All about Elizabeth

Though I’ve had prior posts about my favourite forms of the name Elizabeth, and its many nicknames, I’ve never had a post devoted to the name in its entirety. This post will also only focus on derivatives of the standard form Elizabeth, not related names Isabel and Lillian (unless those are a language’s only forms of Elizabeth). Despite their origins, they’ve for all intents and purposes developed into their own independent names.

Queen Elizabeth I of England in the 1560s, artist unknown

The English name Elizabeth comes from the Hebrew Elisheva, “my God is an oath.” Its historic popularity stems in large part from the fact that this was the name of John the Baptist’s mother. Traditionally, it was much more common in Eastern Europe (in its variety of forms) until another famous bearer (pictured above) appeared in the 16th century and made the name popular in Western Europe too.

Since the U.S. began keeping data on names in 1880, the name has never fallen below #26 (in 1948). It was in the Top 10 from 1880–1923, in 1925, from 1980–2001, in 2003 and 2004, in 2007 and 2008, and in 2012 and 2013. In 2018, it was #13.

The name enjoys more modest popularity in Scotland (#75), New Zealand (#81), Ireland (#60), and England and Wales (#44). The alternate spelling Elisabeth, used in German, English, Dutch, and the Scandinavian languages, was only #788 in the U.S. in 2018, and has never charted higher than #302 in 1984.

Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine, later Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna of Russia, now Saint Elizabeth the New Martyr (1864–1918)

Other forms include:

1. Elisabet is Scandinavian, Catalan, Finnish, and sometimes Spanish. The alternate form Elísabet is Icelandic.

2. Élisabeth is French.

3. Elisabete is modern Portuguese.

4. Elizabeta is Slovenian and Croatian.

5. Elikapeka is Hawaiian.

6. Elixabete is Basque.

7. Elisabeta is Romanian.

8. Elisabetta is Italian.

9. Elisavet is modern Greek.

10. Eliisabet is Estonian.

Princess Elisabeta of Romania, later Queen of Greece (1894–1956)

11. Elisabed is Georgian.

12. Erzsébet is Hungarian.

13. Elizabete is Latvian.

14. Eilís is Irish.

15. Elżbieta is Polish. The alternate form Elžbieta is Lithuanian.

16. Ealisaid is Manx.

17. Ealasaid is Scottish.

18. Elisaveta is Bulgarian and Macedonian.

19. Yelizaveta is Russian.

20. Yelyzaveta is Ukrainian.

Georgian actor Elisabed Cherkezishvili (1864–1948)

21. Alžbeta is Slovak. The alternate form Alžběta is Czech.

22. Jelisaveta is Serbian.

23. Bethan is Welsh.

24. Lizaveta is Russian.

25. Zabel is Armenian.

26. Sabela is Galician.

27. Elspeth, or Elspet, is Scottish.

28. Eisabèu is Provençal.

29. Élîzabé is Jèrriais.

30. Elizabeto is Esperanto.

Polish poet Elżbieta Drużbacka (1695/98–1765)

31. Elisabette is a rare French and English form.

32. Elisapeci, or Ilisapeci, is Fijian.

33. Elisapie is Inuit.

34. Elizabet is Belarusian and Bulgarian.

35. Eliżabetta is Maltese.

36. Elizete is a rare Brazilian–Portuguese form.

37. Elzabé is Namibian.

38. Elžbjeta is Sorbian.

39. Erihapeti, or Irihapeti, is Maori.

40. Il-shvai is Amharic.

Names of darkness

Though I wrote a previous October post about names whose meanings relate to the word “night,” only two of those names related to the separate word “darkness.” Here, then, are names with just that meaning.

Unisex:

Yami means “darkness, dark” in Japanese.

Yuan can mean “evening darkness” in Japanese.

Male:

Afagddu means “utter darkness” in Welsh, from y fagddu. This was the nickname of Arthurian warrior Morfran.

