Basque Names….just a Subcategory of Spanish Names?

This weeks International Name Over View will focus on Basque Names.

The Basque are an ethnic group that inhabit the Pyrenees of Northwestern Spain and the bordering region of Southern France. Their language has yet to be categorized, often a topic of hot debate among Linguists. While some theorists have connected Basque from Georgian to Etruscan, the most widely accepted consensus is that Basque is closely related to the now extinct Aquitanian (spoken in France). It is in fact an indigenous European language. That is, it is not related to any of the Indo-European languages. It is considered an Isolate Language and it was most likely spoken in Europe long before the mass migration of the Indos.

Though either French or Spanish citizens, the Basque are fiercely proud of their language and culture. In the last century, there has been a strong push for autonomy. The Basque have fought hard to keep their language alive, most recently fighting oppression during the Franco regime, and are currently experiencing a revival. The Basque language is spoken by approximately 665,800 people. Not a lot, but believe it or not, the Basque and their language have actually left an impact in Spanish and even English.

Some of the more common Spanish surnames seen among Spanish-speakers are actually of Basque and not of Spanish origin. For example: Aldana, Loyola and Zuñiga.

Since the Basque were valuable in shepherding, fishing and mercantilism, a vast population of them immigrated to the Americas, leaving their imprint on modern Hispanic culture.

The country of Chile boasts Basque as their largest European ethnic group. The largest Basque-American population resides in Boise, Idaho. A fair amount of the Mexican population can claim Basque heritage to some extent.

As a result, several place names throughout the Americas are Basque, like Durango (Mexico), Nuevo Santander, (Mexico), Jalapa (Guatemala) and it is even argued that Arizona is derived from the Basque elements, aritz ona meaning “good oak.”

Our very own Xavier, which appears in the U.S. top 100 most popular male names was inspired by a Basque surname. Its usage as a given name was popularized by the notoriety of the Basque saint, Francis Xavier. Another notable Basque Saint is Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.

One of the ways that the Basque people have expressed their culture is through their first names. The Basque have a unique array of names, one feature that seems unique among them is their usage of place names. Unlike Anglo-phone parents who tend to use place names because of “cuteness”  or sonority, the Basque use place names due to religious significance. Basque culture has a strong emphasis on Catholicism, so any place or thing associated with the Virgin Mary is often used as a given name.

For a good idea of what the Basque in Spain are currently naming their children, check out the Top 10 listed below:

Top 10 Male Names in Basque Country, Spain 2008

Mikel

Pablo

Iker

Aimar

Asier

Unai

Iñigo

Javier

Aitor

Adrián

Top 10 Female Names in the Basque Country, Spain 2008

Lucía

Paula

Irati

Nahia

Uxue

Leyre

Sara

María

Ane

Ainhoa/Aitana

Mikel, Pablo, Adrián, Iñaki, Sara, María, Ane, Lucía and Paula are all derived from Biblical or saints names.

Aitor (good fathers) is a name taken from Basque folklore, he is believed to have been the first man and the progenitor of the Basque people.

Iker is the vernacular form of Visitación, an unusual Spanish name used in reference to the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of the Visitation). This is the same case with the female Irati, which is a place-name associated with a shrine to the Virgin Mary, which literally means “fern field”; and Uxue taken from the name of a Catholic shrine, but is also associated with the Basque word for dove. Ainhoa is a religious place-name name and even appears in the Spanish Top 100, coming in as the 31st most popular female name in all of Spain. Aitana is a Spanish place-name of unknown meaning. Leyre is the Spanish form of Leire, the name of a place in the Basque country associated with a Catholic monastery.

Nahia is from a Basque word meaning, “wish; desire.”

Unai is an indigenous Basque name with no Spanish or English equivalent, meaning “cowherd.”

Asier is from the Basque hasiera meaning “beginning.”

I have yet to find any information on Aimar, but subsequent searches led me to several notable Basque bearers, so I am assuming that he is Basque too. If anyone has anymore info on him, please step forward 🙂

You might be one of the many Latinas or Americans who claim Basque heritage, or perhaps you are just looking for a cool and different name that is actually legitimate. Below are a list of names I have compiled for the Anglo-phone parent. Basque names that would be easy for an English-speaking child to wear. Enjoy 🙂

Easy to say Basque alternatives to common English names

Instead of Caitlin try Catalin

Instead of Emma try out Ama

Instead of Madison or Madelyn, you might like Maialen or Malen

Like Olivia, try Olaria

Loving Ella, then you might like Elaia (swallow)

Considering Hannah well you just might like Oihana (forest)

Like Nevaeh check out Nerea

Here is a selection of Basque names compatible with English:

Female

  • Alaia (joyful; happy)
  • Amaia (end)
  • Elixane (Elise)
  • Esti (Sweet; honey)
  • Garden (transparent; clear)
  • Julene (Juliana)
  • Katerin (Catherine)
  • Lilura (enchantment)
  • Lorea (flower)
  • Maia (Maddie)
  • Miren (Mary)
  • Naiara
  • Nora
  • Oria
  • Pauli
  • Semera
  • Zerran
  • Zilia

