The Ws of Polish names

Since there’s no letter W in Ukrainian, today is a wildcard day. I decided to do Polish names because part of Ukraine was Polish territory for many centuries, and a lot of upper-class Ukrainians became very Polonified. Thus, there’s a plausible connection between Ukrainian and Polish names.

Female names:

Wacława means “more glory.” This is a rare name.

Więcemiła means “more nice,” or, more figuratively translated, “one who is nicer than the others.”

Wieńczysława is a rare name which may either be a Polish form of Václava (more glory) or come from the Russian name Vyacheslava (same meaning).

Wierzchosława may refer to a person from the village of Wierzchosław in northwestern Poland, very near the coast.

Wirzchosława means “peak of glory.”

Wyszesława means “higher glory.”

Male names:

Waldemar is the Polish form of Vladimir (famous rule).

Warcisław is an archaic name meaning “to return in glory.”

Wielisław is a rare name meaning “great glory.”

Wespazjan is the Polish form of Vespasian, which comes from Roman cognomen Vespasianus. Its root is either vesper (“west” or “evening”) or vespa (wasp).

Wiarosław means “glorious faith.”

Wielebor is a rare name meaning “great battle.”

The Js of Polish names

Since there’s no letter J in Ukrainian, today is the first of four wildcard days. I decided to do Polish names because part of Ukraine was Polish territory for many centuries, and a lot of upper-class Ukrainians became very Polonified. Thus, there’s a plausible connection between Ukrainian and Polish names.

Male names:

Jaromir means “fierce peace” and “fierce world.”

Jarzysław means “glowing glory.”

Jasnomir means “bright peace” and “bright world.”

Jasnosław means “bright glory.”

Jozafat is a rare name which comes from Hebrew name Yehoshafat (God has judged). Jozafat Kuncewicz (ca. 1580–1623) was a Polish-Lithuanian monk and archbishop who tried to reconcile Catholics and Orthodox Christians. He was stoned to death by an angry mob, and was sainted in 1867.

Juwentyn comes from Roman name Iuventinus, which may be related to Iuvenalis (Juvenal), meaning “youthful.”

Female names:

Janisława possibly means “John’s glory.” This, and the male form Janisław, seem to be newly-coined names in the Slavic languages. They also occur in Bulgarian, Slovenian, and Croatian.

Januaria comes from Roman cognomen Ianuarius (January), ultimately derived from Ianus (Janus) (archway).

Jaroslava means “glory of light.”

Jowita is a feminine form of the Roman name Iovita, derived from Iovis (Jove) and the stem of Iuppiter (Jupiter). It ultimately comes from the Indo–European root *Dyew-paterDyews means Zeus, and pater is father. In turn, Zeus derives from root *dyew- (“sky” or “shine”).

Judyta is the Polish form of Judith, which comes from Hebrew name Yehudit (Jewish woman; woman from Judea).

Justyna is the Polish form of Justine, which ultimately derives from Latin name Iustus (just).

All about Ruth

U.S. anthropologist and folklorist Ruth Benedict, 1887–1948

Ruth is an English, German, Dutch, Spanish, and Scandinavian name derived from the Hebrew Re’ut (friend), which later morphed into Rut (pronounced with a long U, not like the English word “rut”). Most people are familiar with it as the title character of the Book of Ruth. She left her homeland Moab behind to follow her mother-in-law Naomi back to Israel after a famine, and became King David’s great-grandma.

On the second day of Shavuot, this short book of the Bible is read, and many conversion certificates quote the moving words Ruth tells Naomi:

“Do not entreat me to leave you, and to return from following after you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people, and your God my God; where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more, if anything but death part you and me.”

Latvian lawyer, writer, and politician Ruta Šaca-Marjaša (1927–2016)

Though the name has long been common in the Jewish world, it didn’t come into widespread usage in the Christian world till the Protestant Reformation. Ruth received a big boost of popularity several centuries later, from U.S. President Grover Cleveland’s firstborn child, born in 1891. She was born between his two non-consecutive terms, and sadly died of diphtheria in 1904.

Ruth was #93 in the U.S. when name popularity records began in 1880, and it jumped from #19 to #5 after the birth of Ruth Cleveland. In 1893, it was #3. The next two years, Ruth was #6, and it remained at #5 until 1907. It then was #4 for two years, then back to #5 again till 1922.

The name remained in the Top 10 till 1930, and was Top 20 till 1937. Ruth left the Top 50 in 1951, and left the Top 100 in 1962. In 2018, it was #265.

Ruth Cleveland

Other forms of the name include:

1. Ruta is Polish, Ukrainian, and Maori. The alternate form Rūta is Latvian and Lithuanian.

2. Rute is Portuguese.

3. Ruut is Finnish and Estonian.

4. Rut is Hebrew, Spanish, Icelandic, Scandinavian, Sorbian, Italian, Maltese, Indonesian, Afrikaans, and German. The alternate form Rút is Czech and Slovak.

5. Ruf is Russian. I’ve never been a fan of Russian names where TH is replaced by F in the middle of the name. It just sounds ugly to my ears.

6. Rutt is Estonian.

7. Hrut is Armenian.

8. Hirut is Amharic.

9. Luka is Hawaiian, and not to be confused with the entirely separate name with the same spelling which is several languages’ form of Luke.

