Names to avoid in an Anglophone country

Over the years, I’ve come across names which, let’s be honest, just wouldn’t work in a modern Anglophone country. These names might sound beautiful in their native languages, not even pronounced like they’d be in English, but the spellings or connotations still are what they are. Bullies will find a way to make fun of any name they don’t like, but these names stand out all by themselves.

No offense is intended to people who do have these names! There are plenty of English names which must look or sound funny in other cultures.

1. Semen, the most common Ukrainian form of Simon. I shouldn’t even have to explain why this name is a no-go!

2. Urinboy. I found this while researching my post on Kyrgyz names on my main blog, and at first thought it had to be a joke or vandalism. It really is a legit name.

3. Bích, a female Vietnamese name meaning “bluish-green.” It’s pronounced BEEK, but we all know how everyone will assume it’s pronounced.

4. Dong, a male Chinese name whose meanings include “beam, pillar” and “east.” It’s pronounced DOONG. However, I don’t think the Scottish name Dongal should be avoided. I honestly didn’t realize what the first four letters spell in English until it was pointed out some years after discovering the name.

5. Dũng, a male Vietnamese name meaning “brave.” It’s pronounced like the English word “yum.” If you like the meaning that much, you could use the Chinese and Korean form, Yong, or one of the Japanese forms, Yuu or Isamu.

6. Foka, the Russian form of Phocas/Phokas, which means “a seal” (the animal). I’m not sure where the stress falls, but if it’s on the A, the name would be pronounced Fah-KAH, not FOH-kah.

7. Gaylord. This poor boy would be so bullied.

8. Gay(e). This poor girl would likewise be bullied, though once upon a time, this was a lovely name. We can’t predict how the language will evolve.

9. Osama. I’ve heard this name has been outlawed in some countries, and we can all understand why.

10. Adolf/Adolph. This name is likewise outlawed in many countries with naming laws. If you want to honor a special older relative or friend who was born before the name took on its modern association, what about the original form Adalwolf?

11. Titty. There’s a reason this is no longer a nickname for Letitia!

12. Tit. Pronounced TEET (still awful in English!), this is the Russian form of Titus.

13. Arseman. This was the name of a female character on the early Nineties Nickelodeon show Fifteen, as well as the real-life name of the young lady who played her. Given what “arse” means in the U.K., Ireland, and Australia, this is a no-go!

14. Arsen, a male Armenian name derived from the Greek Arsenios. It sounds like “arson,” and it’s also only two letters shy of “arsenic.” I personally wouldn’t use this name or any of the other forms of it, particularly if I lived in a place where “arse” is the spelling for one’s rear end.

15. Hardman, the Old Germanic form of Hartmann (brave man).

16. Jerker, a Swedish form of Erik. The J is pronounced like a Y, but the spelling in English is what it is. Another form of this name is Jerk.

17. Harm, a Dutch and Frisian nickname for Herman.

18. Violâte, a Jèrriais name which seems to be a form of the Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish Violante, which may in turn be derived from Yolanda. Both Violâte and Violante are too close to the word “violent,” and it’s obvious what Violâte spells in English. The similar-looking Violet, however, has never conveyed that connotation for me.

Are there any other names you’d add to this list?

The many forms of Victor and Victoria

I’ve always quite liked the name Victoria, which has been up and down the Top 300 in the U.S. over the years. Its rank has kept fluctuating in recent years, but it’s been holding steady in the Top 40. In 2015, it was #20. It’s also enjoying popularity in Chile (#27), Belgium (#24), British Columbia, Canada (#43), New South Wales, Australia (#50), Denmark (#24), Norway (#33), Portugal (#44), and Mexico (#14).

The name Victor isn’t quite so popular in the English-speaking world, and was down to #160 in the U.S. in 2015. It’s never charted any higher than #63, in 1918. However, it’s #7 in Belgium, #5 in Denmark, #33 in Spain, and #42 in France. The spelling Viktor is #3 in Iceland, #22 in Sweden, and #39 in the Czech Republic.

