A name that fathered multitudes

Last known photo of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln alive

Abraham, a name many consider extremely old-fashioned, stodgy, geriatric, and/or religious, has never been quite as unpopular as its image suggests. While it’s never been Top 100 in the U.S. since records began being kept in 1880, it’s never sunk below #499 in 1967 either. Its highest rank to date was #124 in 1911. Abraham is currently on a surprising, gradual up-and-up, ranking at #164 in 2018.

The name is used in English, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, and the Scandinavian languages. The alternate form Ábrahám is Hungarian, and Ábraham is Faroese.. Its original form is the Hebrew Avraham (father of many/multitudes). While it’s long been popular in the Jewish world, it didn’t become common in Christendom till the Protestant Reformation.

Because Avraham and his wife Sarah were the founders of the Jewish nation, all converts’ Hebrew names end in bat/ben Avraham v’Sarah. Since we don’t have Jewish parents, the original parents of our nation become our symbolic parents.

Kurdish writer and politician Ibrahim Ahmad, 1914–2000

Other forms of the name include:

1. Avrum is Yiddish.

2. Aabraham is Finnish.

3. Aapo is another Finnish form.

4. Abram is Russian and Georgian.

5. Abraam is Georgian.

6. Abraão is Portuguese.

7. Ibrahim is Arabic, Albanian, Bosnian, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Dhivehi (a language spoken in the Maldives). The alternate form İbrahim is Azeri and Turkish, and Îbrahîm is Kurdish.

8. Ebrahim is Persian and Arabic.

9. Ibragim is Chechen and Ossetian.

10. Abramo is Italian.

U.S. General Abram Duryée (1815–90), who served in the Union Army in the Civil War

11. Bram is Dutch and English. Like many modern Dutch names, this too began as a nickname.

12. Braam is Limburgish and Dutch.

13. Ebrima is Western African.

14. Ibrahima is also Western African.

15. Brahim is Maghrebi Arabic, a dialect spoken in North Africa.

16. Aaprahami, or Aaprahammi, is Finnish.

17. Abrahán is Spanish.

18. Abraomas is Lithuanian.

19. Abreham is Ethiopian.

20. Âbréhan is Jèrriais.

Israeli soldier Avraham Avigdorov (1929–2012), recipient of the Hero of Israel award (now the Medal of Valour), in 1949

21. Âparâme is Greenlandic.

22. Ápparan is Sami.

23. Avraam is Romanian and modern Greek.

24. Avrom is Yiddish.

25. Brāhēm is Balochi, a language spoken in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

26. Ebәrham is Abkhaz.

27. Ibraahiim, or Ibraahim, is Somali.

28. Ibrahimu is Hausa, a language spoken in northern Nigeria.

29. Iprakhim is Chuvash.

30. Obran is Mordvin.

Irish writer Bram Stoker (1847–1912), best-known as the author of Dracula

31. Ôbróm is Kashubian.

32. Habraham is a rare Latin American–Spanish and French–African form.

Female forms:

1. Abra is English. This is also the Latin word for “maid.”

2. Avra is Hebrew. I’ve always really liked this name.

3. Abrahamina is Swedish. I’m not a fan of this one!

4. Abrahamine is Norwegian. I don’t like this one either.

5. Abarrane may be an obscure feminine form of Abraham. Its etymology is unknown.

The many forms of Thomas

American inventor Thomas Alva Edison, 1847–1931

Thomas, a name used in English, German, Dutch, French, Greek, and the Scandinavian languages, comes from the Aramaic name Ta’oma (twin). This name has long been a mainstay of the Christian world (in a variety of languages) due to Thomas the Apostle, who famously doubted the veracity of Jesus’s resurrection till he saw and felt the wounds himself. According to tradition, he was martyred in India.

Thomas was introduced to the Anglophone world by the occupying Normans, and became quite popular thanks to the martyred St. Thomas à Becket, a 12th century archbishop of Canterbury. From the 13th to 19th centuries, it was among the five most common male English names, and is still fairly popular today.

