A look at some common name roots

For something a bit different, I got the idea to make a list of some common root elements in names. Knowing what these roots mean makes it easier to at least partially decipher a name’s meaning, and gives clues as to its linguistic origin. Another awesome bonus is learning a few words in languages you might never have considered studying!

In the interests of relative brevity, I’ve tried to keep this list to fairly common root elements. There are many more I’ve encountered, but many of them aren’t exactly found in names one commonly runs across in everyday life.

Abd-; Arabic word meaning “servant of.” Examples include Abdullah, Abd Al-Malik, Abd Al-Karim, Abd Al-Latif, and Abd Al-Rashid.

-Anthe-, -Antha-: Greek anthos (flower). Examples include Calanthe, Chrysanthemum, Ianthe, Diantha, Iolanthe, Erianthe, and Rhodanthe.

Av-, Ab-: Hebrew aba (father). Examples include Abner/Avner, Abraham/Avraham, Avniel, Abigail, Avidan, Aviella, Avshalom, Aviram, and Avihu.

(-)Ay-: Turkish word for Moon, and an element found in many other Turkic names (Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Azeri, Uyghur, Turkmeni). Examples include Feray, Aytaç, Aygün, Aysel, Ayberk, Aynabat, Aynur, Gülay, and Tuncay.

-Bert(-): Ancient Germanic beraht (bright). Examples include Albert, Robert, Bertha, Adalbert, Norbert, and Engelbert.

-Bek, -Beg, -Bey, -Boy: A Turkic military title meaning “master, chieftain.” Examples include Aybek, Aslanbek, Islambek, Mayrbek, Zaurbek, and Salambek. A name in this category I strongly recommend against in the Anglophone world is Urinboy!

Diet- (DEET): Ancient Germanic theud (people). Examples include Dietrich, Dietfried, and Dietmar.

-Din: Arabic word for religion and faith. Examples include Shams Al-Din, Ziya Al-Din, Izz Al-Din, Nur Ad-Din, and Salah Al-Din.

-El, -El(l)a, -Elle: Hebrew name for God. Examples include Daniel, Emanuel, Gabrielle, Ariella, and Daniela. Obviously, this only applies to names of Hebrew origin, not names like Isabelle, Arabella, and Ghisolabella.

(-)Fried: Ancient Germanic frid and Old English friþ (peace). Examples include Siegfried, Friedemann, Winifred, Friedrich, Manfred, and Friedhold.

(-)Gol-, (-)Gul-, (-)Gül-: Persian gol (rose, flower). This element is found in many Turkic as well as Persian names. Examples include Golnaz, Golnar, Gülnur, Patigul, and Annagül.

(-)Got-: Ancient Germanic Gott, God. Examples include Gottfried, Traugott, Gottlieb, and Gotthilf.

(-)Hard: Ancient Germanic hard (hardy, brave). Examples include Ekkehard, Leonhard, Richard, Bernard, Gerard, and Sieghard.

(-)Helm: Ancient Germanic word for helmet. Examples include Helmfried, Helmut, Wilhelm, Diethelm, Friedhelm, and Anselm.

(-)Hild-: Ancient Germanic (hild) and Old Norse (hildr) words for battle. Examples include Alfhild, Audhild, Brünhild, Clotilde, Hilda, Hildebrand, and Kriemhild.

Ia-, Io-: Greek ion (violet flower) and iole (violet colour). Examples include Ianthe, Ia, Iolanthe, Ione, and Iolanda.

Ing-, Yng-: After the Germanic god Ing. Examples include Ingrid, Ingo, Ingeborg, and Inga.

Is-: Ancient Germanic word for ice and iron (îs), and Old Norse word for ice (íss). Examples include Isolda, Isbert, Ijsbrand, Ísbjörn, Ísdís, Isfrid, Íshildur, Íslaug, Ismund, and Isulf.

-Khan, -Han: Turkic title meaning “ruler, leader.” Examples include Alikhan, Emirhan, Erhan, Khanpasha, Magomedkhan, Serhan, and Zelimkhan.

Laur-: Latin family name Laurus (laurel, the symbol of victory). Examples include Laura, Laurence, Lauren, and Laurel.

Luc-: Latin lux (light). Examples include Lucia, Lucy, Lucius, Lucinda, and Lucilla.

(-)Mir(a): Old Slavic miru (peace, world). Examples include Miroslav, Vladimir, Zvonimira, Tihomir, Vitomir, Radomira, Miruna, Miroslava, Miran, Ljubomir, Krasimir, and Dragomir.

Ny-: Old Norse  (new). Examples include Signy, Dagny, Óðný, Ráðný, Nývarð, Nýbjörg, Ingny, Lingný, and Eirný.

Phil-: Greek philos (friend, lover). Examples include Philip, Philippa, Filomena, Theophil, Philbert, and Philomela.

Sieg-: Ancient Germanic sigu (victory). Examples include Siegmund, Sieglinde, Siegward, and Siegbert.

