The many forms of Esther

Since Purim begins on Saturday night, 11 March, it’s only right to do a post about the name Esther. Queen Esther is the shero of the Purim story, and risked her life to save her people. I chose Esther as one of my Hebrew names in her honor.

Though Esther is a very common, popular Hebrew name, it’s actually of Persian origin, possibly meaning “star.” It may also be derived from Ishtar, the Babylonian and Assyrian mother goddess. The Hebrew form of the name is Hadassah, which means “myrtle.”

Esther is used in English, French, German, Dutch, the Scandinavian languages, Spanish, and Hebrew. Other forms are:

1. Ester is Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Scandinavian, Icelandic, Czech, Catalan, Persian, and Finnish. The alternate form Estèr is Jèrriais, a form of Norman (a Romance language) spoken on the islands of Jersey and Sark, part of the Channel Islands between France and England.

2. Eszter is Hungarian. The base nickname form is Eszti.

3. Yesfir is Russian. Though I’ve been a passionate Russophile for over 24 years now, this is one of those names I’m not exactly wild about!

4. Esteri is Finnish. The nickname form is Essi.

5. Estera is Polish, Slovak, Romanian, and Lithuanian. One of the Polish nicknames is Estusia (Eh-STUH-shah). This name is particularly precious to me because it was the name of one of the sheroes who enabled the Sonderkommando revolt in Auschwitz on 7 October 1944. For over a year, these brave women smuggled gunpowder to the men. Sadly, four of them (Estera Wajcblum, Róża Robota, Regina Safirsztajn, and Ala Gertner) were eventually implicated, but they bravely refused to name names under torture. They were publicly hanged on 5 January 1945.

6. Hester is Latin and English.

7. Aster is Ladino (Judeo–Spanish), Judeo–Catalan, and Judeo–Latin.

8. Eistir is Medieval Irish. It was traditionally given to girls born around Easter.

9. Esiteri is Fijian.

10. Êrsta is Greenlandic.

11. Estè is Haitian Creole. This is a rare name.

12. Estere is Latvian.

13. Esthir is Greek.

14. Estir is Macedonian, Bulgarian, and a rare Greek form.

15. Etke is Yiddish.

16. Ezter is Ladino.

17. Esthera is a rare, elaborated form of Esther.

18. Esterina is an Italian and Portuguese elaboration of Ester.

19. Esfir is an alternate Russian form. I’m not wild about this one either.

20. Îsta is another Greenlandic form.

21. Eseza is Lugandan, a Bantu language spoken in Uganda.

22. Jestira is Serbian.

The many nicknames for Elizabeth

Elizabeth seems to be tied with Katherine as the name with the most nickname forms. Instead of only one or a few, there are numerous choices. Some of these might feel a bit dated, while others are more modern or timeless. There are also nickname forms for the many foreign versions.

1. Betty/Bettie was extremely popular both as a nickname and a given legal name during the first half of the 20th century.

2. Betsy not only is a nickname, but also works well (at least in my opinion) as a full name. It’s one of those nicknames that can go both ways, like Ella or Jack.

3. Bessie was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, but was gradually displaced by Betty.

4. Bess was never super-popular like Betty or Bessie, but it was more common in the late 19th century.

5. Buffy comes from a lisped or childish mispronunciation of the last syllable of Elizabeth.

6. Beth seems like one of the most timeless nicknames, not tied to one particular era.

7. Eliza can work as both a nickname and full name.

8. Elisa works as both a nickname and full name.

9. Ella seems more popular as a nickname for names like Isabella, Gabriella, and Arabella nowadays, but it also has precedence as a nickname for Elizabeth.

10. Ellie/Elly/Elli seems a little old-fashioned, but it’s been experiencing quite a comeback in recent years.

11. Elle probably got more popular after the Legally Blonde movies.

12. Elsie is a nickname I’ve always liked, though I know many people think it’s more of a cow’s name.

13. Elyse is a more uncommon nickname.

14. Elsa obviously got more trendy after a certain massively overplayed Disney song and overrated movie.

15. Lisa works as both a nickname and full name.

16. Libby/Libbie is a more old-fashioned nickname, but I think it’s cute.

17. Liddy is also rather old-fashioned.

18. Lise has never been particularly common.

19. Liza works as both a nickname and full name.

20. Liz is like Beth, very timeless and versatile.

21. Lizzie/Lizzy seems like more of a nickname for a young girl. I like how some names have nicknames that work for young children, as well as more mature nicknames one can graduate to (e.g., Lizzie and Liz, Joey and Joe).

22. Lizbeth/Lisbeth/Lisbet is an uncommon choice I’ve always liked.

23. Lizette/Lisette works as both a nickname and full name.

24. Lilibet/Lilibeth is a very distinctive nickname.

25. Lillian may have originated as a nickname for Elizabeth, but is now much more common as a name in its own right.

26. Liana is really cute, both as a nickname and full given name.

27. Lisie is really cute.

28. Tetty is obviously not a nickname I’d recommend in modern times!

German nicknames for Elisabeth:

29. Bettina.

30. Bettchen.

31. Ilse/Ilsa.

32. Liesel/Liesl.

33. Liese. This is also Dutch.

34. Else. This is also Scandinavian and Dutch.

35. Elise. This is also Dutch and Scandinavian.

36. Lilli/Lili.

37. Lies. This is also Dutch, and obviously not a name I’d recommend in an Anglophone country.

38. Liesa.

Dutch nicknames for Elisabeth:

39. Betje.

40. Els.

41. Elsje.

42. Liesje.

Other nicknames:

43. Babette is a French nickname for Élisabeth.

44. Špela is a Slovenian nickname for Elizabeta.