Portuguese-born Brazilian poet Tomás Antônio Gonzaga, 1744–1810

The name was #8 in the U.S. in 1880, when records were first kept, and ranged from #8 to #12 till 1968. In 1969, it was #13, and then began gradually descending in popularity. Thomas remained in the Top 50 till 2005, and has never ranked below #63 (in 2011 and 2012). In 2018, it was #49.

Thomas also enjoys popularity in Northern Ireland (#9), Ireland (#12), England and Wales (#12), Scotland (#14), New Zealand (#14), The Netherlands (#14), Italy (#34), Belgium (#38), Austria (#53), France (#58), Switzerland (#76), and Norway (#90).

Polish Prime Minister Tomasz Arciszewski, 1877–1955

Other forms of Thomas include:

1. Tomos is Welsh. Nicknames include Tomi and Twm (pronounced kind of like “tomb”).

2. Tàmhas is Scottish. Anglicisations include Tavish and Tòmas.

3. Toma is Romanian, Georgian, Macedonian, Serbian, Bulgarian, and Croatian.

4. Tuomas, or Tuomo, is Finnish, with nicknames including Tomi and Tommi.

5. Tomass, or Toms, is Latvian.

6. Tomasso is Italian.

7. Tamati is Maori.

8. Toomas is Estonian.

9. Tomaz is Breton. The alternate form Tomaž is Slovenian.

10. Tomé is Portuguese.

Tomasso I, Marquess of Sanluzzo (1239–96)

11. Tomasz is Polish.

12. Tomas is Lithuanian, Norwegian, and Swedish; Tomás is Spanish, Irish, and Portuguese; Tomaš is Sorbian, Serbian, and Croatian; Tomáš is Czech and Slovak; Tomàs is Catalan; and Tómas is Icelandic.

13. Tamás is Hungarian.

14. Thomaase is Manx.

15. Thonmas is Jèrriais.

16. Toman is Vlach.

17. Tammes is a rare Danish form.

18. Tomasi is Tongan, Fijian, and Melanesian.

19. Tomasy is Malagasy.

20. Tomisav is Vlach.

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, first President of Czechoslovakia (1850–1937)

21. Tomašis is Romani.

22. Tommes is Limburgish.

23. Tomôsz is Kashubian.

24. Tömu is Swiss–German.

25. Tovmas is Armenian.

26. Tuma is Arabic. The alternate form Tüma is Vilamovian.

27. Tumasch is Romansh.

28. Tummas is Faroese.

29. Tûmarse is Greenlandic.

30. Foma is Russian.

Romanian hospital director, bacteriologist, educator, and humanitarian Dr. Toma Ciorbă (1864–1936)

31. Lillac is Caló–Romani.

32. Duommá is Sami. Other Sami forms of Thomas are Dommá and Duomis.

Female forms:

1. Thomasina is English.

2. Tomine is Norwegian.

3. Tamsin, or Tamsyn, is Cornish.

4. Thomaḯs is Greek.

5. Thomaḯda is also Greek.

6. Thomai is another Greek form.

7. Tuomasiina is a rare Finnish form.

8. Tommasina is Italian.

9. Tomazja is Polish.

10. Tomásia is Portuguese.

Portuguese noblewoman Leonor Tomásia de Távora, 3rd Marquise of Távora (1700–59)

11. Thomine is French and Danish.

12. Tomasina is a rare English form.

13. Thomassine is a rare French form.

14. Thomassin is French–Cajun.

15. Thomasine is a rare Swedish and English form, and archaic French and Danish form.

16. Thomasin is English.

17. Thomasse is archaic French and English.

18. Tomasine is archaic Norwegian, last recorded in the 1940s.

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.

