All about Lydia

Dissident Russian writer Lidiya Korneyevna Chukovskaya, 1907–1996

The English, German, and Greek name Lydia means, simply, “from Lydia” in Greek. Lydia was a region on Asia Minor’s west coast, reputedly named after legendary King Lydos (of unknown etymology). Today, Lydia is in western Turkey.

The name briefly appears in the Bible, on a woman whom St. Paul converts to Christianity. It didn’t become common in the Anglophone world till the Protestant Reformation.

Lydia was #77 when the U.S. began keeping name records in 1880, and stayed in the lower Top 100 till 1899. Over the ensuing decades, it gradually dipped in popularity, but never sank lower than #329 in 1973. From lows came highs, and in 1979 it rose to #296 from #324. In each succeeding year, Lydia was steadily more popular, till it re-entered the Top 100 in 2011. In 2018, it was #89.

Other forms of Lydia include:

1. Lidia is Spanish, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Georgian, Irish, and Indonesian. The alternate form Lídia is Catalan, Portuguese, and Hungarian.

2. Lidiya is Russian and Bulgarian.

3. Lidija is Serbian, Macedonian, Slovenian, and Croatian.

4. Lidziya is Belarusian.

5. Lýdia is Slovak and Faroese.

6. Lydie is Czech, with variant Lýdie. The last two letters are pronounced separately, not as one.

7. Lyydia is Finnish, with nickname Lyyti.

8. Lide is Basque.

9. Liidia is Estonian.

10. Litia is Fijian.

British suffragist Lydia Ernestine Becker (1827–1890), painted by fellow suffragist Susan Isabel Dacre

11. Livli is Sami.

12. Lutia is Greenlandic.

13. Lutsîa is also Greenlandic.

14. Lýdía is Icelandic. They also render the name as Lydía.

15. Lukia is sometimes used as a vernacular Hawaiian form. This is also their form of Lucia and a nickname for Lu’ukia (of unknown etymology).

16. Lyydi is Finnish.

17. Lydija is Sorbian and Lithuanian.

18. Lydiana is a rare Swedish, English, and Latin American–Spanish form.

19. Lydiane is a rare French and Brazilian–Portuguese form.

20. Lìddia is Emilian–Romagnol, a Gallo–Italic language spoken in Northern Italy.

Italian silent actor Lidia Quaranta, 1891–1928

21. Lidiane is a rare Brazilian–Portuguese form.

22. Lydianna is a rare English and Mexican–Spanish form.

23. Lydianne is a rare Québecois, Dutch, Brazilian–Portuguese, and English form.

24. Lydielle is a rare English form.

Male forms:

1. Lidio is Spanish and Brazilian–Portuguese.

2. Lydian is Scandinavian.

3. Lidiyan is a rare Russian and Bulgarian form.

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.

All about Elizabeth

Though I’ve had prior posts about my favourite forms of the name Elizabeth, and its many nicknames, I’ve never had a post devoted to the name in its entirety. This post will also only focus on derivatives of the standard form Elizabeth, not related names Isabel and Lillian (unless those are a language’s only forms of Elizabeth). Despite their origins, they’ve for all intents and purposes developed into their own independent names.

Queen Elizabeth I of England in the 1560s, artist unknown

The English name Elizabeth comes from the Hebrew Elisheva, “my God is an oath.” Its historic popularity stems in large part from the fact that this was the name of John the Baptist’s mother. Traditionally, it was much more common in Eastern Europe (in its variety of forms) until another famous bearer (pictured above) appeared in the 16th century and made the name popular in Western Europe too.

Since the U.S. began keeping data on names in 1880, the name has never fallen below #26 (in 1948). It was in the Top 10 from 1880–1923, in 1925, from 1980–2001, in 2003 and 2004, in 2007 and 2008, and in 2012 and 2013. In 2018, it was #13.

The name enjoys more modest popularity in Scotland (#75), New Zealand (#81), Ireland (#60), and England and Wales (#44). The alternate spelling Elisabeth, used in German, English, Dutch, and the Scandinavian languages, was only #788 in the U.S. in 2018, and has never charted higher than #302 in 1984.

Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine, later Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna of Russia, now Saint Elizabeth the New Martyr (1864–1918)

Other forms include:

1. Elisabet is Scandinavian, Catalan, Finnish, and sometimes Spanish. The alternate form Elísabet is Icelandic.

2. Élisabeth is French.

