Fifty Viss

a collection of thoughts and writings on Burma

Part 4: Burmese personal names – Female names

This is the fourth in a 4 part installment on Burmese personal names – [1] Introduction | [2] Miscellany | [3] Male Names | [4] Female Names.

Burmese personal names: Female names

Overwhelmingly, the most common Burmese female given names were made of native Burmese words, but Indic words were more frequently found in female names than in male names. Female names generally had greater flexibility in word order than male names, and a higher syllable count than male names.

Word cloud of the most commonly used words in Burmese female names

There was very little overlap in the names, possibly because of the unfixed nature of Burmese names. The most common names of the bunch were Thiri Aung (သီရိအောင်) and Aye Myat Mon (အေးမြတ်မွန်), which were used by 3 individuals each. 4% of girls in this sample shared names.

Common naming patterns

NUMBER OF WORDS:

With regard to naming structure, the overwhelming majority, nearly 7 in 10 females, possessed three word names (e.g., Phyo Thidar Kyaw). A significant minority (a bit more than 2 in 10) had four word names (e.g., Chaw Su Lat Sandi).

OTHER OBSERVATIONS:

Female names tended to use repeated words, much more frequently than males. The most common combinations were: Htet Htet (ထက်ထက်), Ei Ei (အိအိ), Su Su (စုစု), and Phyu Phyu (ဖြူဖြူ).

WORD ORIGINS:

In the plurality of female names, the first word was native Burmese, while the second tended to be Pali. The following is an exhaustive list of all the Indic words used in the sample, 29 in total. Indic words used for a female’s name were were most often Pali in origin, and a quite a few were abbreviations of the full Indic name (ကေ kay instead of ကေသာ kaytha, စန်း san instead of စန္ဒာ sanda). Note that almost all of these loan words (Htay, Phone and Zaw being the main exceptions) are not typically used by males.

Word Common Spellings Etymology Word Common Spellings Etymology
သီရိ Thiri  Pali siri “splendor” စန္ဒာ Sandar, Sanda Pali chanda “moon”
ကေ Kay  Pali kesa “hair” ဘုန်း Phone Sanskrit bhaga “glory”
ရတနာ Yadanar, Yadana  Pali ratana “gem”
စန်း San Pali chanda “moon”
သန္တာ Thandar, Thanda  Pali santa “coral”
နီလာ Nilar, Nila Pali nīla “sapphire”
သီ Thi  Pali kesa “hair”
သဉ္ဇာ Thinzar, Thinza Pali sañja ?
ဇော် Zaw  Sanskrit yogi သီတာ Thidar, Thida Pali sitā
နန္ဒာ Nandar, Nanda  Pali nanda “rejoice”? သော်တာ Thawdar, Thawda Sanskrit “moon”
ယု Yu  Pali yujana? ဟေမာ Haymar, Hayma Pali hemā “forest”
ဇာ Zar  Sanskrit jala “lace”?
ယုဇန Yuzana Pali yujana “orange jasmine”
ဌေး Htay  Pali sethi ?
အဉ္ဇလီ Inzali Pali añjali “prayer gesture”
မဉ္ဇူ Myitzu  Pali mañju “charming” အိန္ဒြာ Eindra, Aeindra Pali Indrā
မာလာ Marlar Pali mālā “garland” ဥမ္မာ Ohmar, Ommar Pali ummā “linseed flower”?
ရတီ Yati Pali rati “gem weight” ဧက  Eka Pali eka “one”?
သိင်္ဂီ Theingi  Pali singgi “gold” သော်က Thawka Pali asoka “Amherstia flower”
သူဇာ Thuzar  Pali suja “angel”

Some other interesting points to note: Honey (ဟန်နီ) was the most common English loan, used by 3 individuals in this sample.

Most frequently used words

There was conspicuous and deliberate choice in the order of words used in a given name–for instance, Aung appears as the top-ranked word for the 1st and 3rd words in a female’s name, but is not in the top 15 for the second word.

Using the frequencies below, the most common female name would presumably be May Myat Aung (မေမြတ်အောင်).

Overall – Top 25 words used in female names

Rank Word Common Spellings Meaning % of Names
1 အောင် Aung, Ag succeed 3.4%
2 ဦး U eldest, first 3.1%
3 မေ May maiden 3.0%
4 ခိုင် Khaing, Khine sturdy 2.9%
5 အိ Ei tender 2.8%
6 ခင် Khin friendly 2.6%
6 မြတ် Myat noble 2.6%
8 ဖြူ Phyu white, pale 2.3%
9 မွန် Mon noble 2.2%
10 အေး Aye quiet 2.0%
11 ထက် Htet sharp 1.9%
11 ထွန်း Htun, Tun shine 1.9%
11 သူ Thu girl 1.9%
14 စု Su save 1.9%
15 ဆု Hsu wish 1.8%
15 ဝင်း Win bright 1.8%
17 ရည် Yi, Yee luster 1.7%
18 နှင်း Hnin dew 1.6%
19 ကျော် Kyaw famous 1.5%
19 လဲ့ Le sparkle 1.5%
21 ဇင် Zin orchid? 1.4%
22 နွယ် Nwe vine 1.3%
22 သီရိ Thiri splendor 1.3%
24 သင်း Thin fragrant 1.1%
25 ကေ Kay hair 1.0%
25 နိုင် Naing conquer 1.0%
25 ဖြိုး Phyo bountiful 1.0%

