Male names of literary origin, N–Z

American aviation pioneer Orville Wright, 1871–1948

Nemo means “nobody” in Latin. Jules Verne created it for the captain of Nautilus in his 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Nerle is a character in L. Frank Baum’s 1903 novel The Enchanted Island of Yew. It may be based on Merle, a variant of Merrill or Muriel (“pleasant hill” or “bright sea”).

Oberon is the King of the Fairies in Shakespeare’s 1595 play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s based on Norman French name Auberon, which in turn derives from Ancient Germanic Alberich (elf power).

Orville was coined by 18th century writer Fanny Burney, who may have meant it to mean “golden city” in French.

Othello may be a diminutive of Italian name Otho, of unknown etymology. Shakespeare famously used it as the title character of his 1603 tragedy.

Pantagruel is one of the title characters of 16th century French writer François Rabelais’s The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel series. It derives from Greek pantes (all) and Hagarene gruel (thirsty). Pantagruel was born during a great drought. Rabelais invented hundreds of new words in these novels, based on Ancient Greek. Some of them became part of the French language.

Percival was created by 12th century French poet Chrétien de Troyes for Perceval, the Story of the Grail, which follows a Knight of the Round Table. It was probably based on Welsh name Peredur, which may mean “hard spears.” The spelling was possibly changed to resemble Old French percer val (to pierce the valley).

Pirkka was created by Finnish poet Eino Leino for “Orjan Poka. It derives from pirkkalaiset (a Medieval Finnish group who controlled taxation in Lapland).

Radames is a character in the 1871 opera Aida. Since it’s set in Ancient Egypt, librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni may have included the element Ra (Sun) to sound plausibly Egyptian.

Radúz is a rare Czech name which was created by writer Julius Zeyer for his 1898 play Radúz and Mahulena. It derives from rád (glad, happy).

Ruslan is Russian, Chechen, Ingush, Avar, Tatar, Circassian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Bashkir, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Uzbek, Armenian, and Ossetian. It was used by great Russian poet Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin for his 1820 work Ruslan and Lyudmila, based on the name of Tatar and Russian folk hero Yeruslan Lazarevich. Its ultimate origin is Tatar name Uruslan, possibly from Turkic arslan (lion).

1887 illustration of Ruslan and Lyudmila

Saridan is a king in the 12th century Georgian epic poem The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, by Shota Rustaveli. It’s unclear which Persian root he based it off of, but possible candidates include srudan (to sing, to recite) and srayidan (to protect). Unlike many other names in the poem, Saridan has never been very common.

Sémaphore means “semaphore” (a visual signalling system) in French, ultimately derived from Ancient Greek roots sema (sign, token, mark) and phero (to carry, to bear). Thus, it roughly means “sign-bearer.” This is the name of a character in Franco–Belgian comic Cubitus. Sémaphore owns canine protagonist Cubitus.

Siyavash is a prince in 11th century Persian epic The Shahnameh. The name means “possessing black stallions” in Avestan.

Tuovi (a unisex name) was invented by Finnish writer Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen for his 1859 novel Pohjan-Piltti. It derives from village Tuovila (village of Tove).

Urizen was created by English poet William Blake for the personification of conventional reason and law. It’s a play on “your reason,” and possibly also derived from Greek horizein (horizon).

Vahur means “brave” in Estonian. The name was invented by writer Edward Börnhohe for his 1880 novel Tasuja. I have a character by this name.

Vambola is the title character of a novel by Estonian writer Andres Saal. It may be derived from Varbola Castle or the Old Estonian word vambas (mace).

Siyavash, Copyright Aryzad at Wiki Commons

Winnetou is an Apache chief in several of German novelist Karl May’s books. It may mean “burning water.”

Ylermi is another name created by Eino Leino, for the protagonist of his poem Helkavirsiä I.

Yorick is derived from Danish and Norwegian nickname Jørg (i.e., George). Shakespeare used it for a dead court jester in Hamlet (1600).

Yvain is another creation of Chrétien de Troyes, based on Welsh name Owain (possibly a form of Eugene, “well-born”).

Zalán was created by Hungarian writer Mihály Vörösmarty for his 1823 epic Zalán Futása. The name may come from Hungary’s Zala region, which in turn takes its name from the Zala River.

Zorro means “fox” in Spanish, and became famous as the name of a character created by Johnston McCulley.

