All about Martha

Martha Washington, first First Lady of the U.S., 1731–1802

Martha is one of those names which hasn’t very many variants, but there are more than just a handful. This name is English, Scandinavian, Greek, German, and Dutch. The alternate form Märtha is is Swedish.

The name means “the lady, the mistress,” from Aramaic marta (feminine form of mar, master). Despite being the name of a prominent Biblical woman, it didn’t become widespread in England till the Protestant Reformation.

Martha used to be hugely popular in the U.S., at #16 when records began being kept in 1880. Its highest rank was #14 in 1882, and it remained in the Top 20 till 1888, the Top 30 till 1945 (except for 1905 at #32, 1907 at #31, and 1908 at #32), the Top 50 till 1954, and the Top 100 till 1965.

The name gradually sank down the charts, frequently losing 20+ ranks each year. In 2019, it was #795.

Martha is currently much more popular in England and Wales. It’s been on the Top 100 since 2006, and was #95 in 2019.

Princess Marthe Bibesco (née Marta Lucia Lahovary), Romanian–French writer and socialite, 1886–1973

Other forms of the name include:

1. Marta is Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Latvian, modern Russian, Icelandic, Slovenian, Romanian, Georgian, Macedonian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Belarusian, Catalan, Polish, Slovak, Czech, Swedish, and Croatian. This name is #33 in Spain, #62 in Sweden, #52 in Portugal, #43 in Galicia, #31 in Italy, #81 in Catalonia, and #61 in Poland.

Variants include Márta (Hungarian), Mártá (Sami), and Märta (Swedish).

2. Morta is Lithuanian.

3. Maata is Maori.

4. Martta is Finnish.

5. Marthese is Maltese.

6. Marte is Norwegian.

7. Marthe is French and Norwegian. The French pronunciation has one syllable, and the Norwegian has two. This is the name of the wonderful plastic surgeon who removed my second-degree burn scars.

8. Moireach is Scottish.

9. Marfa is traditional Russian and Ukrainian. As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a fan of names where F replaces TH in the middle! It doesn’t bug me as the first letter (e.g., Fyodor), but it sounds ugly in most other instances.

10. Maleka is Hawaiian.

Finnish painter Martta Wendelin, 1893–1986

11. Mareta is Gilbertese, a Micronesian language.

12. Markva is Mordvin, a Uralic language spoken in Russia.

13. Marpa is Mansi and Khanty, Uralic languages spoken in Russia.

14. Marthey is Manx.

15. Marthi is a rare Greek form.

16. Mathiri is Malayalam, a language spoken in India.

17. Zujenia is Caló–Romani, spoken in Spain, Portugal, Southern France, and Brazil. This form makes more sense when you know the Caló word zhulyi means “lady, woman,” and thus has the same meaning as Martha.

The many forms of Raphael

Rudolph Valentino, né Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi, 6 May 1895–23 August 1926

The German and English name Raphael comes from Hebrew Rafael, “God heals.” Most people are familiar with Archangel Raphael, whose primary role is as a healer. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all recognise him and hold him as one of the most important archangels. He’s also a saint in Christianity.

Though the name has never been particularly popular in the Anglophone world, it’s a different story in other countries. Raphael was #20 in Austria in 2018, and has been in the Top 40 since at least 1990.

In Belgium, Raphael was #19 in 2018, and has been in the Top 100 since at least 2004. In Switzerland, it’s been Top 100 since at least 1998 (when it was #22), and was #84 in 2018. In France, as Raphaël, it was in the Top 100 almost every year from 1900–28, and rejoined the Top 100 in 1966. In 2018, it was #2.

Self-portrait of Italian artist Raphael (né Raffaello Sanzio), 1483–1520,
ca. 1504–06

Other forms of this name include:

1. Rafael is Hebrew, German, Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, Slovenian, Galician, Romanian, Catalan, Czech, Slovak, Azeri, Belarusian, Cebuano, Finnish, Macedonian, Scandinavian, Tagalog, and Croatian. The alternate form Rafaël is Dutch.

2. Raffael is German.

3. Rafail is Russian, Montenegrin, Persian, Arabic, and Greek.

4. Raffaello is Italian.

5. Raffaele is also Italian.

6. Rafel is Catalan, Aragonese, and Maltese. The alternate form Rafèl is Occitan.

7. Rafayil is Ukrainian.

8. Rafał is Polish.

9. Rafaelo is Esperanto.

10. Rapolas is Lithuanian.

1835 self-portrait of Polish artist Rafał Hadziewicz (1803–83)

11. Rafailo is Montenegrin and Serbian.

12. Rafôł is Kashubian.

13. Raiféal is Irish.

14. Rafiele is Sardinian.

15. Refoel, or Rifoel, is Yiddish.

16. Rapiel is a rare Georgian form.

17. Räffu is Swiss–German.

18. Raffaellu is Corsican.

19. Rafèu is Provinçal.

20. Rafayel is Armenian.

Russian painter and photographer Rafail Sergeyevich Levitskiy (1847–1940), painted 1878 by Ilya Repin

21. Rafaels is Latvian.

22. Rafaelis is Lithuanian.

23. Rafaäl’ is Tatar.

24. Raafael is Finnish.

25. Îsrafîl is Kurdish.

