One of the basic nickname forms would be Zorik.

Sources consulted:

http://panzercentral.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=96&t=36301 (penultimate post)



http://www.devichnik.ru/9810/imia.html (male)

http://www.devichnik.ru/9805/imia.html (female)