First word

Rank Word Common Spellings Meaning % of Names
1 မေ May 7.8%
2 ခင် Khin 5.8%
3 အေး Aye 4.9%
3 ဆု Hsu, Su 4.1%
3 အိ Ei 4.1%
6 ခိုင် Khaing, Khine 3.8%
7 စု Su 3.5%
8 နှင်း Hnin, Nhin 2.6%
8 ဖြူ Phyu 2.6%
10 ထက် Htet 2.0%
11 ယဉ် Yin 1.7%
11 သက် Thet 1.7%
13 မြတ် Myat 1.5%
13 ဇင် Zin 1.5%
13 လဲ့ Le 1.5%
13 ချို Cho 1.5%
13 နွေး Nway 1.5%

Second word

Rank Word Common Spellings Meaning % of Names
1 မြတ် Myat 5.9%
2 မွန် Mon 3.8%
3 သီရိ Thiri 2.9%
3 အိ Ei 2.9%
5 လဲ့ Le 2.6%
6 ထက် Htet 2.3%
6 ဖြူ Phyu 2.3%
6 သူ Thu 2.3%
9 စု Su 2.1%
9 ရတနာ Yadana, Yadanar 2.1%
9 ပွင့် Pwint 2.1%
9 ရည် Yi, Yee 2.1%
9 ဦး U 2.1%
9 အောင် Aung, Ag 2.1%
15 သင်း Thin 1.8%
15 ဇင် Zin 1.8%
15 နွယ် New 1.8%
15 နှင်း Hnin 1.8%

Third word

Rank Word Common Spellings Meaning % of Names
1 အောင် Aung, Ag 7.1%
2 ဦး U 6.4%
3 ထွန်း Htun, Tun 4.8%
4 ခိုင် Khaing, Khine 4.5%
5 ကျော် Kyaw 3.5%
6 သူ Thu 3.2%
7 မွန် Mon 2.9%
7 ဝင်း Win 2.9%
9 ဖြူ Phyu 2.6%
10 ရည် Yi, Yee 2.3%
10 နိုင် Naing, Nine 2.3%
12 လှိုင် Hlaing, Hline 1.9%
12 မြင့် Myint 1.9%
12 နွယ် Nwe 1.9%
12 အေး Aye 1.9%
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7 comments on “Part 4: Burmese personal names – Female names

  1. Wagaung
    8 June 2014

    Glad to see May (mother) is still popular enough to be the most commonly occurring first word. At least it lends itself favourably to splitting used as a first name. Ei (soft) too has become very popular. It tends to go with Poe (silk) as in Poe Ei San the film star.

    I’m surprised you didn’t come across Thazin (orchid) and Cherry. Nor Hninsi (rose), Sabè (jasmine), Myat Lay (cape jasmine). Yuzana is also a flower, Zizawa is another.

    Thi comes from Kaythi, a variation of kaythar (kesa – hair) or Thiri. Thinza is a chaise lounge or bed. Nanda is the same as Ananda (bliss). Htay means rich. Ommar is derived from Ommar Danti the beautiful maiden of ancient legend that made the king of the land go crazy. She was remarkable for her beautiful teeth (danti). Not sure what ommar means. Thriving as in the popular Arabic name Umar/Omar? Ekkra aye although some prefer to spell it in the old fashioned way therefore seen more commonly among the generation even older than mine is actually the same as Aye (cool).

    Nway on the other hand is very new. Su Su Nway the activist is the first one I have ever come across. Because Burma has a hot climate Aye (cool) is still very popular. I imagine Nway (warm) may have come from the hilly regions where temperatures are more like in northern climes. It leads me to the name Htwe or Htway as in nway htway ( warm and cosy) but used in a different context meaning the youngest, the opposite of U the oldest.

    Su indicates a repository rather than the more mundane save. Daw Suu happens to be the first person to spell it differently just as her father was the first to give his whole name as the first part of all three of his children’s names. It’s simply weird.

    Htet appears to be less popular than among boys notwithstanding the film star Htet Htet Moe U. Myat Noe (adore) as in the beauty queen May Myat Noe, and Chit Sanoe (fondly) as in the model/singer Chit Sanoe Oo are also modern monikers.

    • Aung Kyaw
      8 June 2014

      Interesting, I always thought that “Aye” was a reference to being quiet, not cool (I’ve noticed that the Burmese tend to praise quietness as a favorable trait). I was also surprised I didn’t see any Thazin or Cherry; seems like the English word “Honey” is gaining popularity.

      As for the etymology of Ommar, the most reasonable meaning I could find was a reference to the flax flower/linseed flower, as in the Pali compound ummāpupphā (ဥမ္မာပုပ္ဖါ), puppha meaning “blossom” (also where the Popa in Mount Popa comes from).

  2. Pingback: Burmese Personal Names at Fifty Viss | Burmese Names

  3. Wagaung
    10 June 2014

    Ommar Danti is where the name Ommar comes from, a very popular story on stage with comedic moments when the king almost fell off the elephant on seeing the beautiful maiden and had to be restrained by his Brahmin minister (ponna). Strangely enough never heard of any reference made to the flower, only the teeth, though I reckon you are probably right.

    Cool and quiet are the same in Burmese of course, both regarded as virtues. The metaphor however is as in the traditional blessing: “yé lo aye loh, paan lo laan ba sé” (may you be as cool/peaceful as water and as fresh as flowers).

  4. Pingback: Part 1: Burmese personal names – Introduction | Fifty Viss

  5. Pingback: Part 2: Burmese personal names – Miscellany | Fifty Viss

  6. Pingback: Part 3: Burmese personal names – Male names | Fifty Viss

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This entry was posted on 7 June 2014 by in Burma, Culture and tagged , , , .

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