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Estonian male and female names

Variety of male and female names in Estonia

I was born and raised in the USSR and I remember very well that we had a special account of the Baltic countries — this was our Soviet Europe. Especially European seemed Estonians — almost Finns! And the language is so unusual, and the names are so strange, Scandinavian, as it seemed to us then.

Most of all, we remember the name of Lembit from the story of Sergey Dovlatov, a remarkable “anti-Soviet” Soviet writer who lived for some time in Estonia.

Estonian male and female names

Today, Estonia is part of the European Union, it is even closer to Europe, further away from us. But friends often go there on vacation: Tallinn is a wonderful city, small and a little fabulous. And we asked for a joke to find out if there are any Lembits in Estonia?

Friends took this request unexpectedly seriously and conducted a whole study of Estonian names. What are they, are they very different from all-European and Russian? And that’s what happened …

The history of Estonia in its names

Estonia is a country with a young and complex history. Therefore, the names in it are many and of very different origin. At one time, Germans and Finns lived here, then Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians.

Well, the Estonians themselves, with their Estonian names, as you might guess, also lived here. Slow, sedate, economic people with a fair sense of dignity.

Today, in a country that has become part of the European Union, children are trying to be called by some common European names that will not cut their ears somewhere in London or Munich. Therefore, no one is called Lembit here, even in memory of Dovlatov, who correctly noted that the name is the same epic-historical as our Bova or Mikula.

But some traditional Estonian names have gone, in which there is nothing epic. For example, girls are less often called Christine, boys Christians.

They say the name Kevin is also Estonian traditional and has become less common. So this is where Kevin Costner’s “legs grow” from!

Estonian male and female names

From the old names hold their positions here:

Origin of names

Estonians are the Finno-Ugric people, and the Finno-Ugrians do not distinguish nouns by gender. This also applies to names. Surnames have no female ending, unlike Russian “Petrov — Petrov”.

You will be Mr. and Mrs. Myge, and period. In antiquity, Estonians did not have surnames — only the names and appendages attached to them, indicating the occupation of its carrier or place of residence.

Estonian male and female names

Here, by the way, there was also serfdom and it was abolished in the first half of the 19th century: industry was rapidly developing in the Baltics and proletarians, people detached from the land, were needed. It was then that they diverged from their last names.

At the same time, as it should be in any decent bourgeois society, the idea of ​​the national becomes very important. It was in the 19th century in Estonia that they could well have called the boy Lembit, to revive the ancient name “in search of roots,” so to speak. Along with Lembitas, revived:

These are all ancient pagan names. But with female pagan names the problem is that for some reason they have not survived. But scientists folklorists suggest that they were:

Estonia, before becoming part of the Russian Empire, fell under German rule. Of course, this is also reflected in the names.

Hence, Johannes and Johann are quite common here.

The adoption of Christianity also had its effect in its time — children were called according to the Catholic calendar. Hence all Elizabeth and Mary, as well as the Tomas, Peter, Andreas.

Estonian male and female names

Little independent history

In the 1930s, for the first time, Estonia became an independent independent state, not for long, as we remember. And in order to erase the memory of the «colonial» past, the government decided to translate some names from German into Estonian.

After all, we know that sometimes names and surnames have a well-defined semantic meaning. For example, Kuznetsov (I explain this in Russian examples).

Well, that German names succumb to the translation. So Wilfrida became Kalevi — do you remember Kalevala? Estonians here remember their epic very well.

And the name Urmas is an Estonian translation of the German Friedebert.

Estonians, in the wake of national identity, got a taste of and began to create variations of traditional names in Estonian style. The simple and banal name of Anna, the same as in England and in Russia, became much more Estonian when the vowels were added to him: Aana, Aine, Aino.

Wonderful variety! But I am only for: this is better than when 25% of women in Natalia’s country, another 25% of Tatyana, another 25% of Yulia and the remaining quarter of Olya.

Let there be variety.

Estonian male and female names

Estonian to Russian

I was wondering how Estonian names are translated. And here are some examples.

It turns out that a harmless Martin is like the god Mars, nothing less! One of the most popular names in the country is Rasmus, the «favorite.»

Caspar — the name is clearly of German origin and is translated as «keeper of the treasure.» The name Arvo sounds very Estonian and is translated as “dear”.

Ivo — “onion from yew”, Sander — “protecting people.”

Now about female names. Wilma is a “strong-willed protector”, Kirke is a “Sunday”, and the very popular and very common name Laura means “topped with a laurel”.

The names Sofia, Annabelle and Lizette are also very common in Estonia.

Russians in Estonia

They say that the Estonians did not treat the Russians so radically as the Latvians and Lithuanians. It is not surprising that today Russian names are very popular and widespread here: Maxim, Nikita, Artem.

Oleg and Sergey also meet frequently.


  • The complex history of the country gave rise to several stages in the formation of names. There are names of pagan and catholic origin in Estonia. There are those that remained from the Germans and Russians.
  • No, there are few Lembits in Estonia, if they exist at all. But the Estonians restored their ancient names with a love for their native history.
  • Russians from Estonia are far from all. Many come. So, there are a lot of Russian names here too, your Sergey and Maxim will not be surprised.

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