The many forms of Leah

Dante’s Vision of Leah and Rachel, Marie Spartall Stillman, 1887

Leah probably comes from a Hebrew word meaning “weary.” It may also be related to the Akkadian littu (cow). Though I’m not keen on the English LEE-a pronunciation, I love the Hebrew and French LEY-a (i.e., like Princess Leia’s name).

Leah has always been a common Jewish name, for obvious reasons, but wasn’t common among Christians until the Protestant Reformation. It was particularly popular among Puritans.

The name has gone up and down in popularity in the U.S. for a long time, and was in the Top 100 from 1979–93, again in 1996, and then from 2000 through the present. Its highest rank to date was #24 in 2010. In 2017, it was #40.

Hungarian-born actor Lya De Putti, 1897–1931

Leah is #24 in Norway; #29 in Ireland; #30 in Sweden; #47 in Northern Ireland; #58 in Scotland; #76 in New Zealand; and #99 in England and Wales.

The variation Lea is German, Scandinavian, Finnish, Dutch, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Polish, Estonian, and Yoruba. Léa is French. This spelling is #6 (as Lea) and #65 (as Léa) in Switzerland; #8 in France; #10 in Austria; #18 in Belgium; #46 in Slovenia; #48 in Denmark; #83 in Norway; #84 in Bosnia; and #90 in Sweden.

Other forms include:

1. Lya is modern French.

2. Lia is Italian, Portuguese, Georgian, and Greek. The alternate form Lía is Galician and Spanish; Lîa is Greenlandic; and Liä is Tatar.

3. Leja is Slovenian and Croatian. The alternate form Lejá is Sami, and Lėja is Lithuanian.

4. Leia is Biblical Greek, and of course well-known from Star Wars.

5. Leya is Yiddish.

6. Laya is Arabic.

7. Liya is Amharic and Russian.

8. Leea is an uncommon Finnish form.

9. Leija is a rare Finnish and Estonian form, and modern Swedish. This is also the Finnish word for “kite.”

10. Liia is Estonian and Finnish.

11. Lija is Latvian, Dutch, Slovenian, and Serbian.

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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.

The many forms of Magdalena

The Repentant Magdalen, Philippe de Champaigne, 1648

Some people express surprise the name Magdalena, so popular for so long in Europe and parts of Latin America, isn’t particularly common in the Anglophone world. It is, but the onomastic connection may not be so immediately obvious. English-speakers know this name as Madeline.

Magdalena, used in German, Dutch, Romanian, Spanish, Catalan, the Scandinavian languages, Occitan, the Southern Slavic languages, Polish, and English; Czech, Slovak, Hungarian (as Magdaléna); Latvian (as Magdalēna); and Icelandic (as Magðalena), comes from the Latin Magdalene. That in turn derives from a title meaning “of Magdala.” Magdala is a village on the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kineret), meaning “tower” in Hebrew.

Though nothing in the Bible calls Mary Magdalene a prostitute, she’s historically been conflated with Mary of Bethany and an unnamed “sinful woman” who anoints Jesus’s feet in Luke 7:36–50. Since the Middle Ages, this apocryphal story has snowballed, and many people still think she was a prostitute, decades after this misinformation was officially corrected.

Painted ca. 1520–40, by a group of Flemish artists retroactively named Master with the Parrot

Magdalena is #20 in Austria; #31 in Poland; and #65 in the Czech Republic (#33 as Magdaléna). The English form, Madeline, was in the U.S. Top 100 from 1994–2016. Its highest rank to date was #50 in 1998.

It’s rather depressing to see the kreatyv spylyng Madelyn is much more popular, Top 100 since 2008. In 2017, it was #63. If you’ve been paying attention to name popularity charts over the last 20 years, it’s obvious this name has become so trendy because it sounds similar to the massively overused Madison, and still produces the overused nickname Maddie. It’s like how Jessica replaced Jennifer, and Emma, Amelia, and Amalia have successively replaced Emily.

Danish artist Magdalene Bärens, 1737–1808

Other forms of the name include:

1. Madeleine is French, and used to be extraordinarily popular. It was Top 10 from 1900–27, with the highest rank of #3 from 1914–24. It remained in the Top 20 till 1938, was in the Top 50 till 1947, and in the Top 100 till 1955. This name is also #78 in Australia.