45. Eliška is a Czech and Slovak nickname for Alžběta.

46. Erzsi is a Hungarian nickname for Erzsébet.

47. Bözsi is an alternate nickname for Erzsébet.

48. Zsóka is another nickname for Erzsébet.

49. Elża is a Polish nickname for Elżbieta.

50. Elżunia is another Polish nickname.

51. Jela is a Serbian nickname for Jelisaveta.

52. Jelica is another Serbian nickname.

53. Liisa is an Estonian nickname for Eliisabet.

54. Liisu is also Estonian.

55. Liisi is another Estonian nickname.

56. Liis is also Estonian.

57. Eliso is a Georgian nickname for Elisabed.

58. Veta is a Macedonian nickname for Elisaveta.

59. Beti is also Macedonian.

60. Elzė is a Lithuanian nickname for Elžbieta.

Snowy names

Since the season of snow is unfortunately upon us in my part of Planet Earth, I thought I’d do a list of snow-related names.

Unisex:

Aput means “snow” in Greenlandic.

Fuyuki can mean “winter snow” in Japanese.

Setsuna means “calm snow” in Japanese.

Xue can mean “snow” in Chinese.

Xun can mean “snow” in Chinese.

Yuki can mean “snow” in Japanese. Sadly, I can imagine a lot of teasing in the Anglophone world, with people assuming this name is pronounced “yucky.”

Male:

Aputsiaq means “snowflake” in Greenlandic.

Berfan means “snow” in Kurdish.

Berfhat means “snow is here” in Kurdish.

Edur means “snow” in Basque.

Eirwyn means “white snow” in Welsh.

Fannar is an Icelandic name possibly derived from the female Old Norse name Fönn, “snow drift.”

Haruyuki can mean “spring snow” in Japanese.

Hideyuki can mean “excellent snow” in Japanese.

Himadri means “mountaintop of snow” in Sanskrit, in reference to the Himalayas. The name Himalaya itself means “house of snow.”

Masauna means “wet snow” in Greenlandic.

Persoĸ means “snow flurry” in Greenlandic.

Snær means “snow” in Icelandic and Old Norse. Icelandic has a lot more names of older vintage than its sister languages Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish, due to its geographical isolation. For this reason, the Icelandic language is also closer to Old Norse than the other three languages.

Snæþór means “snow thunder” in Icelandic.

Takayuki can mean “valuable snow” in Japanese.

Yukio can mean “blue snow” or “green snow” in Japanese.

Female:

Bora means “snow” in Albanian.

Chione means “snow” in Greece. She was the daughter of Callirrhoe (a Naiad) and Neilus (god of the Nile). Zeus made Hermes turn her into a snow cloud. In another version of her story, she was a snow nymph or a minor snow goddess.

Dëborake means “snow” in Albanian.

Dianeu means “day of snow” in Catalan.

Drífa means “fall of snow; snowdrift” in Icelandic and Old Norse.

Edurra means “snow” in Basque.

Eira means “snow” in Welsh. Another form of this name is Eiry.

Eirwen means “white snow” in Welsh.

Fanndís means “snow goddess” in Icelandic.

Gwyneira also means “white snow” in Welsh.

Hatsuyuki can mean “new snow” or “first snow” in Japanese.

Haukea means “white snow” in Hawaiian. It seems kind of odd to me how there would be any Hawaiian names relating to snow!

Haunani means “beautiful snow” in Hawaiian.

Helve means “snowflake” in Estonian.

Ilgara means “first snow” in Azeri.

Kaniehtiio means “beautiful snow” in Mohawk.

Kohakuyuki can mean “amber snow” in Japanese.

Koyuki can mean “little snow” in Japanese.

Kukiko can mean “snow child” in Japanese.

Lian can mean “snow” in Chinese.

Lumi means “snow” in Estonian and Finnish. Lumia is an alternate form. Another form is Lumikki, which is Snow White’s name in Finnish.

Miyuki can mean “beautiful snow” in Japanese.

Mjalldís means “fresh/powdery snow goddess” in Icelandic.

Mjǫll means “fresh/powdery snow” in Old Norse. She was the daughter of King Snær (Snow).

Setsuka can mean “snow flower” in Japanese.

Snezhana means “snowy” in Russian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian. The Serbian form is Snežana, the Ukrainian form is Snizhana, and the Croatian form is Snježana. One of my animal characters is a snow-white Pomeranian named Snezhinka, which means “snowflake” in Russian. Snegurochka is the name of the Snow Maiden who helps Dyed Moroz (Grandfather Frost) with distributing Christmas presents.

