Category: ethnic names for girls


The New York City Health Department released its list of most popular names of 2008 today–at last–with some pretty interesting results.  (It reminded me of the old Jennifer & Jason days–before the Social Security Administration was compiling a national list, when Pam and I used to have to contact –and sometimes plead with–the Health Departments of all fifty  states for their figures and laboriously construct our own master list–and I recall that New York State and City were always the last to straggle in.)

For a long time–and especially considering the City’s hip reputation–New York‘s list was surprisingly conservative, with Michael, Ashley and Emily lounging in the top spots year after year.  That changed somewhat in 2007, when Isabella and Sophia tied for Number One.  This year, the more modern Jayden joined Sophia at the head of the list, bringing New York finally and  fully into the 21st century.

Here are the Top Ten names for both genders:

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Portuguese Names: Avelina & Amaro

portugal poster

Perhaps because there are so few Portuguese-Americans–just about a million and a half —the name stock  of Portugal has been somewhat neglected by outsiders, especially since it shares so many similarities with the Spanish.

But many Portuguese names have a distinctive flavor of their own, as well as unusual pronunciation conventions, some of which are explained below.   And, as noted by Filipa on one of the nameberry forums, there are specific naming rules, limiting parents to traditional Portuguese names.  No Apples or Armanis in Amadora!  One consequence of these strictures, though, is an extremely  rich variety of diminutives and pet names.

For the royals of the past, there could be an interminable string of names, as for example the 19th century Queen known as Maria da Gloria Joana Carlota Leopoldina da Cruz Francisca Xavier de Paula Isidora Micaela Gabriela Rafaela Gonzaga da Austria e Braganca.

Being a 97% Roman Catholic country, many Portuguese names come from popular saints or from the Bible–Maria is the perpetual #1 girls’ name., as it is today.  And what are the other popular names in Portugal right now?  Here, according to one newspaper, are the top six of last year:








Also popular:





And for boys:

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Armenian Names: From Ara to Zabelle


A few years ago I met a couple named Anoush and Harout, (who, predictably, had a last name ending in ian, the Armenian patronymic meaning ‘son of”) and was immediately intrigued by the rich sounds of their names.  That, plus the lingering memory of the characters in William Saroyan‘s My Name is Aram–Arak, Dikran, Jorgi, Garro–piqued my interest in Armenian names.  It’s an ethnicity that has made few inroads into mainstream American nomenclature, but, while most of these names are destined to remain confined to the Armenian community, there are definitely some candidates eligible for wider circulation.

Many of these names date back to antiquity, some coming from the Bible (eg. Sahak for Isaac) or relating to nature (Shoushan, meaning lily), and there are a number that are close cousins to more familiar appellations, such as Hanna, Rouben, Ester, Yulia–variations with their own distinctive charm.  (And note that since Armenia does not use the Latin alphabet but has a 36-letter alphabet of its own, transliterations bring about wide variations in spellings.)

Here, some of the most appealing Armenian choices:



ANOUSH (means sweet)




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