The Guide to Ukrainian Women Names
Do you know the meaning behind the beautiful Ukrainian women names? Read on to learn all about it!
Names In Ukrainian Culture
Some of the most popular Ukrainian women names include Anastasia, Maria, Natalia, Sofia, Yulia, Ulyana, Valentyna, Oleksandra, and Yana.
Why these? What is the importance of a kid’s name in Ukrainian culture?
Slavic folklore says that a name can predict a child’s destiny. It can also provide a degree of protection. Back in the day, when families would often lose their young children to illness, names like Valentina (meaning healthy and strong) became popular.
Another important aspect of Ukrainian names is patron saints. Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians. They are a fairly religious country, still. People get married in the church, they have their children baptized, and most Ukrainian families are regular church-goers.
When a kid is baptized, their name saint is said to protect them. Religious names like Maria or Natalia (the latter meaning ‘Christmas Day’) are some of the most popular Ukrainian women names.
Finally, a name can express a parent’s hope and love for their child:
Daria, another common Ukrainian name, derives from the Slavic word for ‘gift’.
Oleksandra, the Ukrainian version of Alexandra (could also be spelt like Aleksandra) is easily the most popular girls’ name in Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, it’s the female version of Alexander. It originally meant ‘defender’ but today most people associate it with Alexander the Great. The name is associated with the strength of character, success, and a generally bright future.
‘International’ Names in Ukraine
It the past few years (or even decades), Ukraine has seen a rise in ‘international’ names. Those are names that work in multiple different countries.
Compare Sofia and Maria to Evgeniya. The former two are easy to pronounce. They are popular in different parts of the world, not just in Eastern Europe. Most people that meet Sofia don’t immediately think Oh, she must be Ukrainian. Unless the accent or general look tips them off, there is nothing quintessentially Ukrainian about the name.
Unfortunately, there are two sides to this trend:
- Parents who give their kids normal Ukrainian names, which happen to exist in other countries. Sofia, Maria, and even Yana are good examples of this. These names are popular in Ukraine and abroad. They create less pronunciation-related worries for their bearer.
- The ones that take it to an extreme. Some Ukrainians would name their kid Jenna or Jessica and feel awesome about it. Personally, I find it sounds a bit… Ridiculous.
Popular Ukrainian Women Names: The History
Let’s get one obvious thing out of the way. Most of these names also exist in Russia. This is because:
a) Russian and Ukrainian are very similar languages.
b) The two countries have influenced each other a lot throughout the centuries.
c) Both are Orthodox Christian countries and they have similar (albeit not the same) culture.
And, of course, you can’t forget that Ukraine was in the USSR less than 30 years ago. As much as Ukrainians might not like Russians right now, they are pretty similar people.
Anastasia: Not Just The Princess
Anastasia is easily the most popular female name in Ukraine. It’s a Christian name but the origin might surprise you. It actually comes from Greek!
Anastasia is the female version of Anastasius. It derives from ἀνάστασις (anastasis) meaning “resurrection”. Early Christians were the first to use that name. Girls born around Easter (which is literally the holiday of the Resurrection) were named Anastasia.
Christianity-related names are quite popular in Europe. Anastasia is just one example of these but it’s actually a very old name. It’s currently among the top ten girls’ names in many Eastern European countries – Russia, Serbia, and even Montenegro.
Natalia/Natalya: Christmas Day
Anastasia is for Easter and Natalya is for Christmas Day. Unlike Anastasia, this one spread over the entire continent. Other than Ukraine and Slavic countries, it’s a common one in Italy and Spain.
Weirdly enough, Urban Dictionary’s description fits perfectly my impression of Natalia’s:
Natalia is a quirky bubbly girl that you don’t want to mess with. She can be fun and amazing but if you piss her off she will get mad.
Bubbly but not to be messed around with. This describes most Ukrainian women I met, to be honest!
