Some thoughts on name-changing after immigration

(Note: I’ll be further discussing some of these issues on my main blog in upcoming posts, “A Primer on Anglicizing Names” and “A Primer on De-Judaizing Names.” I also previously discussed the issue of Hebraizing names on my main blog.)

Though most immigrants in the modern era proudly retain their birth names, that wasn’t always the case. Many people felt they had to change their names (first, last, or both) to become “real” Americans, Canadians, Brits, Australians, Israelis, French, etc. By and large, no one questioned this.

Now we know there’s no one “right” way to be a proud, patriotic member of one’s adopted homeland. By trying to whitewash themselves and pretend they never had any other names and ways of life, people lost vital parts of their heritage and identity.

Changing spelling to reflect pronunciation:

I understand why people would want to do this. Certain letters make different sounds in, e.g., English than they do in the native language. For example, the Hungarian surname Kovács might become Kovach, or the Polish surname Adamczak became Adamchak.

Many Hungarian women named Sára (nickname Sári) have likewise changed their names to Shara or Shari, since most non-Magyarphiles don’t know the Hungarian S is pronounced SH.

Many people gave up the idea of anyone properly pronouncing, e.g., W as V, and accepted a linguistically incorrect pronunciation of a name like Janowski or Korošec.

Removing diacritical marks:

This was extraordinarily common, esp. since many people would’ve had no idea how to pronounce characters like Ń, Ž, Č, Ł, Ę, Ñ, Ü, Ø, or Ő. Even if the diacritical mark makes the difference in correct vs. incorrect pronunciation, most people even now see them as a hindrance or annoyance.

Pedant I am, I like seeing diacritical marks in names of foreign origin. It sets the bearer apart, sends the message that s/he cares about his or her ethnic heritage and doesn’t believe in taking the easy way out. A name like Ramón, Yaël, Léa, Gwenaël, Kálmán, or Irène looks so distinctive.

Changing spelling to conform to host nation’s “norms”:

Examples would include the Hungarian Jakab becoming Jacob, Izabella becoming Isabella, the Estonian Eliisabet becoming Elizabeth, or the Polish Zofia becoming Sophia. Before people were used to seeing certain letters or sounds in names, they would’ve stood out like a sore thumb. But today, those native spellings really stand out beautifully from the crowd.

Many Russians and Ukrainians with -skiy names also changed that suffix to -sky, to simplify the spelling. Sometimes, Poles changed -ski to -sky. If they lived in a region with a lot of people of Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, or Slovak descent, it helped them to blend in better.

Dropping sex-based endings of surnames:

Many names in the Slavic languages denote the sex of the bearer. Russian women’s names end in -a after -ov, -(y)ev, or -in, and -skiy becomes -skaya. Likewise, Polish women’s names end in -ska instead of -ski, and Czech women’s names tack on -ová. In Slovak and Czech, -ský becomes -ská.

It just looks wrong to me to see a beautiful Russian or Polish surname without the feminine ending when the bearer is a woman. It’s grammatically incorrect for a woman to have a name like Jaskolski, Kuznetsov, or Borodin.

“Translating” names to that of the host culture:

It wasn’t uncommon for, e.g., Pavlos or Pavel to become Paul, Katarina or Katarzyna to become Catherine, or Ryszard to become Richard. Even a name like Caterina or Nikolay was considered “too foreign” once upon a time.

Surnames could be “translated” too, such as Schmidt becoming Smith or Molnár becoming Miller. Anything suggesting foreign origin was seen as undesirable and suspect.

This frequently happened when people made aliyah (moved to Israel), as discussed in the above-hyperlinked “A Primer on Hebraizing Names.” Many common Jewish surnames were translated into Hebrew, such as Bergman becoming Harari and Rosen becoming Vardi. Those birth surnames smacked of a people without their own country and language.

Choosing entirely new names:

The name Irving was once quite popular among the Jewish community, as an “American” substitute for Isaac, Israel, and Isaiah. Many of the new names chosen have dated rather poorly, though at the time, they were seen as “all-American” and a part of the mainstream onomastic culture.

Shortening names or putting Anglo twists on them:

This happened both for Anglicization in general and de-Judaization in particular. For example, Garfinkel became Garfield, Rosenkrantz became Rose, Nielsen became Nelson, Feuerstein became Firestone, de Jong became DeYoung, Eisenhauer became Eisenhower.