Male

  • Adon
  • Bingen (Vincent)
  • Denis (Dennis)
  • Eder (beautiful)
  • Erroman (Raymond)
  • Gabon (Christmas)
  • Harri (rock)
  • Hartz (Bear)
  • Igon (Ascension)
  • Jurdan (Jordan)
  • Kelemen (Clement)
  • Kemen (Strength)
  • Lain
  • Luken (Luke)
  • Manex (John)
  • Zorion (happy)

Basque Equivalents to Common English Given Names

Female

  • Alize (Alice)
  • Ane (Anna)
  • Elixabete (Elizabeth)
  • Estebeni (Stephanie)
  • Fede (Faith)
  • Gartxene (Grace)
  • Itxaro (Hope)
  • Kalare (Claire)
  • Lili (Lily)
  • Mikele (Michaela)
  • Mixtoleta (Poppy)
  • Nikole (Nicole)
  • Hirune/Irune (Trinity)
  • Udane (Summer)
  • Udazken (Autumn)

Male

  • Adame (Adam)
  • Alesander (Alexander)
  • Danel (Daniel)
  • Edorta (Edward)
  • Eli (Elias)
  • Gabirel (Gabriel)
  • Gilen (William)
  • Handi (Max)
  • Ixaka (Isaac)
  • Jakes (Jacob)
  • Jon (John)
  • Marz (Mark)
  • Nikola (Nicholas)
  • Txomin (Dominic)
  • Xabier (Xavier)
  • Xarles (Charles)

What are your favorite Basque names? Would you use any of the above?

Sources

  1. http://www.behindthename.com/
  2. http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/mt26s.html
  3. http://www.ei.ehu.es/p056-12532/eu/contenidos/informacion/grammar_euskara/en_doc/index.html
  4. http://www1.euskadi.net/morris/resultado.asp
  5. http://www.euskarakultur.org/
  6. http://www.eke.org/euskara/
  7. http://basque.unr.edu/
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Isaac

Gender: Masculine
Origin: Hebrew
Meaning: “laughter.”
Eng (I-zek)

The name is derived from the Hebrew יִצְחָק (Yitzchaq) which is most likely related to the Hebrew verb for laughter, as according to Gen. xviii. 12, Sarah laughed when she heard the angel prophesied that she would bear a son at 90 years of age.

The name is borne in the Old Testament by the son of Sarah and Abraham. One of the most noted accounts between Isaac and his father was when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Isaac being spared at the last moment when God realized that Abraham would sacrifice his own son in order to follow God’s commands.

Isaac later married Rebecca and fathered Esau and Jacob.

Isaac is considered an important patriarch among the Jews and even among Muslims.

In Western Europe, the name did not catch on among Christians until after the Protestant Reformation, in Eastern Orthodox Europe, Isaac was commonly used among Christians since the Middle Ages.

Currently, Isaac is the 37th most popular male name in the United States, (2008), his rankings in other countries are as follows:

  • # 23 (Australia, 2008)
  • # 30 (Canada, B.C., 2008)
  • # 96 (Chile, 2006)
  • # 39 (England/Wales, 2008)
  • # 453 (the Netherlands, 2009)

Other forms of the name include:

  • Isaak (Albanian)
  • Ishaq إسحٰق, إسحاق (Arabic)
  • Sahak Սահակ (Armenian)
  • İshaq (Azeri)
  • Isak Ісак (Belarusian)
  • Ishak (Bosnian/Indonesian)
  • Isaak Исаак (Bulgarian)
  • Isaac (Catalan/English/French/Galician/Portuguese/Spanish)
  • Izak (Croatian)
  • Izák (Czech)
  • Isak (Danish/Norwegian/Swedish)
  • Isach (Danish: archaic)
  • Izaäk (Dutch)
  • Iisak (Estonian)
  • Ísakur (Faroese)
  • Iisakki (Finnish)
  • Isaaki ისააკი (Georgian)
  • Isaak (German)
  • Isaakios Ισαάκιος (Greek: Modern)
  • Yitzchak/Yitzhak/Itzhak יִצְחָק, (Hebrew)
  • Izsák (Hungarian)
  • Ísak (Icelandic)
  • Íosác (Irish-Gaelic)
  • Isacco (Italian)
  • Isaacius/Isaacus (Late Latin)
  • Aizeks/Isacs (Latvian)
  • Izaokas (Lithuanian)
  • Isaaku Ісаакъ (Old Church Slavonic)
  • Izaak/Izak (Polish)
  • Isaque (Portuguese)
  • Isac (Romanian)
  • Isaak Исаак (Russian/Ukrainian)
  • Iosag (Scottish-Gaelic)
  • Isaka (Swahili)
  • İshak/İshâk (Turkish)

A common English short form is Ike.

Finnish diminutives are Iikka and Iirro.

A Yiddish diminutive is Sekel.

In France, the designated name-day is December 20.

A notable bearer is physicist and mathematician, Isaac Newton (1643-1727).

Sources

  1. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=174&letter=I
  2. http://www.askoxford.com/firstnames/isaac?view=uk
  3. http://www.behindthename.com/name/isaac
  4. Hoffman William F and George W. Helon, First Names of the Polish Commonwealth: Origins and Meanings (Polish Genealogical Society of America, 1998)