Erebus is the Latinized form of Erebos, which means “nether darkness” in Greek.

Hela was the Vaianakh (Caucasian) god of darkness.

Húmi means “semi-darkness, twilight” in Icelandic.

Hymir means “darkening one” in Old Norse, from húm (semi-darkness, twilight). This was a giant in Norse mythology, and is also a modern, rare Icelandic name.

Ialdabaoth (or Ialdabaoth, Jaldabaoth, or Ildabaoth) was the first ruler of darkness in Phoenician, Gnostic, and Kabbalistic mythology.

Kek was the Ancient Egyptian primordial god of darkness.

Kud is the personification of darkness and evil in Korean mythology.

Orpheus may mean “the darkness of night” in Greek, derived from orphne (night).

Peckols was the Old Prussian god of darkness and Hell. The name derives from either pyculs (Hell) or pickūls (devil). His servants, the Pockols, are often compared to the Furies.

Saubarag means “black rider” in Ossetian. He was the god of darkness and thieves, comparable to Satan.

Female:

Brėkšta is believed to be a Lithuanian goddess, first written about by two Polish historians as Breksta and Brekszta. Jan Lasicki, writing circa 1582 and published 1615, believed she was the goddess of twilight. Theodor Narbutt, writing between 1835–41, believed she was the goddess of darkness and dreams.

Daikokutennyo means “She of the great blackness of the heavens” in Japanese. In her male form, Daikokuten, she’s a very popular, beloved household deity.

Dimmey is a rare Icelandic name derived from dimma (darkness) or dimmr (dark) and ey (island; flat land along a coast).

Iluna is a rare Basque name which may mean “darkness, dark, sombre, obscure, gloomy, mysterious.”

Orphne means “darkness” in Greek. She was an underworld nymph.

Rami means “darkness” in Sanskrit, Hindi, Nepali, Sinhalese, Punjabi, Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, Kannada, and Marathi.

Tamasvi means “one who has darkness inside” in Sanskrit.

Zulmat means “pitch darkness” in Uzbek.

Female names of literary origin, G-M

I belatedly realised I left out three names in the first post in this series:

Daiva was created by Lithuanian writer Vydūnas and possibly based on a Sanskrit word meaning “destiny.”

Dalma was created by Hungarian poet Mihály Vörösmarty for his 1825 epic poem Zalán Futása. Though the original Dalma was male, later writers used it for female characters.

Etelka was created by Hungarian writer András Dugonics for the protagonist of his 1788 novel of the same name. It’s derived from male name Etele, which is possibly a form of Attila (little father).

Image of Jessica, from The Graphic Gallery of Shakespeare’s Heroines, 1896, by Luke Fildes

Gloriana is the title character of Edmund Spenser’s 1590 epic poem The Faerie Queene, an allegory of Queen Elizabeth I. It’s an elaborated form of the Latin word gloria (glory).

Grażyna means “beautiful” in Lithuanian. It was created by great Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz for the title character of an 1823 poem.

Gyneth is King Arthur’s daughter in Sir Walter Scott’s 1813 poem The Bridal of Triermain. It’s possibly a variation of Welsh name Gwyneth, either from Gwynedd (the name of a region in Wales, perhaps derived from Old Welsh name Cunedda) or the word gwyn (fair, blessed, white).

Haidee was created by Lord Byron for a character in the 1819 poem Don Juan, possibly derived from Greek word aidoios (reverent, modest).

Imogen is a princess in Shakespeare’s 1609 play Cymbeline, based on legendary character Innogen, which in turn is probably derived from Gaelic inghean (maiden). Her name was misprinted and never corrected.

Janice is an elaborated form of Jane created by Paul Leicester Ford for his 1899 novel Janice Meredith.

Jessica was created by Shakespeare for Shylock’s apostate daughter in The Merchant of Venice (1596), probably based on Biblical name Yiskah (to behold).

