Pearly names (including the many forms of Margaret)

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Pearl used to be quite a popular name in the U.S. In 1880, it was #47, and it remained in the Top 100 until 1926. Its highest rank was #24, in 1889, 1890, and 1900. It sank lower and lower, until it fell off the charts in 1977, In 1979, it returned, but fell off again in 1987. It returned briefly in 2007, and then returned yet again in 2009. In 2016, it was #567, and has been pulling up quite a bit in rank each year.

Margaret means “pearl,” from the Greek margarites, which in turn is probably ultimately derived from the Sanskrit manyari. Historically, the name has been enormously popular. From 1880–1930 alone, it was in the Top 5, and it was Top 10 from 1931–39. It was Top 20 from 1940–51, and then gradually began sinking. In 1976, it left the Top 100, though it returned from 1982–89. In 2016, it was #139.

Here, then, are both the many forms of Margaret and names whose meanings relate to the word “pearl.”

Unisex:

Alnilam means “string of pearls” in Arabic. This is the name of one of the stars in Orion.

Dar means “mother-of-pearl” in Hawaiian.

Durdana is Arabic and Urdu.

Hae-Ju can mean “ocean pearl” in Korean.

Hyeon-Ju, or Ju-Hyeon, can mean “virtuous/worthy/able pearl” in Korean.

Poema means “pearl of the deep seas” in Tahitian.

Yao can mean “mother-of-pearl” in Chinese.

Yong-Ju can mean “dragon pearl” in Korean.

Female:

Bermet is Kyrgyz.

Bisera is Bulgarian and Macedonian.

Bitxilore is Basque.

Châu is Vietnamese.

Darya means “pearl of God” in Hebrew. This isn’t to be confused with the Persian or Russian name. All three have different etymologies.

Dordana is Urdu.

Durar means “pearls” in Arabic.

Durdona is Uzbek.

Durrah is a rare Arabic name meaning “large pearl.”

Enku is Amharic.

Gohar is Persian.

Gyöngyi is Hungarian. The letter GY is sort of pronounced like a soft, quick D followed by a Y, the way people in certain parts of the English-speaking world pronounce the first syllable of “due” and “during.”

Gyöngyvér means “sister of pearl” in Hungarian.

Gyöngyvirág means “pearl flower” in Hungarian, and refers to the lily-of-the-valley.

Helmi is Finnish.

Hessa is Arabic.

Inci is Turkish.

Inju is Kazakh.

Inthurat is Thai.

Jinju is Korean.

Jua can mean “second pearl,” “apricot pearl,” or “Asia pearl” in Japanese.

Jumana is Arabic.

Krõõt is Estonian.

Leimoni means “pearl lei” or “pearl child” in Hawaiian.

Lulu is Arabic, and not to be confused with the (mostly) English and German nickname.

Maarit is Finnish.

Maighread is Scottish. The nickname is Maisie.

Mairéad is Irish. Without an accent mark, this is also a Scottish variation.

Makaleka is Hawaiian.

Mākere is Maori.

Makereta is Fijian.

Malghalara is Pashto.

Małgorzata is Polish, with the nicknames Marzena, Gosia, and Małgosia.

Marc’harid is Breton.

Maret is Estonian.

Margaid is Manx.

Margalit, or Margalita, is Hebrew.

Margareeta is Finnish.

Margareta is German, Scandinavian, Romanian, Slovenian, Dutch, Finnish, and Croatian. The variation Margaréta is Slovak and Hungarian. German nicknames include Greta, Grete, Gretchen, Gretel, and Meta; Swedish nicknames are Meta, Märta, and Greta; Norwegian nicknames are Mette, Meta, Grete, and Grethe; Danish nicknames are Merete, Mette, Meta, Grethe, and Grete; Dutch nicknames are Griet, Greet, Grietje, and Greetje; and Finnish nicknames include Reeta and Reetta.

Margarete is German.

Margaretha is Dutch and German.

Margarethe is German and Danish.

Margareto is Esperanto.

Margaretta is an English variation.

Margarida is Catalan, Portuguese, Occitan, and Galician.

Margarit, Markarid, or Margarid, is Armenian.

Margarita is Russian, Bulgarian, Spanish, Scandinavian, Greek, and Lithuanian.

Marged is Welsh, with the nickname Mared.

Margherita is Italian.

