Origin: Hebrew אִילָנָה
Meaning: “tree”.

The name comes directly from the Hebrew word for tree. Another female form is Ilanit (ee-LAH-neet) אִילָנִית. She is borne by Israeli pop-singer, known simply as Ilanit (b.1947) her real name being Hanna Drezner-Tzakh.

As of 2010, Ilana was the 255th most popular female name in France. While in the Netherlands, she comes in as the 321st most popular female name, (2011).

The masculine form is Ilan.


Björk, Bjørk

Gender: feminine
Origin: Icelandic/Faroese
Meaning: “birch, birch tree.”
(BYERK) Pronunciation can be heard here:örk/

Indie rock star, Björk Guðmundsdóttir (b.1965), made this one a household name, though it is now a recognized name outside of Iceland, it will probably always be associated with the singer to non-Icelanders.

Björk is the Icelandic word for birch tree, when spelled Bjørk, it has the same meaning in both Faroese and Norwegian. It is interesting to note that björk is the modern Swedish word for birch tree, though neither nouns are used as a given names in Swedish or Norwegian. However, it is a very common and ordinary female name in both Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

As of 2010, Bjørk was the 8th most popular female name in the Faroe Islands.


quinceGender: Feminine
Origin: South Slavic Дуња
Meaning: “quince fruit.”

The name comes directly from the South Slavic word for the quince fruit. The quince is usually ready to fall from its stems from early October all the way to November, it is considered an autumnal fruit.

Coincidentally, the name could also be a Russian diminutive form of Avdotya which is a Russian form of the Greek name Eudoxia meaning “good fame.”  The spelling is also sometimes transliterated as Dunya.

As of 2009, Dunja was the 97th most popular female name in Croatia.

The name is borne by Russian violinist Dunja (Avdotya) Lavrova (b.1985).


418px-Gouttes-drops-resine-2Gender: Feminine
Origin: English

September is almost over and the season of Fall is really starting to hit home. The trees are finally shedding their leaves and some are even exposing their yellow brown colors before falling off the branches. The name Amber has always brought to mind the autumnal season for me. Possibly due to her brownish yellow hues that she is known for, though Amber also comes in spring greens and bright yellows. The appellation itself gets somewhat of a bad rap. I have heard her being classified as “trashy” and even as an “exotic dancer” name. She didn’t seem to hit big really till the late 1970s to early-mid 1980s. Ever curious as to the origins and beginnings of all given names, I decided to track her down. How and when did Amber begin to be used as a first name? I know that in other cultures, the equivalent forms such as Dzintra in Latvian, Gintare in Lithuanian have been used as given names for centuries. Evidently, Amber is derived from an Arabic word ‘anbar. Amber of course is the word for the fossilized resin used in jewellery as well as the name of a colour. Its usage seems to have begun around the 19th-century. It was brought to the spot-light thanks to Katherine Winsor’s explicit 1944 novel Forever Amber. It was later turned into a movie, and the book sparked quite a bit of controversy at the time of its publication. Forever Amber tells the story of  a woman by the name of Amber St. Clair, living in 17th-century England, who manages to sleep her way to the top by hanging around with British aristocrats. I found this very interesting since Amber does seem to have those associations for many people, and I truly wonder if Katherine Winsor is the culprit for Amber’s sullied reputation. I suppose we will never know.

As for her popularity, the highest that Amber ever reached in the United States was #13 way back in 1986. I found this rather surprising as I don’t know many girls born in that same year named Amber. Compare that to this past year, Amber remains in the top 1000, but has slid down to # 224 (2010). Surprisingly, Amber is quite popular in both the Netherlands and Belgium. In Belgium alone, she came in at #24 for the most popular female names in Belgium, (2008). Meanwhile, over in the Netherlands, she stands at # 36 as of 2010. Her rankings in other countries are as follows:

  • # 45 (Scotland, 2010)
  • # 52 (England/Wales, 2010)
  • # 65 (Northern Ireland 2010)
  • # 71 (Ireland, 2010)
  • # 80 (Australia, NSW, 2010)

The French form of Ambre has recently become a trend in France, in 2009, she was the 29th most popular female name in France. There is the more elaborate French form of Ambrine. In Italian there is the form of Ambra. Another interesting fact is that the Greek female given name of Electra is related to the word for amber in Greek, which is electron. In Hebrew, the name is Inbar, and in recent years, has been used as a given name. Ámbar is the Spanish form, also occasionally used as a given name in Spanish-speaking countries.

The name has been given to the United State’s Child Abduction Emergency code the Amber Alert. Originally named for Amber Hangermann the term is now used as a backronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.


Gender: Feminine
Origin: Georgian
Meaning: “snowdrop.”

The name is a fairly common female name in Georgia meaning “snowdrop”as in the flower.

