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Forename Friday -

The genea-blogging community has Surname Saturday, so why not Forename Friday? This is not meant to exclude those from cultures where given names appear after surnames, but there is no day of the week starting with a G for “given name”, so this is the next best option. Feel free to participate in talking about given names regardless of your culture’s name order.

I’m going to use this weekly prompt to discuss Latvian given names that are unique to the Baltics. They are a bit less common than ones that are a part of the “common European heritage”, but do appear with increasing frequency, particularly in diaspora communities. Many of these names or variants of them are also Lithuanian, due to the close relation between the Latvian and Lithuanian languages.

A quick primer on Latvian given names: Nouns in Latvian are gendered, masculine and feminine. Proper names are no exception. Just like for other nouns, male names always end in “s” or “š” in the nominative form. This is a grammatical rule and I believe a law as well – Latvia has a series of language directives that tell how names from other languages are to be translated to Latvian, and this usually includes making male names end in s or š. Women’s names end in “a” or “e” (surnames usually follow this same rule, but are a bit more flexible, and I will get into this at a later date).

Latvian names also appear in a “name calendar”, where each day of the year has several names attached to it. Latvians celebrate name days with flowers and gifts. I’m told that they used to be considered more important than birthdays, but the tradition seems to be going by the wayside in the modern world. You can view a Latvian name calendar here (interface in English).

A useful tool for finding out the popularity of Latvian given names is this site by the Latvian Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (this page is available in Latvian only). You enter the name, and click search (“meklēt”), and it brings up the number of people in the Latvian Population Register with that name and that name in combinations (in the case of middle names). It does not appear that the total displayed for the main entry includes the combinations as a part of its total. However, due to the time-consuming nature of counting them all together, for my posts here I am only going to use the total displayed for the main entry.

The most popular Latvian names are names related to the common Judeo-Christian/Greco-Roman/etc. heritage of Europe. Names such as Jānis (John – 58,627 entries), Marija (Mary – 19,036 entries), Kristīne (Christine – 14,785 entries), Juris (George – 18,694 entries) and Anna (Anne – 25,962 entries) are all quite common.

But back to the uniquely Baltic ones!

Today: Names that are variations on the word “laime” (luck, joy, happiness).

Laima is the most common female variant, with 2366 entries and the name day on February 11 (it is also a popular name in Lithuania). Laimonis is the most popular male variant, with 1648 entries and the name day on October 29. The other “laime” variations with more than a hundred entries are Laimdota (see below) and Laimons (a spelling variation of Laimonis) with 684 and 434 entries respectively.

In the old Latvian pantheon, Laima is the chief goddess of luck and fate. Laimdota (literally “given joy” or “given by joy”) is the name of the main female character in Lāčplēsis, the Latvian national epic. Other name variants on “laime” include Laimute, Laimīte, Laimnesis (“bringer of luck/joy”), Laimdots, Laimrota, Laimis and Laimutis. Interestingly, “Laime” does not appear as a name.

The goddess Laima often appears in a trinity with the other two fate goddesses, Kārta and Dēkla. The name Kārta does not appear in the register at all, and Dēkla has only one entry, and this entry is as a middle name.

Laima is also the name of the biggest Latvian chocolate manufacturer. The Theodor Riegert company was founded in 1870, and was a large chocolate manufacturer in the Russian Empire. After Latvian independence, those operations were taken over by the Laima company in 1924.

Does your language have any names relating to luck, joy or happiness? How popular are they?

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four − = two


five + = eight