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The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society cover
The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society


Full article in PDF format | doi:10.3176/esa60.03

Annika Hussar


Estonian given names in the year 1900

The article examines Estonian given names in the year 1900. The material comes from all 124 Lutheran congregations on the territory of present-day Estonia. In addition to the names themselves, other aspects of working with documents from this time are discussed (Russian language, old orthography in names).The most popular female names were Marie, Alide, and Hilda, while the most popular male names were August, Johannes, and Aleksander. Although the list of names had changed in the previous few decades, there were still examples of borrowed names belonging to the previous naming tradition (e.g. Liisa and Jaan, especially in western regions). In female names, the emerging trend of Estonian-origin names can be observed (e.g. Salme, Linda, Helmi, more in the east as well as in Viljandimaa). There are examples of names which were the most popular in one district (e.g. Hilda in Tartu or Elfriede in Tallinn) but were almost unknown in more conservative areas.
Another new trend was the use of double first names, which also grew in popularity toward the end of the 19th century. As is typical of naming trends, this innovation was primarily seen in female names. It was most prominent in Tallinn (over 70% of girls’ names), Virumaa and the Tartu area; in the west, there were still congregations where all children received single names.
As in other countries, factors influencing name usage in Estonia include industrial development, railroad construction, the growth of cities, increased mobility, the rise in the level of education, and the people’s increased exposure to literature; the activity of the nationalist movement also played a role. These wide-ranging changes in people’s way of life led them to adopt a more liberal attitude toward name usage.
Despite Estonia’s small size, there are quite substantial regional differences in the changes in name usage. The country can broadly be divided into two regions: the conservative West (Harjumaa, Läänemaa, the islands, Pärnumaa, Viljandimaa, Järvamaa) and the innovative East (Virumaa, Tartumaa, Võrumaa). More innovative name usage was also observed in cities (in this study Tallinn, Tartu, and Narva).


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