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.

Slavic flower names

As promised, here’s a list of Slavic names primarily beginning with the roots Cvet-, Kvet-, and Tsvet-. This element means “flower” in the Slavic languages.

Female:

Cveta is Serbian.

Cvetana is Serbian and Croatian.

Cvetka is Slovenian.

Cvijeta is Serbian and Croatian.

Cvijetka, Cvita, Cvitana, and Cvitka are Croatian.

Cvjetana is Serbian and Croatian.

Cvjetislava means “flower glory” in Croatian. Another form is Cvjetoslava.

Cvjetka is Serbian and Croatian.

Květa is Czech, and Kveta is Slovak. This can either be a nickname or full name.

Květoslava means “flower glory” in Czech. The Slovak form is Kvetoslava. Květuše is a Czech diminutive.

Kvitoslava is Ukrainian.

Tsveta, Tsvetana, and Tsvetelina are Bulgarian. A nickname is Tsvetanka.

Tsvetomira means “flower peace” and “flower world” in Bulgarian, though the first element may also derive from tsvyat (colour) and thus mean “colour of peace.”

Male:

Cvetan and Cvetin are Macedonian, Serbian, and Croatian.

Cvetko is Slovenian.

Cvijetko, Cvijeto, Cvitan, and Cvitko are Croatian.

Cvjetan and Cvjetko are Serbian and Croatian.

Cvjetislav is Croatian. Another form is Cvjetoslav.

Květoslav is Czech. The Slovak form is Kvetoslav.

Kvitoslav is Ukrainian.

Tsvetan and Tsvetko are Bulgarian.

Tsvetomir means “flower peace” and “flower world” in Bulgarian.

When Y replaces I

Another of my favourite onomastic letter swaps is that of I for Y. This occurs in many Polish and Ukrainian names, and is an easy way to spot a Polish name in particular. I also love when this switch occurs at the beginning of a name. It’s so unexpected, and really adds a special something to make a name truly stand out. When Y occurs as the first letter, it tends to be in older Spanish and French names, though a few are also Dutch and Scandinavian.

Some fellow name nerds, who often act more like name snobs, might think this looks illiterate and/or like a kreatyv spylyng, but that attitude just reveals how narrow their view is. A legitimate spelling variation may have been chosen because the parents wanted to honour their ethnic heritage or a particular person by that name. Perhaps they also just liked how it looked.

Besides, many of these names aren’t exactly in the Top 100. I don’t think anyone choosing them, in any spelling, is trying to be trendy.

Female:

Albertyna

Augustyna

Beatrycze is the only female Polish name ending in E.

Benedykta

Brygida

Cecylia

Celestyna

Edyta

Ernestyna

Eryka

Felicyta

Florentyna

Fryderyka

Geraldyna

Halyna

Henryka

Iryna

Izydora, Isydora

Judyta

Justyna

Kateryna, Katarzyna, Kataryna

Klarysa

Klementyna

Krystyna, Khrystyna, Krystiana

Larysa

Lucyna

Marharyta

Martyna

Maryna

Matylda

Mykhayla, Mykhaila

Myroslava

Otylia

Patrycja

Rozyna

Sybilla

Sydonia

Ulryka

Valentyna, Walentyna

Vasylyna

Władysława

Ydoya is a variant of the Spanish Idoya, which may mean “pond” in Basque.

Ygraine is a variant of Igraine, King Arthur’s mother. It was used in the BBC series Merlin (2008–12).

Ylane

Yleana

Ylenia

Ylse

Ymbjørg is a regional Norwegian form of Ingeborg, which means “Ing saves/helps/rescues.”

Ynez, Ynes, Ynès

Yngva

Yngveig

Yngvil, Yngvill (Ing’s battle)

Yngvör, Yngvor (Ing’s spring)

Ysabeau

Ysabella

Ysabelle, Ysabel, Ysbal

Ysabet

Ysaline

Ysanda

Ysanne

Ysemay

Ysentrud means “iron strength” in Ancient Germanic.

Yseult, Ysolt, Yseut

Ysidra

Ysmaine

Ysoria

Yvaine

Yveline

Yveta, Yvetta

Yvette

Yvonne

Yvonni

Ywona

Yxta

Yzavela

Zozyma

Zygfryda

Zyta

Male:

Alaryk

Augustyn

Benedykt

Borys

Bożydar

Celestyn

Cyryl

Davyd

Denys

Dmytro

Eryk

Ferdynand

Floryn, Florentyn

Fryderyk

Gavrylo

Henryk

Izydor

Justyn

Klymentiy

Korbyn

Kostyantyn

Kryspin, Kryspinian, Kryspus

Krystyn, Krystian

Krzysztof

Kyrylo

Maksym

Maksymilian

Martyn

Maurycy

Mykhayil, Mykhaylo, Mykhailo

Mykola is the Ukrainian form of Nikolas.

Mykyta is the Ukrainian form of Niketas.

Narcyz

Patryk

Pylyp is the Ukrainian form of Philip.

Roderyk

Ryszard

Seweryn

Spyrydon

Szymon

Tymon

Tymoteusz

Tytus

Ulryk

Valentyn

Vasyl

Volodymyr is the Ukrainian form of Vladimir.

Władysław

Ygnacio

Ylan, Ylann

Ymbert

Yngvar

Yngve

Ysbert is the West Frisian form of Isbert, which means “bright ice” in Ancient Germanic.