Forms of Victoria:

1. Victoria is English, Spanish, Scandinavian, Romanian, and sometimes German. This name was quite uncommon in the Anglophone world until Queen Victoria took the throne and began her long reign in 1837. The variation Victòria is Catalan, and Victória is Portuguese.

2. Viktoria is German, Greek, Scandinavian, and Estonian. The variation Viktória is Hungarian and Slovak, and Viktoría is Icelandic. Hungarian nicknames include Vica, Viki, Vikta, Vicu, Viktu, Vikica, and Vityi.

3. Viktoriya is Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian, with nicknames including Vika and Vita.

4. Viktorija is Latvian, Lithuanian, Serbian, Slovenian, Macedonian, and Croatian. Nicknames in the four Slavic languages include Vikica, Vika, and Viki.

5. Viktorie is Czech, with the nickname Viki. The last two letters of Viktorie are said separately, not as one.

6. Vittoria is Italian.

7. Vitória is Portuguese.

8. Victoire is French.

9. Wiktoria is Polish, with the nickname Wisia.

10. Wikolia is Hawaiian.

11. Vitòri is Provençal.

12. Victoriana is an elaborated Latin and Spanish form.

13. Wikitōria is Maori.

14. Vittorja is Maltese.

15. Vittoriana is an elaborated Italian form.

16. Viktoriana is a rare elaborated Swedish form.

17. Viktorina is an elaborated Hungarian form.

18. Fieke is Frisian.

19. Buddug is sometimes used as a Welsh form of Victoria.

20. Bikutoria is Japanese.

21. Barriaght is Manx. This is a modern, not traditional, name.

22. Victorique is a rare Québécois form. When used for a woman, it’s a feminine form of Victoricus.

23. Viktoryya is Belarusian. This may also be transliterated as Viktoryja.

24. Victorine is French.

Forms of Victor:

1. Victor is English, French, Romanian, Portuguese, Dutch, and Swedish. The variation Víctor is Spanish and Catalan.

2. Viktor is Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak, Serbian, Icelandic, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Macedonian, Norwegian, Danish, German, Slovenian, Georgian, Greek, Estonian, Finnish, and Croatian. The Russian nicknames include Vitya and Vika, while the Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian nickname is Viki.

3. Viktoras is Lithuanian and Greek.

4. Viktors is Latvian

5. Veturían is an elaborated Aragonese form.

6. Vittore is Italian.

7. Wiktor is Polish, with the nickname Witek.

8. Bittor is Basque.

9. Gwythyr is Welsh.

10. Vítor is Portuguese and Galician.

11. Wiktoryn is Polish.

12. Wiktoriusz is also Polish.

13. Wiktorian is another alternate Polish form.

14. Vittorico is an elaborated Italian form.

15. Vittoriano is another elaborated Italian form.

16. Viktorin is a rare Russian, German, Slovenian, and Croatian form.

17. Viktorik is an alternate Croatian form.

18. Vihtori is Finnish.

19. Vihtor is also Finnish.

20. Vigtore is Greenlandic.

21. Victurnien is a rare, archaic French variation.

22. Victorin is a rare French and Romanian form.

23. Victorique is a rare Québécois form. When used for a man, it’s an alternate form of Victoric.

24. Victorien is an elaborated French form.

25. Victoric is French.

26. Victorico is Spanish.

27. Victoriano is an elaborated Spanish form.

28. Victoras is Romanian and Cypriot Greek.

29. Viktar is Belarusian.

30. Buadhach is Irish.

31. Vittorio is Italian.

32. Vittorino is yet another Italian form.

33. Victorino is an elaborated Spanish form.

The many forms of Jakob

Regular readers of both this blog and my main blog may have noticed I consistently use the spelling Jakob instead of the more common Jacob. While I personally think the K makes it stand out and gives it an added boost of personality (particularly considering how super-popular it’s been for so long), my main reason is that the first Jacob I knew was a terrible bully. Even after meeting wonderful Jacobs who were nothing like the first, that association stayed. Using the K spelling takes the sting out of the name for me. It doesn’t make me think of him.

