A primer on Kyrgyz names

The Kyrgyz people are a Turkic group living in Central Asia. Outside of their homeland of Kyrgyzstan, with its hard-won independence, there are large diaspora communities in Uzbekistan, China, Russia, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. Afghanistan and Ukraine also have small diaspora communities. Among the most famous Kyrgyzis are author Chyngyz Aytmatov and Kasym Tynystanov, a poet, politician, and scientist.

Some of the children at Mrs. Brezhneva’s Kyiv orphanage in my Russian historicals are Kyrgyz, kidnapped from their parents during the Russian Civil War and early years of the USSR. Five of the forty children surreptitiously taken to Isfahan, Iran during the Great Terror in 1937 are Kyrgyz.

After WWII, Inga Savvina’s grandparents, young aunt Nelya, and adopted cousin Karla take a trip to the beaches of Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan. Inga, who defects in 1942, mourns the fact that she won’t be able to take the trip with them, but she has little choice but to leave for first Shanghai and then America while that small window of opportunity exists.

Alphabet:

Kyrgyz is written with Cyrillic, as is to be expected after so many decades of Russification and occupation. Traditionally, the Arabic alphabet was used, and then in 1927, the Roman alphabet replaced it. In the 1930s, Cyrillic was forced upon the Kyrgyz people. However, in China, Kyrgyz is still written in Arabic script.

Kyrgyz Cyrillic uses all the letters found in Russian Cyrillic, with the addition of Ң (NG), Ү (Ü), and Ө (Ö). The letter Ж is also transliterated as J instead of ZH, and the letter X used to be transliterated as H instead of KH. Since 1938, it’s been rendered as X. Additionally, Ц may be transliterated as Ţ instead of TS; Ч may be Q (in Chinese), C, or Ç; Ш is Ş instead of SH; Щ is Şç instead of SHCH (XQ in Chinese); and Ы is I instead of Y.

Surnames:

Due to the long period of Russification, Kyrgyz surnames frequently have the familiar -ov(a), -in(a), and -(y)ev(a) endings. Like the surnames of other Russified peoples, they tend towards a native twist, with influence from Turkic, Persian, and Arabic names. Sample surnames include Abdulov, Abdulin, Aytmatov, Beshimov, Usenov, Nogoyev, Ibragimov, Maldybayev, Bakiyev, Begaliyev, Isanov, Akayev, and Otunbayev.

Sample names:

Unisex:

Adilet (Justice)
Jyrgal, Zhyrgal (Happiness)

Female:

Altynai, Altynay (Golden Moon)
Amangul
Anara (Pomegranate)
Ayda, Aida
Ayjan, Aijan, Ayzhan, Aizhan (Moon soul)

Bermet (Pearl)
Bubusara
Burul
Cholpon (Venus [the planet])
Damira (To give peace)

Gülayim
Gulbadam
Gulbara
Gulnara (Rose pomegranate)
Gülzura

Jibek, Zhibek
Kalima
Kurmanjan, Kurmanzhan
Maryam
Nazira
Okeana (Ocean)
Ruhsora
Salamat
Tattybübü
Tazagul (Pure rose)
Tolekan
Toktayym
Tursuhon
Ulara (Snowcock [a type of bird])
Zamira

Male:

Aaly
Abdukadyr
Absamat
Akbaraly
Aktan
Almazbek (Diamond master)
Alykul
Amangeldy
Apas
Arstanbek (Lion master)
Asankhan
Asilbek, Asylbek
Askar
Askarbek
Aybek, Aibek (Moon master)
Azamat (Majesty, glory)
Azim

Bakyt (Happiness)
Bakytbek (Happiness master)
Chynghyz, Chingiz, Chinghiz (Universal) (Genghis)
Daniyar (Denmark)
Dastan (Capable)
Djoomart, Dzhoomart

Ednan
Erkin
Ishenbay, Ishenbai
Ismail
Jantoro, Zhantoro
Jolon, Zholon
Jumabek, Zhumabek (Friday chieftain)
Jyldyz, Zhyldyz

Kanat
Kasym, Kasim
Kubanychbek
Kubatbek
Kurmanbek
Kurmanjan

Manas (The eponymous hero of Kyrgyzstan’s national epic, 20 times longer than The Odyssey and one of the world’s longest epics)
Meder
Medet
Medetbek
Moldomusa
Muratbek
Musa
Myrzakan (Prince sovereign)

Nariman
Nasirdin
Nuradil
Nurlan
Okean (Ocean)
Omurbek
Orzubek

Rafik
Rahmatillo (Mercy of God)
Rahmonberdi
Ravshanbek
Ruslan (Lion)
Rysbek

Salijan, Salizhan
Sayakbay
Shukurbek
Sooronbay
Sopubek
Suimenkul, Suymenkul
Sukhrab (Red water or Shining, illustrious)
Sultan
Sultanbek

Taalay (Happy, lucky)
Talant
Tamirlan, Timurlan
Temir (Iron)
Togolok
Toktogul
Tolomush
Tursunbai, Tursunbay
Tursunbek (Long life; traditionally given to a child whose parents want to live to old age)
Tynychbek

Urinboy (definitely not a name I’d recommend in an Anglophone country!)
Yasyr (To be rich)
Yusuf

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One comment on “A primer on Kyrgyz names

  1. […] Urinboy. I found this while researching my post on Kyrgyz names on my main blog, and at first thought it had to be a joke or vandalism. It really is a legit […]

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