Loki

LokiOrigin: Old Norse
Meaning: debated
Gender: Masculine
(LOH-kee)

From the name of the trickster god in Norse mythology, Loki was the ultimate pranksters whose pranks always ended up going terribly awry, his biggest blunder being the death of the god Baldur. In Norse legend, Loki’s associations were sometimes neutral to downright evil. Despite this, Loki never had a bad enough connotation to deter Nordic parents, medieval and modern, from using his name on their offspring.

The meaning of the name itself is rather contested. The following possibilities in a nutshell include:

  • from the Old Norse Logi (flame)
  • from an Old Germanic root word *luk, which denotes anything related to knots, locks and anything enclosed/compare to the Old Norse verb loka (to lock; to close; to end”; and the Old Norse verb loki (to loop onthe end).
  • There may be a link with the Old Norse loptr (air).
  • from the Old Norse lok (cover, lid; end)

Loki has made it into the UK’s Top 500 male names, while its modern Scandinavian form of Loke is still a popular choice in Nordic countries.

In 2016, Loki was the 452nd most popular male name in England/Wales, while Loke is the 58th most popular name in Sweden (2017).

Other forms include:

  • Loke (Danish/Norwegian/Swedish)
  • Loki (English/Faroese/Finnish/German/Icelandic/Old Norse)

It should be noted that this was the name of the wife of German Chancelor, Helmut Schmidt, Loki Schmidt (borne Hannelore Schmidt (1919-2010). In this case, Loki seems to have been a childhood nickname that developed from a child’s mispronunciation of Hannelore.

Sources

Tala

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This name is one of the ultimate cross-cultural names, it has various meanings and legitimate origins from Europe, to Asia and to the Middle East.

The name has been recorded in use in Northern Europe since Medieval Times, possibly being a contracted form of Adalheidis, its offshoots of Talea and Talina have experienced minor recent resurgence in Germany. Tala also been used in most Scandinavian countries, though today, it is considered very archaic.

Tala appears in a 14th-century Swedish folk ballad Herr Holger (which is the subject of a 1996 song by the Swedish band, Gamarna). The ballad recounts the exploits of a greedy tax official who steals tax money for himself. He is caught by King Christian and beheaded. He is condemned to hell, but is able to return to warn his wife, Fru Tala (Lady Tala). He pleads with Tala to return all the wealth she inherited from him, (which in turn was the result of his stolen money), to its rightful owner or else she will experience a similar fate. Tala refuses, as she would rather condemn herself to hell than give up her wealth.

Its Finnish and Estonian form is Taala and Taali, and a Scandinavian  masculine version is Tale.

Tala is also the name of a Tagalog goddess of the morning and evening star. In one legend, she is the daughter of the sun god Arao and the moon goddess, Buan. Arao and Buan had a large number of star-children, the eldest being Tala. Arao was afraid his heat would burn up his star-children, so he and Buan decided to destroy them, but Buan reneged on her promise and hid her children behind clouds. Arao got wind of Buan’s secret and, according to legend, continues to try and destroy her, which explains the phenomenon of eclipses. Each morning, Buan runs to hide her children behind the clouds, her eldest Tala being the lookout before dawn, being the personification of the morning star.

In another Tagalog legend, Tala is the daughter of the god Bathala. She is the sister of Hanan (the goddess of the morning) and Mayari, another moon goddess.

In Tagalog, tala means “star; planet; celestial body.”

Tala was recently a hit song by Filipina singer, Sarah Geronimo (2016).

In Indian classical music, Tala is the term used to describe musical meter and rhythm. It literally means “clapping; tapping.”

Tala can also be Arabic تالة (Tala) meaning “Turmeric tree; turmeric spice” or a “small potted palm.”

In Amazigh, one of the languages of the Berber people, Tala means “source; spring or fountain.”

Tala is also Farsi and means “gold.”

In Italy and Romania, Tala is used as a diminutive form of Natalia, a la Romanian actress, Tala Birell (1907-1958).

Tala is the name of a type of decidous tree native to tropical and subtropical South America. Its scientific name is celtis tala.

Other meanings include:

  • It is the Azeri word for “glade.”
  • tālā is the Samoan currency and is believed to be a phonetic corruption of the English word dollar.
  • In Polish, it is a feminine form of the Greek, Thales, though it is seldom used, it does appear on the nameday calendar.
  • In Pashtun, Təla/Tala means “weighing scale” and is the name of the seventh month of the Afghan Calendar, its meaning referring to the Zodiac sign of Libra.
  • It is the name of a minor Chadic language in Nigeria.

