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The origin of Armenian proper names

Proper names appeared in ancient times and were mainly derived from appellatives. At birth, babies were named according to their appearance or according to the qualities that their parents wanted them to have in the future. For example, Armenian female name Shogher means “beauty”, and Armenian male name Barsegh – “powerful man”.

In ancient cultures people invented names in different ways. For example, the aboriginal population of the Koh Samui islands chose names that referred to totems. They idolized plants, animals, and natural phenomena. At baby’s birth they were pronouncing the names of various totems; and the name that was said at the moment of birth became the baby’s name. Among Armenian proper names you can also find the names relating to birds and animals (Nargiz, Manushak, Gharnik, etc), but they are not connected with their worship. Generally, such Armenian names were formed to express tenderness, strength, and beauty.

In the Ancient Middle East proper names developed from the names of the gods. Among Armenian names you can also find some names formed similarly: Mihr – the God of Sun and Heaven Light; Aramazd – the God of Lightning, the Creator of Heaven and Earth; and others. With the adoption of Christianity, the names mentioned in the Books of the Old and the New Covenant came into use. Christian names spread fast among Europeans, but each nation transformed their spelling in their own manner. For example, the common name “Ioannes” became “Jean” in French, “Ivan” in Russian, “Giovanni” in Italian, “John” in English and “Hovhannes” in Armenian. Such Armenian names as Abel, Eva, Karen and many others were adopted the same way.

Some Armenian names with religious meaning were translated from foreign Christian names. For example, the names Arutyun – “Sunday”, Arakel – “apostle”, Astvadzatur – “godsent” were translated from the Greek language. Among Armenian first male and female names you can also find newly formed names referring to the religion (for example, Galust – “appearance”, Avetist – “church bells”, Srbuhi – “saint”).

After many years of studying the origin of Armenian names, the Armenian linguist and philologist Hrachia Acharian created the unique “Dictionary of the Armenian Proper Names” in 5 volumes. In this dictionary there is detailed information on the origin of any Armenian name.




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