"What means my name to you?"
What means my name to you?..
As does the melancholy rumour
Of distant waves, or, of a summer,
The forest's hushed nocturnal sigh.
Found on a fading album page,
Dim will it seem and enigmatic,
Like words traced on a tomb, a relic
Of some long dead and vanished age.
What's in my name?..
Long since forgot,
Erased by new, tempestuous passion,
Of tenderness 'twill leave you not
The lingering and sweet impression.
But in an hour of agony,
Pray, speak it, and recall my image,
And say, "He still remembers me,
His heart alone still pays me homage."
A poem by a famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin
translated by I.Zheleznova.
Different languages- different meanings
So, we have a first name (which is given to us) and a last name (surname), which we usually inherit.
Given names are more important probably because they represent a voluntary choice. A first name is usually given for some reason, with some thought, or vice versa, without much thought.
How often when we hear somebody’s first name we wonder “Gosh, what his (or hers) parents were thinking?
In any case a first name can be crucial for a person. Ancient people considered that a first name can predetermine a person’s fate.
The name of a person will always be significant because it will be the first thing that will give him a personality in the minds of other people who even haven’t seen him yet.
Lucky those parents who know for sure what name they will give to their newborn.
Many others go through tons of books and references and very often end up with weird names which will make their kid an object of bullying at school.
But very often there are names that may sound right to a certain language or dialect but may seem funny or strange to other languages or dialect.
Know what your name might mean in another language before you visit this country
This hub is written solely on my own experience and observations. Since I know three languages (Russian, Hebrew and English) I am able to feel the discrepancy of certain names in different languages. What seems normal and nice in English might sound funny or even vulgar in Russian, and the other way around. A beautiful English name might mean something naughty in Hebrew.
I am talking about regular names, not about weird or bad names which are a sick invention of contemporary craziness. I am talking about names that are common and decent for the country of their origin, but good luck going with those names abroad…
So, below you will find some common popular English, Russian and Hebrew names which will sound funny, naughty or even vulgar for the ears of foreigners. The list is very short; it includes only the names that I myself figured out. If my readers know similar cases from other languages, they are welcome to add to my list.
Maybe this way we will be able to prevent some people from getting into awkward situations in case if they travel in those countries.
English girls names that sound funny of bad in Russian language
- Saloma- means "straw" in Russian
- Krysa- means “rat” in Russian
- Noga- Actually, it is Hebrew name used in USA too, means “leg” in Russian, though with a stress on the last vowel.
- Saira- in Russian this word is used only as a fish name.
- Jopie (sounds very close to Russian rude word for “rare end, butt”- zhopa)
- Manda (a very vulgar meaning of vagina and though pronounced slightly different, but the spelling is the same), so if your name is Manda, sound it as Mandi or Amanda if you visit Russia.
- Suka (actually means female dog with puppies, but used in spoken Russian as a very rude word meaning “bitch”)
English boys names that sound funny or bad in other languages
- Luke- in Russian it means "hatch, manhole"
- Rex -this beautiful name is used as a popular dog’s name in Russia
- Cal, Kal - in Russian this word means "excrements"
- Barak- in Hebrew it means "lightening" which is great, but in Russian it means "shabby shack, a temporary shack-like building".
- Matt - it means "dead" in Hebrew.
- Zain- this is a letter of Hebrew alphabet, and also a word which means "weapon". But in Israel this word is used in vulgar meaning of penis (equivalent to American "dick")
Russian names that sound funny or bad in English
- Igor -this is a boy's name very popular in Russia, but it just does not sound nice in English.... because of all those horror characters.
- Semen -another boy's popular name in Russia, but in English speaking countries it will be mocked. So, change it to Simon or the like when you come to USA.
- Sveta - it is an affectionate shortage of a full girl's name Svetlana. I know that this name brings unpleasant associations with a word "sweat".
- Anastassia- another beautiful Russian female name with wrong echo in English (anesthesia)
Alexander and Sasha- the same name.