(-)Slav(a), (-)Sława(a): Old Slavic slava (glory). Examples include Slavomir, Borislava, Bronisława, Desislav, Miloslav, Mstislav, Radoslava, Rostislav, and Vyacheslav.

-Wen, -Wyn: Welsh gwen (white, fair, blessed), gwyn (white, fair), and wyn (white). Male names end in -wyn, and female names end in -wen. Examples include Ceridwen, Bronwen, Arwen, Branwen, Carwyn, Dilwyn, Heddwyn, Caerwyn, and Gwendolyn.

-Ya(h), -Ja(h), -Iah: One of the Hebrew names for God. Examples include Adoniyah, Isaiah, Josiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Talya, and Hezekiah.

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The great and powerful Ing (and the names he spawned)

Ing was a Germanic god, whose name derives from the Proto-Germanic *Ingwaz. It possibly means “ancestor.” He was a fertility god and the legendary ancestor of the Ingvaeone people (historically, erroneously called the Ingaevones). This West Germanic tribe lived along the coast of the North Sea, in areas which are part of modern-day Denmark, Germany, and The Netherlands.

Modern scholarship indicates Ing was the original name of the Old Norse god Yngvi, and thus the original name of the god Freyr, a legendary ancestor of the Swedish Royal Family. Freyr was the god of virility, prosperity, sacral kingship, sunshine, and fair weather. He’s also frequently depicted as a phallic fertility god, and bestows peace and pleasure upon mortals.

He appears widely in Old Norse mythology, particularly in stories in which he falls in love with Gerðr, a jötunn (an ambiguously-described type of figure).

In the modern era, Ing has lent his godly etymological root to many names, among them:

Male:

Ingálvur means “Ing’s elf” in Faroese.

Ingemar means “famous Ing” in Swedish, with the nickname Inge. The original Old Norse form was Ingimárr.

Ingemund means “Ing’s protection” in Swedish and Norwegian.

Ingibjörn means “Ing’s bear” in Icelandic and Swedish, from the Old Norse root Ingibjǫrn. The Norwegian form is Ingebjørn.

Ingimar is the Icelandic form of Ingemar.

Ingimund is the Faroese form of Ingemund.

Ingmar is a variation of Ingemar.

Ingmars is the Latvian form of Ingemar.

Ingo is German.

Ingolf means “Ing’s wolf” or “wolf of Ing” in German and the Scandinavian languages. It derives from the Old Norse Ingólfr and the Old Germanic Ingulf.

Ingomar is a rare German name, a form of Ingemar.

Ingvar means “warrior Ing” or “Ing’s warrior” in Icelandic, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. It derives from the Old Norse Yngvarr.

Ingvars is the Latvian form of Ingvar.

Yngve is Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish.

Female:

Inga is Scandinavian, Icelandic, Russian, Latvian, German, and Lithuanian. In German, Scandinavian, and Icelandic names, this can be a nickname for more elaborate Ing- names as well as a name in its own right.

Inge is a nickname form in German, Danish, and Dutch, with the Greenlandic variation Ínge. This spelling is traditionally male-only in Swedish and Norwegian.

Ingebjørg means “Ing saves/rescues/helps” in Danish and Norwegian. It derives from the Old Norse Ingibjörg.

Ingeborg is the German and Swedish form of Ingebjørg, as well as an alternate Danish and Norwegian form.

Ingeburg is a rare German form of Ingeborg.

Ingegärd means “Ing’s enclosure” in Swedish. It derives from the Old Norse Ingigerðr.

Ingegerd is the Danish and Norwegian form of Ingegärd, and an alternate Swedish form.

Ingegjerd is a Norwegian variation of Ingegerd.

Ingibjörg is the Icelandic form of Ingeborg. The Faroese form is Ingibjørg.

Ingfrid is a Norwegian variant of Ingrid.

Ingfrida is another Norwegian variation.

Ingheiður means “bright, cloudless, clear Ing” in Icelandic.

Inghild means “Ing’s battle” in the Scandinavian languages. The Old Norse roots are Yngvildr and Ingvildr.

Inghildur is the Icelandic form of Inghild.

Îngile is the Greenlandic form of Ingrid.

Íngipôĸ is the Greenlandic form of Ingeborg.

Ingisól is a rare, modern Icelandic name meaning “Ing’s sun.”

Ingka is the Greenlandic form of Inga.

Ingrid means “Ing is beautiful” in German and the Scandinavian languages. It derives from the Old Norse Ingríðr.

Ingrún means “Ing’s secret” in Icelandic and Faroese, from the Ancient Scandinavian root Ingirún.

Ingveig means “Ing’s power/strength” in Norwegian.

Ingvild is a Norwegian variation of Inghild.

Inka is the Frisian and Finnish form of Inga/Inge, and an alternate German form.

Happy Halloween!—Monstrous names

Happy Halloween! Here’s a list of names whose meanings relate to the word “monster,” and names of monsters from mythology and folklore.

Male:

Enenra can mean “smoky, smoky lightweight fabric” in Japanese. This is a mythological monster composed of smoke. He lives in bonfires and takes human form when he emerges. It’s said an enenra can only be seen by the pure of heart.