Jolánka is the protagonist of Hungarian writer András Dugonics’s 1803 novel Jólánka, Etelkának Leánya. It may have come from jóleán (good girl) or Yolanda (violet).

Juliet is an Anglicized form of respectively French and Italian nicknames Juliette and Giulietta. It was first used in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1596).

Kinscő was created by Hungarian writer Mór Jokai in 1872’s The Novel of the Next Century, derived from kincs (treasure).

Lalage is a character in one of Roman poet Horace’s odes, derived from Greek lalageo (to prattle, babble).

Lalla is the protagonist of Thomas Moore’s 1817 poem Lalla Rookh, derived from Persian laleh (tulip).

Layla means “night” in Arabic, and was used in 7th century romantic poems. The variation Leila was used in several of Lord Byron’s poems.

Loredana is a character in French writer George Sand’s 1833 novel Mattea, possibly based on Venetian surname Loredan and ultimately place name Loreo.

Lorna was created by R.D. Blackmore for his 1869 novel Lorna Doone, based on Scottish place name Lorne and possibly ultimately legendary king Loarn mac Eirc of Dál Riata.

Lucasta was created by poet Richard Lovelace for a 1649 poetry collection of the same name, dedicated to his love Lucasta, Lucy Sacheverel. He nicknamed her lux casta (pure light).

Lucinda was created by Miguel Cervantes for a character in 1605’s Don Quixote, an elaboration of Lucia, ultimately derived from Latin lux (light).

Magnhild derives from Old Norse magn (strong, mighty) and hildr (battle). This is the title character of Norwegian writer Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson’s 1877 novel.

Malvina was created by 18th century poet James MacPherson for his Ossian poems, possibly intended to mean “smooth brow” in Gaelic.

Mahulena was created by Czech writer Julius Zeyer for his 1898 play Radúz and Mahulena, possibly derived from Magdalena.

Miranda, from The Graphic Gallery of Shakespeare’s Heroines

Mavis was first used as a personal name in a character in British writer Marie Corelli’s 1895 novel The Sorrows of Satan. It comes from a bird also known as a song thrush, ultimately from Old French mauvis (unknown etymology).

Melantha may be a portmanteau of Mel (from names such as Melissa and Melanie) and suffix antha, from Greek anthos (flower). John Dryden used it for a character in his 1672 play Marriage à la Mode.

Mélisande is the French form of Millicent (strong work), used in Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1893 play Pelléas et Mélisande.

Minea was created by Finnish writer Mika Waltari for his 1945 hist-fic The Egyptian, possibly based on Greek name Minos (king).

Miranda was created by Shakespeare for the protagonist of The Tempest (1611), derived from Latin mirandus (wonderful, admirable).

Mirèio is an Occitan name first used by French writer Frédéric Mistral in the 1859 poem of the same name, possibly derived from Occitan mirar (to admire).

Moema means “lies” in Tupí, an indigenous Brazilian language. Poet Santa Rita Durão used it in his 1781 poem Caramuru.

Myra was created by 17th century poet Sir Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke, possibly based on Latin myrra (myrrh), or an anagram of Mary. This is also the name of an ancient city of Anatolia.

Names symbolic of short life

Content Warning: This post is about names befitting stillborns, infants with very short lives, and miscarriages.

I know this is a depressing, macabre topic no one should ever have to deal with, but fetal and neonatal deaths are an unavoidable fact of life. And as always, these names can also be used for fictional characters. I’ve used some of them for my own characters.

Though traditional Jewish Law dictates stillborns and infants who live less than 30 days shouldn’t be named or have Kaddish recited for them, I find it very meaningful to give such a child a simple but symbolic name. When I asked one of my rabbis about this, he said he’d never tell grieving parents not to say Kaddish for their dear baby, no matter what custom dictates.