The many forms of Ferdinand

Explorer Ferdinand Magellan, ca. 1480–1521

I’ve long been fond of the name Ferdinand, in all its many forms. It’s such a timeless classic, one of those names that used to be somewhat more popular but was never Top 100. Its highest rank in the U.S. to date was #242 in 1882. The name’s popularity moved up and down over the years, and dropped from the Top 400 in 1919. In 1931, it dropped from the Top 500.

Over time, the name continued to drop further and further, with a few short periods out of the Top 1000 entirely. To date, its last hurrah on the U.S. Top 1000 was 1971, at #984.

In France, Ferdinand enjoyed more past popularity, and stood at #59 in 1900. It left the Top 100 in 1929, crept back in the next year, and then fell out again. Its last year with a ranking was 1964, at #407.

In Switzerland, Ferdinand was #90 in 1925, and in the former Czechoslovakia, it was Top 100 from at least 1935–49. Its highest rank was #60 in 1941. In 1952, it left the Top 100.

Ferdinand is used in English, German, Dutch, French, Czech, and Slovenian. The alternate form Ferdinánd is Hungarian, and Ferdínand is Icelandic. It comes from an Ancient Germanic name derived from the roots farð (journey), frið (peace), or frith (protection), and nanth (daring, brave) or nand (prepared, ready). The original form may have been Frithunanths or Ferdinanths.

Fernando Pessoa, prolific Portuguese writer, 1888–1935

Other forms of the name include:

1. Fernand is French and modern Russian.

2. Ferdinando is Italian.

3. Fernando is Spanish and Portuguese. The Spanish nickname is Nando.

4. Fernão is Portuguese.

5. Ferdynand is Polish.

6. Ferran is Catalan. The alternate form Ferrán is Aragonese.

7. Hernando is Spanish. The nickname is Hernán.

8. Nándor is Hungarian.

9. Ferdinandas is Lithuanian.

10. Ferdinands is Latvian.

French composer Fernand Halphen, 1872–1917

11. Ferdinant is Breton.

12. Ferrand is Occitan and Provençal.

13. Fredenando is Basque.

14. Herran is Gascon.

15. Vêrtinât is Greenlandic.

Archduchess Auguste Ferdinande of Austria, 1825–1864

Feminine forms:

1. Fernanda is Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

2. Ferdinanda is Italian and German.

3. Fernande is French.

4. Ferdinande is German and French.

The Ses of Medieval names

Female:

Sabada (Basque): Possibly “Sabbath.”

Safya (Moorish Arabic): “Pure,” from root safi.

Saissa (Occitan)

Sajah (Arabic)

Salimah (Judeo–Arabic): “To be safe.”

Salomia (Italian): Form of Salomé (peace).

Salwa (Moorish Arabic): “Consolation.”

Sama (Moorish Arabic): “She became honoured, exalted.”

Sancta (Italian and French): “Holy, sacred, divine, pious, consecrated, just.”

Santesa (Italian): This is still used in modern Sardinian.

Sapience (Flemish): “Wisdom,” from a French word with that meaning. The Italian form was Sapienza, and the Occitan form was Sebienda.

Satara (Moorish Arabic): “One who covers.”

Scarlata (Italian): The masculine form was Scarlatto.

Sciencia (English)

Sedania (English): Form of Sidonia (from Sidon). In the Middle Ages, it became associated with the Greek word sindon (linen); i.e., the Shroud of Turin.

Sendina (Spanish)

Servanda (Spanish): “To protect, save, preserve,” from Latin root servandus.

Sestrid (Swedish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Ástríðr, with Old Norse roots áss (god) and fríðr (beautiful, belovèd). The familiar modern form is Astrid.

Setembrina (Italian): September.

Shifa (Arabic): “Remedy, cure, healing.”

Sibilia (Catalan, Occitan, Italian): “Female prophet, sibyl,” from Greek root sibylla.

Siggun (Swedish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Siggunnr, with roots sigr (victory) and gunnr (fight, battle).

Sighni (Danish and Swedish): Derived from Old Norse name Signý (new victory), with roots sigr and .

Sireda (English): Possibly derived from Old Norse name Sigríðr (beautiful victory), with roots sigr and fríðr (beautiful, fair). It may also be a feminine form of Anglo–Saxon name Sigeræd, from Old English roots sige (victory) and ræd (counsel).

