Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Some Distinctive Haitian Female Names (with information about some Haitian naming customs)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is the second post in an ongoing pancocojams series on Caribbean names.

This post provides information about a few distinctive Haitian female names as well as information about some Haitian naming customs.

For the first post in this series, click That post provides information about the female name "Wideline", includes examples of some other Haitian names, and provides information about some Haitian naming customs.

For the third post in this series, click That post contains examples of distinctive Haitian male names and information about some Haitian naming customs.

The content of this post is presented for etymological and cultural information.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Issendai for her? his? research work that is quoted in this post.

I consider myself a volunteer community folklorist. In addition to other aspects of African American, African, and African Diaspora cultures, I'm interested in naming customs. By no means am I an expert on name origins and meanings (onomastics).

I'm not Haitian and I'm not of Haitian descent- that I know of. However, my maternal grandparents are from the Caribbean (Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados). And my granddaughter's paternal great grandfather was Haitian.

I started looking online for information and examples of Haitian names largely out of curiosity- mostly to ascertain whether the naming traditions of Haiti were similar to some of the contemporary naming traditions of African Americans. From perusing online web pages of Haitian names*, it appears to me that there are some general similarities but also considerable differences between Haitian naming traditions and African American naming traditions. Some of those similarities and differences will be noted in this post and in other posts that are part of this series.

As is the case with my documentation and study of African American names, I'm most interested in "distinctive" Haitian names. By "distinctive" Haitian names, I mean personal names from Haiti that are unfamiliar to me and I think unfamiliar to most African Americans and most other people in the United States. I realize that many or most of the names that I consider to be "distinctive Haitian names" might not be considered "distinctive" by many or most Haitians.

*I'm particularly thrilled to have found the wonderfully rich (for people interested in names) pages at Special thanks and special hat tip to that blog!

My prayers, concerns, and well wishes remain for the people of Haiti. Here's a link to one Haitian relief organization:

Here's another link to a relief organization which works in Haiti and elsewhere:

Excerpt #1
Updated 1/17/2014 "the most popular haitian baby names"
"In the interest of getting you what you're looking for, this page makes a terrible fudge of the statistics. The truth is, it's impossible to know what the most popular Haitian baby names are. There's no central authority gathering and collating data, no registry that's open to private citizens--no data, basically. But by mining a couple of unofficial sources of data, I've created lists of the most common names among Haitian university and graduate school applicants, and among babies, children, and teens in sponsored school programs and other relief programs aimed at the rural working class."...

Excerpt #2
“Haitian spelling is flexible, especially where vowels and the letter R are concerned. For example, Guerline can also be spelled Guilene, Guirlene, Guilaine, Guirlaine, Guerlaine, Guerlyne, Guylene, Guilene, Gurlaine, Gurlene, Gyrlaine, or Gulene… and that’s not counting the misspellings."

Excerpt #3
From Name Endings
"French has a multitude of name endings. Claude can become Claudette can become Claudine; when the winds of fashion change and the English suffix -elle becomes the rage, Claudelle may become one of the hot new names. Name endings can be stacked: Claudeline, Claudelette. Although each ending has a meaning, the meanings are no longer significant. Parents don’t care that Claudette means “little Claude,” while Claudine means “like or of Claude”; the important consideration is how the ending sounds.
Italics are added to highlight these sentences.

Excerpt #1
From Haitian Kreyol Names; Issendai | February 26, 2016 | Haitian names
The children across the street were piling up the leaves in Madame Augustin’s yard. The bigger ones waited on line as the smaller ones dropped onto the pile, bouncing to their feet, shrieking and laughing. They called one another’s names: Foi, Hope, Faith, Espérance, Beloved, God-Given, My Joy, First Born, Last Born, Aséfi, Enough-Girls, Enough-Boys, Deliverance, Small Misery, Big Misery, No Misery. Names as bright and colorful as the giant poincianas in Madame Augustin’s garden.
— Edwige Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory

"Rural Haitians have a long tradition of names in Kreyol—not Kreyolized names like Jan-Jak for Jean-Jacques (although there’s a tradition of that, too), but names composed of Kreyol words. Some are religious: God-Is-So-Great, God-Given, Jesus-Is-Here. Others are the parents’ wishes for their family: Enough-Boys for a son born after a long string of boys, Enough-Girls for a daughter born after a long string of girls. Or the parents’ wishes for their child: No-Misery, Faith, Hope.