26. Arrafieli is Sardinian.

27. Arrafiele is also Sardinian.

28. Ráffo is Sami.

29. Râvfaile is Greenlandic.

30. Rafajlo is a rare Serbian form.

Italian actor Rafaela Ottiano, 1888–1942

Female forms:

1. Raphaela is German and English.

2. Rafaela is Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Galician, Polish, Kashubian, Czech, Greek, and Croatian.

3. Raffaela is German.

4. Raphaele is French.

5. Raphaella is English and Brazilian–Portuguese.

6. Raphiela is a rare Latin American–Spanish form.

7. Rapolė is Lithuanian.

8. Rafaella is Brazilian–Portuguese, Latin American–Spanish, and Hungarian.

9. Rafaëlle is a rare French form.

10. Raphaëlle is the more common French form.

11. Raffaella is Italian.

The many forms of Raymond

Saint Maximilian (né Rajmund) Kolbe, 8 January 1894–14 August 1941, a Polish Catholic priest and friar who volunteered to die in place of another Auschwitz prisoner. The man he saved, Franciszek Gajowniczek, lived to 93.

Raymond is a French and English name which originates in Ancient Germanic Raginmund. Its roots are ragin (advice) and mund (protector). It arrived in England via the Norman occupiers, as Reimund. Several Medieval saints had this name, such as St. Raymond Nonnatus, patron saint of midwives and expectant mothers.

In the U.S., Raymond was #87 when name popularity records began in 1880, and steadily rose into the Top 20. It was in the Top 20 from 1908–38, with a highest rank of #14 in 1919. Raymond remained in the Top 50 till 1970, and the Top 100 till 1991. In 2018, it was #299.

Ramón Novarro (né José Ramón Gil Samaniego), 1899–1969, my next-fave male actor of the silent era

Other forms of the name include:

1. Raimundo is Spanish and Portuguese.

2. Ramón is Spanish. The alternate form Ramon is Catalan.

3. Raymundo is Latin American–Spanish and Brazilian–Portuguese.

4. Raimondas is Lithuanian.

5. Rajmund is Hungarian, Polish, Slovenian, Czech, and Croatian. The alternate form Rajmùnd is Kashubian.

6. Remao is Limburgish.

7. Raymund is an English variation.

8. Raimon is Catalan.

9. Reimo is Finnish.

10. Reima is also Finnish.

American actor, vaudevillian, and stage performer Raymond Wallace Bolger (1904–87), known as Ray

11. Rajmond is Albanian and Slovenian.

12. Raimonds is Latvian.

13. Raimondo is Italian.

14. Réamann is Irish. It’s Anglicised as Redmund and Redmond.

15. Reimund is German.

16. Raymand is Belarusian.

17. Reymond is Bulgarian.

18. Ramund is Danish.

19. Raimund is Estonian and German.

20. Rejmond is Macedonian and Serbian.

Italian inventor, writer, soldier, nobleman, and scientist Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero (1710–71), painted by Francesco de Mura

21. Raimondu is Corsican.

22. Rådmund is Norwegian.

23. Råmund is also Norwegian.

24. Reimond is Romanian.

25. Ramunder is Swedish.

26. Remondi is Yoruba.

27. Raimundas is Lithuanian.

28. Remundu is Sardinian.

29. Raymondos is Greek.

30. Raimond is Dutch and Estonian.

German businessman, art collector, and Imperial Count Raymund Fugger (1489–1535), painted by VIncenzo Catena

31. Erramun is Basque.

32. Arrammundu is Sicilian.

33. Arramon is Gascon.

Female forms:

1. Ramona is Spanish, Romanian, Galician, Italian, and English. The alternate form Ramóna is Hungarian.

2. Reymonde is French.

3. Raimonda is Italian.

4. Raimunde is German.

5. Raymonda is Dutch and English.

6. Raimunda is Lithuanian, Galician, Portuguese–Brazilian, and Medieval Catalan.

7. Raimonde is French.

8. Rajmonda is Albanian

9. Erramona is Basque.

All about Alexis

His Imperial Highness Sovereign Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Prince Aleksey Nikolayevich of Russia, now Holy Royal Martyr Saint Aleksey,
30 July/12 August 1904–17 July 1918

Alexis is a Greek name, also used in English, French, and German, derived from the verb alexo (to help, to defend). An Ancient Greek comic poet bore this name, as well as a few saints. The name Alexios (Alexius in Latin) is derived from Alexis.