Other traditions have different outlooks, and individuals of any faith or culture should make their own decisions. God forbid this should ever happen to me if I’m blessed with biological children before time runs out, but if it did, I’d opt against the name I’d previously chosen and instead use one of the following names, with the understanding this child would never be called that. A name that might seem corny or pretentious on a living child is transformed into something haunting and beautiful on one who was born asleep or barely lived.

Unless otherwise noted, all names ending in vowels are female, and all names ending in consonants are male.

Amala means “pure, clean” in Sanskrit.

Angel is rather self-explanatory.

Atropos (F) was the oldest the Three Fates, the one who cut the thread. Her Roman version was Morta.

Bedisa means “fate” in Georgian.

Blessing is self-explanatory.

Bracha means “blessing” in Hebrew. The male form is Baruch.

Clotho was one of the Three Fates, the one who spins the thread of Life. Her Roman version was Nona.

Dalisay (F) means “pure” in Tagalog.

Destiny is self-explanatory. This name has such a different image when used on a stillborn or someone who died in early infancy.

Faith is self-explanatory.

Glenda was created in the 20th century from Welsh elements glan (clean, pure) and da (good).

Heimarmene was the Greek goddess of the Fate of the Universe. The name may be derived from the verb meiresthai (to receive as one’s lot), from which the word moira (destiny, fate) also derives.

Hypnos was the Greek god of sleep, described as very kind, gentle, and calm. His Roman version was Somnus.

Inmaculada means “immaculate” in Spanish, after the Immaculate Conception. Other forms include Imaculada (Portuguese), Immaculata (Irish), Immacolata (Italian), and Immaculada (Catalan)

Innocent derives from the Latin Innocentius, ultimately from innocens (innocent). Other forms include Innocenzo (Italian), Innokentiy (Russian), Inocencio (Spanish), Innocenty (Polish), Innozenz (German), Inocentas (Lithuanian), Innocenz (German), Inocent (Croatian), and Inocenţiu (Romanian).

Female forms are Innokentiya (Russian, Bulgarian), Iñoskentze (Basque), Innocentia (Latin), Innocència (Catalan), Innocenta (Polish), Inocencia (Spanish, Portuguese), and Innocentja (Polish).

Juvenal means “youthful” in Latin, from original form Iuvenalis.

Kader (F) means “destiny, fate” in Turkish.

Kiyoshi (M) means “pure” in Japanese.

Lachesis (F) was one of the Three Fates, the one responsible for measuring the thread and determining length of life. Her Roman counterpart is Decima.

Memoria means “memory” in Italian.

Mneme means “memory” in Greek. She was one of the original Three Muses.

Mnemosyne was the Greek goddess of remembrance. Other forms include Mnemosina (Russian, Macedonian, Serbian, Tatar, Ukrainian, Azeri, Basque), Mnemosine (Italian, Portuguese), Mnémoszüné (Hungarian), Mnemozina (Bulgarian, Bosnian, Croatian), Mnemósine (Spanish, Asturian, Catalan), Mnemozino (Esperanto), Mnemasina (Belarusian), Mnēmosine (Latvian), Mnemosinė (Lithuanian), Mnemosin (Piedmontese), and Mnemosune (Afrikaans).

Neshama means “soul” in Hebrew. A diminutive form is Neshamaleh.

Oroitz means “memory” in Basque.

Peace is self-explanatory.

Pepromene was the Greek goddess of one’s individual fate. The name may derive from the verb peprosthai (to be fated, finished, fulfilled) or the noun pepratosthai (finite).

Qismat means “fate” in Arabic. This name is female in Sanskrit (Qismet) and Turkish (Kismet).

Remember, Remembrance. Though these were unisex names in Puritan times, Remember in particular has always sounded more feminine to me.

Safi (M) means “pure” in Arabic. The feminine forms are Safiya, Safiyyah (Arabic) and Safiye (Turkish).

Shalom means “peace” in Hebrew. This is a unisex name.