Some names are unisex names that might be given both to boys and girls. Alexander (for boys)/Alexandra (for girls) is one of them. For a shortage of this name Americans will use Alex and though in Russia this name is also used now under the influence of western cultures, yet the most common shortage of the name Alexander still will be Sasha (less common Shura) for both boys and girls. Many Americans consider these names as absolutely separate names, and even more; they think that Sasha is a purely female name. I know a family where a boy has a name Alexander (Alex) and a girl was named Sasha. In any case this is an absolutely beautiful and perfect international name. A person with this name will be comfortable in any country.
Nikita- It is NOT a unisex name in Russia, it is used only as a boy’s name. So, a girl whose name is Nikita is going to get a lot of joking if she comes to Russia.
Many names that are common in America have side meanings in other countries. Just several examples that I know:
- Fanny - means "vagina" in England
- Patsy- means "homosexual" in Australia
- Randy- means "horny" in Australia
My list is very short, so if anyone has more information, you are welcome to share it with us.
Additions to the list. Courtesy of my readers.
- My fellow hubber and a former co-citizen irinaalek7 mentioned her name (Irina, short version Ira) - "My name is Irina, usually my relatives and friends call me Ira for short in Russia but in the USA -Ira is the man's name but it sounds differently."
Besarien from South Florida on December 02, 2014:
This is a very interesting hub! Todd sounds like death in German. Lots of Japanese (relatively common) names sound far from right in English- Yudai (you die) or Saiko (psycho) I imagine every name sounds terrible or like an unattractive word- in some language though. There are only so many phonemes to go around.
jhaiza cagampang on August 13, 2012:
i have a question may i know the meaning of my name?
kallini2010 from Toronto, Canada on April 22, 2011:
Yes, I have to admit that when I read your hub it put me in the defensive mode, but when I read that hub and the comments, I was simply furious. The author is very small-minded. But I will be writing my own opinion and I hope that a lot of people will agree with me. Frankly, I know they will, because I talk with people about names often enough.
Hoping that it will be a good article. And, yes, I will let you know.
ReuVera (author) from USA on April 22, 2011:
Svetlana, thank you for re-visiting here and leaving a note. I checked the hub following the link. It is very curious, that every person has his/hers own opinion on the subject. Everything is subjective, unless it is objective. :-)
I am looking forward to reading your hub. Let me know, please, when you publish it.
kallini2010 from Toronto, Canada on April 22, 2011:
It has been a while and I wanted to write my "rebuttal". I did not forget. Please don't be offended by the word rebuttal, but I am very interested in the subject and passionate about it. So far, I had two articles in mind and maybe I want to rewrite "And Then There Was Light, My Name That Is".
Your article sparkled a desire to write more. But I was busy with other things and writing about different subjects. However, every time I come across judgements about names, I read it and collect the articles. As you understand everything is very subjective.
Just for you I give the link - I just came across it today on FB (but it is an HP article) - look for Simon in the worst possible male names.
I know. Who makes the judgement? That it is truly awful? It is not my favourite, but to say that Simon or Damien are truly awful? Or Electra? I like Electra.
I hope you find it interesting. If no, no harm done. And maybe, just maybe, it is time to write that first article on names. I hope everybody will like my take on it.
ReuVera (author) from USA on January 10, 2011:
Darrke Thoughts, thank you for interesting information. It never hurts to know more.
ReuVera (author) from USA on January 10, 2011:
Svetlana, thank you for visiting. First of all, you share a name with my sister. I have a paternal sister in Ukraine whose name is Svetlana, so by no means I consider it a "bad" name. Also, my friend's name is Sveta. I agree with you that it is a very beautiful and meaningful Russian name. The point is not here. This hub is not about origin or about history of names, but it is exactly what I wrote- about different names that sound differently in certain languages due to phonetic discrepancies. I didn't say a word that this or that name is bad, please, don't put on me the blame. People are free to name their children as they like. But it wouldn't hurt anyone to learn some information about distortion of certain meaning due to phonetics of different languages. My friend's father, whose name is Semen (by the way, very beautiful Russian version of old Biblical name Shimon) had to adopt an English version of it, Simon and it is clear why. My friend's son Artem goes by a "shortcut" Art, just to ease it for his friends and teachers, but not because he does not like his name.
Though your defensive reaction is understandable, I don't see the real point here.