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I’m glad more people now see the beauty in names from a wide variety of cultures, instead of seeing them as an ugly, embarrassing, foreign burden to be shed. Not everyone needs to have names like John and Mary Smith, just as not everyone has to abandon native cuisine, culture, language (as long as one learns the host language), and religion.

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Pearly names (including the many forms of Margaret)

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.

Ambery names

While the once-popular name Amber has been steadily plunging in popularity in the U.S. (after initially starting to make a comeback on the Top 1000 in 1945 due to the awesome bestseller Forever Amber), there are a number of other names whose meaning relates to the word “amber.” Most of these are female names, but a couple are male.

Unisex:

Kohaku is Japanese.

Female:

Ámbar is Spanish.

Ambra is Italian.

Ambre is French.

Borostyán is a rare Hungarian name meaning “amber ivy.”

Electra is the Latinized form of the Greek Elektra, which comes from elektron (amber). The Italian form is Elettra.

Hakuko can mean “amber child” in Japanese.

Inbar is Hebrew.

Kohakuyuki can mean “amber snow” in Japanese.

Ómra is Irish.

Male:

Dzintars is Latvian.

Gintaras is Lithuanian.

Hakurou can mean “amber son” and “bright/clear amber” in Japanese.

Ko can mean “amber” in Japanese, though most people are familiar with this character as meaning “child” in a name.

Glorious names

While many people are familiar with the name Gloria (reportedly first used in 1891 in E. D. E. N. Southworth’s novel of the same name), there are a number of other names whose meanings relate to the words “glory” and “glorious.” To condense this post’s wordcount somewhat, I’m leaving out all the Slavic names with the element (-)slav(a). I do intend to have future posts showcasing all the Slavic names with the roots Mir(a), Mil(a), and Slav(a)!

Unisex:

Chidiebube means “God is glorious” in Igbo.

Hadar means “splendour, glory” in Hebrew.

Jaswinder means “glory of Indra” or “Indra’s glory” in Sanskrit.

Jeong-Hui can mean “proper and glorious” and “gentle and glorious” in Korean.

Ji-Yeong can mean “wisdom and glory,” “intellect and glory,” and “to know glory” in Korean.

Rong can mean “glory” in Chinese. I obviously wouldn’t recommend this in an Anglophone country!

Vinh means “glory” in Vietnamese.

Female:

Aegle is the Latinized form of the Greek Aigle, which means “glory, light, radiance.”

Aintza means “glory” in Basque.

Cleopatra is the Latinized form of the Greek Kleopatra, which means “glory of the father.” This spelling is used in English, Italian, Dutch, and Spanish, and Kleopatra is used in German, Greek, and the Slavic languages. Other forms include Kleópatra (Icelandic), Cléopâtre (French), Cliupatra (Sicilian), Clèopatra (Catalan), Cléopatra (Portuguese), and Kleopátra (Hungarian).

Gloria means “glory” in Latin. The name is used in English, Italian, Spanish, and German. It was in the Top 100 in the U.S. from 1922–63. Alternate forms are Glória (Portuguese), Gloría (Icelandic), and Glòria (Catalan).

Gloriana is an elaborated form of Gloria. I’ve always loved this name.

Glorinda means “worthy of glory” in Esperanto.

Glory is a rare English name.

Kleio means “glory” in Greek. She’s the Muse of history and heroic poetry, and introduced the alphabet to the Greek people. The Latinized and Italian form is Clio.

Nani means “glory, beauty” in Hawaiian.

Siriporn is a Thai name derived from the elements sir (glory, splendour) and phon (blessing). For obvious reasons, I’d steer far clear of this one in an Anglophone country! The “porn” element is pronounced POHN, but the spelling is still what it is.

Theokleia means “glory of God” in Ancient Greek. Other forms include Thekla (modern Greek, German), Tekla (Russian, Polish, Georgian, Scandinavian, Hungarian), Thècle (French), Tegla (Welsh), Tecla (Spanish, Italian), Thecla (Dutch), Tîgdlak or Tîgdlat (Greenlandic), Dekla (Latvian), Fee’la (Sami), Tekle (Georgian variation), and Teklė (Lithuanian).

