Wanda

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Polish
Pol (VAHN-dah); Eng (WAHN-duh).

The name first appeared in a legend presented by Polish historian, Wincenty Kadlubek (12-13th century). In his version of the legend, Wanda was the daughter of a Polish king Krak, (founder of the city of Krakow), who inherited her father’s throne. An evil German prince wanted to marry her and take over the Polish lands, but the princess repelled him and drove him to suicide. The prince threw himself into the Vistula. Wanda went on to live a happy and long life, remaining a virgin and vowing to be married only to her country. The most famous account, however, is completely different. In the most beloved form of the tale, rather than have her country taken over by the German invaders, Wanda threw herself into the Vistula. In Poland, she is a symbol of the nation, representing the sacrifice and hardship of the nation of Poland throughout its history. She is a symbol of Polish independence and its victory over German imperialism.

Tradition has it that she is buried in one of the seven mounds of Krakow. Till this day, the Wanda Mound (Kopiec Wanda) rests on the outskirts of Krakow, (in what is now known as the suburb of Nowa Huta).

Wanda is probably one of the very few Polish names that became popular in the English speaking world. It was introduced via author Ouida who used it for heroine in the novel Wanda (1888). The name no longer ranks in the U.S. top 1000, but was once a fairly popular name, coming in at # 47 in 1934, the highest the name ever ranked in U.S. naming history.

Many sources list the name as being a derivative of the Ancient Germanic wend, a name for a group of people who lived near and around the Vistula, however, some Lithuanian sources have argued that it is derived from an ancient Baltic element vanduo meaning “water” while many others speculate that its true origins have been lost and that its true introduction into the world was through Kadlubek.

In Poland, a popular nickname option is Wadzia (VAHD-jah). An alternative is the Czech/Slovak, Italian and Lithuanian, Vanda. There is also the elaborated Swedish name Wendela, though it is speculated if she is truly related to Wanda or if  in fact she is a completely different name of Germanic origins. The name has experienced occasional usage in Germany, Spain, Brazil, Hungary and Russia.

Coincidentally, Vanda is the name of species of orchid indigenous to the Indian subcontinent and Indochina. In this case, Vanda is of Sanskrit origins.
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Eha

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Estonian
Meaning: “afterglow; sunset.”
(AY-hah)

The name is derived from the Estonian word describing “afterglow”, “sun set”  or “dusk.” The name has been used in Estonia for centuries and it is borne by Estonian poet, Eha Lattamae (b. 1922), as well as by former Miss Estonia and runway model, Eha Urbsalu.

A variation is Ehala (AY-huh-lah).

The designated name-day in Estonia is July 1st.

Ebe

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Estonian
(EY-beh) the e is similar to the Spanish e

The name is used in Estonia and can be derived from either one of two things 1) a contraction of Eliisabet or; 2) it is derived from an Estonian word which describes the by product of cloth making, usually a velvety material.

Amilde

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Norwegian/Estonian
(ah-MEEL-deh)

The name is derived from the old German Armhild, which was a variation of Irmhild, made up of the elements, irm meaning “armour” and hild meaning “battle” hence “armour battle.”

The name is also occasionally used in South America.

Hazel

Gender: Feminine
Origin: English
(HAY-zul)

The name comes directly from the English word for the plant or shrub which is classified in the birch family and produces the flavorful nut known as hazelnut.

The word itself is derived from the Anglo-saxon Haesel. Like many popular floral names, Hazel first came into usage in the 19th-century. The word hazel is also used to describe a type of eye colour that is a mixture of green and brown.

The highest she has ranked in the U.S. top 1000 is in 1897 when she came in at # 18. Hazel completely fell out of the top 1000 in 1975 and reappeared in 1998 coming in at # 940. She currently rests at # 343 and seems to be rising. In Ireland she is quite popular, coming in at # 87 in 2007.

It was the name of a popular sitcom of the 1960s.

Laura

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Latin
Meaning: “laurel.”
Eng (LORE-uh); It/Span (LOW-rah).

The name first came into usage during the 9th century in Spain, due to the cult of Saint Laura of Cordova, (864).

She was a widow who decided to become a nun, but was put in a vat of molten lead and was boiled to death by her Moorish captors.

Laure de Noves, was the object of the poet, Petrarch’s affection (1308-1348). The Italian poet refers to her as Laura in his writings.