Ysbrand means “iron wolf” and “ice wolf” in Dutch. The West Frisian forms are Ysbrân and Yssebrand.

Ysidro

Yves

Yvo

Yvor

Zygfryd

Zygmunt

The many forms of Gabriel and Gabriella

Gabriel entered the U.S. Top 100 in 1976, at #81, and stayed near the lower reaches of the chart till falling out in 1988. It re-entered at #82 in 1991, and began steadily climbing up the charts. Its highest position to date has been #21, in 2010. As of 2016, it was #25.

The name is also rather popular in France (#1), Switzerland (#4), Romania (#4), Belgium (#11), Portugal (#11), Croatia (#19), Chile (#19), Galicia (#25), Canada (#27), Italy (#27), Mexico (#35), Iceland (#37), Austria (#38), Spain (#39), Sweden (#42), Poland (#46), Norway (#47), Catalonia (#55), Slovenia (#66), England and Wales (#67), Australia (#78), New Zealand (#89), and the Czech Republic (#92).

This spelling is used in English, French, Finnish, the Scandinavian languages, Slovak, Czech, German, Georgian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish. The alternate form Gabriël is Dutch, Gábriel is Hungarian, and Gabríel is Icelandic.

Gabrielle, one of the feminine forms, is English and French. In France, it’s #74, and in the U.S., it’s fallen to #225, after peaking at #46 in 1999. The alternate form Gabriëlle is Dutch.

Gabriella is English, Hungarian, Swedish, and Italian. In the U.S., it’s #61, down from a peak of #33 from 2009–11. The alternate form Gabriëlla is Dutch, and Gabríella is Icelandic.

Gabriela is Polish, Bulgarian, Slovak, Czech, German, Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese, and Croatian. It’s #8 in Romania, #19 in Poland, #29 in Portugal, #30 in the Czech Republic, #36 in Croatia, #50 in Mexico, #56 in Chile, #73 in Spain, and #252 in the U.S. The alternate form Gabríela is Icelandic.

Other forms include:

Male:

1. Gabriels is Latvian.

2. Gabrielius is Lithuanian.

3. Gavriel is the original Hebrew. It means “God is my strong man.”

4. Gavrel is Yiddish.

5. Gavriil is Russian.

6. Gavril is Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Romanian.

7. Gavrail is Bulgarian.

8. Gábor is Hungarian.

9. Gavrilo is Serbian. This form was famously borne by Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and started the First World War.

10. Gabrijel is Slovenian and Croatian.

11. Havryyil is Ukrainian.

12. Kaapo is Finnish. An alternate form is Kaappo.

13. Kaapro is also Finnish.

14. Gabriele is Italian.

15. Jabril is Arabic.

16. Jibril is also Arabic.

17. Dzhabrail is Chechen.

18. Cabbrieli is Sicilian.

19. Djibril is Western African.

20. Džibril is Bosnian.

21. Cebraîl is Kurdish.

22. Cəbrayil is Azeri.

23. Crabiele is Sardinian.

24. Gabirel is Basque.

25. Gabrielo is Esperanto.

26. Gābriyēl is Telugu.

27. Kapriel is Armenian.

28. Gabriyel is also Armenian.

29. Gaibrial is Irish.

30. Gavrylo is Ukrainian.

31. Gēbriyal is Kannadan.

32. Gēbriyala is Hindi and Gujarati.

33. Habryyel is Belarusian.

34. Haŭryil is also Belarusian.

35. Jebreil is Persian.

36. Jiboraeel is Bengali.

37. Jibriil is Somali.

38. Kapeliela is Hawaiian.

39. Kâpriale is Greenlandic.

40. Kēpriyal is Tamil.

41. Xhebraili is Albanian. The XH sound is pronounced like the J in Jupiter.

42. Zibrail is Sylheti.

43. Cebrail is Turkish.

Female:

1. Gavriela, or Gavriella, is Hebrew.

2. Gavrilla is an alternate Hebrew form.

3. Gavrela is Yiddish.

4. Havyryyila is Ukrainian.

5. Kaapriella is Finnish.

6. Gabrielė is Lithuanian.

7. Gabriele is German.

8. Gabrijela is Croatian.

9. Gavrila is Romanian. An alternate form is Gavrilă.

Pumpkin names

Continuing with the theme of Halloween names, here’s a list of words meaning “pumpkin.” Most of these aren’t used as names in their respective languages of origin, and so might work better on a pet or fictional character. Some, however, might work as names on real humans.

I left out words that didn’t sound so much like they could double as names. For example, the Korean word “hobag” would NOT be a good idea in an Anglophone country!

Bostan is Romanian.

Calabaza is Spanish.

Carbassa is Catalan.

Kabak is Turkish and Ukrainian.

Kabocha is Japanese.

Kaddi is Nepali.

Kaddu is Hindi.

Kadu is Tajik.

Kalabasa is Cebuano, an Austronesian language spoken in The Philippines. This is also the Filipino word.

Kalabaza is Basque.

Kara Safra is one of the Arabic words for pumpkin. In this case, it literally means “yellow gourd.”

Kukurbo is Esperanto.

Nangua is Mandarin Chinese.

Taub is Hmong. This is a female name.

Tikva is Bosnian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian. This is an entirely separate name from the Hebrew name Tikva(h), which means “hope.”

Tykva is Russian.