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.

The many forms of Joshua

Archangel Michael appearing to Joshua, 18th century

Joshua is the very popular English form of Hebrew name Yehoshua (God is salvation). The original form of the Biblical Joshua’s name was Hoshea (salvation), from the root yasha. In its various forms, Joshua has long been common in the Jewish world, though it didn’t become common in the Anglophone world till the Protestant Reformation.

The name was #211 in the U.S. in 1880, when records began being kept, and was consistently low-ranking during the ensuing decades. Its lowest position was #729 in 1929. Then, in the Fifties, Joshua began slowly creeping up the charts, and went from #530 in 1951 to #79 in 1971. Some years it jumped more than fifty ranks. It entered the Top 10 in 1979, at #9, and stayed in the Top 10 till 2009. In 2018, it was #41, part of a slow downward drop.

Joshua is also popular in England and Wales (#15), New Zealand (#20), Scotland (#30), Ireland (#50), and The Netherlands (#91).

Self-portrait of British painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–92), ca. 1748

Other forms of the name include:

1. Jozua is Dutch.

2. Józsua is Hungarian.

3. Ikoua is Hawaiian.

4. Giosuè is Italian and Sicilian.

5. Josu is Basque.

6. Josué is French, Portuguese, and Spanish. The variant Josuè is Catalan.

7. Xesús is Galician.

8. Isa is Arabic. Alternate transliterations are Essa and Issa. The variant form İsa is Turkish.

9. Yusha is also Arabic.

10. Jesús is Spanish. As odd as this name looks on a normal person in English, the J is pronounced like an H. It’s very common in the Spanish-speaking world, not considered sacrilegious like it is in English and many other languages. Most languages keep the names Jesus and Joshua separate for that very reason.

Joshua Slocum (1844–1909), first person to sail alone around the world

11. Iyassu is Ethiopian.

12. Joosua is Finnish.

13. Joschua is German.

14. Josua is also German. The alternate form Jošua is Croatian.

15. Josuo is Esperanto.

16. Josva is Danish and Norwegian.

17. Jozue is Czech and Slovak, typically only used in reference to the Biblical Joshua. This form is also Slovenian and Polish. The alternate form Jozuė is Lithuanian.

18, Xosué is Galician.

19. Isus is Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Serbian.

20. Iisus is Russian and Chuvash.

U.S. baseball player Josh Gibson (1911–1947), widely considered one of the best power hitters and catchers in history

21. Iosua is Romanian. The alternate form Iósua is Irish.

22. Yushai is Chechen.

23. Yoşua is Azeri

24. Yuşa is Turkish.

25. Yoshua is Swahili.

26. Josoa is Malagasy.

27. Isu is Georgian.

Female forms:

1. Jesusa is Spanish.

2. Josune is Basque.

3. Joshuelle is a rare English form. I strongly dislike this name! It looks and sounds like a forced feminisation of a name that already doesn’t lend itself well to feminine forms.

4. Joshuette is another rare English form. I’m not a fan of this one either.

Leonine names

Pope Leo XIII (1810–1903), painted by Philip de László (né Fülöp Elek László)

Leo, which means “lion” in Latin, is English, German, Dutch, Scandinavian, Finnish, and Croatian, and currently enjoying great popularity. In 2017, it was #61 in the U.S. (and has been jumping up the charts since 2000), after having been a Top 100 staple from 1880–1937. Its highest rank was #37 in 1903.

It’s #1 in Australia, Canada, and Finland; #7 in England and Wales (and in France as Léo); #11 in Spain, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Sweden, and Catalonia; #19 in Switzerland (and #96 as Léo); #9 in Scotland; #8 in Galicia; #33 in Ireland; #22 in Austria; #58 in Norway; #91 in Belgium; and #71 in Slovenia.

As abovementioned, Léo is French. Another alternate form, Leó, is Icelandic and Hungarian.

French artist Léon Augustin Lhermitte, 1844–1925

Leon, which means “lion” in Greek, is English, German, Dutch, Polish, Slovenian, and Croatian. It was Top 100 in the U.S. in 1883, 1885, from 1887–90, and from 1892–1942. Its highest rank was #73 in 1926. In 2006, it began jumping up the charts, and had risen to #244 by 2017.

It’s also #4 in Switzerland; #11 in Austria; #15 in Belgium (and #36 as Léon); #22 in Sweden and Poland; #23 in Slovenia; #77 in Scotland; #68 in Bosnia; #98 in England and Wales; #28 in Norway; #85 in New Zealand; #53 in Ireland; #96 in Australia; and #40 in France (as Léon).

