name day

Today the Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates the naming of the Lord. We would like to take this opportunity to talk about names and their meaning.

The purpose of names is to denote objects and thereby distinguish them from one another. They were not chosen at random, but expressed those distinctive impressions produced by objects or those special relationships in which they stood with the person. As with places and animals, so was the case with humans. They were linked to the memory of the circumstances of the birth - for example in the story of the birth of Isaac: Sara and Abraham laugh when they learn that they are expecting a son and call their son "Isaac". This name יִצְחָ֥ק (from the Hebrew root "to laugh") becomes in Gen 21:6 declares, saying: “And Sarah said: God hath made me laugh; everyone who hears it will laugh at me.”

The name was also considered an omen, a prophecy, as was the case in the story of Benjamin (Gen. 35:18) or Nabal (Kings 25:25, etc.). In the Bible, the names had a special meaning as a promise of divine providence and the determination of a person's relationship with God. Such names were either given at birth, such as Noah (Gen 5:29), Ishmael (Genesis 16:11), Isaac (Gen 21:3), Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:21), or retrospectively after events of great importance in the person's life. So it was e.g. B. in Abraham when God changed his name from Abram to Abraham by making a covenant with him (Genesis 17:5). We see the same thing in the stories with Sarah (Gen. 17:15), Jacob (Genesis 32:28), Joshua the son of Nun (Numbers 13, 16), Cephas (Simon, Peter) (John 1:42), Barnabas (Acts 4:36) etc.

For the prophets, too, the names were used as an important message in order to ascribe important meanings to them. So Solomon is called by the prophet Nathan Yedidja, meaning "beloved of the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:25). The prophets Hosea (Hos 1) and Isaiah (Isaiah 7:38,3) derive various prophecies from the names of their children. When God chooses the man to preach His commandments, He gives him a new name (Exodus 31; Isaiah 45:3-4). A new name given by God (Isaiah 45:15Rev 2:17 etc.) indicates the beginning of a new relationship with God.

Original Armenian names

Names have played a special role in all peoples. They form an important monument of the national spirit and can be interpreted from the history of a people. The Armenians also have names that have an ancient Armenian origin. They have an etymological transparency and they can be distinguished from Arabic, Persian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew names. Armenians have expressed many natural and human phenomena through their names. Derivations of relationships, animals, birds, body parts are very often found in such names: Aytsemnik, Ayruk, Aryuts, Astghik, Artuyt, Garnik, Yeznik, Eghbayr, Zarmayr, Tatul, Thathik, Tornik, Koryun, Mrtschyunik, Tirayr, Tslik, Warditer , Warderes, Woskehat, Heriqnas, etc. These names date back to pre-Christian times. Some of them are still used today, others are no longer or very rarely assigned.

Armenian Christian and Religious Names

Along with Christianity, names from other languages also came to Armenia. Many Hebrew, Assyrian, and Greek names were Armenianized or translated into Armenian during the spread of Christianity in Armenia. Anastas became Harutyun, Theodoros became Astvatsatur, Seth became Mkhitar. Church festivals, symbols and surnames of saints were also Armenianized or recreated in Armenian. This is how the well-known names established in Armenia emerged: Avetis, Avet, Galust, Iskuhi, Khachatur, Khachik, Karapet, Hambardzum, Makruhi, Mkrtich, Srbuhi, Tiruhi, etc.

Dearmenization and wrong transcriptions

Above all, during the centuries-long Turkish oppression and most recently also in the genocide of the Armenians, many Armenians either forcibly lost their Armenian first and last names (these were also expropriated), or they were, and still are, by the Turkish authorities, often deliberately, misspelled, on the one hand to distinguish the Armenians from the Turks and on the other hand to humiliate the Armenian Christians. The Armenians suffered no less Russification during the Soviet period. Scattered around the world, our Armenian names suffer from an incorrect or inconsistent transliteration of first and last names. There is also the question of Western and Eastern Armenian and the corresponding transliteration.

For a number of years, our compatriots in Germany have been able to have their Armenian first and last names corrected. We recommend arranging an appointment with the diocese of the Armenian Church in Germany in order to correct the spelling of the first and last names, among other things. It is an offer that has rarely been taken up until now, but plays an enormously important and necessary role in identity preservation.

give a name, choose a name

In the past, Armenian Christians received their names during baptism from the godfather or the baptizing priest. There were some rules for naming newborns. Names were often taken from the church calendar. Names of saints, or names derived from a church festival celebrated around the day of baptism (birth), were popular. In some cases, the children were named in honor of a particular saint with whom the parents or grandparents had a special connection, through prayer and intercession, even before the child was born. So it was primarily the name day that was celebrated on the child's birthday. This tradition died out almost completely during the Soviet period and is unfortunately very rarely practiced in the diaspora either.

But it would be very important to at least try to revive this tradition. Because the commemoration of the saint or the church festival in whose name a person is baptized represents a personal feast day. Name saints should be advocates and role models for the child and give him comfort in need - and that for a lifetime. On the name day, Christians go to church, confess, take communion, read the life of the saint, ask him to intercede before God. Above all, we recommend expectant parents to discuss the issue of naming with the responsible pastor before the birth of the child.

When is your name day?

The question is easy to answer if the saint or festival is celebrated only once a year. Just look at the church calendar. But what if several saints bear the same name? Or does one and the same saint have different observances? Determine your own name day, can get tricky in these cases if the parents didn't choose the name carefully. In such cases one takes the saint whose memorial day is close to one's birthday. Or one celebrates on the day of Wardanants or on the day of all saints.

If you don't celebrate your name day on a certain date from childhood, you can also make a very personal choice. Before discussing this with the parish priest, look at the biographies of the saints and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who was he or she?
  • Why was he/she canonized by the Church?
  • What is the big thing in his/her life?
  • What can we still learn from him/her today?

Do you have any questions? Contact us. We're here to help.