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Off topic: Person's names and their meaning in another language
Thread poster: Cristina intern

Cristina intern  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:44
Member (2008)
German to Italian
+ ...
Nov 18, 2009

Dear colleagues,

we all know that person's names should not be translated.

Nevertheless, in a globalised world, also person's names are subject to multicultural implications.

I remember many years ago a German girl, whose name was Andrea, telling me about a nice Italian boy met during a holiday in Rome, whose name was Andrea, too. And I remember as well an Italian teacher, a man, working in Germany and being really annoyed to be always addressed as "Frau" (that is to say "Mrs") in written communications.

One further interesting aspect of person's names is their meaning in another language...
The name Suri seems to mean "pickpocket" in Japanese, "turned sour" in French and "horse mackerels" in Italian.
The name Zuma seems to mean "peace" in Arabic and "Lord frowns in anger" in the Aztec language of Nahuatl.
An interested related article:
What's in a name? More than you might think"

I would really appreciate hearing about your personal experiences and anecdotes.

Thanks in advance to everyone wanting to participate to this topic.



Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:44
Spanish to English
Well you don't have to dig so deep to find problems Nov 18, 2009

A Mexican student of mine called Jesus was told off by a US Custom Official for having a blasphemous name.

And when I was pregnant in México and looking for names for a boy, I really liked the name Ángel. However, I didn't dare, as I am Irish and one never knows what the future has in store, because any boy called Angel would have been slaughtered on an Irish playground.


Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:44
English to Dutch
+ ...
Oh yes. Nov 18, 2009

Cristina intern wrote:

Dear colleagues,

we all know that person's names should not be translated.

Nevertheless, in a globalised world, also person's names are subject to multicultural implications.

In the Netherlands, a very common girl's name is Joke (a diminutive form of an abbreviated form of Johanna). One girl I knew with that name was very annoyed when she was called Scherzina all the time when staying in Italy.
And of course there's the example of our former prime minister Wim Kok (Kok means cook), that got a lot of snickering in Britain.

[Bijgewerkt op 2009-11-18 16:23 GMT]


Valérie Catanzaro  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:44
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
My last name Nov 18, 2009

I only know Catanzaro is the name of an Italian city, which is the capital of the Calabria region.
Yet my grandfathers were from Sicilyicon_smile.gif


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:44
English to Spanish
+ ...
Blasphemous? Nov 18, 2009

When you realize how many US Customs Officials on the Mexican border are Mexican-Americans, and how popular the name "Jesús" is in that group (for both men and women), how could they possibly say it is a blasphemous name? That is the height of ignorance.


JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 22:44
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jane and Jesús Nov 18, 2009

My name is Jane, and my husband is Jesús. Here in Puerto Rico, no one has trouble pronouncing "Jane," but many years ago in Mexico, when I first met his family, his little sisters had a terrible time with my name. Some said "Yane," some said "Zane," but the worst was the phonetic pronunciation of "Hah-nay." Since they all watched movies in English with Spanish subtitles, they thought my name was "Honey" (the endearment). The teasing was so bad that I reluctantly yielded and asked my name to be translated to "Juanita."

Years later, my husband was speaking in a church in Indiana. I usually interpret for him, but a former missionary to Spain asked if he could do so. My husband was telling a story about a time when we were dead broke, and he quoted me as asking him, "Jesús, ¿qué vamos a hacer?" The innocently deadpan interpretation of "And my wife said, 'Jesus! What are we going to do?'" brought down the house! Meanwhile, my bewildered hubby couldn't imagine what he had said to shock, scandalize, and/or amuse his audience.


KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:44
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Up in smoke Nov 18, 2009

Years ago when my wife (a German) and I were trying to decide what to name our baby, I remembered a rather nice Irish fellow I had met at a summer teaching program a few years before and thought his name might be appropriate. When I suggested "Kiffen" for a boy, she was absolutely appalled, and I didn't understand why....


Edited to add an explanatory link for those who don't speak German well

[Edited at 2009-11-18 17:33 GMT]


Amy Duncan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:44
Portuguese to English
+ ...
"M" Nov 18, 2009

My name is not common at all here in Brazil, although some people do manage to pronounce it correctly. Most, however, say "Ah-MEE" and my last name is "DOON-kahn." I usually don't bother to correct them, but when I do I just tell them to think of the letter "M" which sounds almost like "Amy" in Portuguese, or close enough anyway.

How about our president? His name is Lula, which means "squid" in English.icon_biggrin.gif

[Edited at 2009-11-18 18:00 GMT]


Hynek Palatin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 04:44
English to Czech
+ ...
Palatine Nov 18, 2009

A palatine or palatinus was a high-level official attached to imperial or royal courts in Europe since Roman times. [Wikipedia]



Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
My cousin Mona Nov 18, 2009

When I was a kid, parents threatened me with great punishment if I ever told my cousin Mona that her name meant (female) "monkey" in Spanish. I wonder if she knows by now.


Antonina Erena  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:44
Polish to Romanian
+ ...
Beata/Erena Nov 18, 2009

Beata, first name in Polish, with a slightly different pronounciation means "drunk" in Romanian.

My husband is of Greek origin - Erena means "peace".


Magdalena Szewciów  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:44
Member (2008)
English to Polish
+ ...
huh Nov 18, 2009

Apparently my first name is of Egyptian origin, but means "glorious" in Arabic, through I'm often said its simly a girl from Magdala.
My surname is awful to read for foreginers /shevcioov/ and seems is of Ukrainian origin. At some point, when we wanted to move to the UK, we seriously considered the possibility of changing our surname to Gawlas, which a typical Englishman would read as (more or less) /goulas/ - meaning "naked" in Polish.icon_wink.gif


Laureana Pavon  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:44
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...

Beata in Spanish Nov 18, 2009

Antonina Erena wrote:

Beata, first name in Polish, with a slightly different pronounciation means "drunk" in Romanian.

In Spanish, Beata is a devout woman.

To my knowledge, my name has no meaning. It's my grandma's nameicon_smile.gif



Paul Adie  Identity Verified
Spanish to English
+ ...
Пол Nov 18, 2009

My name pronounced in Russian (Пол) means 'gender', 'half', 'floor' to state a few:


Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:44
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Day and night Nov 18, 2009

My younger daughter's name, Sahar, means moon in Hebrew, but dawn in Arabic. My older one, Shiraz, is a combination of the Hebrew words for song/poem and secret, but is also the city in Iran (which I heard is beautiful...).

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