All about Arthur

Stan Laurel (né Arthur Stanley Jefferson),
16 June 1890–23 February 1965

To mark the 55th Jahrzeit (death anniversary) of dear Stan Laurel, I’m shining the spotlight on his birth forename, Arthur. I love this timeless, classic name that works on any fellow of any age, from any background. If I’d been born male, I think Arthur would’ve been the perfect name for me.

Arthur’s etymology is unknown, though there are two posited meanings, the obscure Roman family name Artorius, or Celtic roots artos (bear) and viros (man) or rigos (king). The name is used in English, French, German, Dutch, and the Scandinavian languages. It rose to popularity in the Middle Ages thanks to legends about King Arthur, who probably wasn’t a real person (though he may have been based on real people).

Arthur was #14 in the U.S. in 1880, when name records were first collected. It alternated between #14 and #15 till 1904, and remained in the Top 20 till 1926, the Top 50 till 1953, and the Top 100 till 1969. The year I was born, it was #143. In recent years, it’s been on a gradual rise. Arthur was #229 in 2018.

The name is also popular in Belgium (#1), France (#7), England and Wales (#7), Denmark (#17), Northern Ireland (#21), Switzerland (#42), Scotland (#46), New Zealand (#63), and Ireland (#73).

Tapestry of King Arthur, ca. 1385

Other forms of this lovely name include:

1. Artur is Slavic, Estonian, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Armenian, Albanian, Uzbek, Turkish, Ossetian, Romanian, Scandinavian, and Basque. It’s currently #40 in Portugal, #49 in Poland. The alternate form Artúr is Slovak, Hungarian, and Irish.

2. Arturo is Spanish and Italian.

3. Artturi is Finnish. Nicknames include Arttu and Arto.

4. Artair is Scottish.

5. Artūrs is Latvian.

6. Arzhur is Breton.

7. Arturi is Georgian and Albanian.

8. Arthouros is Greek.

9. Artūras is Lithuanian.

10. Arturu is Maltese.

Italian–American political activist and poet Arturo Giovannitti, 1884–1959

11. Èrthu is Norman and Jèrriais.

12. Tuur is Limburgish.

13. Artús is Occitan and Asturian.

Female forms:

1. Arturiana is Romanian.

2. Artura is a rare English, Spanish, and Italian form. The alternate form Artūra is Lithuanian.

3. Arthurine is French.

4. Arthurina is English.

5. Arthuria is English.

6. Artha is English.

7. Artūrė is Lithuanian.

A name that fathered multitudes

Last known photo of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln alive

Abraham, a name many consider extremely old-fashioned, stodgy, geriatric, and/or religious, has never been quite as unpopular as its image suggests. While it’s never been Top 100 in the U.S. since records began being kept in 1880, it’s never sunk below #499 in 1967 either. Its highest rank to date was #124 in 1911. Abraham is currently on a surprising, gradual up-and-up, ranking at #164 in 2018.

The name is used in English, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, and the Scandinavian languages. The alternate form Ábrahám is Hungarian, and Ábraham is Faroese.. Its original form is the Hebrew Avraham (father of many/multitudes). While it’s long been popular in the Jewish world, it didn’t become common in Christendom till the Protestant Reformation.

Because Avraham and his wife Sarah were the founders of the Jewish nation, all converts’ Hebrew names end in bat/ben Avraham v’Sarah. Since we don’t have Jewish parents, the original parents of our nation become our symbolic parents.

Kurdish writer and politician Ibrahim Ahmad, 1914–2000

Other forms of the name include:

1. Avrum is Yiddish.

2. Aabraham is Finnish.

3. Aapo is another Finnish form.

4. Abram is Russian and Georgian.

5. Abraam is Georgian.

6. Abraão is Portuguese.

7. Ibrahim is Arabic, Albanian, Bosnian, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Dhivehi (a language spoken in the Maldives). The alternate form İbrahim is Azeri and Turkish, and Îbrahîm is Kurdish.

