A primer on Kazakh names

The Kazakhs are a Turkic people who live in Central Asia and the southern Urals. The nations with the most diaspora Kazakhs are Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Mongolia, and Kyrgyzstan. There are also diaspora communities in the U.S., Canada, Turkey, Iran, Ukraine, the UAE, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Belarus. They’re descended from Medieval Mongol and Turkic tribes.

Though the Ukrainian people were by far the biggest casualties of the Holodomor (Stalin’s planned, genocidal famine of 1932–33), the Kazakhs also suffered, losing 37% of their population.

Kazakh is a Turkic language, of the Kipchak (Northwestern) branch of that family.

Some of the children at Mrs. Brezhneva’s Kyiv orphanage in my Russian historicals are Kazakh, kidnapped from their parents during the Civil War and the early years of the USSR. When the orphanage partially relocates to Isfahan, Iran during the Great Terror in 1937, ten of the forty children given phony travel visas are Kazakhs.

Alphabet:

Kazakh was written with Arabic letters in the 19th century. This didn’t exactly please the powers that be, so they replaced the Islamic schools with secular schools. They also forced the Cyrillic alphabet upon the Kazakh people, though this wasn’t a widely-adopted practice. After the Revolution in 1917, Arabic script returned.

In 1927, Arabic was banned again, but this time Latin script took its place. Cyrillic returned in 1940. Today, there’s a movement to bring back Latin script.

Though Russian Cyrillic has 33 letters, Kazakh Cyrillic has 42. These other letters are transliterated as Ä, Ǧ, Q, Ñ, Ö, U, Ü, X, and H. Ж is  transliterated as J, not ZH as in Russian; И is Ï instead of I; У is W instead of U; Ц is C instead of TS; Ш is Ş instead of SH; Щ is Şş instead of SHCH; Ы is I instead of Y; Э is É instead of E; and Ю is YW instead of YU. Kazakh also still uses the old letter I, and transliterates it as İ (with a dot on top).

Surnames:

Due to years of Russification, many Kazakh surnames take the Russian endings -ov(a), -in(a), and -(y)ev(a). Other than that, many Kazakh surnames have a native twist. Sample surnames include Niyazov, Shumenov, Zhaparov, Sultanbekov, Qudaybergen, Maksatov, Erzhanov, Bolatov, Astana, Aibekov, Abdulin, and Temirov.

Sample names:

Female:

Adiya
Aidana (Wise Moon)
Aiday (Moon child)
Aiganym (Moon princess)
Aigerim (Moon-faced beauty)
Aigul (Moon rose)
Aiman (Beauty of the Moon)
Ainash (Mirror)
Ainur (Moonlight)
Aizhan (Moon soul)
Aliya (Lofty, sublime)
Altynai (Golden Moon)
Altyngul (Golden rose)
Anara (Pomegranate)
Anargul (Blooming pomegranate tree)
Aru (Beauty)
Aruzhan (Beautiful soul)
Ayaulym (Belovèd)

Balganym
Bätïma (Wise woman)
Bibigul (Nightingale)
Botagoz (Loosely, Eye of the baby camel. This is a modern, not traditional, name.)
Byrganym (One queen)

Damira (To give peace)
Dariga (Surprise)
Dilnaz (Heart of grace)
Dilshat (Happy heart)
Dinara (Treasure. This rare but strikingly beautiful Russian, Kazakh, Tatar, and Arabic name is derived from the word dinar, the golden Persian coin.)

Evnika
Flura
Gülayym
Gulbatira (Rose at the mountain summit)
Gulmira
Gulnar, Gulnara (Pomegranate rose)
Gulnaz (Rose pride)
Gulzhan (Rose soul)

Inkar, Iñkär (Passion, desire)
Inzhu (Pearl)
Kalamkas
Kamshat
Karlygash (Swallow [bird])
Kulai (Moon flower)
Kulpynai, Qulpynai (Strawberry)
Kulyash
Kunsulu
Kymbat

Lashyn (Falcon)
Lunara
Madina (The city)
Manshuk
Moldir (Transparent)
Nurbakyt (Happiness light)
Nurgul (Radiant rose)
Nursulu (Beautiful light)

Rakhat (Comfort, rest)
Sagida
Saltanat (Festival)
Selyavira
Sezim (Sensitive)
Sholpan (Venus)

Taza (Clara)
Tazagul (Pure/bright rose)
Togshan (Pure soul)
Tolkyn (Wave)

Ulbobek
Ulbolsyn
Ultuar
Ulzhalgas
Ulzhan (Soul boy or Soul son, a very odd meaning for a woman’s name!)