2. Magdalina is Russian and Bulgarian.

3. Magdolna is Hungarian. It’s unreal how many times this name pops up in the interviews from the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive! If the witness isn’t named Magda herself, her testimony includes at least one friend or relative named Magda. Lili is also a hugely oversaturated name in these interviews. The name is still Top 20 in modern Hungary.

4. Maddalena is Italian.

5. Mădălina is Romanian.

6. Matleena is Finnish.

7. Madailéin is Irish.

8. Maialen is Basque.

9. Magdalini is modern Greek.

10. Magali is Occitan.

Titanic survivor Madeleine Astor, 1893–1940

11. Madalena is Portuguese.

12. Magdaleena is Finnish.

13. Madli is Estonian.

14. Maguelone is Provençal and a rare French variant.

15. Malane is Manx.

16. Matxalen is Basque.

17. Maclaina is Romansh.

18. Madalen is Breton and Basque.

19. Madlena is Sorbian, as well as a Georgian, Bulgarian, German, and Croatian variant.

20. Madlaina is Swiss–German and Romansh.

Madeleine Brès (1842–1921), first Frenchwoman to earn a medical degree

21. Madelena is Medieval Spanish and Portuguese.

22. Magdalin is Medieval German.

23. Magdaline is Creole. Another Creole form is Magdaleine.

24. Matale is Basque.

25. Mátalîna is Greenlandic.

The various forms of Daphne and Laura (and other laurel names)

Pauline as Daphne Fleeing from Apollo, ca. 1810, Robert Lefèvre

Daphne is a naiad in Greek mythology, a female nymph presiding over bodies of water such as lakes, fountains, springs, and brooks. She’s variously cited as the daughter of river god Peneus (Peneios) and nymph Creusa, or Ladon and Gaia.

Versions of Daphne’s story vary, but they all have the crux of Apollo falling in unrequited love with her after a curse from Eros (Cupid). As Apollo chased her, Daphne begged her father to save her, and she was turned into a laurel tree in the nick of time. Laurels thus became sacred to Apollo.

Daphne is also used in English and Dutch. The variation Daphné is French. Other forms include:

1. Daphnée is French.

2. Dafni is modern Greek.

3. Dafina is Macedonian and Albanian.

4. Dafne is Italian.

5. Daffni is Welsh.

6. Dapine is Georgian.

7. Dafna is Hebrew. I chose this as the last part of my Hebrew name (Chana Esther Dafna) for numerous reasons, all of them relating to how it means “laurel.” Primary among those reasons is honouring Stan Laurel, my humble way of saying thank you for how watching Laurel and Hardy on AMC got me through one of the darkest, most depressing periods of my life.

8. Defne is Turkish.

Laura Bridgman (1829–1889), America’s first blind-deaf person to get a full education and become a celebrity, fifty years before Helen Keller

Laura, which comes from the Latin name Laurus, is English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Scandinavian, Romanian, Finnish, German, Dutch, Estonian, Hungarian, Slovenian, Polish, and Croatian.

It’s been an English name since the 13th century, and was extremely popular in the U.S. until it began a rapid decline in the late 19th century. Laura was #17 in 1880, and stayed in the Top 100 till 1934, sinking in popularity a little bit more almost every year. It was Top 100 again from 1945–2001, attaining its highest rank of #10 in 1969. In 2017, it was #340.

Laura has greater popularity in Europe. It’s #6 in Austria; #11 in Denmark; #12 in Switzerland; #13 in Portugal; #14 in Hungary; #16 in the Czech Republic and Poland; #22 in Galicia; #31 in Spain; #37 in Belgium; #40 in Slovenia; #47 in Catalonia; #58 in Italy; #63 in Ireland; #78 in Bosnia; #101 in The Netherlands; and #104 in France.

Laura de Noves (1310–1348), Petrarch’s great muse and unrequited love, similar to Dante’s love for Beatrice

Other forms of Laura include:

1. Lára is Icelandic (and not to be confused with the Russian Lara, a nickname for Larisa).

2. Laure is French.

3. Lavra is Slovenian.

4. Lowri is Welsh.

5. Laoura is modern Greek.

6. Lâvara is Greenlandic.

7. Lora is English and Italian.

8. Loretta is English and Italian.

9. Lauretta is Italian. This is the name of one of the members of the brigata, the ten storytellers, in The Decameron.

10. Laurette is French.

American actor Loretta Young (1913–2000) with Lon Chaney, Sr.