8. Ebrahim is Persian and Arabic.

9. Ibragim is Chechen and Ossetian.

10. Abramo is Italian.

U.S. General Abram Duryée (1815–90), who served in the Union Army in the Civil War

11. Bram is Dutch and English. Like many modern Dutch names, this too began as a nickname.

12. Braam is Limburgish and Dutch.

13. Ebrima is Western African.

14. Ibrahima is also Western African.

15. Brahim is Maghrebi Arabic, a dialect spoken in North Africa.

16. Aaprahami, or Aaprahammi, is Finnish.

17. Abrahán is Spanish.

18. Abraomas is Lithuanian.

19. Abreham is Ethiopian.

20. Âbréhan is Jèrriais.

Israeli soldier Avraham Avigdorov (1929–2012), recipient of the Hero of Israel award (now the Medal of Valour), in 1949

21. Âparâme is Greenlandic.

22. Ápparan is Sami.

23. Avraam is Romanian and modern Greek.

24. Avrom is Yiddish.

25. Brāhēm is Balochi, a language spoken in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

26. Ebәrham is Abkhaz.

27. Ibraahiim, or Ibraahim, is Somali.

28. Ibrahimu is Hausa, a language spoken in northern Nigeria.

29. Iprakhim is Chuvash.

30. Obran is Mordvin.

Irish writer Bram Stoker (1847–1912), best-known as the author of Dracula

31. Ôbróm is Kashubian.

32. Habraham is a rare Latin American–Spanish and French–African form.

Female forms:

1. Abra is English. This is also the Latin word for “maid.”

2. Avra is Hebrew. I’ve always really liked this name.

3. Abrahamina is Swedish. I’m not a fan of this one!

4. Abrahamine is Norwegian. I don’t like this one either.

5. Abarrane may be an obscure feminine form of Abraham. Its etymology is unknown.

The many forms of Joshua

Archangel Michael appearing to Joshua, 18th century

Joshua is the very popular English form of Hebrew name Yehoshua (God is salvation). The original form of the Biblical Joshua’s name was Hoshea (salvation), from the root yasha. In its various forms, Joshua has long been common in the Jewish world, though it didn’t become common in the Anglophone world till the Protestant Reformation.

The name was #211 in the U.S. in 1880, when records began being kept, and was consistently low-ranking during the ensuing decades. Its lowest position was #729 in 1929. Then, in the Fifties, Joshua began slowly creeping up the charts, and went from #530 in 1951 to #79 in 1971. Some years it jumped more than fifty ranks. It entered the Top 10 in 1979, at #9, and stayed in the Top 10 till 2009. In 2018, it was #41, part of a slow downward drop.

Joshua is also popular in England and Wales (#15), New Zealand (#20), Scotland (#30), Ireland (#50), and The Netherlands (#91).

Self-portrait of British painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–92), ca. 1748

Other forms of the name include:

1. Jozua is Dutch.

2. Józsua is Hungarian.

3. Ikoua is Hawaiian.

4. Giosuè is Italian and Sicilian.

5. Josu is Basque.

6. Josué is French, Portuguese, and Spanish. The variant Josuè is Catalan.

7. Xesús is Galician.

8. Isa is Arabic. Alternate transliterations are Essa and Issa. The variant form İsa is Turkish.

9. Yusha is also Arabic.

10. Jesús is Spanish. As odd as this name looks on a normal person in English, the J is pronounced like an H. It’s very common in the Spanish-speaking world, not considered sacrilegious like it is in English and many other languages. Most languages keep the names Jesus and Joshua separate for that very reason.

Joshua Slocum (1844–1909), first person to sail alone around the world

11. Iyassu is Ethiopian.

12. Joosua is Finnish.

13. Joschua is German.

14. Josua is also German. The alternate form Jošua is Croatian.

15. Josuo is Esperanto.

16. Josva is Danish and Norwegian.

17. Jozue is Czech and Slovak, typically only used in reference to the Biblical Joshua. This form is also Slovenian and Polish. The alternate form Jozuė is Lithuanian.

18, Xosué is Galician.

19. Isus is Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Serbian.

20. Iisus is Russian and Chuvash.

U.S. baseball player Josh Gibson (1911–1947), widely considered one of the best power hitters and catchers in history

21. Iosua is Romanian. The alternate form Iósua is Irish.

22. Yushai is Chechen.

23. Yoşua is Azeri

24. Yuşa is Turkish.

25. Yoshua is Swahili.

26. Josoa is Malagasy.

27. Isu is Georgian.

Female forms:

1. Jesusa is Spanish.

2. Josune is Basque.

3. Joshuelle is a rare English form. I strongly dislike this name! It looks and sounds like a forced feminisation of a name that already doesn’t lend itself well to feminine forms.

