A double warlike name

Polish writer Jadwiga Łuszczewska (pseudonym Deotyma), 1834–1908, painted by Mateusz Zarzecki ca. 1848–52

Hadewig is an Ancient Germanic name derived from roots hadu (combat, battle) and wig (war). Like many other names of Germanic origin, its meaning relates to war and battle. This is such a striking contrast to how many Slavic names have meanings related to love, peace, glory, dearness, and flowers.

Probably the form most familiar to people is the modern German form Hedwig, which hasn’t charted in Germany for decades. It was in the Top 20 from 1890–97, and again in 1901 and from 1903–08. Needless to say, it’s considered very old-fashioned for a reason!

Other forms of this name include:

1. Hedvig is Scandinavian and Hungarian. The Scandinavian nickname is Hedda, and the Hungarian nickname is Hédi. In 2019, this name was #78 in Sweden and #65 in Norway.

2. Hedviga is Slovak, Slovenian, Latvian, and Croatian.

3. Hedvika is Czech and Slovenian.

4. Hadewych is a rare Dutch name. It was much more common in the Middle Ages. The nickname is Hedy (also used in German).

5. Hedwiga is Czech, Romanian, and Medieval Polish.

6. Hedwige is French.

7. Heiðveig is Faroese. In Icelandic, this is a separate name derived from roots heiðr (honour) and veig (power, strength).

8. Hekewika is a rare Hawaiian form.

9. Heiðvík is Faroese.

10. Hedla is a Silesian–German nickname sometimes used as a full given name.

Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp (1759–1818), Queen of Sweden and Norway, and a prolific diarist

11. Edvige is Italian and Corsican. The nickname is Edda.

12. Edwige is French.

13. Edubige is Basque.

14. Eduvixes is Asturian and Old Galician.

15. Edviga is a rare Moldovan, Romanian, and Portuguese form.

16. Edwikke is East Prussian–German.

17. Edvija is Old Occitan.

18. Eduvigis is Medieval Spanish and Catalan.

19. Edwiga is Medieval Polish.

20. Avoise is Medieval French.

French stage and film actor Edwige Feuillère, 1907–98

21. Jadvyga is Lithuanian.

22. Jadwiga is Polish. I have two characters by this name, one a minor character who goes by Wisia, and the other a main character (in an entirely different set of books) who’s referred to by her full name in the narrative and called Wisia and Jadzia. Other nicknames include Jagusia, Jagienka, Jagna, Jagoda (which also means “berry”), Jaga, and Iga. Both of my Jadwigas were born in the 1920s.

23. Yadviga is Belarusian.

24. Heta is Finnish.

Initial names

When I was a preteen, I was verifiably obsessed with initial names, for both sexes. I thought they were the absolute coolest, and gave so many to my own characters—main, secondary, and minor. D.J. (Donald Joseph), M.J. (Michael Joseph), R.J. (Ronald Joseph), T.J. (Tina Jasmine), R.R. (Ralph Roger), B.B. (Bonny Barbie), J.J. (Jade Jacqueline), L.C. (Lisa Clarice), S.J. (Suzanna Jane), E.J. (Emma Jane), V.J. (Victoria Jane), N.J., Z.C. (Zinnia Constance), just so many!

I may have gotten the idea from the junky teen shows I watched and the youth pulp fiction I read in the early Nineties, or perhaps I thought it was cool on my own. Either way, they seemed the ultimate in cool to my preteen self.

I could be wrong, but going by initials instead of a full name seems largely a trend in the Anglophone world. Sure there are many people who professionally go by initials, but I doubt they’re called by initials in private life.

The most popular seem to be any first initial with J, and J with any second initial. For some guys in the former category, J stands for Junior instead of their actual middle name. They also seem more common on males than females.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m not a huge fan of pre-planning nicknames; e.g., naming a girl Arabella so she can be called Ella. Many parents say children name themselves, even when they were set on another name or nickname. Planning a full name around a nickname or not bending from a particular nickname is unnecessarily rigid.

