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Given Latvian Names in the 19th Century

Updated: Apr 5

Is your name a "real" Latvian given name? To the disappointment of many Latvians even names that we think are real Latvian names are Christian names that have been adopted to Latvian language.

Latvian Names Calendar
Latvian Names in 1935 Calendar

With Christianisation in the 13th century, Christian names were introduced in Latvia. Receiving a Christian name meant also receiving a guardian angel, or a patron. Christian names quickly became the most popular names in Latvia. The names however were adapted to the local language, and often changed beyond recognition.  

One Christian name could have several Latvian forms or contractions.

Besides that, the forms that one finds in church books and revision lists are written by Germans, according to German orthography rules, thus leading to even more forms of the same name.

Many Latvian adaptations of the Christian names have changed so much that they are perceived as “real" old Latvian names. Some are still used and are popular, some have disappeared.

Below, I have listed different versions of popular Latvian given names--how they are appear in church books and revision lists; which Christian name they originate from; and the modern Latvian name.

The list is not complete, and you are welcome to send in additions or comments. In the last column, I do not list original Christian names that are still being used in Latvia today, in their original Christian form, such as Barbara. 

Historical Latvian Names

Sources and further reading:

A scientific article by Renāte Siliņa-Piņķe “Izplatītākie zemnieku vārdi Vidzemē 17. gadsimta pirmajā pusē” (in Latvian).

A scientific article by Pauls Balodis “Personal Names of Livonian Origin in Latvia: Past and Present” (in English).

An article by Rasma Noriņa “Kā radies Tavs vārds?” (in Latvian).

A dictionary "Latviešu personvārdu vārdnīca" by K.Siliņš, Rīga "Zinātne", 1990.



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