The alternative form León is Spanish, and Léon is French. Other forms of this name include:

1. Levon (LEHV-ohn) is Armenian. I can’t stand the Anglo LEE-von mangling!

2. Leoš is Czech.

3. Léonce is French.

4. Leone is Italian.

5. Leoncio is Spanish.

6. Lionel is a French diminutive.

7. Leontiy is Russian, with the nickname Lyonya.

8. Lev is also Russian, with the nickname Lyova.

9. Levan is Georgian.

10. Leonzio is Italian.

Armenian physiologist Levon Orbeli, 1882–1958

11. Leonas is Lithuanian.

12. Lew (LEF) is Polish.

13. Leão is a rare Portuguese form.

14. Lejo is Sami and a rare Finnish form.

15. Ledjo is Sami.

16. Lîu is Greenlandic.

17. Lleó is Catalan.

18. Luan is Albanian.

19. Liuni is Sicilian.

20. Liūtas is Lithuanian.

21. Leons is Latvian.

Lithuanian nobleman and politician Leonas Sapiega, 1557–1633

Feminine forms:

1. Leona is English and German.

2. Leone is English. The alternate form Léone is French, and Leonė is Lithuanian.

3. Leontina is Italian.

4. Leola is English.

5. Léontine is French.

6. Leontyne is a rare English form.

7. Leonie is Dutch and German. The alternate form Léonie is French.

8. Leonia is Latin.

9. Léonine is French and Dutch.

Leona Vicario (1789–1842), one of the most important people in Mexico’s War of Independence

Other leonine names:

Unisex:

1. Arioch means “lion-like” and “venerable,” or “a fierce lion,” in Hebrew.

2. Aset is Kazakh and Chechen. In the former language, it’s male-only; in the latter, it’s unisex.

3. Sangay is Tibetan.

5. Singye is also Tibetan.

Female:

1. Ariella means “lion of God” in Hebrew.

2. Asida means “lioness” in Abkhaz.

3. Azida means “lioness” in Circassian.

4. Kefira means “lion cub” in Hebrew.

5. Leaneira means “lion man” in Greek.

6. Lý is Vietnamese.

7. Seyha means “lion” or “August” in Khmer.

Ariel Serena Hedges Bowen, African–American temperance activist, music professor, and writer (1863–1904)

Male:

1. Ariel is the male form of Ariella.

2. Kefir is the male form of Kefira.

3. Aleeki means “brave lion” in Somali.

4. Ambesa is Ethiopian.

5. Anibesa is Amharic.

6. Aristoleon means “best lion” in Greek.

7. Arsalan is Persian, Punjabi, and Urdu.

8. Arslon is Uzbek.

9. Arstanbek means “lion master” in Kyrgyz.

10. Aryşlan is Bashkir.

Azeri politician Aslan bey Safikurdski, 1881–1937

11. Arystan is Kazakh.

12. Arystanbek means “lion master” in Kazakh.

13. Azam is Arabic.

14. Beslan means “master of lions” in Circassian, Chechen, Ingush, Abkhaz, and Abazin.

15. Demoleon means “lion of the people” in Greek.

16. Guryon means “lion cub” in Hebrew.

17. Lavoslav means “glorious lion” in Croatian. The Slovak form is Levoslav.

18. Leofred means “lion of peace/love” in Norwegian.

19. Ari is Hebrew.

20. Areli means “lion of God” in Hebrew.

Argentinean politician Leandro Alem (né Alen), 1841–96

21. Aryeh is Hebrew.

22. Asad is Arabic and Urdu.

23. Aslan is Chechen, Kazakh, Circassian, Ossetian, Azeri, and Turkish.

24. Aslanbek means “lion master” in Circassian, Ossetian, and Chechen.

25. Leandros means “lion man” in Greek. Other forms are Leandro (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese); Leander (English, Latin); and Léandre (French).

26. Haidar is Arabic.

27. Leonard means “brave lion” in German. Other forms include Leendart and Leendert (Dutch); Lennart (Scandinavian); Lenart (Slovenian); Leonardo (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese); Leonhard (German); and Léonard (French).

28. Pantaleon means “all lion” in Greek.

Diamond names

Though I personally amn’t that keen on diamonds (I prefer dark stones, and ones without long ad campaigns trying to make the masses believe they’re the be-all and end-all of stones), there are many nice names meaning “diamond.” I’ve also included the words for diamond in other languages, where they sound enough like real names.

Unisex:

Almas is Arabic and Persian.

Dorji is Tibetan.

Kaimana is Hawaiian, and alternately means “ocean/sea power.”

Pich is Khmer.

Almaz is Amharic, Arabic, Ethiopian, Kazakh, Azeri, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Russian, and Ukrainian. It obviously is a very rare name in the two lattermost languages, probably not frequently used by native-born Russians and Ukrainians.

Daiya is Japanese. As with just about all other Japanese names, it can also mean many other things, depending upon the characters used, and which writing system.

Heera is Sanskrit, and also found in the various modern Indian languages.

Timantti is Finnish.

Yahalom is modern Hebrew.

Elmaz is Albanian and Bulgarian.

Male:

Almazbek means “diamond master” in Kyrgyz.

Diamant is Albanian.

Dimants is a rare Latvian name.

Sein is Burmese.

Tserendorj can mean “diamond longevity/long life” in Mongolian.

Watchara is Thai.

Xhevahir is Albanian. The letter XH is pronounced like the J in Jupiter.

Olmos is Uzbek.

Female:

Almast is Armenian.

Diamanto is Greek.

Intan is Malay and Indonesian.

Diamantea is Basque.

Adamantine means “diamond-like” in French.

Alimazi is Amharic.

Birlant means “like a diamond” in Chechen.

Deimantė is Lithuanian. It can also mean “intelligent goddess.”

Diamante is Judeo-Italian.

Gaukhar is Kazakh, and can also mean “precious, brilliant.”

Gewher is Kurdish.

Pharchara is Thai.

Almast is Armenian.

Almasi is Swahili.

Elmas is Turkish.

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.