Maybe Natalie Josephine will think N.J. sounds really fun and cool, or maybe she’ll grow to prefer her middle name or the nickname Nat, Talie, or Natasha. Zachary Bruno might love the name Z.B., or he might prefer his full name Zachary or the nickname Zach. But they’re less likely to make those decisions if their parents have already decided they’re to be called N.J. and Z.B. We tend to live what we know, which includes not questioning the nicknames given to us before we could remember.

And what kind of nickname can you give someone who already goes by initials? Some already sound like names in their own right, like Z.Z., L.C., and K.D., and some names with J as the second initial can be shortened to, e.g., Dej (DEEJ), Tej (TEEJ), or Ej (EEJ). However, not all of them have nickname options.

I believe people should be able to choose their own nicknames, even if that means rejecting a nickname selected by parents. Some initial names do sound cool, like G.K., Z.B., and H.S. One of my characters, Urma Christine Laura Anderson, is also called UCLA because her parents thought it was the funniest thing when they realised her full name spells out the abbreviation of a college.

My greatest concern with initials is making sure they don’t spell anything negative (e.g., Katherine Karla Kumiega, Arthur Samson Sokolnikov), not choosing certain initials on purpose so I can call a kid S.J. or L.Z.

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.

Theodora in reverse

U.S. social reformer Dorothea Dix (1802–87), painted 1868 by Samuel Bell Waugh

Dorothea is a palindrome of sorts of Theodora. They both have the same meaning, “gift of God,” and are formed from the same Greek roots, doron (gift) and Theos (God). The only difference is that each name puts the roots in a different order.

Dorothea is used in Greek, English, the Scandinavian languages, German, and Dutch. It gained popularity thanks to two early saints, particularly fourth century martyr Dorothea of Caesarea. This was also the name of Prussia’s patron saint, the 14th century Dorothea of Montau.

U.S. actor Dorothy Gish (1898–1968), younger sister of legendary Lillian Gish

Much more common in the Anglophone world is Dorothy, which was coined in the 16th century. Probably everyone associates this name with the protagonist of The Wizard of Oz. The name entered the U.S. Top 100 in 1890, at #93, and leapt up the chart till entering the Top 10 at #10 in 1904.

Dorothy entered the Top 5 in 1909, and peaked at #2 in 1920, a position it held till 1927. It remained in the Top 10 till 1939, and in the Top 20 till 1945. Dorothy’s final year in the Top 100 was 1961. In 2018, it was #586.

Other forms of this once-ubiquitous name include:

1. Dorotea is Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Galician, and Croatian.

2. Doroteja is Slovenian, Macedonian, Serbian, Latvian, Sorbian, and Croatian. The alternate form Dorotėja is Lithuanian. Nicknames include Dora, Tea, and Teja.

3. Dorottya is Hungarian. Nicknames include Dora, Dorka, and Dorina.

4. Dorothée is French. The nickname is Théa.

5. Doroteia is Portuguese. The Brazilian–Portuguese variant is Dorotéia.

6. Dārta is Latvian.

7. Dörthe is Low German.

8. Darafeya is Belarusian.

9. Dorofeya is Russian.

10. Darata is Lithuanian.

French aristocrat Dorothée de Talleyrand-Périgord (1862–1948), painted 1905 by Philip de László

11. Dorota is Polish, Czech, Slovak, Kashubian, and Lithuanian.

12. Dorote is Georgian.

13. Doroteya is Russian and Bulgarian.

14. Dóróthea, also rendered as Dórothea, is Icelandic.

15. Tiia is Estonian and Finnish.

16. Kōleka is Hawaiian.

17. Dorata is Albanian.

Male forms:

1. Dorotheos is Greek.

2. Dorofey is Russian.

3. Dorotheus is Latin.

4. Doroteo is Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

5. Darafey is Belarusian.

The many forms of Thomas

American inventor Thomas Alva Edison, 1847–1931

Thomas, a name used in English, German, Dutch, French, Greek, and the Scandinavian languages, comes from the Aramaic name Ta’oma (twin). This name has long been a mainstay of the Christian world (in a variety of languages) due to Thomas the Apostle, who famously doubted the veracity of Jesus’s resurrection till he saw and felt the wounds himself. According to tradition, he was martyred in India.

