Each weekend I will do an installation of names from different categories. I would have liked to preferably do Saturday, but I was running late this week 😉
Lithuania is a country that lies in Northeast Europe, bordering Poland, Latvia, Belarus and Kaliningrad.
Once the largest country in Europe (during the 17th-century), she now only consists of 3.3 million people, the majority of whom are Lithuanian by ethnicity.
I will not bore you with intricate details of Lithuania’s rich history, but to make a long story short, Lithuania has been occupied by Poland and Russia and has resisted German occupation several times. She was one of the last countries in Europe to accept Christianity as their official religion (circ. 1385) and in the Middle Ages, she formed a powerful commonwealth with Poland.
One of the most interesting features of Lithuania is their language. Lithuanian is considered one of the oldest and one of the most pure derivations of Indo-European. Famous French linguist, Antoine Meillet, once said that “anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant” (Antoine Meillet)
Since Lithuanian is thought to be the closest form of Proto-Indo-European in modern linguistics, linguists are able to compare modern Lithuanian words with Sanskrit. Some words are identical in both languages, for instance, sunus (son) >(Sanskrit; Lithuanian). Words that are almost identical but slightly different include: (LIT stands for Lithuanian while SKT stands for Sanskrit).
- LIT dūmas; SKT dhumas (smoke)
- LIT vyras; SKT vira (man; hero)
- LIT dantys; SKT dantas (teeth)
- LIT naktys; SKT nakt (night)
Lithuanian masculine names are usually formed by ending in the suffix-as; -ys; -is while feminine names usually end in -a or -ė
It is interesting to note that if one studies the top 10 most popular female names in Lithuania, there seems to be a strong preference for names that end in -ė, compare that to the top 10 of a previous generation, where all the names had a tendency to end in an -a.
Top 10 Most Popular Female Names (Total Population, 2008)
Top 10 Most Popular Female Names (babies, 2009)
Janina is a definite Polish borrowing, something which is often seen in Lithuanian names. Irena, Ona, Kristina and Regina are all saints names, which would not be surprising to see in Catholic Lithuania, even during Soviet times. Names like Danutė, Lina, Aldona, Rasa and Daiva, are all native Lithuanian names with no English equivalents.
Danutė in particular is a classic that has been used at least since the 14th-century. It is a name of uncertain derivation, but is also found in Poland in the form of Danuta.
Aldona is another choice that has been in usage for centuries which is of uncertain meaning or origin. Some sources contend that it is an archaic Belarusian form of Eudocia.
Lina is the feminine form of Linas which comes directly from the Lithuanian word for “flax.” Rasa (dew) and Daiva (deity) are also Lithuanian word names.
Names from nature and Lithuanian mythology seem to be popular choices. Gabija and Austėja both reflect this (see the earlier entries for Gabija and Austėja-soon to come). Ugnė is pulled from nature, meaning “fire”, Viltė is from the Lithuanian word for hope and Goda seems to be a name related to an action, possibly derived from the Lithuanian verb godyti meaning “to anticipate.”
Emilija (Emily), Kamilė (Camilla), Ieva (Eve), Urtė (Dorothy) and Gabrielė (Gabriella) are all Lithuanian equivalents to a saint’s name or a Biblical name.
Since Lithuanians are fiercely proud of their language and culture, it is no wonder that they have a tendency to choose names that are distinctively Lithuanian, unlike other EU members who currently have a tendency to pick names that do not reflect a particular language of origin, as can be reflected in the Top Names of other countries.
Some of the most popular masculine names include, (when possible, equivalents are in parenthesis):
Top 10 Male Names (total population, 2008)
Top Ten Male Names (for babies, 2009)
Catholic saints names are definitely more preferred for males, still, names like Vytautas, Mantas, Nojus, Mindaugas and Kęstutis are very ancient Lithuanian names with no equivalents in any other language.
Since I am most likely writing to an Anglo-phone audience, you must be wondering if there are any authentic Lithuanian names compatible with the English language. Many parents are often on the look out for unique and unusual names, and Lithuanian names definitely have hundreds of possibilities to offer, some however, might be a pain in the neck for English speakers to pronounce, others, on the other hand, should be given consideration.
I have compiled a list of cool but similar alternatives of very popular names in North American and the United Kingdom
Instead of Madison/Madeleine go with Medeina
Instead of Ava go with Aiva (I-vah)
Instead of Chloe try Chloja (KLOY-a)
Instead of Samantha you might like Mantė (MAHN-tay; MAHN-te)
Instead of Grace you might like Gražina (grah-ZHIH-nah)
Instead of Gabriella try Gabija.
Instead of Audrey try Audra.
Instead of Miley try Meilė
Instead of Esme try Esmilė
Instead of Lily you might like Lelija (LEH-lee-yah)
Instead of Maximilian try Maksas
Finally, if you are one who is infatuated with Nevaeh and are daring enough to constantly correct people, then you might like the Lithuanian Danguolė (heaven; sky).
In the United Kingdom and the States, nature names seem to be on the rise, some parents may like the idea of using a word name, but are not daring enough to choose an obvious one. Choosing a word name from another language is a good way to hide the obviousness of a name from nature. Here is a selection of Lithuanian nature names that should not pose a problem with English-speakers:
Indrė (name of a type of rush)
Svalia (name of a river)
Joris (foliage green)
Names compatible with English:
And finally, here are some Lithuanian equivalents to common English given names:
What are your favorite Lithuanian names? Would you use any in the above list?
Stay tuned for next weeks International Name Overview
- Leonardas Dambriūnas, Antanas Klimas, William R. Schmalstieg, Beginner’s Lithuanian, Hippocrene Books, (1999). Older editions (1966) called “Introduction to modern Lithuanian”.