Personal names

In the last decade of the 20th century, 19,158 different names were given to Estonian children. This variety consisted of native Estonian names (Malle, Vaike for girls; Endel, Meelis for boys), older borrowings (Liina, Piret, for girls; Mihkel, Siim for boys) and newer names of foreign origin (Merili, Kaisa for girls; Kaspar, Rasmus for boys). The multiplicity of names is increased by the use of varying spellings, the borrowing of more and more names, and even inventions or double-barrelled ones, borrowing on an older Estonian tradition.

What are given most frequently to children are names that are popular all over Europe: for example, for girls, Anna, Johanna, Kristel, Laura and Sandra, and for boys Erik, Johannes, Kevin, Markus, Martin and Sander. Among the names that were fashionable in Estonia in earlier times are the following: - up to the end of the 16th century, Baltic Finnic names such as Lembitu, Vootele, Meeme; - up to the mid-19th century, names adapted from Low German, such as Mari, Triin, Liis; Andres, Jüri, Märt; - from the late 19th century to about 1920, foreign names such as Rosalie, Asta, Ellen; Eduard, Arnold, Herbert; - from the nineteen-thirties, Estonian names such as Aino, Luule, Õie; Kalju, Ülo, Vello; - from the nineteen-forties, old borrowed names such as Tiiu, Maie, Reet, Rein, Ants; - since the fifties and sixties, newer foreign names, such as Marika, Katrin, Signe; Aivar, Marko, Marek; - since the eighties, old borrowed names such as Kadri, Triin, Liis; Kristjan, Indrek, Lauri.

Originally every Estonian only had a first name. After the Christianisation in the 14th century, they became more precise with additional names, created from names of professions, places or fathers' names. The additional names would change if a profession or location was not passed on to the next generation. Only a few urban residents had surnames initially, and the entire peasantry was only given surnames after the abolition of serfdom in the first half of the 19th century.

During the first period of the independent Republic (1918-1940), over 210,000 people acquired their own surnames. New names replaced those that were insulting (Kõnts "Filth", Sopaauk "Muckhole"), weird (Kollikivi "Ghost-stone", Pudrunahk "Porridgeskin"), foreign (Apfelbaum, Vassiljev), of mixed origins (Jahimann, Karubach) or undesirable on other grounds.

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