Thomas was introduced to the Anglophone world by the occupying Normans, and became quite popular thanks to the martyred St. Thomas à Becket, a 12th century archbishop of Canterbury. From the 13th to 19th centuries, it was among the five most common male English names, and is still fairly popular today.

Portuguese-born Brazilian poet Tomás Antônio Gonzaga, 1744–1810

The name was #8 in the U.S. in 1880, when records were first kept, and ranged from #8 to #12 till 1968. In 1969, it was #13, and then began gradually descending in popularity. Thomas remained in the Top 50 till 2005, and has never ranked below #63 (in 2011 and 2012). In 2018, it was #49.

Thomas also enjoys popularity in Northern Ireland (#9), Ireland (#12), England and Wales (#12), Scotland (#14), New Zealand (#14), The Netherlands (#14), Italy (#34), Belgium (#38), Austria (#53), France (#58), Switzerland (#76), and Norway (#90).

Polish Prime Minister Tomasz Arciszewski, 1877–1955

Other forms of Thomas include:

1. Tomos is Welsh. Nicknames include Tomi and Twm (pronounced kind of like “tomb”).

2. Tàmhas is Scottish. Anglicisations include Tavish and Tòmas.

3. Toma is Romanian, Georgian, Macedonian, Serbian, Bulgarian, and Croatian.

4. Tuomas, or Tuomo, is Finnish, with nicknames including Tomi and Tommi.

5. Tomass, or Toms, is Latvian.

6. Tomasso is Italian.

7. Tamati is Maori.

8. Toomas is Estonian.

9. Tomaz is Breton. The alternate form Tomaž is Slovenian.

10. Tomé is Portuguese.

Tomasso I, Marquess of Sanluzzo (1239–96)

11. Tomasz is Polish.

12. Tomas is Lithuanian, Norwegian, and Swedish; Tomás is Spanish, Irish, and Portuguese; Tomaš is Sorbian, Serbian, and Croatian; Tomáš is Czech and Slovak; Tomàs is Catalan; and Tómas is Icelandic.

13. Tamás is Hungarian.

14. Thomaase is Manx.

15. Thonmas is Jèrriais.

16. Toman is Vlach.

17. Tammes is a rare Danish form.

18. Tomasi is Tongan, Fijian, and Melanesian.

19. Tomasy is Malagasy.

20. Tomisav is Vlach.

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, first President of Czechoslovakia (1850–1937)

21. Tomašis is Romani.

22. Tommes is Limburgish.

23. Tomôsz is Kashubian.

24. Tömu is Swiss–German.

25. Tovmas is Armenian.

26. Tuma is Arabic. The alternate form Tüma is Vilamovian.

27. Tumasch is Romansh.

28. Tummas is Faroese.

29. Tûmarse is Greenlandic.

30. Foma is Russian.

Romanian hospital director, bacteriologist, educator, and humanitarian Dr. Toma Ciorbă (1864–1936)

31. Lillac is Caló–Romani.

32. Duommá is Sami. Other Sami forms of Thomas are Dommá and Duomis.

Female forms:

1. Thomasina is English.

2. Tomine is Norwegian.

3. Tamsin, or Tamsyn, is Cornish.

4. Thomaḯs is Greek.

5. Thomaḯda is also Greek.

6. Thomai is another Greek form.

7. Tuomasiina is a rare Finnish form.

8. Tommasina is Italian.

9. Tomazja is Polish.

10. Tomásia is Portuguese.

Portuguese noblewoman Leonor Tomásia de Távora, 3rd Marquise of Távora (1700–59)

11. Thomine is French and Danish.

12. Tomasina is a rare English form.

13. Thomassine is a rare French form.

14. Thomassin is French–Cajun.

15. Thomasine is a rare Swedish and English form, and archaic French and Danish form.

16. Thomasin is English.

17. Thomasse is archaic French and English.

18. Tomasine is archaic Norwegian, last recorded in the 1940s.