Natalia actually comes from the Latin language. Natale Domini meant The Birth of God and referred to Christmas Day. Some famous Natalia’s include Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova, Ukrainian-born figure skater Natalia Gudina, and catwalk model Natalia Polevshchikova, usually known as Natasha Poly.
Who Is The Patron Saint Of Natalia’s?
Most Ukrainian women names come with a patron saint and this one is no exception.
Natalia of Nicomedia was the wife to a Herculian Guard of the Roman emperor Galerius Maximian. When her husband, St Adrian, converted to Christianity, so did she. Weirdly enough, her husband was a part of the persecution against Christians. When he asked a group of them what reward they expected for their faithfulness, the people told him:
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
He was so impressed by this that converted then and there. Well, now it was time for him to be persecuted, imprisoned, and tortured. Both he and his wife Natalia of Nicomedia were martyred.
Sofia: God’s Wisdom
Have you ever been to Istanbul? You might remember the Hagia Sophia basilica. But who was that mythical saint?
There are two backstories for this name. One claims that Sofia was a real saint. She lived in what is now Greece with her three daughters. When they were murdered for their faith, Sofia also soon died from grief.
Though this is likely a true story, the name Sofia has another widely accepted meaning. In Greek, it’s the word for wisdom, specifically God’s wisdom.
It dates back to pre-Christian times. Sophia is a central idea in Hellenistic philosophy. It originally meant “clever, skilful, intelligent, wise”. Eventually, the meaning moved closer to wisdom, or phronesis.
To Christians, Sofia is the Old Testament personification of Divine Wisdom. Eastern Orthodox Christianity thinks of Jesus as the Divine Wisdom. Thus, the closest to a patron saint Sofia’s should have is Jesus. In practice, they celebrate their name day on October 1st.
Ulyana and Yulia: Plenty Of Options To Choose From
These are two of the most mysterious Ukrainian women names. They are the Slavic versions of July, Julia, Julian, etc.
But where does the name originally come from?
We know that Julia was the feminine form of Julius In ancient Rome, Julius was a family name, derived from its’ founder Julus. In Roman mythology, he was the son of Aeneas and Creusa of Troy. Well, it’s not Helen of Troy but she’s still a central figure in myths. The husband and wife are mentioned in by Virgil in his Aeneid.
Alternatively, Julius might come from the Roman god Jupiter. Jupiter was the equivalent of the Greek Zeus and the main deity of Roman state religion.
Finally, another theory about the name links it to the Greek root ἴουλος (ioulos), which means hairy or bearded.
Personally, I like the Jupiter theory the best. It’s a powerful name for sure!
Yana: Jane With A Twist
The name Yana does mean Jane. However, in Ukraine, it’s not nearly as cliché. Yana is one of the most popular Ukrainian women names so chances are you’ll hear it a lot around you.
You can track back the name’s evolution to Yana from Jana, the feminine version of Jan. This, on the other hand, is short for Johannes or Iohannes, depending on the country. Johannes is the Medieval Latin form of John. Other than John the Baptist and John the Apostle, famous bearers were mostly German and Flemish.
The original Hebrew meaning of Johannes/John/Yana is Yahweh (God) is gracious. It’s an ancient name that appears both in the Old and New Testaments. Orthodox countries like Ukraine usually give the name in reference to John the Baptist.
Fun Slavic twist: While this is a Biblical name, the word Yana also exists in the Old Slavic language. It means “river. By giving the name, the hope is that the child’s life will be as long as a river. Another common omen associated with rivers is how pure they are. Not that every Yana is a saint but the idea is their life should be clear of any trouble!
Ukrainian Women Names: Learn More
Ukrainian names have a rich and varied history. If you’re wondering about your girl’s name (or your crush’s name), you can always check on baby name sites. These are seriously the richest resource on name information.
But the better strategy if completely different:
‘What a beautiful name! Do you know what it means?’ is a very sweet conversation starter. Everybody likes to talk about themselves. In the meantime, you can pick up some interesting trivia on Ukrainian culture. Come back and tell us what you learned in the comments below!