Names to avoid in an Anglophone country

Over the years, I’ve come across names which, let’s be honest, just wouldn’t work in a modern Anglophone country. These names might sound beautiful in their native languages, not even pronounced like they’d be in English, but the spellings or connotations still are what they are. Bullies will find a way to make fun of any name they don’t like, but these names stand out all by themselves.

No offense is intended to people who do have these names! There are plenty of English names which must look or sound funny in other cultures.

1. Semen, the most common Ukrainian form of Simon. I shouldn’t even have to explain why this name is a no-go!

2. Urinboy. I found this while researching my post on Kyrgyz names on my main blog, and at first thought it had to be a joke or vandalism. It really is a legit name.

3. Bích, a female Vietnamese name meaning “bluish-green.” It’s pronounced BEEK, but we all know how everyone will assume it’s pronounced.

4. Dong, a male Chinese name whose meanings include “beam, pillar” and “east.” It’s pronounced DOONG. However, I don’t think the Scottish name Dongal should be avoided. I honestly didn’t realize what the first four letters spell in English until it was pointed out some years after discovering the name.

5. Dũng, a male Vietnamese name meaning “brave.” It’s pronounced like the English word “yum.” If you like the meaning that much, you could use the Chinese and Korean form, Yong, or one of the Japanese forms, Yuu or Isamu.

6. Foka, the Russian form of Phocas/Phokas, which means “a seal” (the animal). I’m not sure where the stress falls, but if it’s on the A, the name would be pronounced Fah-KAH, not FOH-kah.

7. Gaylord. This poor boy would be so bullied.

8. Gay(e). This poor girl would likewise be bullied, though once upon a time, this was a lovely name. We can’t predict how the language will evolve.

9. Osama. I’ve heard this name has been outlawed in some countries, and we can all understand why.

10. Adolf/Adolph. This name is likewise outlawed in many countries with naming laws. If you want to honor a special older relative or friend who was born before the name took on its modern association, what about the original form Adalwolf?

11. Titty. There’s a reason this is no longer a nickname for Letitia!

12. Tit. Pronounced TEET (still awful in English!), this is the Russian form of Titus.

13. Arseman. This was the name of a female character on the early Nineties Nickelodeon show Fifteen, as well as the real-life name of the young lady who played her. Given what “arse” means in the U.K., Ireland, and Australia, this is a no-go!

14. Arsen, a male Armenian name derived from the Greek Arsenios. It sounds like “arson,” and it’s also only two letters shy of “arsenic.” I personally wouldn’t use this name or any of the other forms of it, particularly if I lived in a place where “arse” is the spelling for one’s rear end.

15. Hardman, the Old Germanic form of Hartmann (brave man).

16. Jerker, a Swedish form of Erik. The J is pronounced like a Y, but the spelling in English is what it is. Another form of this name is Jerk.

17. Harm, a Dutch and Frisian nickname for Herman.

18. Violâte, a Jèrriais name which seems to be a form of the Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish Violante, which may in turn be derived from Yolanda. Both Violâte and Violante are too close to the word “violent,” and it’s obvious what Violâte spells in English. The similar-looking Violet, however, has never conveyed that connotation for me.

Are there any other names you’d add to this list?

Names with heart

To mark the upcoming Valentine’s Day, here are some names whose meanings relate to the word “heart.”

Unisex:

Dilshad means “happy heart, cheerful” in Persian.

Kamon means “heart, mind” in Thai.

Maeum means “heart, mind” in Korean. This is a modern, not traditional, name.

Manpaul means “protector of the heart” in Punjabi.

Manprit, or Manpreet, means “near to the heart” or “love of the heart” in Punjabi.

Muretu means “light-hearted” in Estonian.

Obioma means “good heart” in Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria.

Paidamoyo means “what the heart desired was granted” in Shona, a Bantu language spoken in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Mozambique.

Xinjing can mean “heart of crystal” in Chinese.

Xinyi is a Chinese name composed of the elements xin, which can mean “heart, mind, soul,” and yi, which can mean “harmony, joy.” Many other meanings are also possible.

Yollotzin means “belovèd heart” in Nahuatl.

Male:

Akzhurek means “white heart” in Kazakh.

Ardil means “fire heart” in Kurdish.

Avtandil is a Georgian name meaning “sunshine heart,” drawn from Persian. This is the legendary hero of poet Shota Rustaveli’s 12th century epic The Knight in the Panther’s Skin.

Dilawar means “one who has heart” in Persian.

