Friday, 26 October 2012

The Brazilian Way

File:Jean Baptiste Debret - Olinda, c. 1820-30.jpg

I was reading an article from a while back about the most popular names in Brazil. Not most popular in 2011, but most popular, period. It was no surprise to see Maria and José take the top spots - it was actually very expected - but as I scrolled down the list I was a bit baffled. These names were far, far too tame. You see, I've had a lot of experience with Brazilians, and I've been to Brazil. I know for a fact that, after the Americans, Brazilians are probably the other nationality that get very imaginative when it comes to baby names. They take risks, they get creative, they do mush-ups, they borrow from other cultures and, sometimes, they out-right make up their children's names. And they do it big.

To really find out what kind of names there are in Brazil there is an obvious place to look: baby announcements. Now, Brazil is a huge country and there are large regional differences, which has to be kept in mind, but I'm not even going to attempt to touch that subject. I've looked at only one newspaper, because a. there are so many babies born in Brazil and b. Brazil has a heck of a lot of newspapers - I would spend years looking through them all. The newspaper I chose was Journal Pioneiro simply because it has a very good announcement section. It reports on the births in Caxias do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul, in the south of Brazil.

The baby announcements differ somewhat from those found in Australian, English and American newspapers: siblings' names are often not included, but the parents' full names are. Most Brazilians have more surnames than they do given names, so usually there is only one name to report on. This means that they are on hand less exciting, but on the other hand, it also gives us an insight into the names of an earlier generation. And that's when it gets fun.  For this post, I will be focusing on the girls' names only.


The Brasil Baby Center calculated the most popular Brazilian names. We find the usual suspects, including Isabella and Isabelle, but I came across Isabelly, with its very Brazilian sound, with far more frequency in the birth announcements. Other names that stood out because of their number of uses were the following:

Júlia (Giulia) 
Isadora - This was by far the one I came across the most 
Luiza
Laura
Vitória
Manuela
Eduarda
Rafaela
 
Just because Brazilians like to walk on the creative side, it doesn't mean that they don't also use the traditional. When I visited Brazil in the 90s (it was a long stay), Ana Paula was the big name combo on the block, but now it seems that Ana Julia has overtaken it. Other combinations spotted were:

Ana Karolina 
Ana Beatriz 
Ana Lidia
Ana Laura
Ana Sophia 
Ana Luiza

'Maria combos' are also very popular in Brazil. The one I came across the most was Maria Eduarda, but others encountered included: 

Maria Clara  
Maria Rita  
Maria Valentina
Maria Alice 

One aspect of Brazilian baby naming that has always fascinated me is the fact that they love to put an -ly at the end of most names. If a name naturally has an L in its last syllable, you can bet that it will quickly get an -ly or -li added on. They are so popular that Emanuelly and Garbrielly are both currently in the top 40.

Emanuelly
Manueli 
Isabelly
Gabrielly (Gabrielli)
Grazielly
Camilly (Camilli and Kamilly)
Andrieli
Anabeli
Mariely
Milleny 
Rafaelly
Vitoria Emanuelly  
Andressa Gabrielly 

The creative spelling isn't something that happens just in English. The Brazilians are at it, too, and some of the results are quite interesting:

Dhuli Luhisa  
Aghata Mycaella 
Hellena 
Sthefany
Sthefanye
Byanca
Karlla 
Izabelly  
Natiele
Frantchesca

Although you will be hard pressed to find a Portuguese word with the letter K (most are foreign imports), it seems that substituting a C with a K has also taken hold of Brazil. The only K name in the top 100 is Kamilly (#73), but the birth announcements are littered with them: 

Karolina 
Karoline
Kimberley
Karlla (Karla)
Kyara 
Kellen
Kauani 
Ketlyn 
Katrielly Danúbia   

The big consonant of the moment seems to be the romantic sounding L; the birth announcements showed that quite a few girls born in Caxias do Sul left the hospital with a name beginning with it. This would correspond quite well with the national statistics, which shows that many Brazilian parents are opting for a name that begins with this popular consonant. Here are some of the finds:
  
Luana
Luara
Luna
Laís
Lidia
Laura
Larissa 
Luiza Viana
Lara Sofy
Lavínia  
Lívia
Laysla
Larrana

Another sound that is attracting Brazilian parents to certain names is the -ara ending. This small trend is nowhere near as obvious as the -ly and -li one, but it occurred with enough frequency that it warrants a mention. These were the names that popped up with the -ara element: 

Maiara
Nayara 
Yara
Lara
Luara

Other names had links to Brazilian tribes, or to the indigenous people, and their languages. These names were not found in great quantity, but their unusualness made them stand out:

Thaina - A variant of Taina, from the Tupi language, meaning 'star'

Taiane - Another variant of Taina
Maiara - Also a Tupi name, meaning 'wise'
Itauany - A variant of Itauna, meaning 'dark stone'
Kauani - A variant of Kuana, meaning 'sweet perfume'

The was a lot variety, which is great to see, and some names that don't necessarily fit in with the few trends mentioned above. I've listed the remaining names I encountered, most which only appeared in one or two announcements, and I have included a ranking if there is one.

Thalita Karolina
Gloria Maria 
Milena (#54)
Melina
Diovana
Yasmin (#12)
Bibiane
Brizeis
Maithê (#90) 
Jenaina 
Esmy 
Tamara 
Cecília (#50) 
Anelise
Heloisa (#35)
Emanuela
Pietra (#52)
Eloiza
Paola
Marjorie 
Raiane 
Marcele 
Juany

And, lastly, because you don't often find siblings' names included in the announcements, here are a few that did have them: 

Alice, sister to Alane
Frantchesca, sister to João Pedro
Brenda, sister to Bruna 
Ester, sister to Bruna & Manoel
Isabelli Paola, sister to Izequiel William & Iruan Victor  
Roberta, sister to Larissa 
Maria Clara, sister to Pedro Augusto

Twins:
Alice & Manuela 
Laysla & Larrana
Ana Carolina & Isadora
Isadora & Gabriel
Livia & Murilo

Image: Olinda by Jean-Baptiste Debret