Non-Haitian parents looking for a Haitian name for their child should be aware that middle- and upper-class Haitians think these names are hilaaaarious. With the exception of some of the Dieu- names, these names are borne mainly by peasants, so middle- and upper-class Haitians think they’re too hick for words, the Haitian equivalent of Jimbo, Billy-Bob, and Cletus. When I was collecting Kreyol names, the richest source by far was Haitian-run comment threads with titles like “Funny Haitian Names,” “Ugly Haitian Names,” and “Names I Would Never Give My Baby.” While these names are beautiful and evocative, you may want to think twice about giving one to your own child.”...
That page includes a list of female Kreyol names and a list of male Kreyol names.

The Haitian rural naming traditions that are described above seem similar to the Shona (Zimbabwean) naming traditions that are described in this pancocojams post

Names that refer to God and names such as "Beloved, "Faith", "Hope", and "My Joy" are common among many people in Africa and in the African Diaspora, as well as among other races/ethnic groups throughout the world. Birth order names, circumstantial names, and names that tell a story and/or state an opinion or wish are/were also common in a number of traditional African cultures and African Diaspora cultures including, to some extent, African American culture. To cite on example, an African American female who I went to school with in the 1960s was a premature baby. Consequently, her name was "Early". And one African American male who I met said that he named his son (who is now in his early twenties) "Man" because he wanted to make sure that White people never called him "boy" when he became an adult.

Excerpt #2
Issendai | June 22, 2016 | Haitian names "Haitian Names: A New File, A New Look Across Times
"It’s been a while since I regaled you with tales of Haitian onomastic nerdery, but wait no longer–I have a fine new source of names, rich and glowing with extraordinary detail. Today’s treat is courtesy of, the Haitian site for the body that oversees elections. They thoughtfully provided a list of every member of… the officials who oversee elections at the town level, I think? Three people per township–that amounts to roughly 25,000 names. I added in the names of the 300+ students who made the top scores per region in the two high school graduation exams, a small collection of names of candidates for election, and one list of government officials from Carrefour. All of these lists give first and last names, birthdate or a version of the personal identification number that includes the year of birth, and (except for the list from Carrefour) the person’s sex. The data has been clean apart from the usual typos, occasional switching of first and last names, and mystifying gender assignments.


The top 19 women’s names are:


...Which roughly matches the results from the massive list* of Haitian names. The numbers in both files are close, so it’s not surprising that names appear to leap or drop precipitously in popularity when you compare the two lists."
*Here's a link to the other name table that is mentioned in this excerpt:
The source for the female name "Fabiola" in Haiti and elsewhere probable is the Catholic Saint Fabiola

The name "Fabiola" also resembles a Yoruba (Nigeria) personal name. The element "ola" means "wealth" and/or "honor". There are lots of examples on this nairaland post Here are a few examples: "Babasola - father makes wealth", "Eniola = person of wealth" and "Omotola/Omotolani; a child is as worthy as wealth".

I'm not sure if that resemblance to Yoruba names had/has any influence on the popularity in Haiti of the name "Fabiola".

Excerpt #3
From What Do Haitian Names Mean

[Pancocojams Editor- These names are randomly selected from that post.]

"DAPHNEY. The most common spelling of Daphnée, from the Greek daphnē, “laurel tree.” Daphnée can be combined with Love to become DAPHLOVE or DAPHENALOVE, and can be spelled Daphne, Daphney, Dapheney, or Daphmie. In any of its spellings and variants, it’s one of the more popular names in Haiti.

DAPHKAR. Also spelled Daphcar, Daphka, or Daphca.

DASHKA. One of the Russian names that became popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Dashka is a Russian nickname for Daria, “wealthy.” It can also be written Dashca, Dachka, Dacheka, or Dachecka.

