All about Martha

Martha Washington, first First Lady of the U.S., 1731–1802

Martha is one of those names which hasn’t very many variants, but there are more than just a handful. This name is English, Scandinavian, Greek, German, and Dutch. The alternate form Märtha is is Swedish.

The name means “the lady, the mistress,” from Aramaic marta (feminine form of mar, master). Despite being the name of a prominent Biblical woman, it didn’t become widespread in England till the Protestant Reformation.

Martha used to be hugely popular in the U.S., at #16 when records began being kept in 1880. Its highest rank was #14 in 1882, and it remained in the Top 20 till 1888, the Top 30 till 1945 (except for 1905 at #32, 1907 at #31, and 1908 at #32), the Top 50 till 1954, and the Top 100 till 1965.

The name gradually sank down the charts, frequently losing 20+ ranks each year. In 2019, it was #795.

Martha is currently much more popular in England and Wales. It’s been on the Top 100 since 2006, and was #95 in 2019.

Princess Marthe Bibesco (née Marta Lucia Lahovary), Romanian–French writer and socialite, 1886–1973

Other forms of the name include:

1. Marta is Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Latvian, modern Russian, Icelandic, Slovenian, Romanian, Georgian, Macedonian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Belarusian, Catalan, Polish, Slovak, Czech, Swedish, and Croatian. This name is #33 in Spain, #62 in Sweden, #52 in Portugal, #43 in Galicia, #31 in Italy, #81 in Catalonia, and #61 in Poland.

Variants include Márta (Hungarian), Mártá (Sami), and Märta (Swedish).

2. Morta is Lithuanian.

3. Maata is Maori.

4. Martta is Finnish.

5. Marthese is Maltese.

6. Marte is Norwegian.

7. Marthe is French and Norwegian. The French pronunciation has one syllable, and the Norwegian has two. This is the name of the wonderful plastic surgeon who removed my second-degree burn scars.

8. Moireach is Scottish.

9. Marfa is traditional Russian and Ukrainian. As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a fan of names where F replaces TH in the middle! It doesn’t bug me as the first letter (e.g., Fyodor), but it sounds ugly in most other instances.

10. Maleka is Hawaiian.

Finnish painter Martta Wendelin, 1893–1986

11. Mareta is Gilbertese, a Micronesian language.

12. Markva is Mordvin, a Uralic language spoken in Russia.

13. Marpa is Mansi and Khanty, Uralic languages spoken in Russia.

14. Marthey is Manx.

15. Marthi is a rare Greek form.

16. Mathiri is Malayalam, a language spoken in India.

17. Zujenia is Caló–Romani, spoken in Spain, Portugal, Southern France, and Brazil. This form makes more sense when you know the Caló word zhulyi means “lady, woman,” and thus has the same meaning as Martha.

All about Cyprian

Polish writer and artist Cyprian Norwid, 1821–1883

Cyprian is a Polish and English name which originated with Roman family name Cyprianus (from Cyprus). The variant Cyprián is Slovak. I’ve always found this a really cool, fun, quirky, distinctive name.

Other forms include:

1. Cipriano is Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

2. Ciprian is Romanian. The variation Ciprián is Hungarian and Aragonese.

3. Cyprien is French.

4. Cebrián is Spanish.

5. Cibrán is Galician. The variation Cíbran is Occitan.

6. Cebrià is Catalan.

7. Ciprià is a rare Catalan form.

8. Çipriani is Albanian.

9. Ciprianu is Corsican.

10. Cypriaan is Dutch.

Romanian–American mathematician Ciprian Foias, 1933–2020

11. Ciprijan is Croatian. The variant Ćiprijan is Serbian.

12. Cyprión is Kashubian.

13. Cypryjan is Medieval Polish.

14. Kipiren is Basque.

15. Kiprian is Russian.

16. Kiprijonas is Lithuanian.

17. Kvipriane is Georgian.

18. Kyprian is Ukrainian.

19. Kyprianos is Greek.

20. Sybryan is Arabic.

Filipino politician Cipriano Primicias, Sr., 1901–1965

21. Zipriano is Basque.

22. Zipiro is also Basque.

23. Zyprian is a very rare German form.

Female forms:

1. Cypriana is Dutch, English, German, and Latin.

2. Cipriana is Italian, Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician.

3. Cyprienne is French.

4. Cypriane is also French.

5. Cyprianne is Medieval French.

French arts patron and philanthropist Cyprienne Dubernet (1857–1945), painted 1891 by Théobald Chartran

All about Nathan and Nathaniel

18th century Russian ikon of the Biblical prophet Nathan (Natan)

The English and French name Nathan comes from the Hebrew Natan (he gave). Many people are familiar with the above-pictured Prophet Nathan, who served under King David and took him to task for cuckolding Uriah and sending him to die in battle.

