Thursday, 5 April 2012

What a Difference a Letter Makes

File:Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant, 1872.jpg

One little letter can completely change how a name sounds, looks and feels. It can be the difference between being at the top of the charts or floating somewhere lower down, as is the case with Mia (#13) and Lia (#418). You may adore Sophia and dislike Sophie, or like Eva but not be on board with Ava. Such minute differences really do mean a lot when you are picking out a name. Below is a selection of names that are exactly the same with the exception of one letter. Rankings for the names were taken from the England&Wales statistics for 2010. If there are no rankings, the name was given to less than 3 children.


Aelia & Adelia
Aelia is the feminine form of a Roman family name, dating back to the 5th century BC, it derives from the Greek helios meaning 'sun'. An alternative spelling could be Ailia. Adelia (#5707) has achieved old lady status in Portugal and you would be hard pressed to find anyone by that name under the age of 40 or 50. It could be an elaborate form of Adela or a variation of Adelaide. Its meaning is therefore 'noble', and it is the name of a 19th century opera by Gaetano Donizetti.

Adina & Alina 
Adina (#1520) started off as a masculine name in the Old Testament but now is more commonly used as a feminine name. It is Hebrew and it means 'slender, delicate'. It is also the title of an 1826 opera by Rossini which debuted in Lisbon. Alina (#393) is an Arabic name, meaning 'noble', which has gained popularity in countries such as Austria and Slovenia.

Dalia & Dania
Dalia (#1125) could easily be confused with the more common Dahlia; however, it has different roots. It comes from the Hebrew for 'branch', but it is also the name of the Lithuanian goddess of fate. Dania (#1332) is a Spanish short form for Danielle or Daniella, meaning 'God is my judge'. 

Elva & Erva
Elva (#3533) is the Anglicized form of the Irish name Ailbhe, meaning 'white'. Alternatively, it may have Scandinavian roots as the feminine form of Alf, meaning 'elf'. Erva also shares Scandinavian roots as a short form for the Finnish name Onerva, which means 'the hay grown after harvesting'. To continue on with the nature theme, Erva is also the Portuguese word for 'grass'. 

Eligia & Ligia
Eligia (e-LEEG-yah) is a late Roman name, the feminine form of Eligius, meaning 'to choose'. Ligia, pronounced very similarly to the previous name, is the Portuguese form of Ligeia, a Greek name meaning 'clear-voiced'.


Bevan & Levan
Bevan (#3865) derives from a Welsh surname ap Evan, meaning 'son of Evan'. It seems to have gained some favour in New Zealand where a number of athletes bare the name. Levan (#4678) is also a surname, this time of French origins. It derives from 'vanier', meaning someone who was employed to deal with wheat.

Cade & Cale
Cade (#1082) has a number of possible meanings. It could derive from an Old English nickname meaning 'round', or it could come from the Middle English for a barrel. It may have been used as a nickname for someone with a sturdy appearance. Additionally, it was the name of a character in the classic Gone with the Wind. Cale (#2941) also has two possible meanings - it may stem from a Gaelic surname meaning 'slender', or it could be a short from of  Caleb, a Biblical Hebrew name meaning 'dog'.

Carran & Farran
Carran is the Anglicized form of a Gaelic surname meaning 'descendent of Corraidhin', which itself means 'little spear'. It is also the name of a village in County Clare, Ireland. Farran (#4678) is an English surname derived from the French ferrant meaning 'iron grey'. And it too happens to be a village in County Cork, Ireland.

Delwyn & Elwyn
Delwyn (#4678), which is Welsh, is often categorised as a masculine name; however, its meaning 'pretty and white' has meant that it has also been borne by women, such as female cricketer, Delwyn Brownlee. But it is nevertheless still used as a masculine name, with the likes of baseball player Delwyn Young carrying the name. Maybe we should file this one under unisex. And the same could be said for Elwyn (#3332). The name is a variant of Alvin, which itself may have a number of origins and meanings including 'elf friend', 'noble friend' and 'old friend'. Having a quick look through some forums, it is clear that Elwyn has been embraced as a unisex name.

Fane & Tane
Fane is a Romanian diminutive of Stefan, the Romanian form of Stephen, which derives from a Greek name meaning 'crown'. It may also be a medieval nickname for a happy individual. Furthermore, Fane was  the surname of the Earls of Westmorland. Tane (#2036) has very different roots - it comes from the Maori word for 'man'. In Polynesian mythology, Tane was the god of lightning and forests.

Image: Impression, Sunrise by Monet.