Dilesh means “king of hearts” in Sanskrit.

Fawad is Urdu.

Fuad is Arabic.

Hubert means “bright heart” in Ancient Germanic.

Hugh is an English name, derived from the Germanic element hug, “heart, spirit, mind.” Hugo is a common variant.

Hughard means “brave/hardy heart” in Ancient Germanic.

Hugleikr means “heart play” in Old Norse.

Kordian is a very rare Polish name, derived from the Latin word cordis/cor, “heart.”

Lev is Hebrew.

Obi is Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria.

Obichukwu means “heart of God” in Igbo.

Obinna means “father’s heart” in Igbo.

Shinpei can mean “calm heart” in Japanese.

Shungudzemwoyo means “yearnings of the heart” in Shona.

Thaddeus is an English and Latin name of contested etymology, with one suggested etymology being that it’s derived from a word meaning “heart.”

Zhanbolat means “brave heart” in Kazakh.

Female:

Bihotz is Basque.

Chiiko can mean “thousand-heart child” in Japanese.

Corazón is Spanish.

Cordula is Latin and German.

Delara means “adorning the heart” in Persian.

Dila is Kurdish, Indonesian, and Turkish, derived from Persian.

Dilva means “from the heart” in Kurdish.

Gönül is Turkish.

Gulisa means “little heart” in Georgian.

Kamira can mean “good flower heart” in Japanese.

Kamonchat means “peaceful heart” in Thai.

Karnika means “heart of the lotus” in Sanskrit.

Koharu is a Japanese name composed of the elements ko, which can mean “heart,” and haru, which can mean “spring (the season).” There are also many other possible meanings.

Kokomi can mean “beautiful heart” in Japanese.

Kokone can mean “heart sound” in Japanese.

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

Kokoru is a Japanese name composed of the elements koko, which can mean “heart, soul, mind,” and ru, which means “lapis lazuli.”

Konul is Azeri.

Libi means “my heart” in Hebrew.

Shinshin can mean “double heart” in Japanese. This meaning of the kanji shin is mostly feminine. When used as a masculine name, it has a different meaning.

Verticordia means “turner of hearts” in Latin. This was one of Venus’s epithets.

Yolotl is Nahuatl.

Yoloxochitl means “heart flower” in Nahuatl.

Yoltzin means “little heart” in Nahuatl.

Zamira means “heart, honor” in Bashkir.

Graceful names

The name Grace has had a huge surge in popularity in the last twenty years. It was in the U.S. Top 20 from 1880 to 1908, and then remained first in the Top 50 and then the Top 100 until 1938. It never dropped below #397 (in 1977), but it didn’t regain its former popularity until 1995, when it re-entered the Top 100 at #97. It began surging upward quicker and quicker, peaking at #13 in 2003 and 2004. In 2015, it was #19.

If you like the name and/or its meaning, but would prefer something a bit more below the radar, here are some names to consider. As always, these could be used for fictional characters or pets, not just children. I know some of these names wouldn’t work so well in a modern, Anglophone country!

Unisex:

Chisomo is Chewa, a Bantu language spoken in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique.

Yahui can mean “graceful favour/benefit” in Chinese.

Yating is a Chinese name composed of the elements ya, which can mean “graceful, refined, elegant,” and ting, which can mean “graceful, pretty.”

Yazhu can mean “graceful lute/zither” in Chinese.

Zedong is a Chinese name composed of the elements ze, which can mean “grace, brilliance, moist,” and dong, which can mean “east.”

Female:

Amara is Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria.

Amarachi means “God’s grace” in Igbo.

Charis is Greek.

Eun-Jeong is a Korean name composed of the elements eun, which can mean “attentive, careful, anxious” or “charity, kindness, mercy,” and jeong, which can mean “graceful, pretty.”

Ghada means “graceful woman” in Arabic.

Graça is Portuguese.

Gracia is Spanish.

Gratia is German.

Grazia is Italian.

Juan can mean “graceful” in Chinese. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t recommend this in either an Anglophone or Hispanophone country!

Krupa is Sanskrit.

Lavanya is Sanskrit.

Na can mean “graceful” in Chinese.

Nyazik means “graceful” in Turkmen.

Sanaz may mean “full of grace” in Persian.

Seo-Yeon is a Korean name composed of the elements seo, which can mean “auspicious, felicitous omen,” and yeon, which can mean “graceful, beautiful.”

Ya can mean “graceful” in Chinese.