Syntyche means “common fate” in Greek.

Tahira means “pure, chaste, virtuous” in Arabic. In Turkish, it’s spelt Tahire. The male Arabic and Turkish form is Tahir.

Thuần means “pure, simple, clean” in Vietnamese.

Zachriel, Zechariel, Zachariel is the archangel who leads souls to judgment in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

Zaha means “pure, innocent, fresh, clean, clear” in Hebrew.

Zakiyya, Zakiya, Zakiah means “pure” in Arabic. The male form is Zaki. In Tatar and Bashkir, it’s spelt Zäki. The Hebrew form is Zakkai, Zakai, Zakay.

A name that arose from the earth

Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855), one of Poland’s great national poets, painted 1828 by Józef Oleszkiewicz

Adam means “man” in Hebrew, and may ultimately derive from the Akkadian word adamu (to make), the Hebrew word adamah (earth), or the almost-identical Hebrew word ‘adam (to be red; i.e., a reference to a ruddy complexion). All these etymologies obviously are very symbolic, given Adam is the name of the first man in the Biblical creation story.

The name is also used in English, German, French, Dutch, Georgian, Arabic, Catalan, Romanian, and the Scandinavian and Slavic languages. The variation Ádám is Hungarian; Ádam is Faroese; and Âdam is Jèrriais.

Adam has long been common in the Jewish world, but it didn’t become popular in Christendom till the Middle Ages. After the Protestant Reformation, it became even more popular. The name has been in the U.S. Top 500 since 1880, and began vaulting up the charts in the 1950s. It went from #428 in 1954 to #71 in 1970. Adam attained its highest rank of #18 in 1983 and 1984.

The name has remained in the Top 100 since. In 2018, it was #78. Adam is also #2 in Belgium, #3 in the Czech Republic (as of 2016), #5 in Hungary and France, #6 in Sweden, #9 in Ireland, #11 in Poland, #16 in Catalonia (as of 2016), #17 in The Netherlands, #18 in Northern Ireland (which hopefully soon will be reunified with the rest of Ireland), #24 in Scotland, #25 in Denmark, #36 in England and Wales, #39 in Israel (as of 2016), #40 in Norway, #41 in Spain, #43 in NSW, Australia, #44 in Slovenia, #50 in Switzerland and Austria, #51 in British Columbia, Canada, #55 in Italy, and #96 in New Zealand.

Adam was the name of one of my great-great-grandfathers, the father of the only great-grandfather I have memories of. Judging from the vintage newspaper stories I’ve found about him, he was quite the local character!

Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723–1790), author of one of the most boring books ever written, The Wealth of Nations

Other forms include:

1. Adamo is Italian.

2. Adán is Spanish.

3. Adão is Portuguese.

4. Ádhamh is Irish.

5. Aatami is Finnish.

6. Adomas is Lithuanian.

7. Akamu is Hawaiian.

8. Aadam is Estonian.

9. Aaden is Somali.

10. Adami is Greenlandic and old-fashioned Georgian.

11. Ādams is Latvian.

12. Adamu is Swahili, Amharic, and Hausa.

13. Adda is Welsh, though I’d avoid this in an Anglophone area. Unfortunately, many boys with names ending in A are teased, and there’s no saving grace of this being a widely-known male name like Nikita or Ilya.

14. Aden is Romansh.

15. Ārama is Maori.

16. Âtame is Greenlandic.

17. Áttán is Sami.

18. Hadam is Sorbian.

19. Jadóm is Kashubian.

20. Odam is Uzbek.

21. Adem is Turkish.

22. Y-adam is a rare Vietnamese form.

Feminine forms:

1. Adamina is English, Polish, and Romani.

2. Adama is Hebrew and English.

3. Adamella is a rare, modern English form. I’m really not keen on this name! Some names don’t naturally lend themselves to feminine versions, and look forced.

4. Adamia is English.