Though it’s long been common in the Jewish world, this name didn’t become popular in the Christian world till the Protestant Reformation. While we think of many Biblical names as going either way today, they were once considered exclusively Jewish.

Nathan entered the U.S. Top 100 in 1972, at #79, and attained its highest rank of #20 in 2004 and 2005. In 2019, it was #55. Nathan is also popular in France (#18), Belgium (#14), Switzerland (#41), Scotland (#45), Italy (#50), Ireland (#61), New Zealand (#70), The Netherlands (#77), Northern Ireland (#83), and England and Wales (#104).

Israeli human rights activist, politician, and author Natan Sharansky (né Anatoliy Borisovich Shcharanskiy), centre, born 1948

Other forms of the name include:

1. Natan is modern Russian, Georgian, Polish, Galician, Serbian, Ukrainian, Dutch, Czech, Slovak, Scandinavian, French, Finnish, Icelandic, and Croatian. Alternate forms are Natán (Spanish), Nátan (Faroese), and Nátán (Hungarian).

2. Nafan is the traditional Russian form. I’m not exactly a big fan of Russian names where F takes the place of TH in the middle of the name!

3. Noson, or Nosson, is Yiddish. I’m also not a fan of Yiddish words and names where T is pronounced like S. Nails on a chalkboard 99% of the time! There’s a reason modern Hebrew uses Sephardic pronunciation instead of Ashkenazic.

4. Nâtat is Greenlandic.

5. Nâta is also Greenlandic.

6. Neihana is Maori.

7. Natuš is archaic Sorbian.

Nathaniel Bowditch (1773–1838), American mathematician and father of modern maritime navigation, painted by Charles Osgood

The English name Nathaniel comes from the Hebrew Netanel (God has given). The variation Nathaniël is Dutch. Like Nathan, it also was largely found in the Jewish community until the Protestant Reformation, when many Biblical names were suddenly proudly embraced by the Christian world.

Nathaniel was in the U.S. Top 100 from 1978–2015, with its highest rank of #60 in 1998.

Other forms of this name include:

1. Nathanael is an English variation. The form Nathanaël is French and Dutch.

2. Nataniel is a rare Spanish and Portuguese form.

3. Natanael is the more common Portuguese and Spanish form.

4. Natanail is Macedonian and Bulgarian.

5. Natanaele is Italian.

6. Natanayil is Quechan, an indigenous language spoken in the Andes Mountains in South America.

7. Nathanail is modern Greek.

8. Nafanail is Russian. Again, it’s nails on a chalkboard to see and hear an F in place of a TH in the middle of a name!

Female forms of both:

1. Nathana is English.

2. Natana is Hebrew.

3. Natanya, or Netanya, is Hebrew.

4. Nathanya is a rare English form.

5. Nathanielle is English and French.

6. Nathaniella is English.

7. Nathaniela is English.

8. Nathaniele is English. The variant Nathaniëla is Dutch.

9. Nathanaelle is English.

A double warlike name

Polish writer Jadwiga Łuszczewska (pseudonym Deotyma), 1834–1908, painted by Mateusz Zarzecki ca. 1848–52

Hadewig is an Ancient Germanic name derived from roots hadu (combat, battle) and wig (war). Like many other names of Germanic origin, its meaning relates to war and battle. This is such a striking contrast to how many Slavic names have meanings related to love, peace, glory, dearness, and flowers.

Probably the form most familiar to people is the modern German form Hedwig, which hasn’t charted in Germany for decades. It was in the Top 20 from 1890–97, and again in 1901 and from 1903–08. Needless to say, it’s considered very old-fashioned for a reason!

Other forms of this name include:

1. Hedvig is Scandinavian and Hungarian. The Scandinavian nickname is Hedda, and the Hungarian nickname is Hédi. In 2019, this name was #78 in Sweden and #65 in Norway.

2. Hedviga is Slovak, Slovenian, Latvian, and Croatian.

3. Hedvika is Czech and Slovenian.

4. Hadewych is a rare Dutch name. It was much more common in the Middle Ages. The nickname is Hedy (also used in German).

5. Hedwiga is Czech, Romanian, and Medieval Polish.

6. Hedwige is French.

7. Heiðveig is Faroese. In Icelandic, this is a separate name derived from roots heiðr (honour) and veig (power, strength).

