Onomastics in Interaction With Other Branches of Science. Volume 2.

Names of Newborns in Latvia: Recent Changes

Laimute Balode
University of Helsinki / University of Latvia


The aim of the article is to introduce the names given to newborns in Latvia during the last 16 years, in order to identify the latest tendencies for choosing names. The article provides a comparison between the contemporary situation and historical data on the most popular names 100 years ago. There are some noticeable movements in the anthroponymic stock of Latvia. Increasingly, newborns are given two or even three names, although by law it is allowed to have no more than two first-names. An inherited family name has often been chosen as a second name, but more frequently the second name reflects national identity. More and more parents choose names for their children that would be international, easily pronounced, short, and without diacritical marks (Martin instead of Latv. traditional Mārtiņš). The number of borrowed foreign first names has increased rapidly. Originality has become a factor in name choosing: a lot of neologisms based on Latvian appellatives, mostly with the primary semantics of nature, have been coined (Kastanis ‘chestnut’, Zemis ‘land’). Though diminutive forms as official names are allowed in Latvia, they are not popular anymore. It is quite common for parents to change the gender of a name (e.g., Zane f. > Zanis m.). It is fashionable today to give first names of toponymic origin (Beverīna, Turaida). The article also presents public attitudes towards these changes. A short overview on the comparison of the latest tendencies in neighbouring countries is given as well.

Latvian, onomastics, anthroponymy, given names, identity

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