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?

These names are going to the birds!

We’re probably all familiar with bird names like Robin and Lark, but what about some of the lesser-used bird names?

Unisex:

Agpa means “thick-billed Murre” (a type of bird) in Greenlandic.

Alaryn means “bird” in Welsh. This was more commonly used than Aderyn in the mid-20th century, during heavy immigration in the U.K.

Chim means “bird” in Vietnamese.

Jiguur means “bird” in Mongolian.

Manu means “bird” in Maori and Hawaiian.

Palila is the name of a bird in Hawaiian, Tahitian, and Polynesian.

Tairo means “little bird” in Arabic.

Tori means “bird” in Japanese.

Tui is a type of Maori bird.

Tziquin means “bird” in Tzeltal and Quiche-Kaqchikel.

Vireo is a type of U.S. bird.

Yonah means “dove” in Hebrew.

Female:

Aderyn means “bird” in Welsh. This is contemporary, not traditional.

Aëdon may mean “nightingale” in Greek.

Aerope may derive from an Ancient Greek word for the bee-eater bird.

Aghavni means “dove” in Armenian. I love this name.

Ainara means “swallow (bird)” in Basque.

Alondra means “lark” in Spanish.

Andlib, or Andleeb, means “nightingale” in Persian.

Asuka is a Japanese name which is composed of the elements asu (“to fly” or “tomorrow”) and ka (bird). Many other meanings are also possible.

Aquila means “eagle” in Latin. The Russian form is Akilina.

Balbala means “nightingale” in Pashto.

Chipeta means “white singing bird” in Ute.

Cholena means “bird” in Lenape.

Columba means “dove” in Latin.

Deryn possibly comes from Aderyn, with the same meaning.

Durna means “crane (bird)” in Azeri.

Elaia means “swallow (bird)” in Basque.

Enara means “swallow (bird)” in Basque.

Faigel means “bird” in Yiddish. Other forms include Faiga and Faigie. Beyond my frequent dislike of many Yiddish names, I’m not fond of this one because it looks too much like a certain homophobic slur. As a matter of fact, the diminutive form Faigeleh is indeed slang for a gay man!

Homa is a phoenix-like bird in Persian mythology. An alternate form is Huma.

Inyoni means “bird” in Zulu.

‘Iwalani means “heavenly frigate bird” or “heavenly man-of-war bird” in Hawaiian.

Karawek means “bird” in Thai.

Karlygash means “swallow (bird)” in Kazakh.

Kasika means “bird” in Thai.

Kayäkki means “bird” in Chuvash, a native Siberian language.

Kiya means “cooing of a bird” in Sanskrit.

Kría is a type of Icelandic bird.

Lóa means “golden plover” in Icelandic and Faroese.

Lushanya may mean “songbird” in Chickasaw.

Oanh means “oriole” in Vietnamese.

Paloma means “dove, pigeon” in Spanish.

Parastou means “swallow (bird)” in Persian.

Pëllumb means “dove” in Albanian.

Prinia is the Javanese word for a type of bird.

Sacagawea may mean “bird woman” in Hidatsa.

Sarika means “myna bird” in Sanskrit.

Seelasat means “oriole” in Vainakhish, an extinct language of North Transcaucasia.

Shakuntala means “bird” in Sanskrit.

Simurg means “eagle bird” in Pahlavi. This was a monstrous bird in Persian mythology.

Svala means “swallow (bird)” in the Scandinavian languages.

Toiba means “dove” in Yiddish.

Tsubame can mean “swallow (bird)” in Japanese.

Tzipporah means “bird” in Hebrew. Other spellings include Zipporah, Tziporah, Tzipora, Tsippora, Tsipora, Cipora, and Cippóra.

Tzufit means “hummingbird” in Hebrew.

Ulara means “snowcock” in Kyrgyz.

Usoa means “dove” in Basque. The name Uxue is etymologically related.

Yemima means “dove” in Hebrew. The popular Anglicization is Jemima.