The conventional English spelling Jacob has been in the Top 10 in the U.S. since 1993. From 1999–2012, it was #1. As of 2015, it was #4, and also enjoying high popularity in Canada (#6), Australia (#11), New Zealand (#10), Northern Ireland (#12), England and Wales (#5), and Scotland (#11). My spelling, Jakob, was #3 in Austria, #15 in Norway, and #6 in Slovenia.

The spelling Jacob is used in English and Dutch. Other variants, starting with the one I prefer, are:

1. Jakob is German, Scandinavian, Slovenian, and Icelandic, as well as an alternate Dutch spelling. It still rankles when I remember one of the know-it-all agents who dogpiled me in a pitchfest some years back, insisting (based on something like three lines of a pitch!) I hadn’t done my research and didn’t know jack due to my usage of the spelling Jakob on a Dutch character. Um, no, it’s a legit Dutch spelling variation, and the reason for it is explained in the story. Odd how everyone else has praised my attention to historical accuracy and detail, including the names I choose. Yet another reason why I went indie.

Jockel is the German nickname; Jaša and Jaka are Slovenian; Jeppe and Ib are Danish; and Jaap, Jaapje, Jaapetje, Jop, Koos, Kobus, Kobe, Coos, and Cobus are Dutch.

The slight variation Jákob is a lesser-used Hungarian form, though the more widely-used Hungarian form is…

2. Jakab. Nicknames for both include Jaksi, Jákó, Jaksa, Jaki, and Koba.

3. Jakub is Polish, Czech, and Slovak, with the cute Polish nickname Kuba. Slovak and Czech nicknames include Jašek, Kuba, Kubík, Kubíček, Jakoubek, and Jakes.

4. Jakov is Serbian, Macedonian, and Croatian. The Serbian and Croatian nickname is Jakša.

5. Japik is Frisian.

6. Jokūbas is Lithuanian.

7. Jēkabs is Latvian.

8. Jakes is Basque.

9. Jaakko is Finnish.

10. Jaakoppi is also Finnish.

11. Jaakob is a third Finnish form, and Estonian. The nickname for all three is Jaska.

12. Jaagup is Estonian. The nickname is Jaak.

13. Jákup is Faroese.

14. Jacobo is Spanish.

15. Jago is Cornish.

16. Jaume is Catalan. The nickname is Jaumet.

17. Jacques is French.

18. Jaques is Jèrriais. Nicknames include Jacot and Jaquinot. An alternate Jèrriais form is Jâcob.

19. Iago is Galician and Welsh, and of course the familiar name of the antagonist of Othello.

20. Jacó is Portuguese.

21. Iakob is Georgian, with the nickname Koba.

22. Yakov is Russian and Bulgarian, with the nickname Yasha. This is one of the irregular patronymics, with the male form Yakovlevich and the feminine Yakovlevna.

23. Yakiv is Ukrainian and Belarusian.

24. Yakub is an alternate Belarusian form, as well as Arabic. The Belarusian and Ukrainian nickname for both Yakiv and Yakub is Yakush.

25. Ya’akov is Hebrew.

26. Akiva is a variant Hebrew form. Rabbi Akiva was a famous First Century scholar who was an illiterate shepherd till he was 40. His wife Rachel saw something special in him, and pushed him to start learning and go off to study. He became a great sage, in spite of having no formal Jewish background or even the ability to read and write.

27. Yankel is Yiddish.

28. Kapel is also Yiddish.

29. Koppel is a third Yiddish form.

30. Jacopo is Italian.

31. Giacobbe is an alternate Italian form.

32. Iacopo is also Italian. The nickname for all three is Lapo.

33. Yaqub is a variant Arabic transliteration.

34. Hagop is Armenian.

35. Hakob is an alternate Armenian form. Eastern and Western Armenian pronounce certain letters differently, and have other significant linguistic differences.

