The many forms of Alfred

King Alfred the Great of England, ca. 847-849–26 October 899, my 36-greats-grandfather

Alfred is an English, French, German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Polish, Estonian, Slovenian, Finnish, Catalan, Georgian, Armenian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian, and Serbian name derived from the original Old English Ælfræd (elf counsel). Its roots are ælf (elf) and ræd (counsel). Though many Anglo–Saxon names fell out of use after the Norman invasion and occupation, Alfred stayed popular thanks to my amazing ancestor Alfred the Great, a fellow scholar and person of letters.

By the Middle Ages, the name had become rare, but returned to common use in the 18th century. When the U.S. began keeping track of name popularity in 1880, it was #35, and stayed in the Top 100 (albeit on a very gradual downward decline) till 1950. Its highest rank was #32 in 1882.

Since dropping out of the Top 100, it’s mostly declined in popularity each year. In 2018, it was #872. The name is much more popular in England and Wales (#107), Sweden (#12), Denmark (#8), and Norway (#52).

The variation Alfréd is Slovak, Czech, and Hungarian, and Alfreð is Icelandic. Other forms of Alfred include:

1. Alfredo is Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Galician, Aragonese, and Esperanto.

2. Alfrēds is Latvian.

3. Alfredas is Lithuanian.

4. Alfrid is Tatar.

5. Alfredos is Greek.

6. Alfreeti is Finnish.

7. Alfried is a Dutch and German variation.

8. Alured is Manx.

9. Elfried is an alternate German and Dutch form.

10. Alfredu is Asturian and Sicilian.

11. Alperda is Basque.

Female forms:

1. Alfreda is English, Italian, German, and Polish.

2. Alfrédie is a rare Norman form.

3. Albrea is Middle English.

4. Alfredine is a rare French and English form.

5. Alverdine was occasionally used in English in the 19th century.

6. Alvedine is the 20th century form of the uncommon Alverdine.

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The many forms of Noah

Noah, a name which presumably 99.99999% of everyone recognises from the famous Biblical story, comes from the Hebrew root nuach (repose, rest). It became widespread in the Anglophone world during the Protestant Reformation, and was particularly popular among Puritans.

This name has been leaping up the U.S. charts since 1988. It entered the Top 100 in 1995, at exactly #100, and was #1 from 2013–16. In 2017, it was #2.

The name also enjoys great popularity around the world. It’s #1 in Switzerland; #2 in Denmark; #3 in Australia, New Zealand, and Northern Ireland; #4 in Belgium, Norway, and England and Wales; #5 in Scotland and The Netherlands; #6 in Ireland; #9 in Sweden; #17 in Austria and France; #67 in Portugal; #76 in Catalonia; #77 in Italy; and #93 in Spain.

American lexicographer Noah Webster (1758–1843), by Samuel Finley Breese Morse

Other forms of this extremely popular name include:

1. Noé is French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Hungarian. The variant Noè is Italian; Nóe is Irish; Noe is Alsatian, Georgian, Romanian, Polish, Greek, and Czech; and Noë is Dutch.

2. Noach is Hebrew and Dutch.

3. Noak is Swedish.

4. Nojus is Lithuanian.

5. Nooa is Finnish.

6. Nuh is Arabic and Turkish.

7. Noa is Hawaiian, Maori, Tongan, Yoruba, Serbian, and Croatian. The alternate form Nóa is Faroese.

8. Nói is Icelandic and Faroese. This may also be a separate name drawn from the Icelandic word nói (small vessel).

9. Noy is Armenian, Russian, and Bulgarian.

10. Noass is Latvian. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t recommend this spelling in an Anglophone country!

11. Nuhu is Arabic.

Georgian journalist and politician Noe Zhordania, 1868–1953

Feminine forms:

1. Noa is Hebrew, and quite a popular name. Though it truly transliterates as Noah, most people use the spelling Noa to avoid confusion with what everyone knows as an unmistakably male name.

Contrary to what many name sites report, this is also a completely separate name from the familiar Biblical name. In the Bible, Noa is one of the five righteous daughters of Tzelofehad. The name means “motion, movement.”

2. Noja is Lithuanian.

Thor-inspired names

Dedicated in loving memory of Peter Tork, né Peter Halsten Thorkelson, 13 February 1942–21 February 2019, whose birth surname inspired this post.

Thor’s Fight with the Giants, Mårten Eskil Winge, 1872

I’ve wanted to do a post on Thor-inspired names for quite some time. Though many might consider the name Thor itself to be pompous and pretentious, there are quite a few other names whose meanings relate to Thor. If you wouldn’t consider the name Thor for a real child, perhaps you’d be more inclined to use one of these names.

Unless otherwise noted, all these names are male.