Zarka means “crane (bird)” in Pashto.

Zitkala means “bird” in Sioux.

Male:

Andor means “Thor’s eagle” in Norwegian.

Anzu was a Mesopotamian demon depicted in the form of a lion-headed eagle or a huge bird breathing water and fire.

Arnkætill means “bird helmet” in Old Norse.

Colum means “dove” in Old Irish.

Dalbar means “chick (baby bird)” in Yakut, a native Siberian language.

Dalbaray means “white bird” in Yakut.

Énna possibly means “bird-like” in Irish.

Jonah is the English form of Yonah, and a male-only name. Other forms include Jonas (Dutch, German, and Scandinavian, and the name of the heroic Dr. Jonas Salk), Giona (Italian), Yunus (Arabic and Turkish), Jonáš (Czech and Slovak), Iona (Russian and Georgian), Jónas (Icelandic), Joona and Joonas (Finnish), Jona (Serbian and Croatian), Jónás (Hungarian), Jonás (Spanish), Jonass (Latvian), and Jonasz (Polish).

Kaur means “loon (bird)” in Estonian.

Mochni means “talking bird” in Hopi.

Nenaa’angebi means “beautifying bird” in Ojibwe.

Örn means “eagle” in Icelandic, Swedish, and Old Norse.

Orneus may mean “bird, chicken” in Greek.

Ornytos may be etymologically related to the Greek word ornis (bird, chicken).

Pungat means “bird” in Nivkh, an indigenous language in Russia and Japan.

Quetzun is a Guatemalan name referring to a type of bird.

Sibaguchu means “birdman” in Mongolian.

Stari means “starling (bird)” in Old Norse.

Tayfur may mean “bird” in Bashkir.

Þrǫstr means “thrush (bird)” in Old Norse.

Delicious names

While we all know common food names like Ginger, Candy, Cherry, Honey, and Brandy there are a number of other food names many people may not have considered.

Unisex:

Guiying is a Chinese name composed of the elements gui (cinnamon, cassia, laurel) and ying (flower, petal, hero, brave). Other meanings also exist with different characters.

Kyou can mean “apricot” in Japanese.

Shaked means “almond” in Hebrew.

Male:

Grozdan means “grapes” in Bulgarian and Macedonian.

Female:

Ambrosia means “immortal” in Greek, taken from the male name Ambrosios. This was of course the nectar the deities drank on Mount Olympus to gain immortality. An alternate English form is Ambrosine. The Hungarian form is Ambrózia.

Anara means “pomegranate” in Kyrgyz and Kazakh, by way of Persian.

Anargul means “blooming pomegranate tree” in Kazakh.

Apricot. I don’t know if I’d like this name so much if I hadn’t used it for a character (and a doll my parents couldn’t afford) all those years ago, but as it stands, I really like this name. I’ve always used the pronunciation AP-er-cot, not AYP-er-cot.

Arista means “ear of corn” in Latin. This is another name for the star Spica in the constellation of Virgo.

Çağla means “almonds” in Turkish.

Cam means “orange” in Vietnamese.

Cerise means “cherry” in French.

Golnar means “pomegranate flower” in Persian.

Jagoda means “strawberry” in Serbian, Macedonian, and Croatian, and “berry” in Polish.

Keziah means “cassia, cinnamon” in Hebrew.

Kiraz means “cherry” in Turkish.

Kirsikka means “cherry” in Finnish.

Mai means “plum, apricot” in Vietnamese. This is also a Japanese name, though it has many other, non-food, meanings in that language.

Maire means “sugary, gushing” in Finnish.

Makvala means “blackberry” in Georgian.

Mei can mean “plum” in Chinese. This too is also a Japanese name, though none of its meanings involve food.

Mio can mean “beautiful cherry blossom” in Japanese.

Momoka can mean “peach flower” or “peach fragrance” in Japanese.

Momoko can mean “peach child” in Japanese.