Zabira
Zamziya (Solar)
Zarina (Golden)
Zarya
Zhadyra (Memory)
Zhanar
Zhanat (Raccoon)
Zhansulu (Beautiful girl’s soul)
Zhasmin (Jasmine)
Zhazira
Zhuldyz (Star)
Zhumagul (Friday rose)
Zulfiya (Curl)

Male:

Adilbek (Fair chieftain)
Adilkhan (Fair ruler)
Adilzhan (Fair soul)
Aibek, Aybek (Moon chieftain)
Aidar, Aydar (Topknot or Forelock)
Aisultan (Moon Sultan)
Aizat
Akhat (One; very similar to the Hebrew word echad, which means the same thing!)
Akhmet (Ahmed) (More commendable)
Akzhubek (White heart)
Äli, Ǧali
Alibek
Alikhan
Alisher
Almaz
Amïr
Anarbek (Pomegranate chieftain)
Arman (Dream)
Arystan (Lion)
Arystanbek (Lion chieftain)
Aslan (Lion)
Ayukhan (Bear leader)
Azamat (Glory or Majesty)
Azat (Free)
Azizbek

Baizhan, Bayzhan (Rich soul)
Bakhtiyar
Bakytzhan (Happiness soul)
Bauyrzhan, Baurzhan (Brother’s soul)
Bekzat
Berik
Birzhan (One soul)
Bolat, Bulat (Steel)
Bolatbek
Bolatkhan
Burkit (Eagle)

Dalelkhan
Daniar, Daniyar (Denmark)
Daniyal (Daniel)
Dauren
Dilshat (Happy, cheerful, heart)

Elya
Erasyl (Noble hero)
Erbolat, Yerbolat (Steel male)
Erzhan (Male soul)
Farkhad (Happiness or Elation)
Ilhom
Imangali

Kadyr (Powerful, capable)
Kairat
Kärim (Noble, generous)
Kuandyk
Kuanysh (Joy)
Kuat

Makhmud (Praiseworthy)
Maksat, Maqsat (Purpose or Goal)
Mukhammed
Mussabek
Nuradil
Nurasyl, Nurassyl (Noble light)
Nurbakyt (Chieftain’s light)
Nurbek
Nurbol
Nurbolat (Steel light)
Nurislam (Light)
Nurken
Nurkhan (Ruler of light)
Nurlan
Nurlybek
Nurzhan (Light soul)

Qazhymuqan
Radmir (Happy peace, Happy world)
Rakhat (Comfort, rest)
Rakhim (Compassionate, kind)
Raqim
Ruslan (Lion)
Rustam (A legendary Persian hero)

Seilda
Serik (Support)
Serikbek
Shoiynbai (Made of steel)
Shuhrat (Fame)
Suiunduk (Admired; traditionally given to a long-awaited male child)
Sukhrab (Red water or Shining, illustrious)
Symbat

Talgat (Sight, face)
Talgatbek
Taza (Clara; a unisex name in Kazakh)
Tazhibay, Tazhibai (Rich crown)
Temir, Timur (Iron)
Temirbek
Temirkhan
Temirlan (Tamerlane)
Toishybek (Father will be celebrating)
Toktar
Tolkyn (Wave)
Tursynbek (Long life; traditionally given to a child whose parents want to live to old age)

Ulykbek (Great chieftain)
Vakhid (Unique, peerless)
Yermakhan
Yrymbasar ([He] Has taken a name of the grandfather)

Zamanbek (Lord of time)
Zhanat (Raccoon)
Zhanbolat (Brave heart/soul)
Zhanibek
Zhansultan
Zhaqiya (John)
Zhenis
Zhumabay (Wealthy Friday)
Zhumabek (Friday chieftain)

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