Thor was the Norse god of thunder, from Old Norse þórr, ultimately from Ancient Germanic *þunraz. The name was #48 in Denmark in 2017. Its modern form is Tor, and the feminine forms are Thora and Tora.

Haldor (Norwegian) means “Thor’s rock,” from Old Norse Hallþórr.

Tollak (Norwegian) means “Thor’s play/game,” from Old Norse þórleikr. The word leikr refers to a game or play involving weapons.

Torbjörn (Swedish) means “Thor’s bear,” from Old Norse þórbjörn. Variants include Torbjørn (Danish, Norwegian); Thorbjørn (Norwegian); Torben (Danish, German); Thornben (German); and þorbjörn (Icelandic).

Torgeir (Norwegian) means “Thor’s spear,” from Old Norse þórgeirr. Variants are Torger and Terje. The latter isn’t to be confused with a female Estonian name meaning “mist.”

Torgny Segerstedt (1876–1945), Swedish scholar of comparative religion, and publicist and editor-in-chief of anti-Nazi newspaper Göteborgs Handels-och Sjöfartstidning

Torgny (Swedish) means “Thor’s noise/murmur/grumble,” from Old Norse þórgnýr.

Torhild (Norwegian, female) means “Thor’s battle,” from Old Norse þórhildr. Variants are Toril and Torill.

Torkel (Swedish, Norwegian) means “Thor’s cauldron,” from Old Norse þórketill. Variants include Tyge (Danish); Tyko (Finnish); Tygo (Dutch); Tycho (Dutch, Danish); Torcuil (Scottish); Torquil (Anglicized Gaelic); and Torkil (Danish, Norwegian).

Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, 1546–1601

Torleif (Norwegian) means “Thor’s descendent,” from Old Norse þórleifr.

Tormod (Norwegian) means “Thor’s mind/mood,”  from Old Norse þórmóðr.

Torsten (Danish, Swedish, German) means “Thor’s stone,” from Old Norse þórsteinn. Variants include Thorsten (Swedish, Danish); Thorstein, Torstein (Norwegian); Torsti (Finnish); and Thurston (English). þorstína and þorsteina (Icelandic) are feminine forms. An elaborated Icelandic feminine form, þórsteinunn, means “Thor’s stone wave.”

Torvald (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish) means “Thor’s ruler,” from Old Norse þórvaldr. Many people may recognize this as the name of the husband in Henrik Ibsen’s famous play A Doll’s House.

The many forms of Magdalena

The Repentant Magdalen, Philippe de Champaigne, 1648

Some people express surprise the name Magdalena, so popular for so long in Europe and parts of Latin America, isn’t particularly common in the Anglophone world. It is, but the onomastic connection may not be so immediately obvious. English-speakers know this name as Madeline.

Magdalena, used in German, Dutch, Romanian, Spanish, Catalan, the Scandinavian languages, Occitan, the Southern Slavic languages, Polish, and English; Czech, Slovak, Hungarian (as Magdaléna); Latvian (as Magdalēna); and Icelandic (as Magðalena), comes from the Latin Magdalene. That in turn derives from a title meaning “of Magdala.” Magdala is a village on the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kineret), meaning “tower” in Hebrew.

Though nothing in the Bible calls Mary Magdalene a prostitute, she’s historically been conflated with Mary of Bethany and an unnamed “sinful woman” who anoints Jesus’s feet in Luke 7:36–50. Since the Middle Ages, this apocryphal story has snowballed, and many people still think she was a prostitute, decades after this misinformation was officially corrected.

Painted ca. 1520–40, by a group of Flemish artists retroactively named Master with the Parrot

Magdalena is #20 in Austria; #31 in Poland; and #65 in the Czech Republic (#33 as Magdaléna). The English form, Madeline, was in the U.S. Top 100 from 1994–2016. Its highest rank to date was #50 in 1998.

It’s rather depressing to see the kreatyv spylyng Madelyn is much more popular, Top 100 since 2008. In 2017, it was #63. If you’ve been paying attention to name popularity charts over the last 20 years, it’s obvious this name has become so trendy because it sounds similar to the massively overused Madison, and still produces the overused nickname Maddie. It’s like how Jessica replaced Jennifer, and Emma, Amelia, and Amalia have successively replaced Emily.

Danish artist Magdalene Bärens, 1737–1808

Other forms of the name include:

1. Madeleine is French, and used to be extraordinarily popular. It was Top 10 from 1900–27, with the highest rank of #3 from 1914–24. It remained in the Top 20 till 1938, was in the Top 50 till 1947, and in the Top 100 till 1955. This name is also #78 in Australia.

2. Magdalina is Russian and Bulgarian.

3. Magdolna is Hungarian. It’s unreal how many times this name pops up in the interviews from the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive! If the witness isn’t named Magda herself, her testimony includes at least one friend or relative named Magda. Lili is also a hugely oversaturated name in these interviews. The name is still Top 20 in modern Hungary.