What the name is not:

Many baby name sources have dubiously listed this name as meaning “wolf” in “Native American,” (which is not a language by the way), while other sources have listed this as being Cherokee or Iroquois for “wolf hunter,” but there are no legitimate Cherokee or Iroquois sources collaborating this information. In fact, Native Languages of the Americas has written a fabulous list pertaining to faux Native American baby names and Tala made the list.

As a closing to this post, I recommend this blog post written by a mother explaining the reason why she chose this name for her daughter. It is from 2006, but still a wonderful read D-Log: The Many Meanings of Tala.

Sources

Brenna

yule logThe name may be a modern feminine form of Brennan, which is from the Gaelic Braonán (tear; drop) it it comes directly from the Old Norse verb meaning “to burn.” .”

It may also be a feminine form of the latinized Celtic male name, Brennus.

The name first came into use in the 19th-century.

The name has been in and out of the U.S. Top 1000 since 1971. It peaked in 1995, coming in as the 235th most popular female name. As of 2016, it was the 909th most popular female name.

Sources

Bede, Bode, Bodo

220px-The_Venerable_Bede_translates_John_1902.jpgBodo is an Old German name that might either come from the Germanic element, bodo (lord, commander) or the Old German boto (messenger). The latter became bod (messenger) or boda (messenger, angel) in Anglo-Saxon.

In Anglo-Saxon England, the name spun off into Beda and in modern English became Bede.

Alternately, Bede has also been claimed to actually come from the Anglo-Saxon bed (prayer).

Saint Bede the Venerable (8th-century) was an English monk who was made Doctor of the Church and is most famous for writing Ecclesiastical History of the English People. He is known as the Father of English History.

Bodo was the name of a famous 9th-century German Christian who converted to Judaism and assumed the name Eleazer.

Bode is an English and Danish form.

Bode has been in and out of the U.S. Top 1000 since 2006 and is currently the 994th most popular male name (2016).

A notable bearer is American skier, Bode Miller (b. 1977).

Other forms of the name include:

  • Beda (Anglo-Saxon, German)
  • Bède (French)
  • Bode (Danish, English)
  • Bodhe (Swedish)
  • Boto (German)
  • Botho (German)
  • Budhi (Swedish)
  • Buði (Old Norse)

Sources

Freya

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Old Norse
Meaning “lady; mistress”
(FRAY-yah)

The name is derived from the proto-Germanic word, *frawjōn, which designates a woman of noble birth. The modern German word of Frau is a modern cognate. Many scholars argue whether Freya was originally the name of the goddess or a title used in reference to her; it has even been suggested that the goddess had an actual given that has been lost to history.

In Norse mythology, Freya was believed to be the most beautiful goddesses ever created. Scholars believe that Freya was essentially a fertility goddess who assisted in the growth of wildlife, agriculture and human reproduction; along with birth and life, she was also associated with death. In Norse legend, it was Freya who received half the slain warriors into her heavenly hall.

She is often times the subject of the poetic eddas along with her numerous epithets, which are as follows:

  • Vanadis (beautiful goddess)
  • Mardoll (sea bright)
  • Horn (flaxen)
  • Gefn (the giver)
  • Syr (sow) which illustrates Freya’s association with pigs and fertility.

Today the name has survived in modern Germanic lexicons; the English word Friday means “Freya’s day” likewise the same in German with Freitag; the Danish/Swedish/Norwegian Fredag and the Dutch Vrijdag.

There are a few plants named for the goddess, such as Freyja‘ Hair and Freyja’s Tears, and the chemical Vanadium is derived from her epithet, Vanadis.

Today, Freya, and its alternate forms are still very common throughout Scandinavia and she even appears in the British top 100. Her rankings are as follows:

  • # 8 (Freja, Denmark, 2010)
  • # 19 (England/Wales, 2010)
  • # 19 (Scotland, 2010)
  • # 41 (Freja, Sweden, 2010)
  • # 53 (Northern Ireland, 2010)
  • # 61 (Ireland, 2010)

Other forms include:

  • Frea (Anglo-Saxon/Lombard)
  • Fröe (Danish: obscure form)
  • Freya (English/Modern German/Dutch)
  • Froya (Faroese)
  • Freija (Finnish)
  • Frya/Frija (Frisian)
  • Freja (German/Scandinavian)
  • Fráujo (Gothic)
  • Frėja (Lithuanian)
  • Frieja (Low Saxon)
  • Frøya (Norwegian)
  • Freyja (Old Norse/Icelandic)
  • Frīa/Frija (Old High German)
  • Frowa (Old High German)
  • Fröa (Swedish: very obscure form)
  • Fröja (Swedish: very obscure form)
The designated name-day in Sweden is January 23rd.

