Names symbolic of short life

Content Warning: This post is about names befitting stillborns, infants with very short lives, and miscarriages.

I know this is a depressing, macabre topic no one should ever have to deal with, but fetal and neonatal deaths are an unavoidable fact of life. And as always, these names can also be used for fictional characters. I’ve used some of them for my own characters.

Though traditional Jewish Law dictates stillborns and infants who live less than 30 days shouldn’t be named or have Kaddish recited for them, I find it very meaningful to give such a child a simple but symbolic name. When I asked one of my rabbis about this, he said he’d never tell grieving parents not to say Kaddish for their dear baby, no matter what custom dictates.

Other traditions have different outlooks, and individuals of any faith or culture should make their own decisions. God forbid this should ever happen to me if I’m blessed with biological children before time runs out, but if it did, I’d opt against the name I’d previously chosen and instead use one of the following names, with the understanding this child would never be called that. A name that might seem corny or pretentious on a living child is transformed into something haunting and beautiful on one who was born asleep or barely lived.

Unless otherwise noted, all names ending in vowels are female, and all names ending in consonants are male.

Amala means “pure, clean” in Sanskrit.

Angel is rather self-explanatory.

Atropos (F) was the oldest the Three Fates, the one who cut the thread. Her Roman version was Morta.

Bedisa means “fate” in Georgian.

Blessing is self-explanatory.

Bracha means “blessing” in Hebrew. The male form is Baruch.

Clotho was one of the Three Fates, the one who spins the thread of Life. Her Roman version was Nona.

Dalisay (F) means “pure” in Tagalog.

Destiny is self-explanatory. This name has such a different image when used on a stillborn or someone who died in early infancy.

Faith is self-explanatory.

Glenda was created in the 20th century from Welsh elements glan (clean, pure) and da (good).

Heimarmene was the Greek goddess of the Fate of the Universe. The name may be derived from the verb meiresthai (to receive as one’s lot), from which the word moira (destiny, fate) also derives.

Hypnos was the Greek god of sleep, described as very kind, gentle, and calm. His Roman version was Somnus.

Inmaculada means “immaculate” in Spanish, after the Immaculate Conception. Other forms include Imaculada (Portuguese), Immaculata (Irish), Immacolata (Italian), and Immaculada (Catalan)

Innocent derives from the Latin Innocentius, ultimately from innocens (innocent). Other forms include Innocenzo (Italian), Innokentiy (Russian), Inocencio (Spanish), Innocenty (Polish), Innozenz (German), Inocentas (Lithuanian), Innocenz (German), Inocent (Croatian), and Inocenţiu (Romanian).

Female forms are Innokentiya (Russian, Bulgarian), Iñoskentze (Basque), Innocentia (Latin), Innocència (Catalan), Innocenta (Polish), Inocencia (Spanish, Portuguese), and Innocentja (Polish).

Juvenal means “youthful” in Latin, from original form Iuvenalis.

Kader (F) means “destiny, fate” in Turkish.

Kiyoshi (M) means “pure” in Japanese.

Lachesis (F) was one of the Three Fates, the one responsible for measuring the thread and determining length of life. Her Roman counterpart is Decima.

Memoria means “memory” in Italian.

Mneme means “memory” in Greek. She was one of the original Three Muses.

Mnemosyne was the Greek goddess of remembrance. Other forms include Mnemosina (Russian, Macedonian, Serbian, Tatar, Ukrainian, Azeri, Basque), Mnemosine (Italian, Portuguese), Mnémoszüné (Hungarian), Mnemozina (Bulgarian, Bosnian, Croatian), Mnemósine (Spanish, Asturian, Catalan), Mnemozino (Esperanto), Mnemasina (Belarusian), Mnēmosine (Latvian), Mnemosinė (Lithuanian), Mnemosin (Piedmontese), and Mnemosune (Afrikaans).

Neshama means “soul” in Hebrew. A diminutive form is Neshamaleh.

Oroitz means “memory” in Basque.

Peace is self-explanatory.

Pepromene was the Greek goddess of one’s individual fate. The name may derive from the verb peprosthai (to be fated, finished, fulfilled) or the noun pepratosthai (finite).

Qismat means “fate” in Arabic. This name is female in Sanskrit (Qismet) and Turkish (Kismet).