A name that arose from the earth

Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855), one of Poland’s great national poets, painted 1828 by Józef Oleszkiewicz

Adam means “man” in Hebrew, and may ultimately derive from the Akkadian word adamu (to make), the Hebrew word adamah (earth), or the almost-identical Hebrew word ‘adam (to be red; i.e., a reference to a ruddy complexion). All these etymologies obviously are very symbolic, given Adam is the name of the first man in the Biblical creation story.

The name is also used in English, German, French, Dutch, Georgian, Arabic, Catalan, Romanian, and the Scandinavian and Slavic languages. The variation Ádám is Hungarian; Ádam is Faroese; and Âdam is Jèrriais.

Adam has long been common in the Jewish world, but it didn’t become popular in Christendom till the Middle Ages. After the Protestant Reformation, it became even more popular. The name has been in the U.S. Top 500 since 1880, and began vaulting up the charts in the 1950s. It went from #428 in 1954 to #71 in 1970. Adam attained its highest rank of #18 in 1983 and 1984.

The name has remained in the Top 100 since. In 2018, it was #78. Adam is also #2 in Belgium, #3 in the Czech Republic (as of 2016), #5 in Hungary and France, #6 in Sweden, #9 in Ireland, #11 in Poland, #16 in Catalonia (as of 2016), #17 in The Netherlands, #18 in Northern Ireland (which hopefully soon will be reunified with the rest of Ireland), #24 in Scotland, #25 in Denmark, #36 in England and Wales, #39 in Israel (as of 2016), #40 in Norway, #41 in Spain, #43 in NSW, Australia, #44 in Slovenia, #50 in Switzerland and Austria, #51 in British Columbia, Canada, #55 in Italy, and #96 in New Zealand.

Adam was the name of one of my great-great-grandfathers, the father of the only great-grandfather I have memories of. Judging from the vintage newspaper stories I’ve found about him, he was quite the local character!

Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723–1790), author of one of the most boring books ever written, The Wealth of Nations

Other forms include:

1. Adamo is Italian.

2. Adán is Spanish.

3. Adão is Portuguese.

4. Ádhamh is Irish.

5. Aatami is Finnish.

6. Adomas is Lithuanian.

7. Akamu is Hawaiian.

8. Aadam is Estonian.

9. Aaden is Somali.

10. Adami is Greenlandic and old-fashioned Georgian.

11. Ādams is Latvian.

12. Adamu is Swahili, Amharic, and Hausa.

13. Adda is Welsh, though I’d avoid this in an Anglophone area. Unfortunately, many boys with names ending in A are teased, and there’s no saving grace of this being a widely-known male name like Nikita or Ilya.

14. Aden is Romansh.

15. Ārama is Maori.

16. Âtame is Greenlandic.

17. Áttán is Sami.

18. Hadam is Sorbian.

19. Jadóm is Kashubian.

20. Odam is Uzbek.

21. Adem is Turkish.

22. Y-adam is a rare Vietnamese form.

Feminine forms:

1. Adamina is English, Polish, and Romani.

2. Adama is Hebrew and English.

3. Adamella is a rare, modern English form. I’m really not keen on this name! Some names don’t naturally lend themselves to feminine versions, and look forced.

4. Adamia is English.

Jane isn’t so plain

U.S. reformer Jane Addams, 1860–1935

Jane, like its male counterpart John, is a timeless, universal mainstay. It’s the Middle English form of the Old French Jehanne, which in turn derives from the Latin Iohannes and Greek Ioannes, ultimately derived from the Hebrew Yochanan (God is  gracious).

The name was #98 in the U.S. in 1880, and stayed near the bottom of the Top 100 and just outside of it for the remainder of the 19th century. Jane went up and down until 1909, when it rose from #130 to #116. The name proceeded to jump up the charts to the Top 50, attaining its highest rank of #35 in 1946. Its last year in the Top 100 was 1965. In 2019, it was #291.

Jean, a Middle English variation of Jehanne, was common in Medieval Scotland and England, then fell from popularity till the 19th century. In the U.S., it was Top 100 from 1906–64, with the highest rank of #12 in 1926 and 1928–29. It fell off the chart in 1995.