Margit is Hungarian, German, Estonian, and Scandinavian.

Margita is Slovak.

Margreet is Limburgish and Dutch.

Margrét is Icelandic. The nickname is Gréta.

Margrethe is Norwegian and Danish.

Margriet is Dutch.

Margrieta is Latvian and Dutch.

Margrit is German.

Marguerite is French. Nicknames include Margaux and Margot.

Marharyta is Ukrainian.

Marhata is Sorbian.

Marit, or Marita, is Norwegian and Swedish.

Marjan is Kazakh.

Marjeta is Slovenian.

MarjorieMargery, or Marjory, is Medieval English.

Markéta is Czech and Slovak.

Marketta is Finnish.

Mèrdgitte is Jèrriais.

Mererid is Welsh.

Merit is Swedish.

Momi is Hawaiian.

Momilani means “heavenly pearl,” “royal pearl,” “noble pearl,” and “spiritual pearl” in Hawaiian.

Morî is Kurdish.

Morvarid is Persian.

Mukda is Thai.

Penina is Hebrew.

Perla is Italian and Spanish.

Perle is French and Yiddish.

Perlezenn is Breton.

Poerani means “divine pearl” or “heavenly pearl” in Tahitian.

Poerava means “black pearl” in Tahitian.

Retha is Afrikaans.

Sadaf means “mother-of-pearl, seashell” in Arabic.

Sadap means “mother-of-pearl” in Turkmeni.

Shinju is Japanese.

Male:

Akinci means “white pearl” in Turkish.

Akincibay means “white pearl lord” in Turkish.

Xhevahir means “pearl, jewel, diamond, gem, precious stone” in Albanian. XH is pronounced like the J in Jupiter.

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The many forms of Irene

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Irene was #102 when name popularity data began being tracked in 1880, and entered the Top 100 in 1883, at #99. It entered the Top 50 in 1894, at #43, and rose to #30 in 1900. In 1906, it was #20, and rose and fell slightly until 1915, when it entered the Top 20, at #17. Until 1925, it remained in the lower reaches of the Top 20, and it stayed in the Top 100, steadily sliding lower each year, until 1945. Ever since, the name has continued sinking in popularity. In 2016, it was #656.

Though many people think of Irene as an old lady name, I’ve never seen it as musty and geriatric. Unlike, e.g., Mildred, it was never a Top 10 name, followed by an extremely sharp decline and eventually falling off the charts. Irene has remained in regular enough use over the decades, even if its greatest popularity is long in the past.

The spelling Irene is used in English, German, the Scandinavian languages, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Finnish. The variation Irène is French; Irēna is Latvian; and Ireñe is Basque. Other forms include:

1. Irina is Russian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Georgian, Romanian, and Finnish. Russian nicknames include Irisha, Irinushka, Ira, Irusya, Ina, Rina, Irunya, and Irya.

2. Arina is an alternate Russian form.

3. Irena is Polish, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Serbian, Slovenian, Dutch, Lithuanian, Romanian, Italian, German, Icelandic, Scandinavian, and Croatian. Many people are familiar with the heroic story of Irena Sendler, who saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto.

4. Eirene is Ancient Greek.

5. Irén is Hungarian, with the nickname Iri.

6. Eireen is Irish.

7. Iryna is Ukrainian.

8. Irine is Georgian.

9. Iria is Galician and Portuguese.

10. Bakene is a modern, rare Basque form.

11. Erea is Galician.

12. Erina is Swiss–Italian.

13. Irea is Galician.

14. Ireene is Estonian.

15. Irenea is Italian and Spanish.

16. Irenia is an elaborated English and Latin American–Spanish form.

17. Irinæ is Ossetian.

18. Eirini is modern Greek.

19. Ereni is also Greek.

20. Iriana is an elaborated English form.

21. Irini is Romanian.

22. Jerina is a rare Serbian form.

The many forms of Steven

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Steven has been quite popular in the U.S. in decades past. From 1941–2007, it was in the Top 100, and was in the Top 20 from 1949–76. Its highest rank was #10, from 1955–61. By 2016, it had dropped down to #167.

The variant Stephen has followed a similar trajectory, though it’s been much more popular historically. However, it’s never been more popular than #19, from 1949–51. In 2016, it was #265.