Though most people today think of this as a female name, it’s always felt solidly male to me because it’s the traditional “translation” of the Russian name Aleksey, my fave male Russian name. I also think of French diplomat, historian, and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville, and Alexis St. Martin, a medical curiosity with a permanent hole in his stomach.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59), painted 1850 by Théodore Chassériau

In the U.S., this name entered the female Top 1000 in 1943, at #828. From 1960 through the present, it’s also been in the male Top 1000. Despite its greater popularity for girls, it hasn’t been anywhere near the bottom of the chart in all those years. In 2018, it was #445 for boys, #179 for girls.

Alexis was in the female Top 100 from 1982–84, and again from 1988–2015. It was Top 10 from 1996–2003, with the top rank of #3 in 1999.

In France, Alexis has been in the male Top 100 since 1974, and in the Top 20 from 1992–2006, with a top rank of #10 in 1997. In 2018, it was #79. Alexis is also very popular in Belgium, in the Top 100 since at least 2000 (with the sole exception of 2007), and #88 in 2018.

The S is silent in the French pronunciation, making it sound a bit like the Russian name Aleksey.

Byzantine statesman and military officer Alexios Apokaukos,
late 13th century–1345

Other forms of this name include:

1. Alessio is Italian.

2. Alejo is Spanish. This can also be a nickname for Alejandro.

3. Aleixo is Portuguese and Galician.

4. Alexej is Czech and Slovak. A common nickname is Aleš.

5. Aleix is Catalan.

6. Aleksi is Finnish and Georgian. One Finnish nickname is Ale.

7. Alyaksey is Belarusian.

8. Aleksy is Polish.

9. Oleksiy is Ukrainian. Nicknames include Oles and Olek.

10. Aleksej is Serbian, Slovenian, and Croatian.

1912 self-portrait of Russian–German painter Alexej von Jawlensky, né Aleksey Yavlenskiy (1864–1941)

11. Aleksey is Russian. I adore this name in large part because of Tsesarevich Aleksey, whom I’ve felt a suprarational soul connection to since learning about him at fifteen. I was compelled to write an alternative history where he’s rescued from the firing squad and becomes the greatest Tsar in history. His greatest act comes in Part IV, when he and his wife Arkadiya rescue nine million people from the Nazis during WWII, including the entire Jewish community of Hungary.

12. Elek is Hungarian.

13. Oleksa is Ukrainian.

14. Aleksije is Serbian.

15. Aleksejs is Latvian.

16. Aleksis is Lithuanian and Finnish.

17. Aleki is Samoan.

18. Aleksio is Albanian.

19. Aleksiy is Bulgarian.

20. Alesiu is Corsican.

Hungarian politician and activist Elek Köblös (1887–1938), a victim of the USSR’s Great Terror

21. Alexie is Romanian.

22. Aleksejus is Lithuanian.

Female forms:

1. Alessia is Italian.

2. Alèxia is Catalan. Other forms are Alexía (Icelandic) and Alexia (French and English). I’ve never been fond of this name, since alexia is an acquired form of dyslexia. It’s the same reason I’m not wild about the name Addison, with its association with Addison’s disease.

3. Alesia is Albanian.

4. Aleksiya is Russian and Bulgarian. This seems like a rather rare name.

5. Aleksia is Albanian and Scandinavian.

6. Aleksija is Serbian and Croatian.

Strength in battle

Polish–Russian prima ballerina Matilda Kschessinskaya (née Matylda Krzesińska), 1872–1971

Matilda, a name used in English, Romanian, the Scandinavian languages, Finnish, Estonian, German, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Basque, and Croatian, traces its etymology back to Ancient Germanic. Its genesis, Mahthildis, derives from roots maht (strength, might) and hild (battle).

During the Middle Ages, Matilda was a quite popular name among European royalty, particularly in England. It arrived there via the Normans, one of whom was William the Conqueror’s wife.

Matilda remained popular till the 15th century, often in the form Maud. In the 19th century, both Maud and Matilda returned to widespread usage.

The variation Matildá is Sami.

Queen Matilda of England, née Princess of Boulogne (ca. 1105–1152)

Other forms of the name include:

1. Matilde is Spanish, Galician, Catalan, Scandinavian, Latvian, German, Dutch, Latvian, Estonian, Portuguese, and Italian.

2. Mathilde is German, Dutch, French, and Scandinavian. The E is silent in the French form.

3. Mechtilde is German.

4. Mechthild is also German.

5. Mathilda is German, Dutch, and Scandinavian.

6. Matylda is Polish and Ukrainian.

7. Matsilda is Belarusian.

8. Mafalda is Italian, Galician, Catalan, and Portuguese. I’m not fond of names where an F replaces a T or TH!

9. Matild is Hungarian.

10. Mallt is Welsh.

Italian opera singer Mafalda Salvatini, 1886–1971

11. Métilde is Acadian–French.

12. Matelda is Medieval Italian.

13. Maitilde is archaic Irish.

14. Mathide is Norman.

15. Mathild is Medieval Flemish and English.

16. Matthildur is Icelandic.

17. Mathila is Medieval English.

18. Emetilda is Creole.