36. Yakup is Turkish.

37. Seumas is Scottish.

38. Iakopa is Hawaiian.

39. Hemi is Maori.

40. Yago is an alternate Spanish form.

41. Iacob is Romanian.

42. Iacov is also Romanian.

43. Iakovos is Greek.

44. Jaimé is Filipino.

45. Yakaŭ is an alternate Belarusian form.

46. Jakobo is Esperanto.

47. Jappe is West Frisian.

48. Jeikobu is Japanese.

49. Küba is Vilamovian, a Germanic language spoken in Poland.

50. Ukba is Aramaic.

51. Xacobe is Galician.

52. Yaghoub is Persian.

53. Yakobo is Swahili.

54. Yaqup is Bashkir, a Turkic language spoken in Russia.

55. Yoqub is Uzbek.

56. Séamus is Irish.

57. Séamas is also Irish.

The many forms of Michael

Once considered “too Catholic” for many Protestants to use, today the name Michael has risen to become an extraordinarily popular mainstay on the Top 10 in the U.S. It’s spent many years as #1, most recently in 1998. As of 2015, it was #9. In Ireland, the name was #8 in 2015, and in Northern Ireland (Ireland by any other name), it was #16. Michael has also enjoyed great popularity in Switzerland and Canada.

The spelling Michael is used in English, Hebrew, German, Dutch, and sometimes the Scandinavian languages. Other forms include:

1. Mikhail is Russian, with the familiar nickname Misha. In spite of its current popularity as a woman’s name in the Anglophone world, Misha is a male-only name in the source language. Superdiminutives include Mishenka, Mishulya, Mishechka, Mishutochka, Minyushka, Minochka, and Mishulka. However, superdiminutives should never be used when you don’t know a person very well, even if it’s a child. Grown men also typically aren’t called by superdiminutives by anyone but a romantic partner or someone like a grandparent or mother.

2. Mykhailo is Ukrainian.

3. Mihajlo is Serbian and Croatian.

4. Mihailo is a Serbian-only alternate form. The nickname for both is Mijo.

5. Mihail is Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Romanian. The Romanian nickname is Mihăiță.

6. Michal is Czech and Slovak. The nickname is Míša (pronounced like Misha). This isn’t to be confused with the feminine Hebrew name Michal, which may mean “brook.” The alternate form Michał (MEE-khaw) is Polish.

7. Mihael is Slovenian and Croatian. The Slovenian nickname is Miha, and the Croatian nicknames are Miho and Mijo.

8. Mikhalay is Belarusian.

9. Mikhayla is also Belarusian.

10. Mikhal is a third Belarusian form. The nickname is Mikhalik. The spelling Mikhal is also Ossetian.

11. Mikael is Scandinavian and Finnish. The Finnish nicknames include Mika, Mikko, and Miska.

12. Mikkel is Danish and Norwegian.

13. Miguel is Spanish and Portuguese.

14. Michel is French.

15. Miĥaelo is Esperanto. The nickname is Miĉjo.

16. Mikelo is the modern Esperanto form.

17. Mihails is Latvian.

18. Miķelis is an alternate Latvian form. The nickname is Miks.

19. Mikkjal is Faroese.

20. Mykolas is Lithuanian.

21. Mihály (MEE-hy) is Hungarian. Nicknames include Miksa (MEEK-shah), Miska (MEESH-kah), and Misi (MEE-shee).

22. Mihai is Romanian.

23. Mihkel is Estonian.

24. Mikheil is Georgian. The nickname is Misho.

25. Michail is modern Greek.

26. Michalis is an alternate modern Greek form.

27. Mikha’il is Arabic.

28. Miquel is Catalan.

29. Mikel is Basque.

30. Mitxel is an alternate Basque form.

31. Myghal is Cornish.

32. Mícheál is Irish. The similar form Mìcheal is Scottish.

33. Meical is Welsh.

34. Michiel is Dutch.

35. Mikala is Hawaiian.

36. Michele is Italian.

37. Mikaere is Maori.

38. Mikail is Turkish.

39. Maikeru is Japanese.

40. Mëhill is Albanian.

41. Miceli is Sicilian.

42. Micheli is Sardinian.

43. Michu is Swiss–German.

44. Miqueu is Gascon and Medieval Occitan.

45. Miché is Jèrriais.

46. Michi is an alternate Jèrriais form.

Names with heart

To mark the upcoming Valentine’s Day, here are some names whose meanings relate to the word “heart.”