Remember, Remembrance. Though these were unisex names in Puritan times, Remember in particular has always sounded more feminine to me.

Safi (M) means “pure” in Arabic. The feminine forms are Safiya, Safiyyah (Arabic) and Safiye (Turkish).

Shalom means “peace” in Hebrew. This is a unisex name.

Syntyche means “common fate” in Greek.

Tahira means “pure, chaste, virtuous” in Arabic. In Turkish, it’s spelt Tahire. The male Arabic and Turkish form is Tahir.

Thuần means “pure, simple, clean” in Vietnamese.

Zachriel, Zechariel, Zachariel is the archangel who leads souls to judgment in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

Zaha means “pure, innocent, fresh, clean, clear” in Hebrew.

Zakiyya, Zakiya, Zakiah means “pure” in Arabic. The male form is Zaki. In Tatar and Bashkir, it’s spelt Zäki. The Hebrew form is Zakkai, Zakai, Zakay.


All about the name Francis

Saint Francis of Assisi (ca. 1182–3 October 1226), by Jusepe de Ribera, 1643

Francis is the English and French form of the Latin Franciscus (Frenchman), which ultimately derives from the Germanic tribe the Franks. They were named for a kind of spear they used. The name became popular in Christian Europe because of the abovepictured St. Francis of Assisi (né Giovanni). His Francophile father nicknamed him Francesco.

St. Francis renounced his dad’s wealth and devoted his life to serving the poor and downtrodden. He also founded the Franciscan order. Because of his popularity and how beloved he was, the name became widespread in continental Western Europe in the Middle Ages. It was only in the 16th century that it became common in Britain, however.

The name was #50 when the U.S. began tracking name popularity in 1880, and stayed in the Top 100 till 1955. Its top rank was #29 in 1915. Though Frances is well-established for females, Francis was fairly common for girls during this same time.

In 2018, the name was #480 in the U.S., and in 2017, it was #232 in England and Wales.

Frank Sinatra (1915–1998), often called the quintessential Sagittarian man

The variant Frank has always been more popular. It was #6 in the U.S. in 1880, and stayed in the Top 10 till 1922, the Top 20 till 1940, the Top 50 till 1970, and the Top 100 till 1988. In 2018, it was #392. This was also a mainstay in the girls’ Top 1000 (albeit mostly in the lower reaches) through the 1930s.

Frank was #32 in Sweden in 2018, and #181 in England and Wales in 2017.

Other forms include:

1. Franz is German.

2. Frans is Dutch, Finnish, and Scandinavian.

3. Francesco is Italian.

4. Francisco is Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician.

5. François is French.

6. Frens is Limburgish.

7. Francescu is Corsican.

8. Frantziscu is Sardinian.

9. František is Czech and Slovak.

10. Frantzisko is Basque.

1815 self-portrait of Spanish painter Francisco de Goya (1746–1828)

11. Patxi is another Basque form.

12. Franjo is Slovenian, Serbian, and Croatian. I’m told it’s rather rare in Serbia nowadays, and that Franja is more common, albeit just as rare.

13. Frančišek is Slovenian.

14. Franc (FRAHNTS) is also Slovenian.

15. Franciszek is Polish.

16. Frañsez is Breton.

17. Francesc is Catalan.

18. Ferenc (Feh-REHNTS) is Hungarian. Nicknames include Feri and Ferkó.

19. Frang is Scottish.

20. Ffrancis is Welsh.

Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771), who designed many Imperial Russian buildings; probably painted by Lucas Conrad Pfandzelt

21. Pranciškus is Lithuanian.

22. Proinsias is Irish.

23. Ċikku is Maltese.