 Other laurel-related names:

1. Kelila, or Kelilah, means “crown of laurel” in Hebrew.

2. Lalela means “laurel” in Hawaiian.

3. Lovorka means “laurel tree” in Croatian.

All about the name Gregory

Pope Gregory I (ca. 540–12 March 604), by Francisco de Zurbarán

Gregory is the English form of the Latin Gregorius, which in turn comes from the Greek Gregorios. The original roots are gregoros (alert, watchful) and gregorein (to watch). Thanks to folk etymology, the name also became associated with the Latin grex (stem form greg), which means “herd” or “flock.”

Thus, there arose an association with a shepherd carefully guarding his flock, and led to the name’s great popularity among popes and monks. To date, 16 popes have taken the name Gregory, tying it with Benedict as the next-most popular papal name after only John.

Austrian geneticist Gregor Mendel, 1822–1884

Because of the many saints, monks, and popes bearing this name, it’s been widely used through the Christian world for almost 2,000 years. In England, it’s been used since the 12th century. However, it had become much more uncommon by the late 19th century.

In 1880, it was #909 in the U.S., and was on and off the chart until it permanently came to stay in 1892. It gradually rose and fell until 1924, when it began picking up speed and moving up slowly but consistently. In 1945, it entered the Top 100 at #96.

Gregory leapt to #56 in 1946, and #33 in 1947. It entered the Top 25 in 1950, and remained there till 1967. In 1971, it again was #25. The name gradually descended, and had fallen to #361 by 2016.

The name’s rise to popularity was due to American actor Gregory Peck.

Gregory Peck, 1916–2003

Other forms of the name include:

1. Gregor is German, Icelandic, Slovak, Slovenian, and Scottish.

2. Grégoire is French.

3. Gregorio is Spanish and Italian. The alternate form Gregório is Portuguese.

4. Grigor is Bulgarian, Macedonian, Eastern Armenian, Albanian, and Welsh.

5. Krikor is Western Armenian.

6. Grigol is Georgian.

7. Gligor is Macedonian and Romanian.

8. Greger is Swedish and Norwegian.

9. Grigoriy is Russian. Nicknames include Grisha, Grishechka, and Grishenka.

10. Grigore is Romanian.

Henri Jean-Baptiste Grégoire (Abbé Grégoire), bishop, politician, reformer, abolitionist, revolutionary leader, 1750–1831

11. Gregers is Norwegian and Danish.

12. Griogair is Scottish.

13. Gréagóir is Irish.

14. Grzegorz is Polish. Nicknames include Grześ and Grzesiek.

15. Grega is Slovenian.

16. Řehoř is Czech.

17. Grigorijs is Latvian.

18. Grigalius is Lithuanian. Other Lithuanian forms are Grigorijus, Gregoras, and Gregas.

19. Hryhoriy is Ukrainian.

20. Reijo is Finnish.

Comedic Romanian actor Grigore Vasiliu Birlic, 1905–1970

21. Reko is another Finnish form.

22. Gregoor is a rare Dutch form.

23. Gergely (GER-gay) is Hungarian. The nickname is Gergő.

24. Grigorios is modern Greek.

25. Girgor is Maltese.

26. Gergori is Basque.

27. Drigo is Mordvin.

28. Grégori is Gascon. The alternate form Gregori is Catalan.

29. Gregoriu is Sardinian.

30. Gregorije is Serbian. Another Serbian form is Gligorije.

The Venerable Dr. José Gregorio Hernández (1864–1919), a Venezuelan national hero and folk figure

31. Guergorio is Aragonese.

32. Hrehary is Belarusian.

33. Kelekolio is Hawaiian.

34. Kӗrkuri is Chuvash.

35. Reigo is Estonian.

36. Grgur is Serbian and Croatian. The nickname is Grga.

37. Gërgur is Albanian.

38. Ryhor is Belarusian.

39. Grækaris is Faroese.

40. Gregors is Latvian.

Grigorios Xenopoulos (1867–1951), Greek writer and journalist

41. Grigorij is Macedonian.

42. Gregoria is an Italian, Spanish, and English feminine form.

43. Gregorie is a German feminine form. The variant Grégorie is French.