The snowdrop flower is in the Galanthus family and they are among the first flowers to bloom in Spring, some can bloom as late as Autumn and Winter and as the name suggests, are very immune to snow.


Gender: feminine
Origin: Finnish
Meaning: “bush, branch” (poetic)
Pronunciation can be heard here:

The name is used in a poetic sense to describe a bush, branch or young tree. Its designated name-day is November 12, and the name is fairly common in Finland.

Martin, Martina

Origin: Latin
Meaning: “belonging to the god Mars.”

This popular pan-European name is derived from Latin name Martinus, a derivative of the Latin genitive Martis, used in reference to the Roman god Mars. The usage of the genitive case would reflect possession, therefore the name would roughly translate as meaning “belonging to Mars” or “possessed by Mars.”

The name was popularized by a 4th-century bishop and saint, (the patron saint of France), known as Martin of Tours. According to legend, he came upon a beggar in the middle of a harsh and cold winter, Martin cut his only cloak in half and gave it to the beggar, later that night, he had a dream of Christ appearing before him, wearing the other half of his cloak. Saint Martin of Tours was not only a popular devotional saint in France, but in the rest of Europe as well. Today, the surname of Martin is the most common in France, originally the surname was taken in honour of the saint.

Another popular saint who bears the name is St. Martin de Porres, attributed as the first African-American saint, he was born in Peru in the 1500s. He was the son of a Spanish nobleman and an African slave woman. He later became a Dominican and was known for his charity and mystical powers. In Spanish-speaking countries, the name Martin is mostly given in commemoration of him.

The name became popular among protestants, particularly adherents of the Lutheran faith, due to its associations with the German Reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546). It was also borne by Civil Rights Activist Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968).

In Europe today, Martin is still a fairly common choice. Its rankings are as follows:

  • #55 (Belgium 2006)
  • #56 (France 2006)
  • #20 (Hungary 2005)
  • #73 (Ireland 2007)
  • # 72 (Northern Ireland 2007)
  • # 8 (Norway 2007)
  • #32 (Slovenia 2005)
  • #59 (Spain 2006)
  • # 79 (Sweden 2007)

In Chile, he was the 4th most popular male name in 2006, while in the United States he comes in at a meagre # 221. The perfect classic male name for someone looking for something not too odd yet not too popular.

Other forms of the name include (divided alphabetically by origin)

  • Mardig (Armenian)
  • Mattin (Basque: diminutive form is Matxin)
  • Marzhin/Marzin (Breton)
  • Martí (Catalan: 77th most popular male name in Spain in 2006)
  • Martinu (Corsican)
  • Morten (Danish/Norwegian)
  • Maarten/Marten/Martijn (Dutch Pronunciation for the latter:
  • Ties (Dutch: originally a diminutive form, used as an independent given name)
  • Tinus (Dutch: originally a diminutive form of Martinus, now used as an independent given name)
  • Tijn (Dutch: originally a diminutive, now used as an independent given name. It was the 28th most popular male name in the Netherlands in 2008)
  • Madro/Mardi/Mardu/Mart/Märten/Märtin/Märt (Estonian)
  • Martti (Finnish)
  • Merten (Frisian)
  • Marti/Martinni (Greenlandic)
  • Márton (Hungarian: Pronunciation: 31st most popular male name in Hungary 2005. Diminutive is Mártos)
  • Marteinn/Martin (Icelandic)
  • Mairtín (Irish Gaelic)
  • Martiniano (Italian: obscure)
  • Martino (Italian)
  • Martianus (Latin/Dutch)
  • Martinus (Latin/Dutch)
  • Marcis/Martins/Martiņš/Mārtiņš/Marts/Mārts (Latvian)
  • Martynas (Lithuanian)
  • Marcin (Polish. Pronunciation: Diminutive is Marcinek)
  • Martim/Martinho (Portuguese)
  • Martinián (Slovakian)
  • Tinek (Slovenian: initially a diminutive form, now used as an independent given name)
  • Tine (Slovenian: originally a diminutive form, now a popular independent given name ranking in as the 59th most popular male name in Slovenia as of 2008. The final e is pronounced)
  • Martín (Spanish)
  • Mårten (Swedish)
  • Martyn (Welsh/Ukrainian)

Martin is not only used in English, but is also used in Croatian, Estonian, French, German, Maltese, Scandinavian, Romanian, Russian, Czech, Slovenian, Hungarian and Bulgarian languages as well. German nicknames include Marte, Mart,  Marti or Marty. Maroš is the Czech and Slovakian pet form and Marty is the common English nickname.