8. Hekewika is a rare Hawaiian form.

9. Heiðvík is Faroese.

10. Hedla is a Silesian–German nickname sometimes used as a full given name.

Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp (1759–1818), Queen of Sweden and Norway, and a prolific diarist

11. Edvige is Italian and Corsican. The nickname is Edda.

12. Edwige is French.

13. Edubige is Basque.

14. Eduvixes is Asturian and Old Galician.

15. Edviga is a rare Moldovan, Romanian, and Portuguese form.

16. Edwikke is East Prussian–German.

17. Edvija is Old Occitan.

18. Eduvigis is Medieval Spanish and Catalan.

19. Edwiga is Medieval Polish.

20. Avoise is Medieval French.

French stage and film actor Edwige Feuillère, 1907–98

21. Jadvyga is Lithuanian.

22. Jadwiga is Polish. I have two characters by this name, one a minor character who goes by Wisia, and the other a main character (in an entirely different set of books) who’s referred to by her full name in the narrative and called Wisia and Jadzia. Other nicknames include Jagusia, Jagienka, Jagna, Jagoda (which also means “berry”), Jaga, and Iga. Both of my Jadwigas were born in the 1920s.

23. Yadviga is Belarusian.

24. Heta is Finnish.

The many forms of Raphael

Rudolph Valentino, né Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi, 6 May 1895–23 August 1926

The German and English name Raphael comes from Hebrew Rafael, “God heals.” Most people are familiar with Archangel Raphael, whose primary role is as a healer. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all recognise him and hold him as one of the most important archangels. He’s also a saint in Christianity.

Though the name has never been particularly popular in the Anglophone world, it’s a different story in other countries. Raphael was #20 in Austria in 2018, and has been in the Top 40 since at least 1990.

In Belgium, Raphael was #19 in 2018, and has been in the Top 100 since at least 2004. In Switzerland, it’s been Top 100 since at least 1998 (when it was #22), and was #84 in 2018. In France, as Raphaël, it was in the Top 100 almost every year from 1900–28, and rejoined the Top 100 in 1966. In 2018, it was #2.

Self-portrait of Italian artist Raphael (né Raffaello Sanzio), 1483–1520,
ca. 1504–06

Other forms of this name include:

1. Rafael is Hebrew, German, Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, Slovenian, Galician, Romanian, Catalan, Czech, Slovak, Azeri, Belarusian, Cebuano, Finnish, Macedonian, Scandinavian, Tagalog, and Croatian. The alternate form Rafaël is Dutch.

2. Raffael is German.

3. Rafail is Russian, Montenegrin, Persian, Arabic, and Greek.

4. Raffaello is Italian.

5. Raffaele is also Italian.

6. Rafel is Catalan, Aragonese, and Maltese. The alternate form Rafèl is Occitan.

7. Rafayil is Ukrainian.

8. Rafał is Polish.

9. Rafaelo is Esperanto.

10. Rapolas is Lithuanian.

1835 self-portrait of Polish artist Rafał Hadziewicz (1803–83)

11. Rafailo is Montenegrin and Serbian.

12. Rafôł is Kashubian.

13. Raiféal is Irish.

14. Rafiele is Sardinian.

15. Refoel, or Rifoel, is Yiddish.

16. Rapiel is a rare Georgian form.

17. Räffu is Swiss–German.

18. Raffaellu is Corsican.

19. Rafèu is Provinçal.

20. Rafayel is Armenian.

Russian painter and photographer Rafail Sergeyevich Levitskiy (1847–1940), painted 1878 by Ilya Repin

21. Rafaels is Latvian.

22. Rafaelis is Lithuanian.

23. Rafaäl’ is Tatar.

24. Raafael is Finnish.

25. Îsrafîl is Kurdish.

26. Arrafieli is Sardinian.

27. Arrafiele is also Sardinian.

28. Ráffo is Sami.

29. Râvfaile is Greenlandic.

30. Rafajlo is a rare Serbian form.

Italian actor Rafaela Ottiano, 1888–1942

Female forms:

1. Raphaela is German and English.

2. Rafaela is Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Galician, Polish, Kashubian, Czech, Greek, and Croatian.

3. Raffaela is German.

4. Raphaele is French.

5. Raphaella is English and Brazilian–Portuguese.

6. Raphiela is a rare Latin American–Spanish form.

7. Rapolė is Lithuanian.

8. Rafaella is Brazilian–Portuguese, Latin American–Spanish, and Hungarian.

9. Rafaëlle is a rare French form.

10. Raphaëlle is the more common French form.

11. Raffaella is Italian.