Laura, illustrated by her virtues and well-celebrated in my verse, appeared to me for the first time during my youth in 1327, on April 6, in the Church of Saint Claire in Avignon, in the first hour of the day; and in the same city, in the same month, on the same sixth day at the same first hour in the year of 1348, withdrew from life, while I was at Verona, unconscious of my loss…. Her chaste and lovely body was interred on the evening of the same day in the church of the Minorites: her soul, as I believe, returned to heaven, whence it came. (Petrarch)

Laure de Noves was the wife of Hugh de Sade, (the ancestor of the Marquis de Sade in which the name Laure appears often in the Sade family tree), who ultimately dies from the plague. She was the symbol of unrequited love and was transformed into a Beatrice type character after her death in many of Petrarch’s poems.

The name has always been relatively common in the English speaking world. Laura currently comes in at # 215 of the U.S. top 1000. In other countries her rankings are as follows:

  • Australia # 78 (2007)
  • Belgium # 3 (2006)
  • Chile # 43 (2006)
  • France # 26 (2006)
  • Hungary # 12 (2005)
  • Ireland # 32 (2007)
  • the Netherlands # 31 (2008)
  • Scotland # 77 (2007)
  • Slovenia # 36 (2005)
  • Spain # 4 (2007)

Other forms include:

  • Llora (Catalan pronounced YOH-rah)
  • Laure (French, diminutive form Laurette)
  • Lára (Icelandic pronounced LOW-rah)
  • Lavra (Slovenian/Russian)

Diminutive forms of Laura include Laurie, Lori, Lorie and Lauretta (Italian); Laurita (Spanish) and Laurette (French).

Masculine forms are the Italian Lauro and the late Latin Laurus.

The Laura form is used in most Romance speaking countries including Italy, Romania and is used among Portuguese speakers. It is also used throughout Central Europe such as the German speaking countries, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The name is borne by former first lady of the United States Laura Bush, children’s author Laura Ingalls Wilder, Laura Esquival author of Like Water for Chocolate. British designer and clothing brand Laura Ashley. Actress Laura Linney.

It is also the name of a river that runs through the Ukraine and Romania and the name of a village in Gliwice County, Poland.

Coincidentally, in Greek Lavra and Laura was a term used in the Eastern Orthodox church to describe a cluster of cells or caves, designed for monastic hermits. In this case, the name is derived from the Greek meaning an “alley” or “passage way.”

(Pictured above: Laure de Noves).

Chiara, Clara, Clare, Claire

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Latin
Meaning: “clear; see through”

    Chiara (kee-AH-rah), (KYAH-rah), has been in usage in Italy since the early Middle Ages. Chiara is also the Italian feminine adjective for the word, chiaro meaning, “clear” or “bright.”

    It was borne by Saint Chiara d’Assisi. (1194-1253). She was a companion of St. Francis of Assisi, both of whom believed in self-mortification and helping the poor. Chiara decided to start an order, known as the Poor Clares, while Francis went off to start his own order known as the Franciscans.

    Chiara is still a very popular first name in Italy. In 2006, she was the 5th most popular female name.

    The French form of Claire, also came into usage during the early Middle Ages. No doubt due to the cult of the male St. Clair of Dauphine, the patron saint of tailors.

    The name came to England via the Normans in the form of Clare, and the male Latin form of Clarus was borne by a British saint of Rochester, a Benedictine monk. Both forms of Clare and Clara were very popular prior to the Reformation in England and both names were revived during the 19th century.

    In recent years, for whatever reason, the French spelling of Claire has often times been the preferred choice among American parents. In 2008, Claire came in at # 62 in the U.S  Top 1,00o Female Names, while its elder English counterpart of Clare came in at # 679. In fact, even the Latinate version of Clara is far more prevalent than Clare, coming in at # 206.

    Clara/Klara is a popular choice throughout Northern and Central Europe.

    Other forms of the name include:

    • Clarice (English/French/Italian)
    • Clarissa (English)
    • Klára (Hungarian/Czech)
    • Claritia (Latin)
    • Claritta (Romansch)
    • Bistra/Jasna (Serbo-Croatian/Slovene: both literally mean “light; clear” and are used as indigenous cognates)
    • Clarisa (Spanish)
    • Clarita (Spanish: initially a diminutive form, commonly used as an independent given name)

    Diminutive forms are the French, Clairette, the Italian, Chiaretta, Chiarina and Claretta.

    There is the masculine Latin form of Clarus and the French masculine form of Clair.

    Napsugár

    Gender: Feminine
    Origin: Hungarian
    Meaning “sunbeam.”
    (NAHP-shoo-GAR)

    A name that has recently become popular in Hungary, pre-Christian Magyar word names, such as this, have been almost exclusively used on children since the fall of the Soviet Era, possibly a nod to Hungarian culture, language and pride.

    The name comes directly from the Hungarian word describing a sunbeam.