A primer on Latvian names

Dagnija Liepaitē was a completely unplanned character in The Twelfth Time, my Russian novel sequel. Secondary antagonist Anastasiya finds herself pregnant after a drunken one-night stand with a stranger in Paris during her first fashion show abroad, and she needs a lot of assistance to run her salon while she’s away on her pretended sick leave. In comes 21-year-old Dagnija, who immigrated from the coastal city of Saulkrasti, Latvia in 1920. Dagnija is one of the new seamstresses, and impresses Anastasiya so much she’s invited to be the second in command.

One fateful day when she’s staying late after work, she picks up the phone and overhears Anastasiya talking to her secret son’s pediatrician. Dagnija knows exactly how to play her cards from here, and becomes the alternate designer and even more powerful. She has Anastasiya eating out of the palm of her hand, and knows exactly what to say to her and how to work her. Anastasiya has no choice but to grin and bear it if she wants the secret of her unwed motherhood to stay as under wraps as possible. I just love Dagnija, since she’s so fun to write, and her interactions with Anastasiya practically write themselves.

The last line of Chapter 20 of The Twelfth Time ends “Now, the deceiver lays at the mercy of the deceived.” It’s inspired by the final line of a Decameron story, “And thus it was that the deceiver lay at the mercy of the deceived.”

Latvian surnames:

Dagnija’s surname in The Twelfth Time is Liepaitē, since she’s unmarried. In Journey Through a Dark Forest, the third book, her surname has become Liepienē, since she’s now married. Latvian women’s surnames take different endings depending upon their marital status, though men’s names typically have only one form. The masculine form of her surname is Liepiņš.

It’s most common, as casual observers can quickly figure out, for Latvian surnames to end in -s, -is, and -š. Sometimes a name will end in -us or -o.

Patronymics and direct address:

Latvians historically haven’t used patronymics, but during the periods of Russian and Soviet occupation, they had no choice but to legally adopt patronymics. In addition to this, their names were also forcibly Russified. The same thing happened under German domination, only minus the patronymics. Nowadays, names are reverting back to their true Latvian roots.

The vocative case is used when directly addressing someone; e.g., Jānis becomes Jāni.

Pronunciation:

Latvian uses a Roman alphabet, but like many other Eastern European languages, it too uses characters the average English-speaker isn’t used to. They’ve got bars over their As, Es, Is, and Us, a Ž (ZH), Š (SH), Ņ (similar to the Spanish Ñ and Italian GN), Ģ, Č (CH), Ķ, and Ļ. It’s a Baltic language, closely related but not identical to Lithuanian.

Common Latvian names:

Female:

Agate, Agita
Agnese, Agnija
Agra (Agrita)
Aleksandra (Aleksandrīna)
Alīna
Alise
Alvīna, Alvīne
Amālija
Anastasija
Anna
Antonija
Antoniņa
Astra, Astrīda
Ausma
Austra
Beatrise
Biruta
Brigita
Dagmāra
Dagnija
Daiga
Daina (Song)
Doroteja
Dzidra
Dzintra
Edīte
Elita
Elizabete
Elvīra
Emīlija
Estere
Evelīna
Evija
Genovefa (Genevieve)
Helēna
Ieva (Eva)
Ilga
Ilona
Iluta
Ilva
Ināra
Inga
Ingrīda
Irēna, Irīna
Jadviga (Hedwig)
Jana
Jeļena
Jolaņta
Judīte
Justīne
Jūlija
Karīna
Karolīna
Katarīna
Klāra
Klaudija
Kristiāna
Kristīna, Kristīne
Ksenija (Xenia)
Laima (Luck)
Larisa
Lāsma
Lauma
Lavīze
Lidija
Lienīte
Liesma
Lija
Lilija
Lilita
Līvija
Lūcija
Ludmila
Luīze
Madara
Maija
Margarita, Margita, Margrieta
Marija (Marika, Marita)
Marina
Marta
Maruta
Megija
Melanija
Mirdza
Modrīte
Monika
Monta
Mudīte
Nadežda (Hope)
Natālija
Olga
Otīlija
Paula, Paulīna
Rasma
Renāte
Regīna
Rota, Rūta (Rudīte)
Rozālija
Sabīne
Saive
Sanda
Sara
Šarlote (Charlotte)
Saule
Sigita
Signe
Silvija
Simona
Sindija
Sintija
Skaidra (Skaidrīte)
Sofija
Solveiga
Tamāra
Tatjana
Terēza, Terēze, Terēzija
Vaira
Valda
Valentīna
Valērija
Veneranda
Vera
Veronika
Vēsma
Viktorija
Violeta
Vita
Zuzanna

Male:

Ādams
Adriāns
Aleksandrs
Aleksejs
Alfons
Alfrēds
Aloizs (Aloysius)
Anatolijs
Andrejs (Andris)
Antons
Artjoms
Artūrs
Augusts
Bendiks (Benedict)
Daniels
Dāvids
Dmitrijs
Dzintars
Edgars
Eduards
Emīls
Ēriks
Fēlikss
Fīlips
Fricis, Frīdrihs (Frederick)
Gabriels
Georgijs, Georgs, Juris, Jurģis
Ģirts
Grigorijs
Gustavs
Henriks, Henrijs
Ignats
Ilgvars
Ilmārs
Indriķis
Indulis
Jānis
Jāzeps (Joseph)
Jēkabs
Jevgeņijs (Eugene)
Jūlijs
Kārlis
Kaspars (Jasper)
Kirils
Klaudijs
Kristaps (Christopher)
Kristiāns
Laimdots
Ludis, Ludvigs (Louis, Ludwig) (Dagnija’s husband)
Madars
Maigonis
Markuss
Matejs, Matīss (Matthew)
Miervaldis
Mihails, Miķelis, Mihaels
Modris
Nikolajs, Niklāvs
Ojārs
Oskars
Pāvils, Paulis, Pauls, Pāvels
Pjotrs, Pēteris
Raimonds
Raitis
Raivis, Raivo
Renārs
Rihards
Ritvars
Roberts
Romāns
Rūdolfs
Simons, Sīmanis
Stefans
Tālivaldis
Teodors
Toms, Tomass
Uldis
Uģis
Vairis
Valentīns
Valērijs
Vilhelms, Vilis
Visvaldis
Voldemārs, Valdemārs (Valdis)
Zigmārs
Zintis (Magic)

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2 comments on “A primer on Latvian names

  1. Arlee Bird says:

    Oh my gosh! A few of the names are familiar, but there’s a lot I’ve never heard before.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

    Like

  2. WOW. And I complain about coming up with names! This sounds like an all new kind of challenge.

    Like

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