Smirenka (Russian and Slavic)

Sobeyrana (Occitan)

Solavita (Italian)

Soliana (Italian)

Solomonida (Russian and Slavic): “Peace,” from Hebrew root shalom.

Sosipatra (Russian and Slavic)

Spania (Occitan and Italian): Spain.

Sperança (Occitan): “Hope.”

Splendora (English): “Brilliance, lustre, brightness, distinction,” from Latin root splendor.

Sukayna (Moorish Arabic): “Cute, sprightly, adorable.”

Suna (Moorish Arabic): “Gold,” from a Persian word.

Sunnifa (Scandinavian): Derived from Old English name Sunngift (sun gift), from roots sunne and giefu. The modern form is Sunniva (Norwegian).

Sweetlove (English): From Old English roots swet (sweet) and lufu (love).

Male:

Sadoq (Judeo–Italian): “Righteous,” from Hebrew root tzadok.

Safwan (Moorish Arabic): “Rock.”

Salvi (Italian): “Unharmed, well, safe,” from Latin root salvus. This is still used in modern Catalan.

Santsol (Basque): Possibly “Saint Zoilus,” referring to a saint martyred in Córdoba. Its possible root is zoós (living, alive).

Saraceno (Italian): Saracen (i.e., a Muslim Arab).

Sebastie (Basque): Form of Sebastian (from Sebaste).

Sebbi (Danish): Nickname for Ancient Scandinavian name Sǽbiǫrn (sea bear), from roots sær and bjǫrn.

Selvi (Danish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Sialfi, from Old Norse root sjalfi (himself).

Sewolt (German)

Shorter (English): Exactly what it suggests. It was a nickname like Junior.

Sigfast (Swedish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Sigfastr (fast victory), from Old Norse roots sigr (victory) and fastr (fast, firmly).

Slavogost (Slavic and Croatian): “Guest’s glory,” from roots slava (glory) and gost.

Snio (Danish): Derived from Old Norse name Snær (snow).

Sobeslav (Slavic): “Glory for oneself,” from roots sebe (for oneself) and slava. The modern form is Sobiesław (Polish).

Splinter (Dutch): Possibly related to modern Dutch word splinter (exactly what it means in English).

Squire (English)

Stali (Danish), Stale (Swedish): Derived from Old Norse name Stáli (steel), from root stál.

Stanfled (English)

Sture (Scandinavian): “To be contrary,” from Old Norse root stura.

Sulon (Breton): “Sun.”

Suni (Danish): “Son,” from Old Norse root sunr.

Svetoslav (Slavic): Hypothetical original form of Russian name Svyatopolk (blessèd people), from roots svetu (holy, blessèd) and pulku (people, army, host).

Svinimir (Slavic): Possibly from Proto–Slavic root svin’a (swine, pig) and Slavonic mir (world, peace). Others feel it’s an older form of Zvonimir (the sound of peace).

Syroslav (Slavic): Possibly from Proto–Slavic root širok (broad, wide) or Russian root syroy (raw), and Slavonic slav.

The Ms of Medieval names

Female:

Madiana (Italian)

Madolina (Italian): Probably a form of Magdalena.

Madore (Italian)

Madrona (Spanish, Catalan): “Lady,” from Latin word matrona.

Magnifica (Italian): “Magnificent, excellent, splendid.”

Malmfred (Scandinavian)

Malore (Italian)

Marquessa (Spanish): “Marquise,” from Old French marchis and markis. The ultimate root is the Old High German word marka (fortified area along a border; march).

Marsibilia (Italian)

Mascarose (Occitan)

Massaria (Italian)

Massipa (Judeo–Catalan): Derived from Christian Catalan surname Massip/Macip, from Latin word mancipium (learner, servant, younger).

Maymuna (Moorish Arabic): “Blessed, prosperous, thriving.”

Melior (English): “Better,” from a Latin word with that meaning. The modern form is Meliora.

Melisende (French): Form of Millicent, derived from Ancient Germanic name Amalasuintha. Its roots are amal (labour, work) and swinth (strong).

Memorantia (English and Dutch): “Remembering,” from the Latin word.

Merewen, Merwenn, Merewynn (English): “Famous joy,” from Old English name Mærwynn. Its roots are mær (famous) and wynn (joy).

Merilda (English): Form of Old English name Mærhild.