24. Fragkiskos is Greek.

25. Francëszk is Kashubian.

26. Francho is Aragonese.

27. Francisc is Romanian.

28. Frantsishak is Belarusian.

29. Franġisk is Maltese.

30. Franziskus is German.

Hungarian novelist and playwright Ferenc Molnár, 1878–1952

31. Frantsisk is Russian and Bulgarian.

32. Fraunçouès is Norman.

33. Porinju is Malayalam, an Indian language.

34. Prainsseas is Scottish.

35. Pranchi is another Malayalam form, used in central Kerala.

36. Françesku is Albanian.

37. Francisko is Esperanto.

38. Palakiko is Hawaiian.

39. Francisks is Latvian.

40. Francés is Occitan.

French writer Françoise de Graffigny, 1695–1758

Frances didn’t emerge as a female-only name till the 17th century. Prior, Francis and Frances were used indistinguishably. The name was #42 in the U.S. in 1880, and slowly rose to its highest rank of #8 in 1918. It very slowly descended the chart, exiting the Top 100 in 1956. In 2018, it was #445.

Other forms include:

1. Francesca is Italian and Catalan.

2. Francisca is Spanish and Portuguese.

3. Franciska is Hungarian. Nicknames include Franci and Fanni. The alternate form Frančiška is Slovenian, with the nickname Francka.

4. Frangag is Scottish.

5. Frañseza is Breton.

6. Frantziska is Basque.

7. Františka is Czech.

8. Françoise is French.

9. Franciszka is Polish.

10. Frantzisca is Sardinian.

U.S. photographer and journalist Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1866–1952

11. Francine is English and French.

12. Fragkiska is a rare Greek form.

13. Franka is Croatian.

14. Franziska is German, and the name of the most infamous royal pretender of all time, Franziska Schanzkowska. I’m stunned there are still Anastasians convinced she was who she claimed to be! Countless DNA tests from multiple labs and countries, and a wealth of other damning evidence, have exposed the truth once and for all!

15. Franjica is Croatian.

16. Fransiska is Scandinavian and Icelandic.

17. Pranciška is Lithuanian.

18. Frančeska is Latvian.

19. Francëszka is Kashubian.

Dante and Virgil with Paolo and Francesca, painted by Ary Scheffer, ca. 1835, depicting tragic lovers Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta

20. Francheska is Russian and Bulgarian.

21. Franckage is Manx.

22. Frantzeska is Greek.

23. Jofranka is Romani.

24. Pantxika is Basque and Occitan.

The many forms of Anthony and Antonia

Saint Anthony the Great (ca. 12 January 251–17 January 356), by Giovanni di Nicola da Pisa

Though I’ve never been a huge fan of the English name Anthony, I love the Slavic form Anton. Its origins are in the Roman family name Antonius, ultimately of unknown Etruscan origin. The name became popular in the Christian world due to Saint Anthony the Great, an Egyptian who founded Christian monasticism.

Anthony became even more popular in the Middle Ages, thanks to Saint Anthony of Padua in the 13th century. He’s the patron saint of Portugal. Though the name was traditionally spelt Antony, the H was added in the 17th century due to an incorrect association with the Greek word anthos (flower).

The name was #103 in the U.S. when records began being kept in 1880, and has been in the Top 100 every year since except 1882, when it was #105. It was in the Top 50 from 1905–33, and again from 1936 till today. To date, its highest rank was #7 in 2007 and 2008. The name has been dropping in popularity rather sharply, and was down to #38 in 2018.

Anthony is also fairly popular in Ireland. It was #81 in 2017.

Other forms of the name include:

1. Anton is Russian, Scandinavian, Estonian, Macedonian, Icelandic, Finnish, Bulgarian, Slovenian, Ukrainian, Dutch, German, Romanian, Slovak, and Croatian. The variant Antón is Galician.

2. Antonio is Spanish, Italian, and Catalan. The variant António is Portuguese, and Antônio is Brazilian-Portuguese.

3. Antoine is French.

4. Antoon is Limburgish and Dutch. Dutch nicknames include Theunis, Toon, Ton, Theun, Teunis, and Teun.

5. Antonie is Dutch.

6. Antoniu is Romanian.

7. Antoni is Polish.

8. Antonije is Serbian and Bosnian.

9. Andon is Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Albanian.

10. Antono is Esperanto. The nickname is Anĉjo.

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, my third-fave writer, 17/29 January 1860–2/15 July 1904