Sniega means “snow” in Lithuanian.

Tuyết means “snow” in Vietnamese.

Yukiko can mean “snow child” in Japanese.

The many forms of Peter

Peter has long been my next-favorite male name, after only Samuel. If I ever have kids, and I have more than one boy, I’m naming my hypothetical future second son Peter. It’s such a lovely, classic, versatile name, and has surprisingly never been in the Top 10. It doesn’t feel oversaturated or unoriginal like some other perennially popular names might.

Other forms of Peter include:

1. Pierre. I’d assume most folks are very familiar with the French form of the name. Pierre was also my favoritest character in War and Peace. He was so awesome, and so easy to form a mental picture of. I also really respected how he and Natasha didn’t get together until Natasha was a grown adult and their seven-year age difference had levelled off a bit.

2. Pedro is the Spanish and Portuguese form.

3. Pietro is Italian.

4. Petar is Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Croatian.

5. Boutros is Arabic. Variant forms include Butrus and Botros.

6. Petros is Greek.

7. Bedros is Armenian.

8. Petro is Ukrainian and Esperanto.

9. Peder is the Scandinavian form.

10. Pieter is Dutch. Nicknames include Piet and Pietje.

11. Pyotr is Russian, with the adorable nickname form Petya.

12. Petras is Lithuanian.

13. Per is Breton, and an alternate Scandinavian form. Perig is the Breton nickname.

14. Petru is Romanian and Corsican.

15. Piotr is Polish.

16. Petre is Georgian, Macedonian, and Romanian.

17. Pitter is Limburgish. The nickname is Pit.

18. Petr is Czech.

19. Peru is Basque.

20. Petri is Finnish, and an alternate Basque form. Other Finnish forms are Petteri and Pietari. The nickname is Pekka.

21. Peeter is Estonian.

22. Petur is Faroese. The Icelandic form is Pétur.

23. Pika is Hawaiian.

24. Petera is Maori.

25. Piers is the Medieval French form.

26. Pèire is Occitan.

27. Peadar is Scottish and Irish.

28. Pedr is Welsh.

29. Péter is Hungarian, with the nickname Peti.

30. Petrus is Latin.

Virgil and Veronica

V

Publius Vergilius Maro (15 October 70–21 September 19 BCE)

Virgil, Dante’s idol, is his guide through Hell and most of Purgatory. He appears right in Canto I of Inferno, shortly after the book begins. Dante is initially rather frightened to see this shadowy figure, but ecstatic once he realizes who it is. Virgil then comforts him and promises to guide him on the amazing otherworldly journey he’s about to undertake.

While I was rushing on my downward course
Suddenly on my sight there seemed to start
One who appeared from a long distance hoarse.
When I beheld him in that great desert
“Have pity on me!” I cried out to his face,
“Whatsoever—shade or very man—you are.”
He answered me: “Not man; man once I was.
My parents both were of the Lombard name,
Of Mantua by their country and by their race.
Sub Julio I was born, though late I came:
In Rome the good Augustus shone on me,
In the time of the false gods of lying fame.
Poet was I, and sang of that just son
Of old Anchises, who came out from Troy
After the burning of proud Ilion.
But you, why do you turn back so annoyed?
Why don’t you climb the Mount Delectable
The cause and the beginning of all joy?”

Virgil derives from the Roman family name Vergilius, which is of unknown meaning. During the Late Roman Empire and the Middle Ages, Vergilius morphed into Virgilius. This happened either because of a false etymology with the Latin word virgo (virgin) and Virgil’s excessive modesty, or an analogy between the Latin word virga (wand) and the prophetic, magical powers attributed to Virgil during the Middle Ages. Though I tend to prefer the authentic forms of names, I far prefer Virgil to Vergil. The E spelling looks kind of ugly to me.

Virgil was of course the author of The Aeneid, Latin’s greatest epic, about legendary hero Aeneas escaping Troy at the end of the Trojan War, having many adventures, and eventually founding Rome. He worked on the book during his final 11 years. I’m long overdue to revisit this book, with a better, more updated translation. Virgil also wrote The Ecologues and The Georgics.

Bearing of the Cross with St. Veronica, by Lucas van Leyden

Saint Veronica was said to have wiped Jesus’s face with her handkerchief, towel, or veil on the Via Dolorosa, and when he gave it back to her, it bore the image of his face. Every year in Rome, this artifact was exhibited at Easter and New Year. This incident is mentioned in Canto XXXI of Paradiso.

The story of Veronica wiping Jesus’s face isn’t mentioned in the Bible itself. The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus identifies Veronica as the woman who was healed when touching Jesus’s hem on the Via Dolorosa.

Veronica is an alternate Latin form of the Macedonian name Berenike (Berenice), which means “bringing victory,” from the elements phero (to bring) and nike (victory). The original Greek form is Pherenike. The spelling was influenced by the Latin phrase vera icon, “true image.” It only became popular as an English name in the 19th century.

Veronika is the spelling used in most of Eastern and Central Europe; Weronika is the Polish version; Verónica is the Spanish form; Véronique is the French form; and Verônica is Portuguese.