I completely understand why Steven became more popular than Stephen, since it matches the pronunciation. For years, I believed Stephen was pronounced Stef-in, since we don’t pronounce Stephanie with a V sound. Since the first E is long, PH turns into a V sound instead of its usual F.

Outside of the Anglophone world, other forms of the name include:

1. Stepan is Russian and Armenian. Russian nicknames include Styopa, Stepa, Stenik, Stenchik, Stenka, Stepik, Steshok, Steshka, Stefka, Stepka, Stesha, Stenya, Styopka, Stepok, Stepunka, and Stepanik.

2. Stefano is Italian.

3. Stefan is German, Dutch, Scandinavian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Polish, and Serbian. The variation Štefan is Slovak, Slovenian, and Croatian; Štěpán is Czech; Stefán is Icelandic; and Ștefan is Romanian. The Dutch nickname is Stef; Serbian and Croatian diminutives include Stevo, Stipe, and Stipo; the Polish base nickname is Stefek; and the Romanian nickname is Fane.

4. Stevan is Serbian and Croatian.

5. Stipan is Croatian.

6. Stjepan is Serbian and Croatian.

7. Steffen is Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, and Low German.

8. Stephan is German and Dutch.

9. Staffan is Swedish.

10. Steffan is Welsh.

11. Steafan is Scottish.

12. Steaphan is also Scottish. The nickname for both is Steenie.

13. Stefanus is the official Dutch form, used on legal documents and birth certificates.

14. Szczepan is Polish.

15. Stiofán is Irish.

16. István is Hungarian. Nicknames include Istók, Pista, Pisti, Isi, Istó, Pityu, Isti, Pistu, Pityus, Petya, and Pesta.

17. Stepane is Georgian.

18. Stefanos is Greek.

19. Stephanos is also Greek.

20. Estevão is Portuguese.

21. Étienne is French.

22. Stéphane is a French variation, most popular in the 1970s.

23. Estève is Occitan, and Esteve is Catalan.

24. Esteban is Spanish.

25. Estavan is a Spanish variation.

26. Estevo is Galician.

27. Stefans is Latvian.

28. Steponas is Lithuanian.

29. Tipene is Maori.

30. Tapani is Finnish.

31. Tahvo is also Finnish. The nickname for both is Teppo.

32. Eappen is Malayalam, a language spoken in India.

33. Istebe is Aragonese.

34. Kepano is Hawaiian.

35. Sćěpan is Sorbian.

36. Stiven is an alternate Georgian form.

37. Styve is Québécois.

38. Tēpene is an alternate Maori form.

39. Estepan is Basque.

40. Ixtebe is also Basque.

My favorite forms of Katherine

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Katherine probably ties with Elizabeth as having the most documented nicknames. It’s also a steadily popular, established classic that ages well, doesn’t date the bearer, sounds mature and professional, and never goes out of style. If you want to use the name but are off-put by its popularity, there are a lot of great foreign forms of the name to consider. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Yekaterina. This is the familiar Russian form, with the base nickname Katya. It branches off into all sorts of superdiminutives like Katyusha, Katyenka, Katyushka, Katyushenka, Katyushechka, and Katyulya.

2. Katerina. This is the Macedonian and Greek form, as well as a simplified Russian and Bulgarian form.

3. Caitríona. This is the Irish form, pronounced like Katrina. Catriona is a variant spelling, and pronounced the same way. Both spelling variations are also Scottish, except that the longer version has an accent grave (facing the other way) over the second I.

4. Katariina. This is the Estonian and Finnish form, with nicknames such as Katrin, Kadri, and Kati. I love the double vowels in Estonian names.

5. Katarina. This is the Scandinavian, Serbian, Slovenian, and Croatian form, as well as a German variant. The Slovakian and Icelandic variation is Katarína, and the Czech variation is Kateřina (pronounced Kah-tehr-zheen-ah).

6. Caterina. This is the Italian and Catalan form.

7. Catarina. This is the Portuguese, Occitan, and Galician form, as well as an Italian variant.

8. Catalina. This is the Spanish form. The Romanian variation is Cătălina.

9. Kateryna. Surprisingly, this is the Ukrainian form, not the Polish form. I’m used to seeing a Y in place of an I in Polish names, like Krystyna and Izydor. The Polish form is Katarzyna.

10. Katrijn. This is one of the Dutch forms. I just love Dutch names, with all the Js and neat diminutives.