4. Maddalena is Italian.

5. Mădălina is Romanian.

6. Matleena is Finnish.

7. Madailéin is Irish.

8. Maialen is Basque.

9. Magdalini is modern Greek.

10. Magali is Occitan.

Titanic survivor Madeleine Astor, 1893–1940

11. Madalena is Portuguese.

12. Magdaleena is Finnish.

13. Madli is Estonian.

14. Maguelone is Provençal and a rare French variant.

15. Malane is Manx.

16. Matxalen is Basque.

17. Maclaina is Romansh.

18. Madalen is Breton and Basque.

19. Madlena is Sorbian, as well as a Georgian, Bulgarian, German, and Croatian variant.

20. Madlaina is Swiss–German and Romansh.

Madeleine Brès (1842–1921), first Frenchwoman to earn a medical degree

21. Madelena is Medieval Spanish and Portuguese.

22. Magdalin is Medieval German.

23. Magdaline is Creole. Another Creole form is Magdaleine.

24. Matale is Basque.

25. Mátalîna is Greenlandic.

The many forms of Sophia

British novelist Sophia Lee, 1750–1824

Sophia, which means “wisdom” in Greek, has been extraordinarily popular over the last 15-20 years, after decades of being unfashionable and considered geriatric. In 1997, it shot into the U.S. Top 100, at #94, up from #124 the previous year. It continued rocketing upwards, reaching #1 from 2011–13. In 2017, it was down to #5.

It’s also #3 in Canada; #5 in Austria; #10 in Northern Ireland; #11 in England and Wales; #15 in Australia; #17 in Switzerland and Scotland; #18 in Ireland; #23 in New Zealand; #42 in The Netherlands; #54 in Belgium; and #90 in Norway.

Saint Sophia with her daughters Faith, Hope, and Love

Sofia, which is modern Greek, Italian, Catalan, Romanian, Slovak, Estonian, Finnish, Portuguese, Scandinavian, and German, has also been enjoying great popularity. It entered the U.S. Top 100 in 2003, at #97, and shot up to its peak of #12 in 2014. In 2017, it was #15.

It’s also #1 in Italy, Galicia, and Chile; #2 in Spain (as Sofía) and Finland; #3 in Switzerland and Denmark; #8 in Belgium and Portugal; #12 in Catalonia; #19 in Norway; #31 in England and Wales; #32 in France; #37 in Canada; #38 in Australia; #42 in Austria; #43 in Scotland and Ireland; #44 in The Netherlands; #45 in Sweden; #50 in Northern Ireland; #61 in New Zealand; and #97 in the Czech Republic.

Regent Sofya Alekseyevna of Russia (1657–1704), Peter the Great’s older halfsister, who would’ve been an excellent empress in her own right

Sophie, which is French, Dutch, English, and German, has also been experiencing great popularity. It entered the U.S. top 100 in 2007, at #82, and attained its highest rank of #51 in 2011. In 2017, it was #106.

It’s also #1 in The Netherlands; #4 in Scotland; #5 in Ireland; #6 in Northern Ireland; #8 in Austria; #9 in New Zealand; #11 in Australia; #16 in England and Wales; #23 in Canada; and #25 in Switzerland.

Heroic Sophie Scholl (1921–43) of the anti-Nazi White Rose group

Other forms of the name include:

1. Zofia is Polish, and my favourite spelling. The Z just gives it so much character, zing, and personality. I loved this name from the first time I saw it. The nickname is Zosia (ZO-sha). Its Slovak form is Žofia (Zho-fee-yah).

2. Sofya is Russian. Its base nickname is the familiar Sonya.

3. Sofiya is Ukrainian, Russian, and Bulgarian.

4. Sofija is Serbian, Macedonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Croatian.

5. Soffia is Welsh. The variation Soffía is Icelandic.

6. Zsófia is Hungarian.

7. Sofie is Czech, Dutch, German, and Danish. The last two letters are pronounced separately in Czech and Danish, not as one.

8. Žofie is also Czech, with the same pronunciation rules.

9. Sopio is Georgian. Another Georgian form is Sopia.

10. Kopi is Hawaiian. A rarer Hawaiian variation is Kopaea.

Polish writer Zofia Nałkowska, 1884–1954

11. Sovaia is Fijian.

12. Suvfia is Greenlandic.

13. Zofija is Slovenian and Lithuanian.

14. Sufia is Arabic.

15. Soffá is Sami. Another Sami form is Sofe.

16. Sofio is Esperanto. Traditional (as it were) female names in Esperanto end in O, despite that being seen as the mark of a male name in other languages.

17. Suffía is Faroese.