A primer on Chechen names

Chechen is a Northeast Caucasian language, most closely related to Ingush and Bats. It’s spoken by 1.4 million people in the Chechen Republic, and by large diaspora communities in Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, France, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Georgia, Jordan, and Iraq. There are also decent-sized diaspora communities in Syria, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Spain, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

Some of the orphaned and kidnapped children sent to Mrs. Brezhneva’s Kyiv orphanage in my first three Russian historicals are Chechens. In my first Russian historical, a little Chechen girl asks “What’s a patronymic?” when Mrs. Brezhneva is complaining about how the new non-Slavic arrivals didn’t have patronymics in their cultures.

Alphabet:

Though some Chechen inscriptions are written in Georgian script, Arabic was the traditionally-used alphabet. During the 19th century reign of Imam Shamil, Chechen Arabic was reformed. Later reforms came in 1910, 1920, and 1922. Simultaneously, there was an academic alphabet with Georgian, Latin, and Cyrillic characters.

In 1925, Latin script was introduced, and unified with the Ingush Latin alphabet in 1934. In 1938, as part of Stalin’s cruel Russification policies, Cyrillic was forced upon the Chechen people. Latin script returned in 1992, but Cyrillic was forced upon the people again after the defeat of the secessionist government.

Chechen Cyrillic contains 26 letters not found in Russian Cyrillic, mostly representing compound sounds or letters with diacritical marks. A few other letters also transliterate differently than in Russian. These letters are Ä, Ġ, Ƶ, IY, KK, Q, QQ, Q̇, KH, OV, Ö, PP, PH, RH, SS, TT, TH, UV, Ü, ÜY, Ẋ, H, Ċ, Ҫ, Ҫ̇, Ş, Ə, YÜ, YÄ, and J.

Chechen separatists still prefer Latin letters, as well they should. Yeltsin opened up a huge can of worms when he decided to invade Chechnya. Instead of scoring some easy political points to help with getting his approval ratings out of the toilet, countless new problems were created.

Surnames:

As expected, due to being under the Russian heel since the 19th century, many Chechen surnames have Russian suffixes like -ov(a), -in(a), and -(y)ev(a). However, like with other forcibly Russified surnames, they have native linguistic and onomastic twists.

Sample surnames include Varayev, Akhmadov, Dudayev, Yamadayev, Shishani, Abdulayev, Aslanbekov, Maskhadan, Otarsultanov, Dzhokharov, and Zelimkhanov.

Sample list of names:

Male:

Abdulbek (Servant of the chieftain)
Abdulkhakim (Servant of the wise)
Abdulkhalim (Servant of the all-clement)
Abdulkhamid (Servant of the praised)
Abdulmezhid (Servant of the glorious)
Abdurakhman (Servant of the merciful)
Abubakar (Father of the camel’s calf)
Abukhadzhi (Father of the pilgrim)
Abukhan (Father of the sovereign)
Abusaid (Father of the happy/lucky)
Abuzar
Achamaz (A hero in Ossetian mythology)
Adlan
Akhmad, Akhmed (More commendable)
Alaudin (Aladdin) (Excellence of religion)
Alibek (Lofty ruler)
Andarbek
Anzor (Noble)
Apti
Arbi (Arab)
Aslambek (To submit to the ruler)
Aslan (Lion)
Aslanbek (Lion master)
Ayubkhan (Persecuted/hated sovereign)

Baysangur
Beibulat
Bekbolat, Bekbulat (Steel ruler)
Bekbuzar
Bekhan (Master prince)
Bekkhan (Master leader)
Borz (Wolf)
Buvaisar

Chingiz (Genghis) (Universal ruler)

Dalkhan
Danilbek (Lord Daniel)
Degi
Dikalu (Good)
Dokka
Doku
Dugurkhan
Dukvakha (To live long)
Dzhabrail (Gabriel)
Dzhalal (Greatness)
Dzhamal (Jamal) (Beauty)
Dzhamaldin, Dzhamaludin (Beauty of religion)
Dzhamalkhan (Beauty of the ruler)
Dzhambek
Dzahmbulat
Dzhokhar (Jewel or Essence)

Elbek
Elbrus (After Mount Elbrus in Transcaucasia)
Elimkhan
Elmurza
Emin (Truthful)
Eriskhan
Halid (Khalid) (Eternal)

Ibragim (Abraham)
Ibragimbek (Lord Abraham)
Islam (Submission)
Islambek (Master of Islam)
Ismaal (Ishmael)

