Wednesday, May 9, 2012

finnish names - the end

(1-3 by Maria Katerina, 4 via)

Today brings our last installation in the Finnish names series. I've included nature names, from divine proportions to weather events, as well as some interesting bits on Finnish naming practices. I really feel the strongest connection to this post, as we chose a Finnish nature name for our own daughter.

 It certainly makes good sense to walk the nature path if you want to go Finnish with your name selections. Roughly 85% of Finland is covered in pine, spruce and birch forests. There are 187,888 lakes, and at it's northern most, it boasts the aurora borealis, midnight sun and polar night. Finland could easily be said to be one of the most wondrous places for nature lovers. It's no surprise then that Finnish naming practices center around nature quite a lot.  

Nature names are rooted in the very tradition of Finnish surnames. Though the history and substantiality of Finnish surnames varies from East to West, surnames became more established throughout Finland in the late 19th and 20th centuries (when they were made a legal requirement in the 20th, but also, and more interestingly, during the social/politcal Fennoman movement of the 19th century.) 

During the Fennoman movement, a national identity was being proudly resurrected and sculpted anew, one that aimed to be distinct from both the Swedish and Russian influences in the country. Part of this was a major language and literature revival, which of course, affected names. Because there aren't many records of pre-Christian names in Finland, many took surnames from the natural world. So the very process of making one's surname Finnish was to take on a nature name. Currently, six of the ten most popular Finnish surnames are nature names which directly translate to: stream, peninsula, hill, wave, rapids and lake.

According to this great source, a lot of Finnish babes receive three names (in addition to surnames), with the longest middle name coming last, and many parents will call their children by their second or even third names. 

 If the sounds of Finnish names, themselves, don't appeal to you, but you (like the mind behind Japanese textile line, Mina Perhonen, "sympathize with the lifestyle and the culture of Finland"), the aforementioned naming practices could be engaged as a more subtle way of honoring the culture and beauty of Suomi while using names from virtually any language.  

So here they are, my favorite Finnish nature words:   

Hirsi - timber

Ilma - air

Multa - soil

Tuli - fire

Vesi - water

Revontulet - Aurora Borealis. Anna Emilia explained it to me:  "Repo is an old name or maybe a nickname for a fox, 'kettu'. Tuli means 'fire'. So together it is The Fire(s) of A Fox."  Thank you, Anna Emilia! Isn't this so beautiful! 

Aurinko - sun

Kuu - moon

Tähti - star

Otava - the big dipper

Tähdenlento - shooting star

Taivo - sky

Tuuli  - wind

Valo - light

Valoisa - bright

Kipinä - spark, flicker 

Salama - lightning

Sade - rain

Rae - hail

Myrsky - storm

Sumu - fog

Usva - mist

Pilvi - cloud

Lumi - snow

Lumikki - snow white

Pyry - snow shower

Myräkkä - snow storm

Hyhmä - snow floating atop water

Valli - wall of snow

Kuura - frost

Halla - frost

Kivi - stone

Vuori - mountain

Laakso - valley

Niitty - meadow

Mäki - hill

Puro - creek, brook, stream

Joki - river

Järvi - lake (so appropriate to anyone wanting to pay homage to Finland)

Meri - sea

Aalto - wave, billow  (feminine form is Aalotar)

Solina - ripple, murmur, gurgle (in the stream of life? for those who want to bestow gentleness?)

Virta - current, stream

Inari -- name of a lake in Finland

Saimaa -- fourth largest lake in all of Europe, actually. 

Enonvesi -- also name of a lake. 'uncle water'? very cool if this akin to a "father time" type thing. of course, it very well could mean simply "uncle's lake".

Orivesi -- 'stallion lake'? again, cool. 

Puutarha - garden

Kukka - flower, blossom

Kukkia - bloom

Kielo - lilly of the valley

Ruusu - rose

Terälehti - petal

Apila - clover

Puuvilla - cotton

Metsä - forrest

Ikivihreä - evergreen

Mänty - pinewood

Setri - cedar

Punapuu - sequoia 

Vanamo - Linnea

Vesa - young tree

Visa - curly birch tree

Koivu - birch tree

Varpu - twig

Haara - branch

Odake -thistle

Omena - apple

Luumu - plum

Persikka - peach

Kirsikka - cherry

Selja - berry

Hunaja - honey

Mesi - nectar

Maito - milk

Minttu - mint

Sahrami  - Saffron 

Sieni - mushroom

Joutsen - swan (the national bird)

Lintu - bird, birdie

Sulka - feather

Varpunen - sparrow

Kotka - eagel

Hirvi - elk, deer

Karhu - bear (the national animal)

Kani - rabbit

Kettu - fox

Koi - moth

Perhonen - butterflly

Susi - wolf 

Tiikeri - tiger

Tila - space

Ympyrä - circle

Kierre - spiral

Yksi - one

Kolme - three

Vappu - Mayday, a big ole Spring celebration. 

This was such a fun series. Thanks for participating with me! Any of my Finnish readers care to clarify any of the meanings I wasn't clear on? Additionally, let me know if I've got anything wrong. 

Any favorites from the list? Any creative ways to using the Finnish practices without using the names, themselves? I'd love to hear your ideas and combinations!


  1. It's been a pleasure to read your loving texts about the Finnish language! A few typos in this list, though:
    an Kielo (Lily of the valley)

    best wishes, Heidi

  2. Tuli, Valoisa, Lintu...oh, my! Ilma, Myrsky, Halla, Solina.... So many here I like. Thank you for this whole series on Finnish names; it has been so lovely.

    (My own Finnish grandmother's surname was Lehtola, another nature name. I believe it comes from Lehto, which means grove.)

  3. What a gorgeous mess of names! Kani, Kielo, Kivi...I found my eye drawn to all these lovely K names in particular. Mmm mmm.

  4. Just when we thought we had solved the puzzle that is picking names from such a gorgeous list I come across this and start to question it all, haha!

    A wonderful post, I have loved this whole series. On my Finnish side the surname was kivinen which means stony :)


  5. Revontulet is certainly a stunner. I love Ilma, really do, considering adding it to my list. I'm always happy to see Lumi, and how cute that Luumi, so similar, means plum. And Kettu, on a boy? I'm into that.

  6. Fabulous post! There are so many gorgeous names here, a hardly know where to start ;)

  7. Thistle is Ohdake in finnish.I love this you way to tell about different names.Thank you♥

  8. Taivas - sky / heaven
    Kuura - hoarfrost
    Halla - frost that happens during the growing season, can be very local
    Pyry - snowstorm, blizzard, whirling snow
    Selja - elder (berry)
    Marja - berry
    Mesi - also an old word for honey
    Mesikämmen - (lit. Honey palm) = bear :)


  9. Valoisa! This is gorgeous. Is it Val-OY-sa or Val-o-EE-sa? It's stunning either way. Do you know if it's ever given as a first name in Finland?