The name-days are:

  • March 1 (Bulgaria)
  • November 11 (Czech Republic/France/Germany/Poland/Lithuania/Slovakia)
  • November 10 (Sweden/Estonia/Latvia)

    Dutch children celebrating St. Martin's Day

    In some parts of Holland,  Belgium, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, children celebrate St. Maarten’s Day (November 11) by carrying lanterns from door-to-door and getting sweets in exchange for song. The same holiday is observed under the name of Mardispäev in Estonia, Jum San Martin in Malta and to a lesser extent, the holiday is celebrated in the greater region of Poland, particularly in Poznan. Only on this day, instead of it being a children’s holiday, it is more of a day to get a traditional poppy-filled croissant sold by bakers just on that one day of the year, occasionally there are concerts held in the city.

    The most common feminine form is usually Martina, which has experienced wide usage in Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dutch-speaking countries, Estonia, Faroe Islands, German-speaking countries, Italy, Portuguese-speaking countries, Romania, Scandinavia, Serbia, Slovakia and Spanish-speaking countries. It was borne by a 3rd-century Roman saint and martyr as well as a 6th-century Byzantine empress.


    It is interesting to note that in Bulgaria, the designated name-day is March 1, and Martin, as well as Martina, have historically been connected to the Bulgarian word mart (meaning March). In this case, the names are sometimes bestowed upon a March baby or children born on March 1. The Holiday of Baba Marta (meaning “grandmother March.”) is a traditional Bulgarian festival that celebrates the arrival of spring and the end of winter, Baba Marta is the harbinger of good weather and if she is displeased, she will continue to bring stormy weather. Baba Marta is considered a moody and fickle old woman, so one must always be careful not to displease her, one way of doing this is the exchange of martenitsi, (white and red tassles which are pinned to clothing), this is used as a way to ask Baba Marta for mercy. A martinitsa is worn either till the end of March or until the wearer spots a stork or a blooming tree, with this, the bearer knows that Baba Marta is pleased, afterwards, they are hung on trees in order to transfer luck onto the tree. The martenitsa symbolizes new life, fertility and spring.

    The rankings of Martinas popularity from country to country are as follows:

    • # 1 (Chile, 2006)
    • # 2 (Malta, 2007)
    • # 76 (Slovenia, 2005)
    • # 34 (Spain, 2006)

    Other feminine forms are:

    • Marzhina (Breton)
    • Maatje/Maartje/Martien/Martijntje (Dutch)
    • Tieneke/Tineke/Tine/Tini (Dutch diminutive forms, used as an independent given names)
    • Martine (French/Estonian/Norwegian/Danish: an obscure French feminine diminutive form is Martinette, the name is very popular in Norway coming in as the 28th most popular female name in 2007, in the Danish/Norwegian case, the final e is pronounced).
    • Martinka (Hungarian: initially used as a diminutive, occassionally used as an independent given name)
    • Martína (Icelandic)
    • Martana (Italian: obscure)
    • Martinella (Italian: obscure)
    • Marcina (Polish: the original Polish feminine form, this form has always been unusual and its latinized counterpart of Martyna has recently enjoyed popularity)
    • Martyna (Polish: popularized by a popular French children series known as Martine in French and Martynka in Polish written by Belgian authors Marcel Marlier and Gilbert Delahaye, published (1954). In Polish Martyna is pronounced (mahr-TIH-nah) the Y is akin to the i sound in pig, but not exactly so. Martyna is also the Ukrainian and Lithuanian version, but in those cases, it is pronounced with the long i sound (mahr-TEE-nah).\
    • Martinha (Portuguese)

    Other famous bearers of the name include: Martina von Trapp (1921-1951) is immortalized in the Sound of Music as Gretl von Trapp, she was named for the manor house she was born in, Martinschlössel (Martin’s Castle in English). Czech-American tennis player, Martina Návratilová (b.1956). American country-Western singer Martina McBride (b.1966). Italian actress, Martina Stella (b.1984).

    The name-days are:

    • March 1 (Bulgaria)
    • July 17 (Czech Republic)
    • January 30 (Germany/Hungary)
    • September 9 (Slovakia)
    • November 10 (Sweden)


    BN22649_58Gender: Feminine
    Origin: Japanese
    Meaning: “bright child; sparkle child; autumn child.”

    The name can have several different meaning depending on the characters chosen to spell the name. It could be from the Japanese 晶 (aki) meaning “sparkle”, or from the Japanese 明 (aki) meaning “bright” or from the Japanese 秋 (aki) meaning “autumn”  plus combined with子 (ko) “child”. There is an American comic book series of the same name which follows the adventures of a Japanese American girl named Akiko on the planet Smoo


    Gender: masculine
    Origin: Japanese
    Meaning: “straight tree; honest tree.”

    The name comes from the Japanese 直 (nao) meaning “honest, straight” and 樹 (ki) meaning “tree”. The name is borne by Naoki Maeda (b.1979), a Japanese music producer and composer who works for Konami and Naoki Urasawa (b.1960) a Japanese mangaka artist.