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 Alfred

King Alfred the Great of England, ca. 847-849–26 October 899, my 36-greats-grandfather

Alfred is an English, French, German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Polish, Estonian, Slovenian, Finnish, Catalan, Georgian, Armenian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian, and Serbian name derived from the original Old English Ælfræd (elf counsel). Its roots are ælf (elf) and ræd (counsel). Though many Anglo–Saxon names fell out of use after the Norman invasion and occupation, Alfred stayed popular thanks to my amazing ancestor Alfred the Great, a fellow scholar and person of letters.

By the Middle Ages, the name had become rare, but returned to common use in the 18th century. When the U.S. began keeping track of name popularity in 1880, it was #35, and stayed in the Top 100 (albeit on a very gradual downward decline) till 1950. Its highest rank was #32 in 1882.

Since dropping out of the Top 100, it’s mostly declined in popularity each year. In 2018, it was #872. The name is much more popular in England and Wales (#107), Sweden (#12), Denmark (#8), and Norway (#52).

The variation Alfréd is Slovak, Czech, and Hungarian, and Alfreð is Icelandic. Other forms of Alfred include:

1. Alfredo is Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Galician, Aragonese, and Esperanto.

2. Alfrēds is Latvian.

3. Alfredas is Lithuanian.

4. Alfrid is Tatar.

5. Alfredos is Greek.

6. Alfreeti is Finnish.

7. Alfried is a Dutch and German variation.

8. Alured is Manx.

9. Elfried is an alternate German and Dutch form.

10. Alfredu is Asturian and Sicilian.

11. Alperda is Basque.

Female forms:

1. Alfreda is English, Italian, German, and Polish.

2. Alfrédie is a rare Norman form.

3. Albrea is Middle English.

4. Alfredine is a rare French and English form.

5. Alverdine was occasionally used in English in the 19th century.

6. Alvedine is the 20th century form of the uncommon Alverdine.

The many forms of Leah

Dante’s Vision of Leah and Rachel, Marie Spartall Stillman, 1887

Leah probably comes from a Hebrew word meaning “weary.” It may also be related to the Akkadian littu (cow). Though I’m not keen on the English LEE-a pronunciation, I love the Hebrew and French LEY-a (i.e., like Princess Leia’s name).

Leah has always been a common Jewish name, for obvious reasons, but wasn’t common among Christians until the Protestant Reformation. It was particularly popular among Puritans.

The name has gone up and down in popularity in the U.S. for a long time, and was in the Top 100 from 1979–93, again in 1996, and then from 2000 through the present. Its highest rank to date was #24 in 2010. In 2017, it was #40.

Hungarian-born actor Lya De Putti, 1897–1931

Leah is #24 in Norway; #29 in Ireland; #30 in Sweden; #47 in Northern Ireland; #58 in Scotland; #76 in New Zealand; and #99 in England and Wales.

The variation Lea is German, Scandinavian, Finnish, Dutch, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Polish, Estonian, and Yoruba. Léa is French. This spelling is #6 (as Lea) and #65 (as Léa) in Switzerland; #8 in France; #10 in Austria; #18 in Belgium; #46 in Slovenia; #48 in Denmark; #83 in Norway; #84 in Bosnia; and #90 in Sweden.

Other forms include:

1. Lya is modern French.

2. Lia is Italian, Portuguese, Georgian, and Greek. The alternate form Lía is Galician and Spanish; Lîa is Greenlandic; and Liä is Tatar.

3. Leja is Slovenian and Croatian. The alternate form Lejá is Sami, and Lėja is Lithuanian.

4. Leia is Biblical Greek, and of course well-known from Star Wars.

5. Leya is Yiddish.

6. Laya is Arabic.

7. Liya is Amharic and Russian.

8. Leea is an uncommon Finnish form.

9. Leija is a rare Finnish and Estonian form, and modern Swedish. This is also the Finnish word for “kite.”

10. Liia is Estonian and Finnish.

11. Lija is Latvian, Dutch, Slovenian, and Serbian.

The many forms of Samuel

It’s never been a secret that Samuel is my absolute favoritest male name! If I’m ever blessed with kids before I’m too old, and I have a boy (like I’ve dreamt about constantly for many years), his name will absolutely be Samuel. First and foremost, it’s after the Prophet Samuel. Other awesome namesakes are Samuel P. Gompers, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), and Shemp Howard (Samuel Horwitz). In fact, I plan to call him Shemp for short, since I’m such a massive Stooges fans!

Since I love this name so much, and there’s no chance I’m naming my potential firstborn son anything else (particularly considering I might not have a second chance to name a boy!), its rising popularity concerns me. It’s been Top 30 in the U.S. since 1996, and doesn’t show any signs of shooting down the charts. In 2016, it was #21.

Ultimately, this name means so much to me, it doesn’t matter if anyone thinks I was just mindlessly choosing a popular name. I’ve never been a crowd-follower, and I highly doubt anyone would ever mistake me for one!

Samuel is also currently popular in Austria (#22), England and Wales (#23), Canada (#21), Australia (#15), the Czech Republic (#29), Finland (#35), Belgium (#46), New Zealand (#16), Ireland (#41), Italy (#40), Galicia (#43), The Netherlands (#64),  Northern Ireland (#47), Norway (#76), Switzerland (#8), Scotland (#39), Portugal (#48), Spain (#36), Sweden (#74), Mexico (#49), Hungary (#93), France (#48), Chile (#68), and Catalonia (#80).

As indicated above, the spelling Samuel is used in English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, the Scandinavian languages, Portuguese, Czech, and Finnish. It’s also used in Slovak and Polish. The Hungarian variation is Sámuel, with the nickname Samu; the Dutch form is Samuël; and the Icelandic form is Samúel. Other forms include:

1. Sh’muel is the Hebrew original, and means “God has heard,” in reference to Chana (Hannah)’s heartfelt prayer for a child being answered. A common nickname is Shmuley, alternately spelt Shmuli.

