After chatting with a friend who’s based in Siberia, I wanted to make a post on Russian names. In an increasingly global world, why not take advantage of the variety and find a name that speaks to your interests, heritage or one that’s just plain превосходный? (“Excellent” in Russian)
Here are some names from the 2013 Top 10 lists that don’t show up in the US list. I’ve included any more popular versions, which might help clarify connections.
A beautiful name that means “peace,” Arina is a great way to subvert the Alina–Ariana–Marina trends while still choosing something easy to pronounce. With Irene decreasing in popularity, why not honor an aunt or grandma with an exotic nod?
While the origins of the name are a little conflicted – I’ve seen the meaning given as “protector,” “to possess,” “pearl of wisdom” and “the sea” – this is a pretty, bright name with a nice sound. Spelling variation Daria was on the list for a short period in the 90’s, but is now a more unique choice.
English variation Barbara might be outdated and over-used, but Varvara is lively and almost new! Varvara is a character in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, for any literary fans. And it’s not too far from Valeria, Victoria or Valentina.
This is the name of my dear Russian friend, and would fit well into any American playground. It comes from Paul, meaning “small,” and lends itself to the cute nicknames Polly or Lina. Actor Vin Diesel recently welcomed a Pauline in honor of his late costar and friend Paul Walker, so why not try the Russian variation?
I’ll admit, this iteration might get confusing to explain over and over again. But I love the central “v” sound and the endless nickname possibilities – Ellie, Liza, and Veta to name a few. The meaning of all Elizabeth names is “pledged to God.”
Artem – Artemis
Also found on the Russian lists as Artyom, this is a rare male name derived from a female Greek goddess, associated with the hunt and the moon. It’s more unique than Arthur and easy to spell and pronounce. The bell-tone sound also makes Artem more accessible to today’s kids.
Another name from Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of agriculture. This is a personal name crush, and any readers who watched the Anastasia cartoon growing up will understand why. It’s not unheard of in the US, but Dmitry—also spelled Dmitri and Dimitry, can be read as a “stereotypical” Russian name.
I reviewed Cyril in my recent Oscar Wilde post in my blog, and it’s come up again! Modern favorites Kellen and Kieran fit in with Kirill, so it’s not too out-there. The meaning is “lordly” and the sound is unusual without being difficult.
While the sound is close to Nicholas, the name actually comes from the goddess Nike. There have been a few Nikitas in Catholic history as well – popes and saints. While the name has been claimed by the female gender via La Femme Nikita, I think this name is a great way to honor Slavic heritage and get the accessible Nick nickname.
The minion of Dr. Frankenstein is what keeps most people away from choosing Igor, but brother Yegor is different enough to merit a glance. Pronounced “yeh-GOR”, like Gregor, it has a Scandinavian origin meaning “warrior.” Definitely unique, but the strong sound and meaning might be a draw.
What are your favorites?