Oliver, Olivier

Gender: Masculine
Origin: debated
Meaning: debated
Eng (AHL-ih-VER); Fre (oh-LEE-vyay)

This name has a very interesting past. Its origins and meaning are debated, despite its obvious similarity with the word “olive”, many sources believe that is is either derived from one or two Old Norse names, Alfihar or OleifrAlfihar meaning “elf army” or Oleifr meaning “ancestral relic,” while other sources argue that it is indeed related to the Latin word oliverus meaning “olive tree.”

The name first appears in the French epic poem, Le Chanson de Roland. Olivier is the one of the better retainers of Roland. The name was introduced into England by the Normans and was consequently anglicized as Oliver.

The name has been in and out of usage in the English-speaking world since the Middle Ages. There was a time in England when the name went out of favor due to the bloody exploits of Oliver Cromwell. It was revived in the 19th-century due to Dicken’s lovable orphaned character of Oliver Twist.

In recent years, the name has seemed to go through a revival in both the United States and the United Kingdom. In 1979, Oliver ranked in at # 396 for the most popular male names in the United States, in 2010, however, he cracked into the top 100, making it all the way up to # 88. No doubt thanks to the popularity of its seemingly feminine form of Olivia.

As of 2010, he was the most popular male name in England/Wales. His rankings in other countries are as follows:

  • # 3 (Australia, NSW, 2010)
  • # 3 (New Zealand, 2010)
  • # 6 (Norway, 2010)
  • # 7 (Sweden, 2010)
  • # 8 (Scotland, 2010)
  • # 9 (Denmark, 2010)
  • # 10 (Finland, 2011)
  • # 12 (Ólafur, Iceland, 2010)
  • # 16 (Northern Ireland, 2010)
  • # 23 (Canada, BC, 2010)
  • # 25 (Oliwier, Poland, 2009)
  • # 38 (Olivér, Hungary, 2010)
  • # 48 (Óliver, Iceland, 2010)
  • # 51 (Austria, 2010)
  • # 52 (Ireland, 2010)
  • # 55 (Olivier, Netherlands, 2010)
  • # 86 (Spain, 2010)
  • # 269 (Netherlands, 2010)
  • # 305 (Olivier, France, 2009)

The name is used throughout continental Europe. Its French form of Olivier is still fairly common in France and it is occassionally found in the Bayous of Louisiana among Cajun families, along with its lovely accented drawled out pronunciation of (oh-LIV-ee-AY).

In Poland it is rendered as Oliwer pronounced the same way as in English though the final R is rolled. In Iceland the popular male name of Olafur may be related. Pronounced (OH-lahf-ER), it has a feminine form of Olafia (OH-lah-FEE-ah).

Popular English nicknames are Ollie and the less common Noll.

Its designated name day is July 12.

Other forms include:

  • Olivier (Afrikaans/Dutch/French/Frisian)
  • Oliver Оливер (Croatian/Czech/Dutch/English/Estonian/Finnish/German/Hungarian/Macedonian/Portuguese/Russian/Serbian/Slovak/Spanish)
  • Fier (Dutch: originally a diminutive form, used as an independent given name)
  • Oluvier (Dutch)
  • Olivur (Faroese)
  • Ólivar (Faroese)
  • Olivér (Hungarian)
  • Ólafur (Icelandic)
  • Óliver (Icelandic)
  • Ólíver (Icelandic)
  • Oilibhéar (Irish)
  • Oliviero (Italian)
  • Olivarius/Oliverus (Latin)
  • Alfher (Old High German)
  • Áleifr (Old Norse)
  • Oliwer/Oliwier (Polish)
  • Oliwir/Olwer/Olwir (Polish: obscure)
  • Oliveiros (Portuguese)
  • Olaghair (Scottish)
  • Oilbhreis (Scottish)

Gertrude

James C. Christensen

Gender: Feminine
Origin: German
Meaning: “spear strength.”
Eng (GER-trood); Ger (ger-TROO-də)

She has adorable nickname options; Trudy, among others. She has a similar feel to other current vintage trend-setters such as Matilda and Eleanor, yet Gertrude, for the most part remains unloved. Like Hildegard and Brynhild, this is one of those names where I often ask myself: why not?