11. Antonios is Greek.

12. Antonis is also Greek.

13. Tõnis is Estonian.

14. Anttoni is Finnish.

15. Anakoni is Hawaiian. The nickname is Akoni.

16. Antanas is Lithuanian.

17. Andoni is Basque.

18. Antton is also Basque.

19. Antnin is Maltese.

20. Atoni is Maori.

Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, 4 March 1678–28 July 1741

21. Antone is Corsican.

22. Atonio is Maori.

23. Jaontek is Vilamovian.

24. Pipindorio is Caló Romani.

25. Tönu is Swiss-German.

26. Tunièn is Emilian-Romagnol, a Gallo–Italic language.

27. Antanv is Konkani, an Indian language spoken along the Konkan coast in the southwestern area of the country.

28. Ante is Croatian, and the name of the vile leader of the fascist Ustaše during WWII.

29. Antonín is Czech.

30. Antal is Hungarian.

Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, 8 September 1841–1 May 1904

31. Antonijs is Latvian.

32. Antons is also Latvian.

Female forms:

1. Antonia is Italian, Spanish, Scandinavian, German, Dutch, Romanian, Greek, English, and Croatian. The variant Antónia is Portuguese, Hungarian, and Slovak. Antônia is Brazilian-Portuguese; Antònia is Catalan; and Antonía is Icelandic.

2. Antoniya is Bulgarian.

3. Antonija is Serbian, Slovenian, Sorbian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Croatian.

4. Antonie is Czech. The last two letters are pronounced separately, not as one.

5. Antoinette is French.

6. Antía is Galician.

7. Antona is Sardinian.

8. Antanė is Lithuanian.

9. Antonina is Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, and Italian.

The many forms of Alfred

King Alfred the Great of England, ca. 847-849–26 October 899, my 36-greats-grandfather

Alfred is an English, French, German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Polish, Estonian, Slovenian, Finnish, Catalan, Georgian, Armenian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian, and Serbian name derived from the original Old English Ælfræd (elf counsel). Its roots are ælf (elf) and ræd (counsel). Though many Anglo–Saxon names fell out of use after the Norman invasion and occupation, Alfred stayed popular thanks to my amazing ancestor Alfred the Great, a fellow scholar and person of letters.

By the Middle Ages, the name had become rare, but returned to common use in the 18th century. When the U.S. began keeping track of name popularity in 1880, it was #35, and stayed in the Top 100 (albeit on a very gradual downward decline) till 1950. Its highest rank was #32 in 1882.

Since dropping out of the Top 100, it’s mostly declined in popularity each year. In 2018, it was #872. The name is much more popular in England and Wales (#107), Sweden (#12), Denmark (#8), and Norway (#52).

The variation Alfréd is Slovak, Czech, and Hungarian, and Alfreð is Icelandic. Other forms of Alfred include:

1. Alfredo is Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Galician, Aragonese, and Esperanto.

2. Alfrēds is Latvian.

3. Alfredas is Lithuanian.

4. Alfrid is Tatar.

5. Alfredos is Greek.

6. Alfreeti is Finnish.

7. Alfried is a Dutch and German variation.

8. Alured is Manx.

9. Elfried is an alternate German and Dutch form.

10. Alfredu is Asturian and Sicilian.

11. Alperda is Basque.

Female forms:

1. Alfreda is English, Italian, German, and Polish.

2. Alfrédie is a rare Norman form.

3. Albrea is Middle English.

4. Alfredine is a rare French and English form.

5. Alverdine was occasionally used in English in the 19th century.

6. Alvedine is the 20th century form of the uncommon Alverdine.

The many forms of Christopher and Christina

Saint-Christophe, by Claude Bassot, 1607

Christopher, which comes from the Greek Christophoros (Christ-bearer), has been an extremely popular name since the Middle Ages. Contemporary evidence shows the Saint Christopher of legend may have actually been the historical Saint Minas of Egypt. Though he was removed from the liturgical calendar in 1969, Christopher is still very much a saint. Decanonization isn’t a thing.

The name began rising in popularity in the U.S. in 1939, and entered the Top 100 in 1949. It continued rising, and broke the Top 10 at #9 in 1967. Christopher was #3 and #2 from 1972–95, and remained in the Top 10 till 2009. In 2017, it was #38.