Grendel is the monster in the Old English epic Beowulf.

Ikuchi is a legendary Japanese sea monster.

Isonade is a huge, shark-like sea monster said to live off the western Japanese coast.

Kaibutsu means “monster” in Japanese.

Leviathan is a Biblical sea monster. The name derives from the Hebrew livyatan (coiled, twisted).

Lyngbakr is a massive, whale-like sea monster in Norse mythology.

Tseeveyo is a Hopi monster.

Typhon, a giant, monstrous snake, is the deadliest creature in Greek mythology. He tried to overthrow Zeus, and was cast into Tartarus, or buried under Mount Etna or on the island of Ischia. The etymology is disputed.

Female:

Amanozako is a monstrous Japanese goddess.

Charybdis is a sea monster in Greek mythology. She lives under a small rock on one side of a narrow channel, and swallowed and belched out huge quantities of water thrice a day. This created whirlpools large enough to drag ships underwater.

Echidna is a monster in Greek mythology, half-woman and half-snake, who lives alone in a cave.

Keto means “sea monster” in Greek. She personifies the sea’s dangers, and is the daughter of Gaia and Pontos, and the mother of Scylla, Echidna, and the Gorgons.

Lamia may mean “throat” in Greek. She was a Queen of Libya who had an affair with Zeus, and Hera, being Hera, killed Lamia’s children in revenge. Lamia went mad and transmogrified into a child-hunting monster.

Scylla, or Skylla, lives under a large rock opposite Charybdis.

Corny, wheaten names

To continue with October’s theme of names relating to the symbols of Halloween, here’s a list of names related to the words “wheat” and “corn.”

Unisex:

Cinteotl, also known as Centeotl and Centeocihuatl, was the Aztec god of maize (i.e., corn). On some occasions, this deity had both male and female attributes The name means “corn deity.” Shortened forms of the name include Centli and Cintli, meaning “corn.”

Female:

Annonaria means “she who supplies corn” in Latin, derived primarily from annona (yearly produce; corn, grain; crop, harvest) and ultimately from annus (year). As an aspect of the goddes Fortuna, she brought luck to the harvest, particularly that of corn.

Arista means “ear of corn” in Latin. This is also the name of a star in the constellation Virgo.

Başak means “ear of wheat” in Turkish. This is also their name for the constellation Virgo.

Fortuna was the Roman goddess who protected corn supplies. The name means “fortune.”

Himugi can mean “day wheat” and “sun wheat” in Japanese.

Onatah is one of the Three Sisters in Iroquois mythology. She represents the spirit of corn, and her two sisters represent beans and squash.

Shala was a Mesopotamian corn goddess.

Sunbul means “ear of corn” or “ear of wheat” in Arabic.

Taraa means “wheat” in Tuvan.

Xilonen was the Aztec maize goddess.

Male:

Byggvir means “seed corn” in Old Norse.

Eustachys means “fruitful” in Greek, derived from eu (good) and stachus (ear of corn).

Gari is a rare Basque name meaning “wheat.”

Hokoleskwa means “corn stalk” in Shawnee.

Kaiyatahee means “corn tassel” in Cherokee.

Omer means “sheaf of wheat” in Hebrew.

Pitirim is the Russian form of the Greek Pithyrion, which primarily derives from pituron or pityron (husks of corn, bran), and ultimately derives from pitura or pityra (bran). It’s also possible Pithyrion derives from a Coptic name or word.

Stachys means “an ear of corn, a head of grain” in Greek.

Suddhodana means “pure/true corn” and “pure/true rice” in Sanskrit.

Dusty, screaming, shrieking names

Continuing with the theme of Halloween-type names, here are some names whose meanings relate to the words “dust,” “scream,” and “shriek.”

Unisex:

Kiran means “dust,” “sunbeam,” and “thread” in Sanskrit.

Male:

Aldonas is a rare Lithuanian name possibly derived from the Old Lithuanian ver aldoti (to scream, to shout, to make noise), combined with the patronymical suffix onis.

Emathion means “sandy” in Greek, derived from emathoeis, which in turn is derived from amathos (dust, sand, sandy soil).

Galarr means “screamer” in Old Norse.

Gillingr roughly means “son of a scream” or “belonging to a scream” in Old Norse.

Hawar means “to scream” in Sorani, a Kurdish language.

Kanzou can mean “three screams,” “storehouse of screams,” “to hide a scream,” “to own a scream,” “scream structure,” “scream physique,” and “to make a scream” in Japanese.

Kekrops means “screaming voice” in Greek.

Kyousei can mean, roughly, “to scream at a star” or “star scream” in Japanese.

Female:

Agasaya may mean “shrieker.” She was an early Semitic goddess of war, who later merged into Ishtar as the warrior of the sky.

Aphra, or Aphrah, is both a variation of a Latin nickname for an African woman and a variation of Afrah, a Biblical place name meaning “dust.” Aphrah is the common Anglicization of the Hebrew Afrah.

Himei can mean “scream” and “shriek” in Japanese.