Friday, 4 May 2012

Name Loves: Fabulous Russians

File:Vasnetsov Frog Princess.jpg

It seems that every week I fall in love with a new name, but a fortnight ago I fell in love with a whole bunch of 'em. First my heart belonged to the Scandinavians, now the Russians are taking over, and boy are they bringing some great names with them. My new admiration for Russian female names stems partly from the fact that they are slightly more complex than Western ones. Every Russian woman has a patronymic name (the father's first name with an -ovna) as a middle-name, and an -ova/eva is also added to the end of their surname. If all of that wasn't enough, Russian female names don't exactly have nicknames; rather they have short forms, which change  depending on how familiar someone is, their connection to the person, and their age. For a more extensive explanation, please check out this link (and try to ignore that it's part of Russian bride website...)


(ah-GLIGH-ah) The Russian form of Aglaia, it means 'splendour, beauty' or 'shining one' in Greek. In Greek mythology Aglaia was one of the three daughters of Zeus and Eunomia. With her two sisters, Euphrosyne and Thalia, they were known as the Three Graces.


(ah-leek-SAHN-drah) Alexandra is a top 100 name in England & Wales (#97 in 2010) but the Russian spelling has become more common. Its use has skyrocketed in the last five year. in 2005 it was given to 18 but by 2010 it was given to 164, which means that it went from being ranked #1295 to #292. This may well be because many Eastern Europeans now call England & Wales their home, or perhaps it's just about people looking for an alternative way to make an old classic more 'unique'. Aleksandra's traditional Russian short forms add another level of appeal. Forget Alexa or Lexi, it's all about Shura, Sasha and Sashka.


(ah-LYO-nah) Alyona, or Aliona, is technically a diminutive of the Russian form of the Greek name Helen, Yelena, meaning 'torch' or 'moon'. However, it's been used as a bona fide name and it has its own short forms, with Alya, Alenka and Lena among them. The name has become more well known here in England because of the Strictly Come Dancing professional Aliona Vilani.


(ahn-tah-NEE-nah) Unsurprisingly it shares its roots with the more familiar Antonia, but surprisingly they are not all that far away from each other in the charts - Antonia was given to 74 babies in 2010 and Antonina to 40, which is a smaller difference that perhaps would be expected. They both come from the Roman family name Antonius, of which Mark Anthony was a member of. Its possible meaning is 'priceless'. The Russian diminutives are Tonya, Toni and Nina.


The Russian form of Daria derives from the Persian name Dārayavahush, meaning 'to possess good'. It is one of the most popular female names in Russia, and it's easy to see why. Dasha is its most commonly used short form.


(ee-REE-nah) A cognate of Irene, it derives from the Greek Eirene meaning 'peace'. Although by no means popular, Irina did see some use in 2010 with 12 babies being given the name that year. One of the established diminutives is Ira, usually seen as a masculine name, and Irusha. Variant forms include Iryna and Arina, which has the sweet diminutive of Arisha


(lee-zah-VYE-tah) Elizabeth is a much loved and timeless classic, but Lizaveta really packs a punch. This is no wilted wallflower. As the short form of the more elaborate Yelizaveta, it comes from the Hebrew name Elisheva meaning 'my God is an oath'. Lizaveta was not used in 2010 but Elizaveta was given to 7 babies. Just like with Elizabeth, it could have a number of nicknames, but the usual Russian short form is Liza, which I would assume is pronounce somewhat like Lisa.


The feminine form of the Roman family name Marinus, it wears its meaning on its sleeve. It comes from the Latin word marinus meaning 'of the sea'. It has seen continuous and steady, albeit modest, use since the England & Wales statistics were started in 1996, peaking in 1997 when it was given to 61 babies. One of the most attractive aspects of Marina is the wonderful Russian short forms of Rina, Marisha and Mariska. 


A Late Latin name meaning 'Christmas Day'. With a Y she ranks somewhere outside the top 1000 but Natalia, the more common spelling, ranks at #141, making it the most popular name of this list. Often used Russian short forms include Nata, Natasha and Natusik. 


(Ah-LYEH-sya) Of uncertain meaning, it could be a variant of the Greek name Olesia, which is itself a short form of Aleksandra, or it could be a variant of Olga, meaning 'holy'. According to this source, the name could have the very nice meaning of 'forest girl'. Two of the short forms used with Olesya are Lesya and Lesenka.

Image: The Frog Princess by Viktor Vasnetsov.