DJENIE, DJENNIE. Kreyol form of JENNY.

GUERDA. This distinctively Haitian variant of GERTRUDE is popular both on its own and dressed up with new endings: GUERDINE, GUERLANDE, GUERLINDIA, GUERLINE, GUERLINEDA, GUERMYLOVE, and GUERTINE.

LOVELIE. English, “lovely.” The trendy name LOVE plus the built-in English meaning were guaranteed to make Lovelie a top choice for Haitian parents. Also spelled LOVELY.


NEPHTALIE. The French form of Nephtali, the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Also spelled NEPTHALIE. The name has multiple variants, including NAPHATALINE and NAPHETALOVE.
Nadège. From the Russian name Nadéžda, meaning “hope.”

SORAYA. “Brilliant gem,” a Persian name for the Pleiades. Also spelled SERAYA.

SOUKAÏNA. From sakîna, an Arabic word that means “tranquillity” and implies God-inspired peace of mind. Also spelled SOUKAYINA.

TAÏNA. French for “Taino woman.” One of the names that honor Haiti’s Taino past. Also spelled TAYINA or TAHINA.

YANICK. Breton for “Little John.” This traditional men’s name is exclusively feminine in Haiti, and is modestly common among older women. Also spelled YANNICK.

YUDELINE. An import from Cuba, where a mania for names beginning with Y created a generation of children named Yuset, Yumara, Yuniel, Yuslan, Yoandy, Yakarta, Yolaide, Yotuel… and Yudelina. In Cuba, the Y is pronounced as a soft J, so the Cuban pronunciation of Yudelina sounds to the Haitian ear like Judelina. Give the name a French twist, and it become JUDELINE. Keep the original spelling but pronounce it in French or Kreyol, and it becomes Yudeline—or, with a little creative spelling, Youdeline, Yodeline, Yoodeline, or Youdelyne. With a new ending, it becomes YOUDELANDE. All of these names (plus their male counterparts—just trim the -e off the end) are modestly common in Haiti, especially among people born in the 70’s and 80’s, when the craze for Y names began in Cuba.

As for what it means, no one is sure. Some say it was invented, just a collection of appealing sounds with no underlying meaning. Personally, I suspect that whomever invented it had the name Jude on the mind, making Yudeline a feminine variant of Hebrew Yehudah, “praised.”

Yudelines who want a more unusual folk etymology for their name can turn to the name Eudaline or Eudalina, a rare Spanish name (and even rarer French name) derived from the medieval French male name Eudes and its diminutive Eudelin. Eudes comes from Germanic Audes or Odo, meaning “wealth,” which would make Yudeline a Caribbean cousin of Ottoline."

Excerpt #4 [Added at 7:00 PM 11.2.2016]
From "Digging Out From Under the World's Most Massive List Of Haitian Names"
..."Ah, Nadege, the Jennifer of Haiti. The oldest Nadege in the sample was born in 1957, but the name hits its stride in the early 70’s and carries on strong through the 80’s and early 90’s.

Nadege–Nadejda, “hope”–is one of the Russian names that took Cuba by storm and spread to the surrounding countries. In Haiti, other popular Russian names were Nadia, Natacha/Natasha, Natalie, Tania, and Tatiana for girls, and Casimir and Vladimir/Vladimy for boys.

Guer- names first appeared in the late 50’s–the earliest in my sample is 1956–and gained steam through the 60’s. For girls, Guerline, Guerda, and Guerlande; for boys, Guersly, Guercy, Guerlin, Guerdy, Guerson, and the traditional name Guerrier. Where did Guer- come from? I have no idea, but my money’s on Cuba."

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  1. Spelling flexibility and the desire for unique/distinctive names within certain parameters are characteristics that some Haitian names share with some contemporary & older African American names.

    With regard to the Haitian name "My Joy" or "My" + with another name or a word that serves as a name", I'm aware of the contemporary African American name "MyKeisha" ("My" = the name "Keisha"). But I think that there are very few African American names like that.

    The name "MyKeisha" and I also think the Haitian names that have a "My" prefix expresses pride in one's daughter and not actual possession of that person.

