So many names!
As I go over the Estonian name-day calendar, I find so many unfamiliar names. Some of them are out of date and were seldom used during my lifetime. There are trends in name-giving in Estonia, just like there are in the United States and other countries.
Remember back in the late 1970s, when it seemed as though every baby girl was named Jennifer, and every baby boy, Scott? In the 1980s names like Tiffany, Ashley, Courtney and Jason became popular.
My 1969 high school classmates mostly had names like Barbara, Patricia, Susan, Linda or Donna. You never see anyone naming their daughter Barbara or Susan now. The boys in my class were called William or John or Robert or Mark. Male names tend not to vary over the years as much as female names.
Last year, in 2012, the top five girls’ names in the U.S. were Sophia, Emma, Isabella, Olivia and Ava. The top five boys’ names were Jacob, Mason, Ethan, Noah, and guess what? Good old William is still up there at number 5. http://www.behindthename.com/top/
Looking over the top 50 girls’ names for last year, I found only one – Elizabeth – that appeared among my classmates. By contrast, there were 10 boys’ names in the top 50 that I recall from high school.
No Estonian names?
Now here is a curious thing. The Estonian website nimi.ee shows the top names for boys and girls for the month of October, 2013, and not a single one of the most popular names was of Estonian origin; the closest anyone came was with the name Kristjan.
The top 10 boys’ names in Estonia two months ago (in order of popularity) were Martin, Kaspar, Marten, Daniel, Gregor, Robin, Kevin, Mark, Aleksandr and Artur. For girls, they list Maria, Sofia, Elina, Karolina, Laura, Melissa, Adele, Alisa, Elizabeth and Mia. A few of the top names, notably Gregor, Aleksandr, Sofia and Elina, indicate the significant number of Russians living in Estonia. http://www.nimi.ee/?m1=3
Barbara on December 4
On the Estonian name day calendar, we begin with Dec. 4 and variations of the name Barbara, this being the feast day of St. Barbara.
Estonian names for the day are Barbara and its Estonianized variants Barbo, Parba, Varve, Varja and Varju. In his book Elavad Nimed, author Raivo Seppo adds the male names Paabu, Paap and Paapu and female names Parba, Parbara, Parbu and Varbu as additional Estonian adaptations of Barbara. Varja and Varju have an additional meaning in Estonian: shade.
The website Behind the Name says Barbara originated from the Greek word βαρβαρος (barbaros), meaning “foreign”. St. Barbara is believed to have lived in either Turkey or Egypt during the 3rd Century CE.
December 5: Selma
The Dec. 5 names are Selma and Selme, both female. Seppo’s book adds Selmar, which I presume is masculine. In Finland, the name for the day is also Selma; in Latvia it’s Sabine.
There is a St. Sabbas or Sabas, a 5th Century abbot who founded monasteries in Palestine, who is honored by both the Catholic and Orthodox traditions this day. However I doubt Selma and Selma were chosen for this day because of the saint.
Behind the Name says Selma comes from the male name Anselm which contains the Germanic elements god and helmet.
St. Nicholas on December 6
Who else but Jolly St. Nicholas would be the namesake for Dec. 6?
Estonian names for the day are Nigulas, Nigul, Nikola, Niilas, Nils, Klaus, Laas, Laus and Niilo, all masculine names derived from Nikolaos, the original Greek version of the name.
But wait, there’s more! Seppo’s book includes the following derivatives: Klass, Klaes, Klais, Klaos, Kleis, Laes, Lais, Laos, Lass, Lauks, Miglas, Migu, Migul, Migulas, Miilas, Miklas, Nigis, Niglas, Nigles, Nigol, Nigolas, Nigu, Niil, Niiles, Niiku, Niklas, Nikles, Niklus and Niss. Estonians certainly know how to get the most out of a name, don’t they?
None of these Estonian names is female, though in other languages there are feminine variants of Nicholas such as Nicole, Nikki, Nicolette, Colette, Coline, Nicoline, Lina, Nika and Nikolasa. http://www.behindthename.com/name/nicola-2
According to Behind the Name, Nicholas and its variants come “from the Greek name Νικολαος (Nikolaos) which meant “victory of the people” from Greek νικη (nike) “victory” and λαος (laos) “people”. Saint Nicholas was a 4th Century CE bishop from Anatolia who, according to legend, saved the daughters of a poor man from lives of prostitution. He is the patron saint of children, sailors and merchants, as well as of Greece and Russia. He formed the basis for the figure known as Santa Claus (created in the 19th century from Dutch Sinterklaas), the bringer of Christmas presents. http://www.behindthename.com/name/nicholas
Sabiine on December 7
It’s tough to follow a popular act like St. Nick. The Estonian names for Dec. 7 are Sabiine, Piine and Sabrina, all feminine and based on the name of an ancient Italic tribe called the Sabini.
The names were probably assigned to this day because they somewhat resemble the above-mentioned St. Sabas as well as St. Savin, honored Dec. 7, and St. Sabinus, who is honored Dec. 11. Seppo includes the nicknames Piina, Sabi and Ine as well. Piina has an additional meaning in Estonian: to torture.
Külli on December 8
Külli, Küllike, Külliki, Külve and Külvi are the Estonian names for Dec. 8. All are feminine. In Finland, the corresponding names for the day are Kyllikki and Kylli. Finns use the letter Y in place of the Estonian letter Ü, but the pronunciation is approximately the same. These names are based on a character in the Finnish national epic called the Kalevala. Kyllikki was the wife of Lemminkäinen, one of the major characters in the tale. The names stem from the word küll, which means enough or plenty. I don’t know why those names are assigned to Dec. 8.
Raido on December 9
Dec. 9 is for the male names Raido, Raidu, Raigo, Raiko, Raid, Rail and Rait. Seppo adds the name Raidur.
I tried looking up saints’ names to see if any of them bore a resemblance to today’s names, but didn’t find any. I have absolutely no idea why these particular names were assigned for Dec. 9. If someone reads this and knows the answer, please post a comment about it.
It’s likely that this set of names originated from Raido, one the alphabet runes used by various northern European peoples including the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Danes and other Germanic tribes. Estonians used these runes as well. This image of Raido is pasted from http://www.runes.info/images/16raido.jpg
Raidō, which means ride or journey, “is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the r-rune of the Elder Futhark, the oldest form of runic writing. Other names for this rune include rad, reið and raidho,” according to Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raido
December 10: Juudit, Juta
The Dec. 10 names are Juudit and Juta, while the Finns have the similar name Jutta for that date. The German name-day calendar has Jutta on December 22, presumably in honor of St. Jutta of Diessenburg, whose feast day it is.
Juudit of course is from the biblical Judith. The Coptic Church honors her on Sept. 17. According to Wikipedia, the name Judith is from Hebrew: יְהוּדִית, Modern Yehudit Tiberian Yəhûḏîṯ; meaning praised or female Jew, and is the feminine form of Judah, according to Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Judith
Next week I’ll write about Daniel, Aivar, Lucia, Eho, Kalli, Adelheid, Rahel and their Estonian variants.