3. Elisabete is modern Portuguese.

4. Elizabeta is Slovenian and Croatian.

5. Elikapeka is Hawaiian.

6. Elixabete is Basque.

7. Elisabeta is Romanian.

8. Elisabetta is Italian.

9. Elisavet is modern Greek.

10. Eliisabet is Estonian.

Princess Elisabeta of Romania, later Queen of Greece (1894–1956)

11. Elisabed is Georgian.

12. Erzsébet is Hungarian.

13. Elizabete is Latvian.

14. Eilís is Irish.

15. Elżbieta is Polish. The alternate form Elžbieta is Lithuanian.

16. Ealisaid is Manx.

17. Ealasaid is Scottish.

18. Elisaveta is Bulgarian and Macedonian.

19. Yelizaveta is Russian.

20. Yelyzaveta is Ukrainian.

Georgian actor Elisabed Cherkezishvili (1864–1948)

21. Alžbeta is Slovak. The alternate form Alžběta is Czech.

22. Jelisaveta is Serbian.

23. Bethan is Welsh.

24. Lizaveta is Russian.

25. Zabel is Armenian.

26. Sabela is Galician.

27. Elspeth, or Elspet, is Scottish.

28. Eisabèu is Provençal.

29. Élîzabé is Jèrriais.

30. Elizabeto is Esperanto.

Polish poet Elżbieta Drużbacka (1695/98–1765)

31. Elisabette is a rare French and English form.

32. Elisapeci, or Ilisapeci, is Fijian.

33. Elisapie is Inuit.

34. Elizabet is Belarusian and Bulgarian.

35. Eliżabetta is Maltese.

36. Elizete is a rare Brazilian–Portuguese form.

37. Elzabé is Namibian.

38. Elžbjeta is Sorbian.

39. Erihapeti, or Irihapeti, is Maori.

40. Il-shvai is Amharic.

Male names of literary origin, N–Z

American aviation pioneer Orville Wright, 1871–1948

Nemo means “nobody” in Latin. Jules Verne created it for the captain of Nautilus in his 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Nerle is a character in L. Frank Baum’s 1903 novel The Enchanted Island of Yew. It may be based on Merle, a variant of Merrill or Muriel (“pleasant hill” or “bright sea”).

Oberon is the King of the Fairies in Shakespeare’s 1595 play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s based on Norman French name Auberon, which in turn derives from Ancient Germanic Alberich (elf power).

Orville was coined by 18th century writer Fanny Burney, who may have meant it to mean “golden city” in French.

Othello may be a diminutive of Italian name Otho, of unknown etymology. Shakespeare famously used it as the title character of his 1603 tragedy.

Pantagruel is one of the title characters of 16th century French writer François Rabelais’s The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel series. It derives from Greek pantes (all) and Hagarene gruel (thirsty). Pantagruel was born during a great drought. Rabelais invented hundreds of new words in these novels, based on Ancient Greek. Some of them became part of the French language.

Percival was created by 12th century French poet Chrétien de Troyes for Perceval, the Story of the Grail, which follows a Knight of the Round Table. It was probably based on Welsh name Peredur, which may mean “hard spears.” The spelling was possibly changed to resemble Old French percer val (to pierce the valley).

Pirkka was created by Finnish poet Eino Leino for “Orjan Poka. It derives from pirkkalaiset (a Medieval Finnish group who controlled taxation in Lapland).

Radames is a character in the 1871 opera Aida. Since it’s set in Ancient Egypt, librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni may have included the element Ra (Sun) to sound plausibly Egyptian.

Radúz is a rare Czech name which was created by writer Julius Zeyer for his 1898 play Radúz and Mahulena. It derives from rád (glad, happy).

Ruslan is Russian, Chechen, Ingush, Avar, Tatar, Circassian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Bashkir, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Uzbek, Armenian, and Ossetian. It was used by great Russian poet Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin for his 1820 work Ruslan and Lyudmila, based on the name of Tatar and Russian folk hero Yeruslan Lazarevich. Its ultimate origin is Tatar name Uruslan, possibly from Turkic arslan (lion).

1887 illustration of Ruslan and Lyudmila

Saridan is a king in the 12th century Georgian epic poem The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, by Shota Rustaveli. It’s unclear which Persian root he based it off of, but possible candidates include srudan (to sing, to recite) and srayidan (to protect). Unlike many other names in the poem, Saridan has never been very common.

Sémaphore means “semaphore” (a visual signalling system) in French, ultimately derived from Ancient Greek roots sema (sign, token, mark) and phero (to carry, to bear). Thus, it roughly means “sign-bearer.” This is the name of a character in Franco–Belgian comic Cubitus. Sémaphore owns canine protagonist Cubitus.

Siyavash is a prince in 11th century Persian epic The Shahnameh. The name means “possessing black stallions” in Avestan.

Tuovi (a unisex name) was invented by Finnish writer Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen for his 1859 novel Pohjan-Piltti. It derives from village Tuovila (village of Tove).