Joanna is English and Polish, and became common in the Anglophone world in the 19th century. Its highest U.S. rank was #88 in 1984.

Joan Crawford, née Lucille Fay LeSueur (1904–1977), with Lon Chaney, Sr., in The Unknown (1927)

Joan is a Middle English form of the Old French Johanne, and was the most common English feminine form of John till the 17th century, when Jane rose to the fore. It skyrocketed to popularity in the U.S. in the 1920s, jumping from #127 in 1922 to #5 by 1931–33. Joan stayed in the Top 10 till 1938, and slowly descended the chart. Its final Top 100 year was 1964. In 1993, it fell off the Top 1000.

Other forms include:

1. Johanna is German, Dutch, Scandinavian, English, Hungarian, Estonian, and Finnish. The variant Jóhanna is Icelandic.

2. Jeanne is French and English, and of course the name of one of France’s most beloved native daughters and sheroes, Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc).

3. Jana is Czech, Slovak, Catalan, Dutch, German, Slovenian, Georgian, and English.

4. Johanne is Danish, Norwegian, and French.

5. Joanne is English and French. It was Top 100 in the U.S. from 1930–60, with its highest rank of #48 in 1942.

6. Joana is Portuguese and Catalan.

7. Ioanna is Greek, Georgian, Ukrainian, and old-fashioned Russian.

8. Ioana is Romanian.

9. Yoana is Bulgarian.

10. Ivana is Macedonian, Serbian, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Bulgarian, and Croatian.

Jeanne d’Arc, painted by Harold Piffard

11. Jone is Basque.

12. Yanna is Breton and Greek.

13. Jóna is Faroese and Icelandic.

14. Ivanna is Ukrainian.

15. Juana is Spanish.

16. Yana is Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian.

17. Janka is Sorbian.

18. Xoana is Galician.

19. Zhanna is Russian.

20. Giovanna is Italian.

Queen Juana the Mad of Castille (1473–1555), painted between 1496–1500 by Juan de Flandes

21. Giuanna is Sardinian.

22. Gianna is modern Greek, and an Italian nickname for Giovanna.

23. Janina is Lithuanian, Polish, German, Finnish, and Swedish.

24. Janna is Swedish, Dutch, Finnish, and English.

25. Ghjuvanna is Corsican.

26. Siân is Welsh. Nicknames are Siana and Siani.

27. Siwan is also Welsh.

28. Seonag is Scottish. Nicknames include Seona and Seònaid.

29. Siobhán is Irish.

30. Síne is also Irish.

German opera singer Johanna Gadski, 1872–1932

31. Sinéad is another Irish form.

32. Jovana is Serbian and Macedonian.

33. Janessa is English.

34. Janelle is English.

35. Jeannette is French, Dutch, and English.

36. Jeannine is French and English.

37. Janine is English, German, Dutch, and French.

38. Žanna is Latvian.

39. Žaneta is Czech, Slovak, and Lithuanian.

40. Teasag is Scottish.

Soviet actor Yanina Zheymo, 1909–87

41. Jenny/Jennie began as a Middle English nickname for Jane, though eventually became used as a full name in its own right and a nickname for Jennifer.

42. Yanina is Russian, Bulgarian, and Spanish.

43. Hēni is Maori.

44. Jâne is Greenlandic. Unlike the English form, this has two syllables.

45. Janissa is English.

46. Seini is Tongan.

47. Hoana is Maori.

48. Joane is Gascon.

49. Ivanija is Vlach, a variation of Romanian spoken in Serbia.

50. Jaanika is Estonian and Finnish.

Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, née Johanna (1820–87), painted 1845 by J.L. Asher

51. Jânotte is Norman.

52. Ohanna is Armenian. I have a character by this name, one of the orphanage girls in my Russian historicals.

53. Hovhanna is also Armenian.

54. Yohana is Amharic and Indonesian.

55. Yuwana is Arabic.

56. Yochana, or Yochanah, is Hebrew.