Our names are meaningful and beautiful, but as an old proverb says, "when in Rome, act like a Roman" and it does not mean that we should give up our ways. But if we want to make our life easier when we are away from our native language speaking "quarters", it wouldn't hurt to know some details.
This was the point of this hub- to help someone anticipate surprises of cultural kind.
kallini2010 from Toronto, Canada on January 09, 2011:
Well, ReuVera, thank you for including my name in the list of bad sounding names. My name is Svetlana and I am carrying it with pride. It is beautiful, it is meaningful, it is Russian (unlike all Elenas, Natashas, Marias, Alexanders, Dmitris, Nikolais), I fight for it and whatever associations people have with it do not concern me very much. Nobody has ever told me about those associations with "sweat" for all fourteen years that I live in Canada, but if people have them that is their choice. I carry my light bright and striking letting other people see the light within.
I cannot choose a name to sound beautifully in every language. When my father named me he had no idea where I would end up living. I learned German and French, I appreciate languages and multiculturalism. I was always passionate about names. Anasstassia is not a Russian name, by the way, therefore anasthesia and Anasstassia is practically the same thing. The name is yours and you can modify at any time the way you want. Very few names that Russians use are in fact Russian. Language is a living thing, names transform for male to female gender, they get borrowed and adopted and I don't really see any problem. Rimma was a male name at one point, so I think Inna.
Weird names? The problem is not weird names, the problem as I see it is lack of imagination. My mother wanted to name me Anasstassia in 1970 when it was not popular, when my friends became mothers I realized there was no point even asking the question how they named their daughters. Anasstassia or Daria.
I was going to make a hub about names, I already wrote one and I thank you for pushing me in that direction. I don't like conformity too much, I just don't. I wanted to give my son an old beautiful Russian name, but my ex-husband being conservative told it was stupid. So down it went with a list of other more conventional stupid names. My son got two popular nice-sounding names used in English-speaking world (Jewish-English by origin), but the story remains. Now at the age of seven he tells me he wants to change it to my choice. I doubt it will happen, but he is free to choose when he grows up.
P.S. Do you know what happen to the Russian names?
Darrke Thoughts from Eugene, Oregon, USA on December 26, 2010:
Karen sounds like the Korean word for "egg".
ReuVera (author) from USA on August 20, 2010:
jiberish and Ingenira, thank you for visiting.
Ingenira on August 20, 2010:
Very interesting ! Thumbs up !
BTW, "Suka" in Malay language means "Like".
jiberish from florida on July 15, 2010:
Very nice ReuVera!
ReuVera (author) from USA on July 15, 2010:
Thanks, suny. I hope this will help somebody to prevent an unpleasant surprise if they visit other country.
suny51 on July 15, 2010:
This is a deep research.
ReuVera (author) from USA on July 13, 2010:
Irina, thank you for your for your note. I was thinking about this name too. I am going to add your remark to my list with a credit to you.
ReuVera (author) from USA on July 13, 2010:
haha, Tom! "Tom" is another international name that will sound decent anywhere (at least, I hope so... never heard anything contradicting). Actually, Tom is a popular Israeli name, and, by the way, in Hebrew it means..... are you sitting?... it means "innocent, pure, credulous", all the good stuff. The spelling is- tav, vav, mem sofit. From right to left, of course.
irinaalek7 from Florida,Miramar,USA on July 13, 2010:
My name is Irina, usually my relatives and friends call me Ira for short in Russia but in the USA -Ira is the man's name but it sounds differently.
irinaalek7 on July 13, 2010:
Very interesting and funny article!
Tom rubenoff from United States on July 12, 2010:
I am happy that "Tom" does not appear here!
ReuVera (author) from USA on July 11, 2010:
Hi, Vladimir. Thank you. You are right, the name can influence a person's life.
Do you know any name in your native language that sounds funny or bad in other languages?
Vladimir Uhri from HubPages, FB on July 11, 2010:
Hi. Very interesting Hub.
As I mentioned in hub https://hubpages.com/health/DELIVERENCE-OF-BIPOLAR... Mara, shortcut (of Maria) means bitter in Hebrew. Anna is grace. Abraham is father of multitudes or father of many nations.