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Surname Saturday – Olympic Victors

Time to celebrate the Latvian medalists of the 2012 Olympics! This can fit in nicely with Surname Saturday – let’s take a look at their names, shall we?

The first Latvian medalists of 2012 were bronze medalists Mārtiņš Pļaviņš and Jānis Smēdiņš in mens’ beach volleyball!

PĻAVIŅŠ is the diminutive form of “pļava”, which means “meadow”. This is a fairly common Latvian surname. Based on the number of meadows, and the number of farm names with the name “Pļaviņas”, it is safe to say that this is a farm name borrowing. There is also a town by the name of Pļaviņas in central Latvia on the Daugava river.

SMĒDIŅŠ is a diminutive form of “smēde”, which means “smithy” or “forge”. This is not as common of a surname or a farm name, though it is both. Could relate to someone who lived near a forge. It could also possibly signify an ancestor’s occupation – though the Latvian word for “smith” is “kalējs”, so maybe it could be someone who worked together with the smith, but wasn’t the smith themselves? Some potential ideas.

Then we have our gold medalist in BMX cycling, Māris Štrombergs!

ŠTROMBERGS is a name of Germanic origin, common amongst Latvians, as I’ve mentioned before. My German name dictionary says it relates to place names in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, both in the west of Germany. Literally, the name breaks down into “Strom”, meaning “power, current, stream” and “Berg”, meaning “hill”.

Do you have names of any Latvian Olympians that you’d like to share the meanings of? Wondering about the earliest Latvian Olympic medalist? Join in below in comments!

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