2. Samuli is Finnish. Nicknames include Samppa (the name of a well-known body modification artist who travels to different shops to do things like ear-pointing and repairing stretched piercings people don’t want anymore), Sami, and Samu.

3. Samuil is Bulgarian and Russian. Russian nicknames include Sanya, Sanka, Samonya, Samokha, Samoshka, Samko, Samosha, Sanchik, Samunka, Sansha, Samunya, and Samukha.

4. Samoil is Macedonian.

5. Samuele is Italian.

6. Sawyl is Welsh.

7. Hāmiora is Maori.

8. Hāmuera is also Maori.

9. Kamuela is Hawaiian.

10. Saamuel is Estonian.

11. Sámal is Faroese.

12. Sameli is Finnish.

13. Samhail is Irish.

14. Samoel is Georgian.

15. Samouil is modern Greek.

16. Sämu is Swiss–German.

17. Samuelis is a rare Lithuanian and Dutch form.

18. Samuilo is a rare Serbian form.

19. Samuyil is Ukrainian.

20. Samvel is Armenian.

21. Shamil is Tatar, Chechen, Dagestani, Kazakh, Avar, Abkhaz, Azeri, and Circassian.

22. Sumayl is Moorish.

Feminine forms:

1. Samine is Norwegian.

2. Samuella is English and Dutch.

3. Samuelita is Spanish.

4. Samuelette is English.

5. Samuelle is French and English.

6. Samulina is Faroese and Medieval English.

7. Samuline is Norwegian.

The many forms of Isaac

Isaac, like many other male Biblical names, has been rather popular in the U.S. in recent years. It entered the Top 100 in 1995, at #98, and has been in the Top 50 since 2001. Its most popular ranking to date came in 2013, when it was #29. Isaac has held steadily at #31 ever since.

The name is also very popular in Canada (#24), Australia (#14), England and Wales (#20), Mexico (#42), New Zealand (#30), Portugal (#40), Northern Ireland (a.k.a. Ireland by any other name) (#42), Scotland (#54), and Catalonia (#56). It’s additionally in the Top 100 in Spain (#82), France (#70), Chile (#70), and Ireland (#77).

Though my favourite of the Biblical Patriarchs is Jakob, I have a soft spot for Isaac. He’s kind of The Quiet One of the three Patriarchs, since he’s always passively acted on instead of acting in his own right, or copying things that already happened to his father (e.g., passing his wife off as his sister in Egypt, uncovering wells his father had dug).

Isaac means “to laugh,” from the Hebrew root tzachak. It was mostly a Jewish name in the English-speaking world until the Protestant Reformation. Famous bearers just about everyone has heard of were Sir Isaac Newton and the awesome writer Isaac Asimov.

This spelling is used in English, French, Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, and Spanish. Other forms of the name include:

1. Yitzchak is the original Hebrew form. Alternate transliterations are Yitzhak, Yitshak, Yitschak, Itzhak, Itshak, Itschak, and Itzchak. I love the cute nicknames Yitzi and Itzi. In the modern era, a very famous bearer was the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.

2. Isak is Scandinavian, Belarusian, Macedonian, Serbian, and Lao. The variation Ísak is Icelandic.

3. Isaak is German, Russian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Albanian, Esperanto, Greek, Mongolian,  and Ukrainian.

4. Izaäk is Dutch. Nicknames include Sjaak and Sjakie. The variation Izaak is Polish.

5. Izsák is Hungarian.

6. Iisakki is Finnish. Nicknames include Iikka and Iiro.

7. Izak is Slovenian and Croatian. The variation Izák is Czech and Slovak.

8. Izaokas is Lithuanian.

9. Ixaka is Basque.

10. Isxak (pronounced like Iskhak) is Tatar.

11. Ishoq is Uzbek.

12. Isaque is Brazilian–Portuguese.

13. Isaq is Ossetian and Uyghur.

14. Ishak is Arabic, Bosnian, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Bengali. The variation İshak (with a dot over the I) is Turkish.

15. Isaki is Ndebele, a Bantu language spoken in South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. This spelling is also used in Swahili. The variation Ísáki is Yoruba.

16. Ihaka is Maori.

17. Isac is Romanian and Portuguese.

18. Isacco is Italian.

19. Sahak, or Sahag (depending upon your form of the language), is modern Armenian.

20. Isahak is archaic Armenian, and considered a more scholarly form than Sahak.

21. Bonisac means “good Isaac” in Judeo–Provençal, a, Occitan dialect which sadly lost its last native speaker in 1977.

22. Higgin is a Medieval English diminutive. Another Medieval diminutive is Higg.

23. Itty is Malayalam, a language spoken in India. This may also be a form of Steven.

24. Jaziquet is Judeo–Provençal.

25. Saconet is also Judeo–Provençal.

26. Yeshak is Coptic.

27. Eisik is Yiddish. Another transliteration is Aizik.

28. Iisak is Estonian.

29. Ísakur is Faroese.

28. İshaq (with a dot on top of the I) is Azeri.

29. Isaakios is Greek.

30. Izarak is Haitian Creole.

31. Ixaj is Hmong.

32. Íosác is Irish.

33. Iskak is Javanese.

34. Aisak is Khmer.

35. Iskhaq is Kyrgyz.

36. Ysqaaq is also Kyrgyz.

37. Izaks is Latvian.

38. Aizeks is also Latvian.

39. Ițac is Romanian.

40. Iosag is Scottish.

41. Isxaaq is Somali.

42. Isaka is Swahili and Zulu.

43. Xịsæk is Thai.