Midonia (Italian)

Militsa (Slavic): “Gracious,” from root milu. It was originally a nickname for names beginning in Mil-. Its modern form is Milica (Slovenian, Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian).

Mirea (Judeo–Catalan): “Myrrh,” from Ladino (Judeo–Spanish) mira; a variation of popular Catalan name Mira (notable); or a nickname for Miriam,

Mireti (Moorish Arabic)

Miriana (English)

Munisa (Arabic): This is also a modern Uzbek, Bosnian, and Tajik name.

Muscata (Italian): “Nutmeg.”

Mutayyam (Moorish Arabic): “Captive of love.”

Muzna (Moorish Arabic): “Cloud, rain.”

Male:

Mechislav (Slavic): “Sword of glory,” from roots mechi and slava. The modern form is Mieczysław (Polish). The original form is a rare modern Russian name. Like all names ending in -slav, -mir, and -mil, it can become a female name by adding an A to the end.

Merkel (Silesian–German): Nickname for Markward, which ultimately descends from Ancient Germanic name Marcaward. Its roots are Celtic marca and Old High German marah (horse), or marka (border), and Old High German wart (guard).

Metfried (German): From roots maht (strength, might) and frid (peace).

Mezamir (Slavic): “Great boundary,” “Boundary of peace,” or “Boundary of the world,” from a Proto–Slavic root meaning “limit, boundary, landmark” (which evolved into Old Church Slavonic mežda), and mer (famous, great) or mir (peace, world).

Milogost (Slavic): “Gracious guest,” from roots milu (dear, gracioius) and gosti. The modern form is Miłogost (Polish).

Miqueu (Occitan): Form of Michael (Who is like God?). This is also the modern Gascon form.

Mundi (Swedish and Norman): Nickname for Old Norse Agmundr, derived from elements ag (edge of a sword) or agi (terror, awe), and mundr (protection).

Mundir (Moorish Arabic): “Cautioner, warner.”

Munio (Basque): The feminine form was Munia.

Mundzuk (Turkic): Possibly “bead, jewel,” from root mončuq.

The Ks of Medieval names

Female:

Kalisfena (Russian, Slavic): Form of Greek name Kallisthena (beautiful strength/power), from roots kallos (beautiful) and sthenos (might, power, strength, ability). Obviously, this is also the source of the word “calisthenics.”

Kanza (Moorish Arabic): “Treasure.” The modern form is Kenza.

Katixa (Basque): Possibly a form of Katherine.

Kedruta (Czech)

Kela (Yiddish)

Kokachin (Mongolian)

Kometitza (Basque): Possibly related to Medieval English name Comitessa, from Latin word comitissa (countess).

Kosenila (Russian, Slavic)

Kostantzia (Basque): Form of Constance.

Kristāna (Baltic): Probably a form of Christina.

Male:

Kaldor (German): Derived from Ancient Germanic name Chlodochar (famous army), from roots hlud (famous) and hari (army). Its best-known modern form is Lothar.

Kanutus (Swedish): Form of Knut, from Old Norse word knútr (knot).

Kartoka (Anglo–Scandinavian): Form of Kár-Tóki, from Old Norse root kárr (“curly-haired” or “reluctant, obstinant) and nickname Tóki (for names containing the element Þórr [Thor], “thunder”).

Kelagast (Slavic): The name of a 6th century nobleman. I couldn’t find a root for the first element, but the second seems to come from gost (guest).

Kelitia (English)

Khutughtu (Mongolian): “Blessed.”

Khuwaylid (Arabic): “Immortal, eternal,” from root ḵalada (to last forever, to be everlasting). This was the name of Prophet Mohammad’s first father-in-law.

Kitan (Silesian–German): Nickname for Kristian.

Kitman (Moorish Arabic)

Könika (Swedish): Nickname for Konrad, which descends from Old High German name Kuonrat. Its roots are kuoni (strong, brave, bold) and rât (counsel).

Korp (Swedish): “Raven,” from Old Norse word korpr.

Kovals (Baltic, Livonian): Possibly related to Livonian word koval (smart) or Slavonic kowal (blacksmith).

Kresimir (Slavic): “Spark of the world” and “spark of peace,” from roots kresu (spark, light, rouse) and miru (world, peace). Modern forms are Krzesimir (Polish) and Krešimir (Croatian).

Külüg (Mongolian): “Hero.”

Kürşat (Turkic): “Hero, valiant, brave.”