Danish statesman Christoffer Gabel (1617–73), by Karel van Mander III

Other forms include:

1. Christoffer is Scandinavian.

2. Cristoforo is Italian.

3. Cristóvão is Portuguese.

4. Cristóbal is Spanish.

5. Christoffel is Dutch.

6. Christophe is French.

7. Críostóir is Irish.

8. Christoph is German.

9. Kristoffer is Scandinavian.

10. Kristóf is Hungarian. The variant Krištof is Slovenian and Slovak.

King Christopher of Scandinavia, 1416–48

11. Kristaps is Latvian.

12. Kristupas is Lithuanian.

13. Krzysztof is Polish, with nicknames including Krzyś and Krzysiek. RZ is pronounced like the Russian ZH and the other Polish letter Ż, though I’m told RZ and Ż were historically pronounced slightly differently.

14. Kristofor is Croatian.

15. Hristofor is Bulgarian and Macedonian.

16. Risto is Finnish.

17. Ħamallu is Maltese.

18. Christoli is Gascon.

19. Crìsdean is Scottish.

20. Cristofanu is Corsican.

Polish military leader and poet Krzysztof Arciszewski, 1592–1656

21. Cristofo is Aragonese.

22. Cristòfuru is Sicilian.

23. Cristoc’h is Breton.

24. Cristolu is Sardinian.

25. Cristovo is Galician.

26. Cristovam is Brazilian–Portuguese.

27. Karistorfe is Greenlandic.

28. Kilikopela is Hawaiian.

29. Kristdapor is Armenian.

30. Kristafár is Faroese.

Self-portrait of Venezuelan painter Cristóbal Rojas, 1857–90

31. Kristapor is Armenian.

32. Kristobal is Basque.

33. Kristepore is Georgian.

34. Kito is Sorbian.

35. Khristofor is Russian.

36. Khrystofor is Ukrainian.

37. Kristófer is Icelandic.

38. Kristoforas is Lithuanian.

39. Kristoffur is Faroese.

40. Kristoforid is Albanian.

Duke Christoph of Württemberg, 1515–68

41. Kristoforo is Esperanto.

42. Kristofru is Maltese.

43. Krisztofer is Hungarian.

44. Stöffu is Swiss–German.

Queen Kristina of Sweden (1626–89), by Sébastien Bourdon

Christina has its origins in the Latin name Christiana, a feminine form of Christian. It was Top 100 in the U.S. from 1964–2002, with its highest rank of #12 in 1985. By 2017, it had plummeted to #408.

The French form Christine was Top 100 in the U.S. from 1942–93, with the highest rank of #14 from 1967–70. In 2017, it was #785. The name was also hugely popular in France from 1943–83, with a high of #3 in 1960–61. Today, it’s no longer on the charts.

Kristina enjoyed somewhat more modest popularity in the U.S. during the Seventies and Eighties, with a high of #57 in 1985. This spelling is also German, Scandinavian, Russian, Bulgarian, Slovenian, Czech, Serbian, Lithuanian, Faroese, and Croatian. The variant Kristína is Slovak; Kristīna is Latvian; and Kristîna is Greenlandic.

Norwegian biologist Kristine Bonnevie, Norway’s first female professor, 1872–1948

Other forms include:

1. Krystyna is Polish, and my favourite form of the name. I love how Polish names often use Y in place of I. I also love the nickname Krysia.

2. Kristine is German and Scandinavian. The variant Kristīne is Latvian.

3. Krisztina is Hungarian.

4. Kristýna is Czech.

5. Kristiina is Estonian and Finnish.

6. Kristiana is Scandinavian and Croatian. The alternate form Kristiāna is Latvian.

7. Kristjana is Icelandic. Another Icelandic form is Kristín.

8. Kistiñe is Basque.

9. Cristiana is Italian and Portuguese.

10. Cristina is Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian.

Medieval French feminist writer Christine de Pizan, 1364–1430

11. Khrystyna is Ukrainian.

12. Kirsten is Danish and Norwegian.

13. Kjerstin is Swedish and Norwegian.

14. Kerstin is Swedish.

15. Krystiana is Polish.

16. Kilikina is Hawaiian.

17. Hristina is Serbian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian.

18. Christiane is French and German.

19. Cairistìona is Scottish.

20. Kristiane is German.

British poet Christina Rossetti (1830–94), by her brother Dante Gabriel

21. Cristíona is Irish.

22. Kristiinná is Sami.

23. Kristin is German and Scandinavian.