She is strong, vintagy and no-frills, as mentioned before, she has tons of adorable nickname options. Is she really anymore grandmotherly or old sounding than Emma, Eleanor, Matilda or even Abigail? We have gotten used to hearing these names but I remember a time when the above names were considered “too old” until it took one famous person to use them and voila, they are automatically endearing and trendy.

Ok, I’ll get off my high horse and get onto the what the name is really all about.

Portrait of Gurtruydt van Leyden.
by James C. Christensen via http://www.greenwichworkshop.com/saintsandangels/17.htm

Gertrude is composed of the Germanic roots, ger (spear) and þruþ (strength).

The name was borne by several illustrious medieval women, two of whom are saints. Gertrude of Nivelles (626-659) is revered as the patron saint of cats! I am not quite sure how she came to be known as a feline patron, but she was the daughter of Pepin I and was supposed to be married off at the age of ten, but steadfastly refused, insisting that she would only marry Christ. After the death of her father, her wealthy mother constructed Gertrude her very own convent, making her the abbess. She is also invoked against mice and rat infestations.

Another Gertrude is Gertrude the Great (1256-1302) a German nun, mystic and great theologian of her time.

The name has been borne by German and Dutch royalty alike.

Gertrude is pretty well-known in the English-speaking world, but actually never experienced much usage. It was introduced into England in the 15th-century by Dutch settlers, where it was ocassionally used. It appears in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600) as the name of the hero’s mother.  It was used sparingly in the United States at the beginning of the 20th-century, possibly being introduced by German immigrants. The highest it ever ranked was in 1898 coming in as the 573rd most popular female name.

In the United States, its most famous bearer is Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), famous writer and poet.

As of 2011, her Finnish form of Kerttu was the 20th most popular female name in Finland and Geertruida came in as the 491st most popular female name in the Netherlands, (2010). Meanwhile, its Dutch diminutive offshoot of Geertje is the 368th most popular female name in the Netherlands, (2010).

Other forms of the name include:

  • Gartred (Cornish)
  • Gertruda (Croatian/Czech/Lithuanian/Polish/Romansch/Slovene)
  • Geerdina (Dutch)
  • Geertje (Dutch)
  • Ge(e)rtruida (Dutch)
  • Geertrui (Dutch)
  • Gertrude (Dutch/English/French/German/Italian/Platdeutch)
  • Trudy (Dutch/English/German)
  • Truus (Dutch)
  • Kelli (Estonian)
  • Kertu (Estonian)
  • Kärt (Estonian)
  • Ge(i)rtrúð (Faroese)
  • Gortra (Faroese)
  • Jertru (Finnish)
  • Jerttu (Finnish)
  • Järtty (Finnish)
  • Kerttu (Finnish)
  • Kerttuli (Finnish)
  • Gesa (Frisian)
  • Gesche (Frisian/Platdeutsch)
  • Geesche (Frisian)
  • Gesina (Frisian)
  • Gerta (German)
  • Gertraud (German)
  • Gertrud (German/Scandinavian/Romansch)
  • Gertrúd (Hungarian)
  • Jerta (Hungarian)
  • Geirþrúður (Icelandic)
  • Jarþrúður (Icelandic)
  • Geltrude (Italian)
  • Gertrūda (Latvian)
  • Gjertrud (Norwegian)
  • Jartrud (Norwegian)
  • Geretrudis (Old High German)
  • Geirþrúðr (Old Norse)
  • Jarþrúðr (Old Norse)
  • Gertrudes (Portuguese)
  • Gearte (Sami)
  • Kearte (Sami)
  • Gertrúda (Slovak)
  • Trudla (Sorbian)
  • Gertrudis (Spanish)
  • Gardrud (Swedish)
  • Gertru(n) (Swedish)
  • Hjertrud (Swedish)

Common German and English short forms are Gertie and Trudi/Trudy.

Artwork

Sæbjørn

Gender: Masculine
Origin: Old Norse
Meaning: “sea-bear.”
(SYE-byern)

The name is composed of the Old Norse elements, saer (sea) and bjørn (bear).

As of 2010, Sæbjørn is the 8th most popular male name in the Faroe Islands.

Other forms of the name include:

  • Sæbjørn (Faroese/Norwegian/Old Norse)
  • Sæbjörn (Icelandic)
  • Sebjørn (Norwegian)
  • Sebjörn (Swedish)

Runar

Gender: Masculine
Origin: Old Norse
Meaning: “secret army.”
(ROO-nar)

The name is composed of the Old Norse elements, rún (secret; lore) and herr (army).

As of 2010, its Faroese and Icelandic form of Rúnar was the 8th most popular male name in the Faroe Islands.

Ryynari is the Finnish form.