Olive has been steadily creeping towards the Top 100 in recent years, perhaps as a replacement for the oversaturated Olivia. While I genuinely like this name and think it’s cute, I can’t help but wonder what the next formerly geriatric name to be reclaimed by hipsters and yuppies will be.

Paniz means “sugar” in Persian. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t recommend this in an Anglophone country!

Rosemary

Saffron

Sage

Sakura can mean “cherry blossom” in Japanese.

Sakurako can mean “cherry blossom child” in Japanese.

Salacia means “salt” in Latin. The original bearer was the Roman goddess of salt water.

Ume most commonly means “plum” in Japanese. Plum blossoms symbolize devotion in Japan.

Umeko can mean “plum child” in Japanese.

Vanilla. My character Cinnimin uses this name for her ninth child and fourth daughter. I always thought it was a soft, pretty, feminine, unique name, really fitting this character. Only years later did I hear comments about it supposedly sounding like a porn star or stripper’s name. Because of my character, I can’t see it in that negative light.

Višnja means “sour cherry” in Serbian and Croatian.

Yuuna is a Japanese name composed of the elements yuu (grapefruit, pomelo, citrus fruit) and na (greens, vegetables). Other meanings also exist, depending upon the characters used.

Yuzuki is a Japanese name composed of the elements yuzu (grapefruit, pomelo, citrus fruit) and ki (hope).

Lunar names

While everyone knows the names Luna (very quickly rising towards the Top 100), after the Roman goddess of the Moon, and Selene/Selena, after the Greek goddess of the Moon, there are also a lot of other great names with lunar-related meanings. Many of these names are from Asian languages.

Unisex:

Aytaç means “Moon crown” in Turkish.

Badr means “full Moon” in Arabic.

Chan means “Moon” in Khmer, derived from Sanskrit.

Chandra means “Moon” in Sanskrit, derived from chand (to shine).

İlkay means “new Moon” in Turkish.

Purnama means “full Moon” in Indonesian.

Qamar means “Moon” in Arabic.

Soma means “lunar nectar” in Sanskrit.

Male:

Aibek is a Kyrgyz and Kazakh name derived from the Turkic elements ay (Moon) and beg (chieftain, master).

Ayberk means “high Moon” in Turkish.

Badri means “full Moon” in Georgian.

Chandrakant means “belovèd by the Moon” in Sanskrit.

Iah means “Moon” in Ancient Egyptian.

Koray means “ember Moon” in Turkish.

Rakesh means “Lord of the full Moon day” in Sanskrit.

Ramachandra means “Rama Moon” in Sanskrit.

Tuncay means “bronze Moon” in Turkish.

Female:

Aiday means “Moon child” in Kazakh.

Aiman means “beauty of the Moon” in Kazakh.

Aydan means “from the Moon” in Turkish, though it’s a given almost everyone would assume this is one of the ubiquitous kreatyv spylyngz of Aidan all over the Top 100 in recent years.

Aygül means “Moon rose” in Turkish.

Aygün is an Azeri and Turkish name derived from the elements ay (Moon) and gün (Sun).

Aylin means “Moon halo” in Azeri and Turkish.

Aýnabat means “sweet Moon” in Turkish.

Aynur means “moonlight” in Azeri, Uyghur, and Turkish.

Aysel means “Moon stream” in Azeri and Turkish.

Aysu means “Moon water” in Turkish.

Aysun means “as beautiful as the Moon” in Turkish.

Bulan means “Moon” or “month” in Indonesian.

Channary means “Moon-faced girl” in Khmer.

Dilay means “beautiful Moon” in Turkish.

Feray means “radiance of the Moon” in Turkish.

Firimtvasa means “Moon’s mouth” in Georgian.

Gülay means “rose Moon” in Turkish.

Günay means “Sun Moon” in Azeri and Turkish.

Hala means “halo around the Moon” in Arabic.

Hilargi means “Moon” in Basque.

Lusine, or Lucine, means “Moon” in Armenian. The spelling Lucine is also the French form of Lucina.

Mahin means “related to the Moon” in Persian.