Yaling can mean “graceful tinkling of jade” in Chinese.

Yawen can mean “graceful cloud patterns” in Chinese.

Male:

Armo is Finnish.

Chares is Greek. This was the name of the sculptor of the Colossus of Rhodes.

Chariton is Greek.

Esmond is derived from the Old English elements east (grace) and mund (protection).

Fadl is Arabic.

Gratian comes from the Latin name Gratianus.

Hulderic means “graceful power/rule” in Ancient Germanic.

Khariton is Russian and Georgian.

Sulo is Finnish.

Zayn is Arabic.

Snowy names

Since the season of snow is unfortunately upon us in my part of Planet Earth, I thought I’d do a list of snow-related names.

Unisex:

Aput means “snow” in Greenlandic.

Fuyuki can mean “winter snow” in Japanese.

Setsuna means “calm snow” in Japanese.

Xue can mean “snow” in Chinese.

Xun can mean “snow” in Chinese.

Yuki can mean “snow” in Japanese. Sadly, I can imagine a lot of teasing in the Anglophone world, with people assuming this name is pronounced “yucky.”

Male:

Aputsiaq means “snowflake” in Greenlandic.

Berfan means “snow” in Kurdish.

Berfhat means “snow is here” in Kurdish.

Edur means “snow” in Basque.

Eirwyn means “white snow” in Welsh.

Fannar is an Icelandic name possibly derived from the female Old Norse name Fönn, “snow drift.”

Haruyuki can mean “spring snow” in Japanese.

Hideyuki can mean “excellent snow” in Japanese.

Himadri means “mountaintop of snow” in Sanskrit, in reference to the Himalayas. The name Himalaya itself means “house of snow.”

Masauna means “wet snow” in Greenlandic.

Persoĸ means “snow flurry” in Greenlandic.

Snær means “snow” in Icelandic and Old Norse. Icelandic has a lot more names of older vintage than its sister languages Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish, due to its geographical isolation. For this reason, the Icelandic language is also closer to Old Norse than the other three languages.

Snæþór means “snow thunder” in Icelandic.

Takayuki can mean “valuable snow” in Japanese.

Yukio can mean “blue snow” or “green snow” in Japanese.

Female:

Bora means “snow” in Albanian.

Chione means “snow” in Greece. She was the daughter of Callirrhoe (a Naiad) and Neilus (god of the Nile). Zeus made Hermes turn her into a snow cloud. In another version of her story, she was a snow nymph or a minor snow goddess.

Dëborake means “snow” in Albanian.

Dianeu means “day of snow” in Catalan.

Drífa means “fall of snow; snowdrift” in Icelandic and Old Norse.

Edurra means “snow” in Basque.

Eira means “snow” in Welsh. Another form of this name is Eiry.

Eirwen means “white snow” in Welsh.

Fanndís means “snow goddess” in Icelandic.

Gwyneira also means “white snow” in Welsh.

Hatsuyuki can mean “new snow” or “first snow” in Japanese.

Haukea means “white snow” in Hawaiian. It seems kind of odd to me how there would be any Hawaiian names relating to snow!

Haunani means “beautiful snow” in Hawaiian.

Helve means “snowflake” in Estonian.

Ilgara means “first snow” in Azeri.

Kaniehtiio means “beautiful snow” in Mohawk.

Kohakuyuki can mean “amber snow” in Japanese.

Koyuki can mean “little snow” in Japanese.

Kukiko can mean “snow child” in Japanese.

Lian can mean “snow” in Chinese.

Lumi means “snow” in Estonian and Finnish. Lumia is an alternate form. Another form is Lumikki, which is Snow White’s name in Finnish.

Miyuki can mean “beautiful snow” in Japanese.

Mjalldís means “fresh/powdery snow goddess” in Icelandic.

Mjǫll means “fresh/powdery snow” in Old Norse. She was the daughter of King Snær (Snow).

Setsuka can mean “snow flower” in Japanese.

Snezhana means “snowy” in Russian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian. The Serbian form is Snežana, the Ukrainian form is Snizhana, and the Croatian form is Snježana. One of my animal characters is a snow-white Pomeranian named Snezhinka, which means “snowflake” in Russian. Snegurochka is the name of the Snow Maiden who helps Dyed Moroz (Grandfather Frost) with distributing Christmas presents.

Sniega means “snow” in Lithuanian.

Tuyết means “snow” in Vietnamese.

Yukiko can mean “snow child” in Japanese.

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.