I’m staying in the Americas today, as another country is celebrating its independence – its 200th anniversary in fact.
On the 5th July 1811, Venezuela announced its independence from Spain, and today Venezuelans are celebrating.
To honour this event, I thought I’d take a look at Venezuelan Names.
Venezuelan names have gained a reputation for being inventive and innovating (or way-out and wacky, depending on whom you’re talking to – great old article here from the New York Times, if you missed it the first time around!).
In 2007, the trend had grown so widespread that there was a backlash amongst the more conservative elements in Venezuelan government, which threatened to see such names banned and parents limited to a choice of just 100 names.
Obviously, this was considered preposterous; the notion was dismissed, leaving Venezuelan parents free to continue to name their children with whatever takes their fancy, without giving a hoot for what anyone else thinks.
Personally, I find the attitude quite refreshing – even though I would draw a line at the more notorious Venezuelan Names such as Stalin, Hitler, Yesaidú (yes, I do) and Iroshima (Hiroshima).
I don’t intend to dwell on the names most people consider outlandish on this special day for Venezuelans (for all the hype, most Venezuelans still choose pretty conservative names for their children; in 2010, the top five girls’ names were Camila, Isabella, Sofía, Victoria and Valentina, while the boys were Sebastián, Santiago, Samuel, Diego and Gabriel).
Instead, I thought I’d focus on Venezuelan names with wider appeal. For as well as all the cooky names, a lot of pretty nifty new names have emerged from Venezuela’s slightly anarchic creativity in past decades that are worth a look.
Feliz día de la independencia, Venezuela!
Betulio ♂ — a name which immediately highlights the fact that with many Venezuelan names, it is all but impossible to identify its origin. The most famous bearer is Betulio González (b.1949), the Venezuelan boxer. The most likely source seems to be the Latin betula ‘birch’.
Chiquinquirá ♀ — the name of a town in Colombia, made well known in Venezuela by (María) Chiquinquirá Delgado (b.1972), a model, actress and TV presenter. This is a classic Catholic religious name, rather than an invention; Chiquinquirá is home to the ‘Virgin of Chiquinquirá’, patron saint of Colombia and the Venezuelan province of Zulia, where Chiquinquirá was born.
Coraima ♀ — popularly derived from Greek korê ‘maiden’ and touted in Spanish with the elaborated meaning of templo divino de la juventud – ‘divine temple of youth’. Its most famous bearer in Venezeula is the actress Coraima Torres (b.1973), who is said to have Lebanese ancestry, so it is possibly its true origins lie with an Arabic name such as Karima ‘kind’ and ‘generous’.
Dayana ♀ — probably plucked straight from the world of plants; dayana features as part of the botanical name of more than one South American orchid. It was coined at the end of the 19th C in honor of the English botanist John Day (1824-88). Dayana’s similarity to Diana probably influenced its adoption too.
Goizeder ♀ — actually a Basque name from goiz ‘morning’ + eder ‘beautiful’, but it is Venezuelan model and TV presenter Goizeder Azúa (b.1984) — of Basque ancestry — who has put the name on the radar.
Greivis ♂ — Greivis Vásquez (b. 1987) is a Venezuelan-born basketball player. His name appears to be a classic Venezuelan coinage, devised to appear foreign — and thus exotic and desirable in the mind of the creator. Somewhere, deep in its subconscious, may lie the English surname Grieves or Graves.
Hannelly ♀ — this seems to be an adoption of the unusual surname of Irish origin, which is probably a variant of Hanley and deriving ultimately from the Irish Gaelic áluin ‘beautiful’. Why it should be taken up as a girl’s name in Venezuela is simply Venezuelan. Hannelly Quintero (b.1985) — a model and TV presenter — is responsible for bringing the name to a wider audience.
Huáscar ♂ — Spanish form of Incan Waskar Inca, the name of a 16th Century Incan Emperor. Its use is a good example of the fact that Venezuelans don’t ignore their Native American heritage in the search for interesting names.
Keidy ♀ — Highly likely a phonetic spelling of Katy – pronounced with an American accent. Keidy Moreno (b.1983) is an international model.
Majandra ♀ — a combination of María and Alejandra, made well-known in Venezuela by the actress and singer Majandra Delfino (b.1981), whose birth name was Maria Alejandra.
Mayré ♀ — almost certainly conceived as a phonetic rendition of the plain English Mary; many English names are popular in Venezuela, often spiced up with creative spellings. Mayré Martínez (b.1978) is a Venezuelan singer-songwriter.
Ninibeth ♀ — probably a combination of Nina and Beth. Ninibeth Leal (b.1971) is a former Miss World.
Ugueth ♂ — As borne by Ugueth Urbina (b. 1974), a former baseball player – though as he is now in prison for attempted murder, he is a bit of a persona non grata in Venezuela at present. Possibly, just possibly, related to Hugh; Ugo is the Italian form of Hugh, while Ugue and Ugues are found in Provence (while the usual French form is Hugues).
Veruska ♀ — a visitor to Venezuela might be surprised to find so many Russian and Russian-style Venezuelan names, but these were popular during the Cold War. Veruska is a pet-form of Russian Vera – though it now seems far more common in Latin America! Verushka is another form.
Yaxeni ♀ — probably a reworking of Xenia or Yesenia, or perhaps a blend of both. Yaxeni Oriquen (b. 1966) is well-known in Venezuela as a female body-building champion.
Yormery ♀ — another classic Venezuelan invention; almost certainly a respelling of English your Mary.