Mahsa means “like the Moon” in Persian.

Mahvash means “Moon-like” in Persian.

Marama means “Moon” in Maori, after the Maori and Polynesian goddess of the Moon and Death.

Menodora means “gift of the Moon” in Greek.

Mtvarisa means “Moon’s girl” in Georgian.

Natsuki is a Japanese name composed of the elements na (greens, vegetables) and tsuki (Moon). As with just about all other East Asian names, many other meanings are possible, depending upon the characters used.

Nguyệt means “Moon” in Vietnamese.

Nuray means “bright Moon” in Turkish.

Purnima means “full Moon” in Sanskrit.

Sasithorn means “the Moon” in Thai.

Şenay means “merry Moon” in Turkish.

Tsukiko can mean “Moon child” in Japanese.

Tülay means “tulle Moon” in Turkish.

Happy names

Happy and Happiness are the kind of old-fashioned Virtue names most contemporary Anglophones would consider unusable, though there are a number of names with the same meaning in other languages. Here are some of them. (For the sake of brevity, I’m not including all the Slavic names starting with Rad. All these Slavic names formed from the same roots merit their own future posts.)

Unisex:

Dilshad means “happy heart” and “cheerful” in Persian.

Huan means “pleased, happy” in Chinese.

Jyrgal is Kyrgyz.

Makena means “happy one” in Kikuyu, a Bantu language spoken in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Phúc is Vietnamese, though I’d obviously caution against using this in an Anglophone country!

Simcha is Hebrew.

Xinyi means “joyous, happy, delighted” in Chinese, and may also be composed of characters meaning “heart, soul, mind” and “harmony, joy.”

Yuki is Japanese, though it may also mean “snow.” The meanings of East Asian names can be so complicated!

Zorion is Basque.

Male:

Anand is Sanskrit.

Asher is Hebrew. Osher is a Yiddish variation, though the spelling makes me cringe. There’s a reason Sephardic and not Ashkenazic pronunciation was chosen for the resurrection of the Hebrew language in the modern era!

Charalampos means “to shine from happiness” in Greek.

Fortunato means “fortunate, happy, blessed” in Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

Gil is Hebrew.

Hani is Arabic.

HarshaHarshad, and Harshal are Sanskrit.

Kouki is a Japanese name which may be derived from Kanji meaning “happiness” and “hope.”

Macario is a Spanish name derived from the Latin Macarius, which is in turn derived from the Greek Makarios. It ultimately comes from the Greek root makar (happy).

Meriwether means “happy weather” in Middle English.

Milorad is a Serbian and Croatian name composed of the elements milu (dear, gracious) and rad (happy, willing).

Na’im means “happy, tranquil, at ease” in Arabic.

Nobuyuki is a Japanese name which may be derived from the elements “trust” and “happiness.”

Obrad is a Serbian name possibly meaning “to make happy.”

Olukayode means “God brings happiness” in Yoruba.

Onni is Finnish.

Parviz means “happy, fortunate” in Persian.

Sa’id means “lucky, happy” in Arabic.

Selig, or Zelig, means “happy, blessed” in Yiddish.

Shad is Arabic.

Szczȩsny means “successful, happy, lucky” in Polish, and is a vernacular form of Feliks. It’s not very common as a forename in modern Poland, but it is used sometimes.

Taalay means “happy, lucky” in Kyrgyz.

Female:

Alaia means “happy, joyful” in Basque.

Bahija is Arabic.

Fariha is Arabic.

Gioconda is an Italian name derived from the Latin Lucunda, which means “happy, delightful, pleasant.”

Heilwig means “happy war” or “healthy war” in Germanic, though it’s not a name I could see working in the modern era. It’s also rather interesting to note how many Germanic names contain elements like “war,” “battle,” and “helmet,” while so many Slavic names contain the elements “peace,” “love,” and “happy.”

Mehetabel, or Mehetavel, means “God makes happy” in Hebrew.

Nandita is Sanskrit.

Radana is Czech and Slovenian.