Yocheved means “God is glory” in Hebrew. This was the name of the mother of Moses (Moshe), Aaron (Aharon), and Miriam.

Male:

Amjad means “more glorious” in Arabic.

Androcles is the Latinized form of the Greek Androkles, which means “glory of a man.”

Aristocles is the Latinized form of the Greek Aristokles, which means “best glory.”

Baha means “glory, splendour” in Arabic and Turkish.

Byeong-Ho can mean “glorious and vast” and “glorious summer” in Korean.

Damocles is the Latinized form of the Greek Damokles, which means “glory of the people.”

Diokles means “glory of Zeus” in Greek.

Euclid is the Anglicized form of the Greek Eukleides, which means “good glory.”

Hercules is the Latinized form of the Greek Herakles, which means “glory of Hera.” I discussed this name in depth here.

Ichabod means “no glory” in Hebrew.

Izzet means “glory, might” in Turkish.

Kleisthenes means “glory and strength” in Greek.

Kleon means “glory” in Greek.

Majid means “glorious” in Arabic.

Patroklos means “glory of the father” in Greek. This was the name of the great hero Achilles’s best friend, who may or may not have been his lover.

Perikles means “exceedingly glory” in Greek.

Pratap means “glory, splendour, heat” in Sanskrit.

Themistokles means “glory of the law” in Greek.

Thucydides is the Latinized form of the Greek Thoukydides, which means “son of God’s glory.”

Yash means “glory, fame, praise” in Sanskrit.

Yeong-Gi can mean “to begin glory” in Korean.

The many forms of Daniel

Daniel has been a steadily popular Top 60 name in the U.S. since at least 1880. Its lowest rank was #55, from 1914–16. It entered the Top 20 in 1952, and in spite of a somewhat fluctuating rank, eventually entered the Top 10. Its highest rank was #5, which it held in 1985, 1990, 2007, and 2008. In 2016, it was #13.

It’s also popular in Romania (#9), Spain (#2), Ireland (#3), Galicia (#5), Hungary (#8), Finland (#10), the Czech Republic (#12), Iceland (#10), Catalonia (#13), Austria (#26), Canada (#23), England and Wales (#24), Australia (#29), Chile (#33), Italy (#41), Mexico (#12), New Zealand (#28), Norway (#17), Scotland (#18), Northern Ireland (#5), Croatia (#63), Switzerland (#39), Portugal (#31), and Poland (#55).

The spelling Daniel is used in English, French, German, the Scandinavian languages, Romanian, Hebrew, Portuguese, Armenian, Georgian, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Slovenian, Spanish, and Croatian. The variant Dániel is Hungarian and Faroese; Daníel is Icelandic; and Daniël is Dutch.

Other forms include:

1. Daniyel is the original Hebrew form, and means “God is my judge.”

2. Daniil is Russian, with the nickname Danya.

3. Danilo is Slovenian, Serbian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Montenegrin, and Croatian.

4. Daniele is Italian.

5. Danijel is Serbian, Slovenian, and Croatian.

6. Danyal is Persian, Urdu, Arabic, and Turkish.

7. Taniel is Western Armenian.

8. Danielius is Lithuanian.

9. Daniels is Latvian.

10. Dánjal is Faroese.

11. Deniel is Breton.

12. Danail is Bulgarian. The nickname is Dancho.

13. Taneli is Finnish. The nickname is Tatu.

14. Deiniol is Welsh.

15. Taaniel is Estonian.

16. Tanel is also Estonian.

17. Tâniale is Greenlandic.

18. Daaniel is Estonian.

19. Dainéil is Irish.

20. Dánial is Faroese.

21. Daniello is Italian.

22. Danielo is Latin American–Spanish.

23. Danilbek is Chechen, and means “Lord Daniel.”

24. Danilis is modern Greek.

25. Danilos is also Greek.

26. Daniyal is Kazakh and Pakistani.

27. Dänu is Swiss–German.

28. Danyil is Ukrainian.

29. Danila is Belarusian.

30. Daniley is also Belarusian.

31. Danylo is Ukrainian.

32. Kaniela is Hawaiian.

33. Rāniera is Maori.