Female names

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Xotica, Feb 5, 2012.

  1. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

    I've always been curious/mystified why so many female names (in many various languages) end with the letter a. How did this convention come to be and is this more of a lingual or a cultural identifier?
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    I don't think so for here's a link with the most used Egyptian female names and they don't have that many that end in "A". Even if you go to the link I provided you'll see even more names that don't end with "A" .

    AAHHOTEP, peace of Aah, or, peace of the moon.
    AAHMAS, child of the moon.
    AAHOTEP, peace of Aah, or, peace of the moon.
    ACHEN, recluse.
    AHIT, assistant.
    AHMES, child of the moon.
    AHTI, a hippo goddess.
    AHURA, living.
    AI, divine.
    AKARKHENTKATS, wise one keeping her place.
    AKELA, (alone ?); the mother of Tahrarka.
    AKUSAA, ("sunset"); the wife of Tum.
    AMA, mother.
    AMAUNET, hidden.
    AMEM, the wife of Enantef.
    AMENANKHNAS, self-existence + life, living + people.
    AMENIRITIS, the sister of Shabaka king of Egypt.
    AMENMEIT, a priestess of Amen Ra.
    AMENSE, sewer of Amen.
    AMENSET, Set Amen, Daughter of the Sun.
    AMENT, the Hidden.
    AMENTAKEHAL, the mother of King Urdamani.
    AMUNET, hidden.
    AMUNIRITIS, a priestess of Amen.
    Amunnebkettoti, a wife of Amenrut or Amyrtæus.
    AMUNTA, the Sun; or, the self-existent.
    AMUNTIKHET, the wife of Taharka.
    ANA, the sun.
    ANAI, a royal priestess.
    ANI, the sun.
    ANIT, Anahita ("pure, spotless").
    ANKA, Anucis; Hestia.
    ANKARAMA, a daughter of Takelot II.
    ANKHATEFS, the mother of Osirtesen-pepa.
    ANKHES, the wife of Sekherta.
    ANKHESENAMEN, the wife of King Tutankhamen.
    ANKHESENATEN, a daughter of Amenhotep IV.
    ANKHHI, the mother of Psametek, priest of Pthah.
    ANKHKAROAMAT, a daughter of Takelot II.
    ANKHNAS RANOFREHET, the the daughter of Psametik II.
    ANKHSAPENAP, the granddaughter of Piankhi II.
    ANKHSEN RANOFREHET, the the daughter of Psametik II.
    ANKHSEPUNTEPET, a lady of the blood royal of Panki.
    ANKHTA, city of life.
    ANKU, the second wife of Uah.
    ANNEKE, the wife of Nakht-ankh.
    ANOUKE, an Egyptian warlike goddess.
    ANQT, Anouke.
    ANQTTITE, a daughter of Sebekhotep III.
    ANRN, an Egyptian goddess.
    ANTA, a goddess of war.
    ANTAEMNEKHT, Anaïtis in her strength.
    ANTARTA, a goddess of the Khita.
    ANUB, a priestess of Amen.
    ANUCIS, Anka.
    ANUKETMATMA, a daughter of King Sebekhotep II.
    ANUKTATA, an Egyptian princess.
    APET, the hippo goddess.
    APITUS, she who is on the hill.
    APU, Egyptian unisex name.
    ARA, the wife of Thothmes IV.
    ARAT, a consort of Thothmes IV.
    ARBASTUTANIF, a daughter of King Takelothes I.
    ARBASUTANIFU, a daughter of King Amenrut.
    ARIA, a priestess, the daughter of Diogenes.
    ARIURU, a Saitic name.
    ARSINOE, the sister of Queen Cleopatra.
    AS, Isis.
    ASHTARCHEMOSH, a form of Chemosh.
    ASMATARTA, a wife of Rameses III.
    ASNOFRE, the Good Isis.
    ASTARETENHEB, Priestess of Astarte.
    ASTEKHU, mother of the sculptor Abet.
    ATA, princess.
    ATEF, the mother of Nunnu.
    ATEM, the mother goddess of time.
    ATIM, the mother of Mentuhotep IV.
    ATINMERIT, an Egyptian queen.
    AUA, the wife of Amenemapet.
    AUAIT, an unidentified goddess.

  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

    Sorry, I meant in usage today. English and Russian certainly. It also exists in both Hebrew and Arabic.

    Actually, she later changed her name for religious/political reasons. She was the third daughter of Akhenaten/Nefertiti and her birth name was Ankhesenpaaten (translation - Living Image of the God Aten).
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Like Maria, Julia, Eudora, Flora, Ursula, Veronica?