10. Luti is Nyakyusa, a language spoken in Tanzania and Malawi.

11. Rutu is Maori and Yoruba.

Names invoking anger

Though many Slavic names are formed from the beautiful roots miru (peace, world), milu (dear, gracious), slava (glory), lyuby (love), and tsvet/cvet/cvjet/kvet (flower), there’s a rather curious group of names with the root gnyevu/gnev (anger). Almost all of these names are Polish, and, to the best of my knowledge, are rare in modern usage. I suppose they date from an era when the various Slavic peoples were much more warlike.

Dobiegniew means “brave/courageous anger.”

Gniewomir means “anger and peace,” a very juxtaposing image. Nicknames include Gniewko and Gniewosz.

Gniewosław means “anger and glory,” another very juxtaposing image.

Izbygniew means “to dismiss/dispose of anger” or “room/hut of anger.”

Jarogniew means “fierce/energetic anger.”

Lutogniew means “fierce/cruel/wild/severe anger.” The Old Slavic word lut is also related to Luty, the Polish nickname for February. That month indeed is very cruel and fierce in Poland, weather-wise.

Mścigniew means “to avenge anger.”

Ostrogniew means “sharp anger.”

Spycigniew means “pointless/futile/unnecessary anger.”

Toligniew may mean “to silence/calm/soothe anger.”

Wojgniew means “soldier of anger” or “soldier’s anger.”

Wszegniew means “always angry” or “all anger.”

Zbigniew means “to dispel anger.” Nicknames include Zbyszek, Zbyszko, Zbysiek, and Zbysio. The Czech form is Zbygněv, with the nickname Zbyněk. This seems to be by far the most popular and common of these names.

Żeligniew means “to crave/long for/thirst for/hanker after anger.”

Male names of literary origin, G-M

FYI: If you’re wondering why I’ve barely mentioned any Arthurian names in this series, it’s because I’m saving them for a future post on that subject only.

Sorry I couldn’t find a bigger pool of names! The relative dearth of literary male vs. female names is evidence of how, until fairly recently, people generally have been more creative with female names.

U.S. comedic actor Buster Keaton as Hamlet, 1922

Gareth first appeared in Thomas Malory’s 15th century collection of Arthurian legends, Le Morte d’Arthur. It’s based on Gahariet, the name of a similar Knight of the Round Table in French legends. This name, like many others in those stories, may also have a Welsh origin. If so, it may be derived from gwaredd (gentleness).

Gavroche was created by Victor Hugo for a character in Les Misérables (1862). Because of the fictional Gavroche, this has become slang for “street urchin” and “mischievous child.”

Goldmund is one of two title characters of Swiss-German writer Hermann Hesse’s amazing 1930 novel Narcissus and Goldmund. It’s meant to mean “gold mouth,” from German gold and mund, but it can also mean “golden protection.” Mund means “mouth” in modern German, but “protection” in Old High German.

Hamlet is an Anglicised form of Danish name Amleth, famously created for Shakespeare’s 1600 play of the same name. For whatever reason, this name is also used in Armenian.

Hareton may have been created by Emily Brontë for a character in her 1847 novel Wuthering Heights. It may also derive from an English place name meaning “hare town.”

Heathcliff was invented for the male protagonist of Wuthering Heights, and has the self-explanatory meaning “from the heath cliff” or “from the cliff with heath.” A heath is a shrubland with low-growing, open, woody plant life, mostly in acidic soils.

Sir Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in Wuthering Heights (1939)

Indulis started as a diminutive of Latvian name Indriķis (home ruler; i.e., Henry), but is now given as a full name in its own right. Playwright and poet Rainis (a pseudonym of Jānis Pliekšāns) used it on one of the title characters of his 1911 play Indulis un Ārija.

Keimo was invented by legendary Finnish writer Aleksis Kivi in the 19th century, inspired by the village of Keimola.

Kordian is the protagonist of Polish writer Juliusz Słowacki’s famous 1833 play. I’m going to give this name to a till-now minor background character who’s soon to become an important secondary character, and also gave it as a middle name to another character. It’s derived from the Latin cordis (heart). This name is so romantic and beautiful!

Lesław was created by Polish writer Roman Zmorski for his 1847 poetic novel of the same name, derived from Lech (the legendary founder of the Polish nation) and the root sław (glory).

Lestat was created by Anne Rice for a character in her Vampire Chronicles series, which débuted in 1976. She may have intended it to look derived from Occitan or Old French l’estat (the status, state), though Lestat’s name was originally Lestan, in honour of her husband Stan. While writing the first book, she accidentally wrote the name wrong, and only noticed later.

U.S. President Andrew Johnson (left) as Mercutio, 1868 political cartoon by Alfred Waud

Malvolio means “ill will” in Italian. It was created by Shakespeare for a character in his 1602 play Twelfth Night.

Marganore was invented by Italian writer Ludovico Ariosto for his 1516 poem Orlando Furioso (published in its complete form in 1532). Fittingly, since it belongs to a tyrant, the name derives from Greek words margaino (to rage, to be mad) and anor (man). Thus, it means “madman.”

Mercutio is a diminutive of Mercury, probably ultimately from Latin mercari (to trade) or merces (wages). Shakespeare used it for a character in Romeo and Juliet (1596).