4. Joshuette is another rare English form. I’m not a fan of this one either.

Names symbolic of short life

Content Warning: This post is about names befitting stillborns, infants with very short lives, and miscarriages.

I know this is a depressing, macabre topic no one should ever have to deal with, but fetal and neonatal deaths are an unavoidable fact of life. And as always, these names can also be used for fictional characters. I’ve used some of them for my own characters.

Though traditional Jewish Law dictates stillborns and infants who live less than 30 days shouldn’t be named or have Kaddish recited for them, I find it very meaningful to give such a child a simple but symbolic name. When I asked one of my rabbis about this, he said he’d never tell grieving parents not to say Kaddish for their dear baby, no matter what custom dictates.

Other traditions have different outlooks, and individuals of any faith or culture should make their own decisions. God forbid this should ever happen to me if I’m blessed with biological children before time runs out, but if it did, I’d opt against the name I’d previously chosen and instead use one of the following names, with the understanding this child would never be called that. A name that might seem corny or pretentious on a living child is transformed into something haunting and beautiful on one who was born asleep or barely lived.

Unless otherwise noted, all names ending in vowels are female, and all names ending in consonants are male.

Amala means “pure, clean” in Sanskrit.

Angel is rather self-explanatory.

Atropos (F) was the oldest the Three Fates, the one who cut the thread. Her Roman version was Morta.

Bedisa means “fate” in Georgian.

Blessing is self-explanatory.

Bracha means “blessing” in Hebrew. The male form is Baruch.

Clotho was one of the Three Fates, the one who spins the thread of Life. Her Roman version was Nona.

Dalisay (F) means “pure” in Tagalog.

Destiny is self-explanatory. This name has such a different image when used on a stillborn or someone who died in early infancy.

Faith is self-explanatory.

Glenda was created in the 20th century from Welsh elements glan (clean, pure) and da (good).

Heimarmene was the Greek goddess of the Fate of the Universe. The name may be derived from the verb meiresthai (to receive as one’s lot), from which the word moira (destiny, fate) also derives.

Hypnos was the Greek god of sleep, described as very kind, gentle, and calm. His Roman version was Somnus.

Inmaculada means “immaculate” in Spanish, after the Immaculate Conception. Other forms include Imaculada (Portuguese), Immaculata (Irish), Immacolata (Italian), and Immaculada (Catalan)

Innocent derives from the Latin Innocentius, ultimately from innocens (innocent). Other forms include Innocenzo (Italian), Innokentiy (Russian), Inocencio (Spanish), Innocenty (Polish), Innozenz (German), Inocentas (Lithuanian), Innocenz (German), Inocent (Croatian), and Inocenţiu (Romanian).

Female forms are Innokentiya (Russian, Bulgarian), Iñoskentze (Basque), Innocentia (Latin), Innocència (Catalan), Innocenta (Polish), Inocencia (Spanish, Portuguese), and Innocentja (Polish).

Juvenal means “youthful” in Latin, from original form Iuvenalis.

Kader (F) means “destiny, fate” in Turkish.

Kiyoshi (M) means “pure” in Japanese.

Lachesis (F) was one of the Three Fates, the one responsible for measuring the thread and determining length of life. Her Roman counterpart is Decima.

Memoria means “memory” in Italian.

Mneme means “memory” in Greek. She was one of the original Three Muses.

Mnemosyne was the Greek goddess of remembrance. Other forms include Mnemosina (Russian, Macedonian, Serbian, Tatar, Ukrainian, Azeri, Basque), Mnemosine (Italian, Portuguese), Mnémoszüné (Hungarian), Mnemozina (Bulgarian, Bosnian, Croatian), Mnemósine (Spanish, Asturian, Catalan), Mnemozino (Esperanto), Mnemasina (Belarusian), Mnēmosine (Latvian), Mnemosinė (Lithuanian), Mnemosin (Piedmontese), and Mnemosune (Afrikaans).

Neshama means “soul” in Hebrew. A diminutive form is Neshamaleh.

Oroitz means “memory” in Basque.

Peace is self-explanatory.

Pepromene was the Greek goddess of one’s individual fate. The name may derive from the verb peprosthai (to be fated, finished, fulfilled) or the noun pepratosthai (finite).