    In the Romance languages (some of which have found their way into English via Latin and Norman French), i'm guessing it's mostly from a word or masculine name that ended in -us. The ones that ended in -is were Greek words or female names: Artemis, Iris, Chloris, Doris - that remained unchanged.
  8. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    You also see it to a very limited degree in Old English, in names with a Germanic origin, like Alditha, Alfreda, Alvina, Batilda, Bega, Eadburga, Ebba, Eda, Edmunda, Edwina, Etherlberga, Ethelreda, Ethelinda, Everlida, Flerta, Githa, Godiva, Goditha, Gunilda, etc.

    There are a few male names that also end in "a" (Boda, Cada, Ceola (male or female), Cola, Deora), but it's a shorter list.

    It could be that Old English naming conventions were influences by Latinate names. It's certainly true that come names they used were adopted and modified from Latin (like "Hilaria").
  9. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

    I'm wondering if it was used to indicate the gender of the name.

    We had a female dog named 'Heika'.
    Had the dog been male, the equivalent would have been 'Heiko'.

  10. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

    I'm wondering Xotica, are you female

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    I think in a number of European languages, names are inflected in a sense. I know that in Russian, a womans last name always ends with an a. For example, a Russian woman I work with has the same last name as her husband, Gorlov. But if I were to say "Hello Miss Gorlov" (Pri-vyet Gaspazja Gorlova) It ends with an A. But If I were to say Hello to her Husband, I would say "Hello Mister Gorlov" (Pri-vyet gaspazjin Gorlov).

    Always, the woman's last name ends with an A.
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    In Latin, every noun has a gender: masculine, feminine or neuter. The most common ending for feminine nouns (in the nominative case) is -a. Puer=boy/puella=girl, equus=stallion/equa=mare, luna=moon, stella=star, terra=earth, and so on.

    This carried forward into many of the modern Romance languages, e.g.,: Spanish yegua=mare, luna=moon, estrella=star, tierra=earth. (But not all; as French words became more compact so the language could be spoken more slowly, the -a ending was lost: lune, etoile, terre.)

    As a result, there was a strong impetus for feminine names in Latin, and now in the Romance languages, to end in -a.

    Since Roman civilization was European civilization for hundreds of years, children were often given Latin names. After two thousand years these names are so common and well-known that many parents continue to use them.

    This is especially true in the English-speaking countries, because even after the collapse of the Roman Empire England was occupied by France. The French still used Latin in diplomacy and scholarship so Latin continued to exert a strong influence on English culture. Furthermore, medieval French had not evolved as far away from Latin as Modern French has, so names ending in -a were compatible with the phonetics of the French-speaking people who ran the country. (Today a Frenchman would be obliged to pronounce a name like "Maria" with the accent on the last syllable: ma-ri-AH, so it's obvious why they now name their daughers Marie instead.)

    Regarding the Slavic influence, although many Slavic feminine nouns end in -a, it's not as pervasive as it was in Latin. Furthermore, masculine diminutive endings frequently end in a: Misha, Vanya,and Yasha are the standard nicknames for Mikhail (Michael), Ivan (John), and Yakov (Jacob).

    In Greek it's quite common for masculine nouns to end in -a: programma, athleta.

    Many common English names are of Hebrew origin, and Classical Hebrew words never end in a vowel, so we have Michael, Judith, David, Esther, Joshuah and Sarah (final H was not silent in ancient Hebrew).

    The phenomenon Skaught mentions, of Slavic female surnames ending in -a, is simply grammar. In the Slavic languages surnames must be declined for gender, case and number, just like nouns. If a surname is a word, then it takes the normal grammatical endings that word would take. If it's just a name and not a word, then the feminine is usually formed by appending -ova (if the name does not already end in -ev or -ov, which are quite common.)

    Šťastný/Šťastná, Libošvar/Libošvarová (those are Czech names), Gorbachev/Gorbacheva, Romanov/Romanova (Russian names transliterated into the Roman alphabet).

    But the bottom line is that English has so many Latin words, and our people have so many Roman names, that we unconsciously associate the ending -a with femininity.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2012
  12. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

    I was scanning a list last week with hundreds of names. It occurred to me that at least 60% of the female first names ended in an a. Sheila, Norma, Tasha, Yolanda, Sophia, Vera, Debra, Jessica, etc. etc. I had no idea why this was so and it intrigued me. This Linguistics forum seemed like the perfect place to inquire. I thank all of you for the fantastic response and input.


    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Eureka is Greek, so even though it ends in A, it might not be feminine.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    [Actually, it's not a name or even a noun at all. It's a verb, meaning "I have found (it)." Attributed to Archimedes when he discovered Archimedes' Principle. It is also the California state motto, referring to the discovery of gold there in 1848. The county seat of Humboldt County, where I live (when I'm home), is named Eureka, as are several other U.S. cities.]

Share This Page