An Egyptian lotus and a Hebrew rose

U.S. suffragist and political activist Susan B. Anthony, 1820–1906

Susan, a name most popular from the 1940s–1960s, traces its etymology back to a rather unexpected source—Ancient Egypt. This is one Indo–European name that didn’t originate among the Vikings, Anglo–Saxons, Normans, Goths, Romans, or Greeks.

Sšn means “lotus” in Egyptian, and later morphed into the Ancient Hebrew word shoshan, “lily.” In Modern Hebrew, shoshan means “rose.” It gave rise to the name Shoshanah, and then was adopted by the Greeks as Sousanna.

Over time, it appeared in many European languages in various forms. In the Medieval Anglophone world, Susannah was sometimes used in honour of a woman falsely accused of adultery in the Book of Daniel, and another Biblical woman who ministers to Jesus. Only after the Protestant Reformation did it become more common, in the form of Susan.

French painter Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938) with her son Maurice

Susan was #80 when the U.S. began keeping name records in 1880, and left the Top 100 in 1885. It briefly returned in 1887, then dropped out again and gradually sank in popularity. During the 1930s, it slowly made its way back up the chart, and re-entered the Top 100 in 1937 at #97.

In 1945, it was #10, and entered the Top 5 in 1948. Apart from 1951 and 1966, when it was #6, Susan was in the Top 5 until 1968. Its all-time highest rank was #2, from 1957–60. In 1972, it fell off the Top 20, and left the Top 100 in 1985.

Susan’s last year on the Top 1000 was 2017, when it was #957.

Austrian-born painter Soshana Afroyim (née Susanne Schüller),

Other forms of the name include:

1. Suzanne is French, Dutch, and English.

2. Susanna is English, Dutch, Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, Catalan, Swedish, Estonian, and Finnish. The alternate form Súsanna is Icelandic, Faroese, and Irish; Susánna and Susánná are Sami.

3. Susannah is English.

4. Susana is Spanish and Portuguese.

5. Suzana is Serbian, Slovenian, Macedonian, Brazilian–Portuguese, Romanian, and Croatian.

6. Susanne is German and Scandinavian.

7. Syuzanna is old-fashioned Russian.

8. Suzanna is English.

9. Shoshana, or Shoshanah, is Hebrew.

10. Sawsan is Arabic.

Hungarian Princess Zsuzsanna Lorántffy (1602–1660), who founded and sponsored several schools, including schools offering girls a modern, equal education

11. Savsan is Tajik.

12. Sosamma is Malayalam, a language spoken in India.

13. Zsuzsanna is Hungarian.

14. Zuzanna is Polish and Latvian.

15. Zuzana is Czech and Slovak.

16. Huhana is Maori.

17. Zusana is Sorbian.

18. Syzana is Albanian.

19. Siùsan is Scottish.

20. Sósanna is a rare Irish form.

Polish poet Zuzanna Ginczanka, 1917–1945

21. Susaina is a Catalan variant, usually used on Mallorca.

22. Suzannah is English.

23. Suzonne is Norman.

24. Jujen is Marshallese.

25. Siwsan is Welsh.

26. Susane is English.

27. Suusan is Inuit.

28. Suzette is a French diminutive, also used in English as a full name.

29. Suzzanna is a rare English form.

30. Shushan is Armenian.

31. Susano is a male Filipino form.

All about Ruth

U.S. anthropologist and folklorist Ruth Benedict, 1887–1948

Ruth is an English, German, Dutch, Spanish, and Scandinavian name derived from the Hebrew Re’ut (friend), which later morphed into Rut (pronounced with a long U, not like the English word “rut”). Most people are familiar with it as the title character of the Book of Ruth. She left her homeland Moab behind to follow her mother-in-law Naomi back to Israel after a famine, and became King David’s great-grandma.

On the second day of Shavuot, this short book of the Bible is read, and many conversion certificates quote the moving words Ruth tells Naomi:

“Do not entreat me to leave you, and to return from following after you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people, and your God my God; where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more, if anything but death part you and me.”

Latvian lawyer, writer, and politician Ruta Šaca-Marjaša (1927–2016)

Though the name has long been common in the Jewish world, it didn’t come into widespread usage in the Christian world till the Protestant Reformation. Ruth received a big boost of popularity several centuries later, from U.S. President Grover Cleveland’s firstborn child, born in 1891. She was born between his two non-consecutive terms, and sadly died of diphtheria in 1904.

Ruth was #93 in the U.S. when name popularity records began in 1880, and it jumped from #19 to #5 after the birth of Ruth Cleveland. In 1893, it was #3. The next two years, Ruth was #6, and it remained at #5 until 1907. It then was #4 for two years, then back to #5 again till 1922.

The name remained in the Top 10 till 1930, and was Top 20 till 1937. Ruth left the Top 50 in 1951, and left the Top 100 in 1962. In 2018, it was #265.

