Monday, June 6, 2016

Basque Names

Good morning, readers!

While scrolling through the 2015 names list (because what else would one do in their spare time?) a lovely name caught my eye - Arantxa. Also spelled Aranza or Arantzazu, it's a Basque name meaning "thornbush". I've never seen this name before, and a cursory glance around name sites showed it indeed to be a rarity.

As a matter of fact, Basque names are few and far between. Here are some choice picks (other than Arantxa) for your consideration!

Most X's are pronounced as "sh" in Basque. English (or well-known) equivalents are included in italics!

Girls' Names

Pronounced "al-az-neh", it means "miracle". While the pronunciation might be a bit difficult for English speaking audiences, the name feels like an updated version of Alana. It's also a roundabout way to get to the nickname Ally! Other feminine names meaning "miracle" include Harika or Nasia

Elixane - Elizabeth
Pronounced "El-i-sha-neh", it looks a lot like "elixir", and may be mistaken as such. Still, it could be a pretty way to honor a familial Elizabeth or Elaine. It also sounds like the female equivalent of Elisha. Elixane means "pledged to God", and has one celebrity endorsement - a French tennis player, Elixane Lechemia. 

Joska - Josepha
Mariska Hartigay introduced us to the adorable "sk" sound, and Saskia has been trending overseas. This cute variation of Josepha offers the same unexpected sound, as well as the nickname Jo or JoJo. And it's never been recorded in US data, for all you fans of the uncommon!

The form may fool you, but Leire actually sounds like Lay-ree and fits in with popular "ay-ee" names: Kaylee, Daisy, Abree. It's the name of a mountain in Navarre, where a monastery has sat since the eighth century. Leire and its alternate spelling Leyre were given to 14 girls each in the US last year. 

Xuxa - Shoshana
Want to accentuate the x-factor but keep a soft sound? Xuxa is for you! Pronounced Shoo-shah, Xuxa means "lily" and was only used for about 30 children total in the 1990's. An eponymous Brazilian entertainer brought the name to US attention, but I haven't been able to find out whether the name ranks highly in Brazil. 

Boys' Names

With both Archer and Arthur in the top 300, Argider may not be as absurd as one might think. It means "beautiful light" in Basque, and it could use Darry or Argie as nicknames. It would definitely raise some eyebrows, but its meaning and heritage are fantastic. 

Eneko - Inigo
A sweet name with a sweet meaning: "my little one". It fits in with the current ends-in-O trend - think Nico, Diego, Emilio - and has an easy spelling-pronunciation connection. Not super relevant, but I like that the Japanese word for cat, "neko", is included too. 

Both Ilario and Ilaria are recorded names, but Ilari is elusive - the Basque name means "cheerful", and definitely has an upbeat vibe. It may be confused with Hilary, so I'd recommend waiting until after the election to use it (#feelthebern). 

While Unai ranks in the top 50 in certain parts of Spain, it's all but unheard of in the US. It's an attractive, vowel-heavy name meaning "cowherd", and fits in with other new classics like Noah and Kai. Feminine Una has been slowly increasing on the charts, so why not Unai?

Like Ilari, Zorion means "happiness". It may sound like a modern invented name, but it has a history overseas and has been used occasionally in the US since 2001. I personally think Zor and Zori are cool nicknames, too! If you like Orion, try adding a Z!

Tell me what you think in the comments? Any cool Basque names I missed?

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