Unisex:

Dilshad means “happy heart, cheerful” in Persian.

Kamon means “heart, mind” in Thai.

Maeum means “heart, mind” in Korean. This is a modern, not traditional, name.

Manpaul means “protector of the heart” in Punjabi.

Manprit, or Manpreet, means “near to the heart” or “love of the heart” in Punjabi.

Muretu means “light-hearted” in Estonian.

Obioma means “good heart” in Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria.

Paidamoyo means “what the heart desired was granted” in Shona, a Bantu language spoken in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Mozambique.

Xinjing can mean “heart of crystal” in Chinese.

Xinyi is a Chinese name composed of the elements xin, which can mean “heart, mind, soul,” and yi, which can mean “harmony, joy.” Many other meanings are also possible.

Yollotzin means “belovèd heart” in Nahuatl.

Male:

Akzhurek means “white heart” in Kazakh.

Ardil means “fire heart” in Kurdish.

Avtandil is a Georgian name meaning “sunshine heart,” drawn from Persian. This is the legendary hero of poet Shota Rustaveli’s 12th century epic The Knight in the Panther’s Skin.

Dilawar means “one who has heart” in Persian.

Dilesh means “king of hearts” in Sanskrit.

Fawad is Urdu.

Fuad is Arabic.

Hubert means “bright heart” in Ancient Germanic.

Hugh is an English name, derived from the Germanic element hug, “heart, spirit, mind.” Hugo is a common variant.

Hughard means “brave/hardy heart” in Ancient Germanic.

Hugleikr means “heart play” in Old Norse.

Kordian is a very rare Polish name, derived from the Latin word cordis/cor, “heart.”

Lev is Hebrew.

Obi is Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria.

Obichukwu means “heart of God” in Igbo.

Obinna means “father’s heart” in Igbo.

Shinpei can mean “calm heart” in Japanese.

Shungudzemwoyo means “yearnings of the heart” in Shona.

Thaddeus is an English and Latin name of contested etymology, with one suggested etymology being that it’s derived from a word meaning “heart.”

Zhanbolat means “brave heart” in Kazakh.

Female:

Bihotz is Basque.

Chiiko can mean “thousand-heart child” in Japanese.

Corazón is Spanish.

Cordula is Latin and German.

Delara means “adorning the heart” in Persian.

Dila is Kurdish, Indonesian, and Turkish, derived from Persian.

Dilva means “from the heart” in Kurdish.

Gönül is Turkish.

Gulisa means “little heart” in Georgian.

Kamira can mean “good flower heart” in Japanese.

Kamonchat means “peaceful heart” in Thai.

Karnika means “heart of the lotus” in Sanskrit.

Koharu is a Japanese name composed of the elements ko, which can mean “heart,” and haru, which can mean “spring (the season).” There are also many other possible meanings.

Kokomi can mean “beautiful heart” in Japanese.

Kokone can mean “heart sound” in Japanese.

Kokoro can mean “heart, soul, mind” in Japanese.

Kokoru is a Japanese name composed of the elements koko, which can mean “heart, soul, mind,” and ru, which means “lapis lazuli.”

Konul is Azeri.

Libi means “my heart” in Hebrew.

Shinshin can mean “double heart” in Japanese. This meaning of the kanji shin is mostly feminine. When used as a masculine name, it has a different meaning.

Verticordia means “turner of hearts” in Latin. This was one of Venus’s epithets.

Yolotl is Nahuatl.

Yoloxochitl means “heart flower” in Nahuatl.

Yoltzin means “little heart” in Nahuatl.

Zamira means “heart, honor” in Bashkir.