Ruth Cleveland

Other forms of the name include:

1. Ruta is Polish, Ukrainian, and Maori. The alternate form Rūta is Latvian and Lithuanian.

2. Rute is Portuguese.

3. Ruut is Finnish and Estonian.

4. Rut is Hebrew, Spanish, Icelandic, Scandinavian, Sorbian, Italian, Maltese, Indonesian, Afrikaans, and German. The alternate form Rút is Czech and Slovak.

5. Ruf is Russian. I’ve never been a fan of Russian names where TH is replaced by F in the middle of the name. It just sounds ugly to my ears.

6. Rutt is Estonian.

7. Hrut is Armenian.

8. Hirut is Amharic.

9. Luka is Hawaiian, and not to be confused with the entirely separate name with the same spelling which is several languages’ form of Luke.

10. Luti is Nyakyusa, a language spoken in Tanzania and Malawi.

11. Rutu is Maori and Yoruba.

A to Z reflections 2020

This was my seventh year doing the A to Z Challenge with this blog, my ninth with two blogs. Much to my disappointment, for the third year in a row I had to suffice with a fairly simple theme, one I didn’t need to do a huge amount of research for. I remain hopeful I can return to more intensive themes in the coming years.

I didn’t start writing and researching my posts till early March. Last year, I didn’t begin writing my posts till 25 March, and had to fly through them to be finished before April started. Again, I hope I have much more lead time next year. Though I was born two weeks after my estimated due date and feel I do a lot of my best work at the last minute, procrastination isn’t a positive habit.

As always, I featured both female and male names on each day, and alternated which sex each post started with. Early on, I decided to feature six for each sex, except for a few letters with a wealth of lovely Estonian names. I didn’t want to shortchange them.

I ended up using a fair bit more names borrowed from other languages (primarily German, Scandinavian, and Russian) than I’d hoped for, but it wouldn’t have been accurate to only feature native Estonian names. The country was occupied by various foreigners for almost 700 years. Cultural osmosis was inevitable.

Unfortunately, I could only find one male Z name, and no male C names. Q, W, X, and Y had to be wildcard days.

Yet again, I seemed to have bad luck with the list. A lot of the links I clicked on never started the Challenge, or gave up very early. If you’ve not blogged in a really long time, why commit yourself to doing it six days a week for an entire month?

Early prep is so important, particularly if you’ve never done it before. When all your posts are written and edited in advance, you don’t have to stress about writing a new post every day in real time. Themes are also important. They make it easier to find topics.

Post recap:

The As of Estonian names (21 views)
The Bs of Estonian names (11 views)
The Cs of Estonian names (12 views)
The Ds of Estonian names (15 views)
The Es of Estonian names (7 views)
The Fs of Estonian names (11 views)
The Gs of Estonian names (14 views)
The Hs of Estonian names (12 views)
The Is of Estonian names (11 views)
The Js of Estonian names (7 views)
The Ks of Estonian names (8 views)
The Ls of Estonian names (13 views)
The Ms of Estonian names (7 views)
The Ns of Estonian names (6 views)
The Os of Estonian names (18 views)
The Ps of Estonian names (9 views)
Wildcard Q names (16 views)
The Rs of Estonian names (8 views)
The Ses of Estonian names (9 views)
The Ts of Estonian names (9 views)
The Us of Estonian names (7 views)
The Vs of Estonian names (15 views)
Wildcard W names (8 views)
Wildcard X names (7 views)
Wildcard Y names (5 names)
The Zs of Estonian names (26 views)

The Zs of Estonian names


Zinovi is adopted from the Russian name Zinoviy, a male form of the Greek name Zenobia (life of Zeus).


Žanna is adopted from the Russian name Zhanna, which in turn is a form of the French name Jeanne. It means “God is gracious.”

Zinaida is adopted from Russian, and a derivative of Zeus. In 2019, this was the 101st most popular female name in Estonia.

Zlata is adopted from Russian, and means “golden.”

Zoja is adopted from the Russian name Zoya, which means “life.”

The Vs of Estonian names


Vahto means “foam.”

Vahur means “brave.” It was invented by Edward Börnhohe for his 1880 novel Tasuje. I have a character by this name.

Väino is the Estonian form of Finnish name Väinö, which is a diminutive of Väinämöinen (the hero of Finland’s great national epic The Kalevala). Väinä means “wide and slow-flowing river.”

Valkan means “son of a Valkyrie.”

Veljo means “brother.”

Viljar is the male form of female Finnish name Vilja, which means “grain, cereal” in Finnish and “will, intent” in Swedish.


Vaarika means “raspberry.”

Vaike means “peaceful, tranquil.”

Valve means “to guard, to watch over.”

Viire is a type of bird.

Virge means “alert.”

Virve means “shoot, sprout.” This is also a Finnish name.