Urizen was created by English poet William Blake for the personification of conventional reason and law. It’s a play on “your reason,” and possibly also derived from Greek horizein (horizon).

Vahur means “brave” in Estonian. The name was invented by writer Edward Börnhohe for his 1880 novel Tasuja. I have a character by this name.

Vambola is the title character of a novel by Estonian writer Andres Saal. It may be derived from Varbola Castle or the Old Estonian word vambas (mace).

Siyavash, Copyright Aryzad at Wiki Commons

Winnetou is an Apache chief in several of German novelist Karl May’s books. It may mean “burning water.”

Ylermi is another name created by Eino Leino, for the protagonist of his poem Helkavirsiä I.

Yorick is derived from Danish and Norwegian nickname Jørg (i.e., George). Shakespeare used it for a dead court jester in Hamlet (1600).

Yvain is another creation of Chrétien de Troyes, based on Welsh name Owain (possibly a form of Eugene, “well-born”).

Zalán was created by Hungarian writer Mihály Vörösmarty for his 1823 epic Zalán Futása. The name may come from Hungary’s Zala region, which in turn takes its name from the Zala River.

Zorro means “fox” in Spanish, and became famous as the name of a character created by Johnston McCulley.

Male names of literary origin, G-M

FYI: If you’re wondering why I’ve barely mentioned any Arthurian names in this series, it’s because I’m saving them for a future post on that subject only.

Sorry I couldn’t find a bigger pool of names! The relative dearth of literary male vs. female names is evidence of how, until fairly recently, people generally have been more creative with female names.

U.S. comedic actor Buster Keaton as Hamlet, 1922

Gareth first appeared in Thomas Malory’s 15th century collection of Arthurian legends, Le Morte d’Arthur. It’s based on Gahariet, the name of a similar Knight of the Round Table in French legends. This name, like many others in those stories, may also have a Welsh origin. If so, it may be derived from gwaredd (gentleness).

Gavroche was created by Victor Hugo for a character in Les Misérables (1862). Because of the fictional Gavroche, this has become slang for “street urchin” and “mischievous child.”

Goldmund is one of two title characters of Swiss-German writer Hermann Hesse’s amazing 1930 novel Narcissus and Goldmund. It’s meant to mean “gold mouth,” from German gold and mund, but it can also mean “golden protection.” Mund means “mouth” in modern German, but “protection” in Old High German.

Hamlet is an Anglicised form of Danish name Amleth, famously created for Shakespeare’s 1600 play of the same name. For whatever reason, this name is also used in Armenian.

Hareton may have been created by Emily Brontë for a character in her 1847 novel Wuthering Heights. It may also derive from an English place name meaning “hare town.”

Heathcliff was invented for the male protagonist of Wuthering Heights, and has the self-explanatory meaning “from the heath cliff” or “from the cliff with heath.” A heath is a shrubland with low-growing, open, woody plant life, mostly in acidic soils.

Sir Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in Wuthering Heights (1939)

Indulis started as a diminutive of Latvian name Indriķis (home ruler; i.e., Henry), but is now given as a full name in its own right. Playwright and poet Rainis (a pseudonym of Jānis Pliekšāns) used it on one of the title characters of his 1911 play Indulis un Ārija.

Keimo was invented by legendary Finnish writer Aleksis Kivi in the 19th century, inspired by the village of Keimola.

Kordian is the protagonist of Polish writer Juliusz Słowacki’s famous 1833 play. I’m going to give this name to a till-now minor background character who’s soon to become an important secondary character, and also gave it as a middle name to another character. It’s derived from the Latin cordis (heart). This name is so romantic and beautiful!

Lesław was created by Polish writer Roman Zmorski for his 1847 poetic novel of the same name, derived from Lech (the legendary founder of the Polish nation) and the root sław (glory).

Lestat was created by Anne Rice for a character in her Vampire Chronicles series, which débuted in 1976. She may have intended it to look derived from Occitan or Old French l’estat (the status, state), though Lestat’s name was originally Lestan, in honour of her husband Stan. While writing the first book, she accidentally wrote the name wrong, and only noticed later.

U.S. President Andrew Johnson (left) as Mercutio, 1868 political cartoon by Alfred Waud

Malvolio means “ill will” in Italian. It was created by Shakespeare for a character in his 1602 play Twelfth Night.

Marganore was invented by Italian writer Ludovico Ariosto for his 1516 poem Orlando Furioso (published in its complete form in 1532). Fittingly, since it belongs to a tyrant, the name derives from Greek words margaino (to rage, to be mad) and anor (man). Thus, it means “madman.”

Mercutio is a diminutive of Mercury, probably ultimately from Latin mercari (to trade) or merces (wages). Shakespeare used it for a character in Romeo and Juliet (1596).