Monday, 4 July 2011

Popular Estonian Names

When my sister was born my mother wanted to name her "Emma" but when my Estonian grandmother heard about this she protested because "Ema" means mother in Estonian. My vanaema implored my parents to change their minds and they did, naming her Sarah instead. As a compromise Emma became her middle name.

There are several names unique to Estonia whilst others have been  Estonianised over the generations. The popular boys name John is known as Jaan or Jaanus in Estonia and Peter is spelt Peeter with the double e. Double vowels are a feature of the Estonian language, including names, and are always pronounced with extra length.

Here are some of the most popular Estonian given names, their meanings and English equivalents.

Andrus - (Andrew) - "manly" or "strong"
Jaak -  (Jacob) - "supplanter"
Mihkel - (Michael) - "who is like God"
Nigul - (Nicholas) - "victory of the people"
Krists - (Christian) - "follower of Christ"
Lembit - "beloved"
Mikk - "who is Godlike"
Leks - (Alexander) - "defender of man"
Rolli - "famous throughout the land"
Toomas -  (Thomas) - "twin"
Tõnis - (Anthony) - "flourishing"

Anu - (Anna) -  "grace"
Etti - (Elizabeth) - "oath to God"
Hele - "shining"
Helja / Helju - "floating"
Leena - (Lena) - "light or enlightened"
Liis - "joined with God"
Kaisa - (katherine) - "pure"
Mari - (Mary) - "bitterness"
Maarja -  (Maria) - "bitter"
Riina - (Katarina) - "pure"
Reet - (Margaret) - "beautiful pearl"

"Sepp" is the most common surname in Estonia, it's the equivalent to the English surname "Smith".  Other common surnames are: Kask, Kukk, Koppel, Rebane, Saar, and Tamm.