Qismat means “fate” in Arabic. This name is female in Sanskrit (Qismet) and Turkish (Kismet).

Remember, Remembrance. Though these were unisex names in Puritan times, Remember in particular has always sounded more feminine to me.

Safi (M) means “pure” in Arabic. The feminine forms are Safiya, Safiyyah (Arabic) and Safiye (Turkish).

Shalom means “peace” in Hebrew. This is a unisex name.

Syntyche means “common fate” in Greek.

Tahira means “pure, chaste, virtuous” in Arabic. In Turkish, it’s spelt Tahire. The male Arabic and Turkish form is Tahir.

Thuần means “pure, simple, clean” in Vietnamese.

Zachriel, Zechariel, Zachariel is the archangel who leads souls to judgment in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

Zaha means “pure, innocent, fresh, clean, clear” in Hebrew.

Zakiyya, Zakiya, Zakiah means “pure” in Arabic. The male form is Zaki. In Tatar and Bashkir, it’s spelt Zäki. The Hebrew form is Zakkai, Zakai, Zakay.

A name that arose from the earth

Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855), one of Poland’s great national poets, painted 1828 by Józef Oleszkiewicz

Adam means “man” in Hebrew, and may ultimately derive from the Akkadian word adamu (to make), the Hebrew word adamah (earth), or the almost-identical Hebrew word ‘adam (to be red; i.e., a reference to a ruddy complexion). All these etymologies obviously are very symbolic, given Adam is the name of the first man in the Biblical creation story.

The name is also used in English, German, French, Dutch, Georgian, Arabic, Catalan, Romanian, and the Scandinavian and Slavic languages. The variation Ádám is Hungarian; Ádam is Faroese; and Âdam is Jèrriais.

Adam has long been common in the Jewish world, but it didn’t become popular in Christendom till the Middle Ages. After the Protestant Reformation, it became even more popular. The name has been in the U.S. Top 500 since 1880, and began vaulting up the charts in the 1950s. It went from #428 in 1954 to #71 in 1970. Adam attained its highest rank of #18 in 1983 and 1984.

The name has remained in the Top 100 since. In 2018, it was #78. Adam is also #2 in Belgium, #3 in the Czech Republic (as of 2016), #5 in Hungary and France, #6 in Sweden, #9 in Ireland, #11 in Poland, #16 in Catalonia (as of 2016), #17 in The Netherlands, #18 in Northern Ireland (which hopefully soon will be reunified with the rest of Ireland), #24 in Scotland, #25 in Denmark, #36 in England and Wales, #39 in Israel (as of 2016), #40 in Norway, #41 in Spain, #43 in NSW, Australia, #44 in Slovenia, #50 in Switzerland and Austria, #51 in British Columbia, Canada, #55 in Italy, and #96 in New Zealand.

Adam was the name of one of my great-great-grandfathers, the father of the only great-grandfather I have memories of. Judging from the vintage newspaper stories I’ve found about him, he was quite the local character!

Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723–1790), author of one of the most boring books ever written, The Wealth of Nations

Other forms include:

1. Adamo is Italian.

2. Adán is Spanish.

3. Adão is Portuguese.

4. Ádhamh is Irish.

5. Aatami is Finnish.

6. Adomas is Lithuanian.

7. Akamu is Hawaiian.

8. Aadam is Estonian.

9. Aaden is Somali.

10. Adami is Greenlandic and old-fashioned Georgian.

11. Ādams is Latvian.

12. Adamu is Swahili, Amharic, and Hausa.

13. Adda is Welsh, though I’d avoid this in an Anglophone area. Unfortunately, many boys with names ending in A are teased, and there’s no saving grace of this being a widely-known male name like Nikita or Ilya.

14. Aden is Romansh.

15. Ārama is Maori.

16. Âtame is Greenlandic.

17. Áttán is Sami.

18. Hadam is Sorbian.

19. Jadóm is Kashubian.

20. Odam is Uzbek.

21. Adem is Turkish.

22. Y-adam is a rare Vietnamese form.

Feminine forms:

1. Adamina is English, Polish, and Romani.

2. Adama is Hebrew and English.

3. Adamella is a rare, modern English form. I’m really not keen on this name! Some names don’t naturally lend themselves to feminine versions, and look forced.

4. Adamia is English.