Kadyr (Powerful, capable)
Kakhir
Kanti
Kasym (One who divides goods among his people)
Keram, Kerim (Noble, generous)
Khamchi
Khamza, Khamzat (Steadfast, strong)
Khanpasha (Essentially means “ruler ruler”)
Khansultan (Sovereign sultan)
Khasan (Handsome)
Khasanbek (Handsome ruler)
Khasi
Khasmagomed
Khavazh, Khavazhi
Khazarbek
Khazhbikar
Khizir (Green)
Khunkarpasha
Khuseyn (Hussein) (Little handsome one)
Kozhahmed
Kuyra (Hawk)

Leça, Lecha (Falcon)
Lom (Lion)

Magomedemi
Magomet, Magomed, Mukhamed, Mokhammad, Mokhmad
Makhmud (Praiseworthy)
Mamed
Mayrbek, Mairbek (Brave man chieftain or Husband chieftain)
Mayrkhan (Brave man ruler or husband ruler)
Mayrsolt
Medni
Movladi
Movlid
Movsar
Murvan
Muslim (To surrender)
Nazhud
Nazyr
Nazhmuddin
Nisost (Menacing) (Chechen form of Sosruko, a trickster god in Caucasian mythology and the hero of the Nart sagas)
Nurpashi (Ruler of light)

Patarz
Ramzan (Ramadan) (Parchedness, scorchedness)
Rizvadi
Ruslan

Said (Lucky, happy)
Saidakhmad, Saidakhmed (More commendable lucky/happy one)
Saidali (Lucky/happy and lofty/sublime)
Saidkhasan (Lucky/happy handsome one)
Saidmagomed (Lucky/happy praiseworthy one)
Salambek (Peace master)
Salamu (Peace)
Shakhid (Witness)
Shamil (Either means “comprehensive, extensive, thorough, inclusive,” or a form of Samuel)
Shamsudin (Sun of religion)
Sharaudin
Sharip (Virtuous, eminent)
Shima
Sulim (Safe)
Sulimbek (Safe chieftain)
Sultanbek (Sultan lord)
Supyan (May alternately mean “wool,” “purity,” “thunderstorm; sandstorm,” “he who walks fast,” or “comes with a sword”)

Takhir (Chaste, pure, virtuous)
Tamerlan
Tashtemir (Stone iron)
Temirbek (Iron cheiftain)
Timur (Iron)
Turpal (Hero)
Turpalali (Lofty/sublime hero)

Vaharsolt
Vait
Vakha (To live)
Vakhid (Unique, peerless)
Valid (Newborn)
Vezirkhan (Vizier leader)
Viskhan
Viskhazh

Yandardi
Yunadi

Zaur (Visiting, Appearance, or Little)
Zaurbek (Visiting lord or Little lord)
Zelim (Unjust, cruel, oppressor) (NOT eytmologically related to Salim, which has an entirely opposite meaning!)
Zelimkhan, Zalimkhan (Safe ruler)
Ziyaudin (Splendour of religion)
Zura (Shining, illustrious; may also mean “red water”)

Female:

Aiza (Visitor, returning)
Aizanat
Albika
Amanat, Aminat (Truthful or Feel safe)
Ayna
Aysha (Alive)

Bilqiz
Çovka (Jackdaw [type of crow])
Dzhuvayriyat (Atmosphere, air, sky)
Elbika
Elmira (The commander, the princess)
Fariza (Precious, unique)

Kesira
Khadizhat (Khadija) (Premature child)
Khafsat (Gathering)
Khalimat (Mild, tolerant, patient)
Khazbika

Makka (Mecca)
Maryat (Maria)
Maymunat (Auspicious, fortunate, blessed)
Medni

Nurbika
Petimat (Fatima) (To abstain)
Qoqa (Dove, rock pigeon)

Rabiat, Rebiat (Springtime or Fourth)
Raykhanat (Basil)
Rovzan
Ruqayyat (“Rise, ascent,” or “spell, charm, incantation”)
Ruvayda (Unhurrying or Very gentle)

Safiyat (Pure)
Savdat (Land that has many palm trees)
Shovda
Tabarik
Taymaskha

Valida (Newborn)
Yakha (To live)
Yakhiyta (To let live)
Yisiyta

Zakhira (Supporter, helper)
Zalbika
Zalima, Zalina
Zalpa
Zamira (Honour, heart)
Zarema
Zargan
Zaydat (To increase)
Zaynap (May mean “beauty,” or be from the name of a fragrant, flowering tree. It may also be a form of Zenobia, which means “life of Zeus”)
Zelikha
Zelimat
Zulay
Zuleykhan, Zulikha (Brilliant beauty)
Zulima
Zura (Shining, illustrious; may also mean “red water”)

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