  2. **
    One of the issendai pages quoted above noted and gave examples of the contemporary Haitian custom of creating a new female name by adding the word "love" or "my love" to an already existing female name or part of an already existing name, i.e. "Naphetalove" and "Guermylove"

    I've not come across that naming custom among African Americans (who aren't of relatively recent Haitian descent). Has anyone else come across that naming custom in the USA?

    That same page documents the use of the word "Lovely" ("Lovelie") as a female name.

    I know one African American woman (in her mid 40s) whose first name is "Love". And I know an African American female (who is a teenager) whose name is "Beautiful". But regardless of my personal knowledge, those names are quite rare among African Americans and other Americans.

    1. I just remembered that the first name (not nickname) of an African American women who went to school with me in the 1960s was "Lovey".

  3. Here's a quote from
    "Although each ending has a meaning, the meanings are no longer significant. Parents don’t care that Claudette means “little Claude,” while Claudine means “like or of Claude”; the important consideration is how the ending sounds."
    It's interesting that that researcher mentioned name endings and not name beginnings. Prefixes such as "La","Sha", or "De" (pronounced dee or day) have been used since at least the late 1960s to coin new variants of names or coin new names. It doesn't appear that Haitians have a lot of names with those prefixes. I wonder which prefixes if any they have.

    I think that it's also true that most Americans (including African Americans) don't know or care about the meaning of personal names, but are interested in how the name sounds.

    I also think that a convincing case can be made that some sounds are aesthetically pleasing or dissonant among African Americans and other Americans because of their association with things that are viewed unfavorably. Even a particular word (such as "ugly") can result in that beginning sound being rejected. How many names beginning with "u" can you think of? In contrast, I think that one of the main reasons why the letter "J" is so popular in the USA (and not just with African Americans) is that Jesus' name begins with that letter...

    But I also think that particularly since the late 1960s, a significant number of African Americans are interested in giving names that "sound" African or Arabic. Put another way, a significant portion of African Americans are interested in giving distinctive names within certain parameters (for instance, the names usually the preferred names have two or more syllables and no consonant clusters). And those names might be from European languages or from Hebrew as long as they aren't standard "White" names. Then again, there are some standard, trendy names like "Madison" that a number of African Americans also give to their children.

    1. In my reading thus far of the pages on Haitian names it appears that there isn't as much Arabic and traditional African language influence on Haitian names as there is on contemporary African American names.

      One more point - In addition to how a name sounds, it seems to me that some contemporary African Americans are also interested in how a name looks. One way that interest is reflected is in the use of capital letters after a prefix -for instance, the relatively newly coined male name "Jamar" (which is a combination of the Arabic name Jamal and the French name "Lamar") is also given as "JaMar" among other spellings. The name "Jamar" might also be spelled with an apostrophe ("Ja'mar") or with a hypen ("Ja-mar"). All these spellings add uniqueness to the name.

    2. And those names might be from European languages or from Hebrew as long as they aren't standard "White" names.

      This points to a possible difference in how the two groups use names to position themselves vis-a-vis other groups. Unlike African Americans, Haitians aren't in daily contact with a white overclass that has overwhelming political as well as numerical superiority. They don't need to position themselves as "not white."

      Also, AFAIK, Haitians aren't in a culture that celebrates their African heritage. In past generations, all good things came from being as French as you could be. Now wealth and power come from associations with a range of other countries--none of them African. My knowledge of Haitian race relations is minuscule, but my impression is that Haitians are more interested in emulating North American, Caribbean, or European cultures, or in celebrating what's unique to Haiti, rather than looking to Africa.

    3. Issendai, my knowledge of Haiti-race relations and otherwise- is less than miniuscule. Therefore I can't say whether your impression is accurate that "Haitians are more interested in emulating North American, Caribbean, or European cultures, or in celebrating what's unique to Haiti, rather than looking to Africa".

      I'm aware that afrocentric African Americans recognize the history of Haiti as the "the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, the second republic in the Americas, the only nation in the western hemisphere to have defeated three European superpowers (Britain, France and Spain), and the only nation in the world established as a result of a successful slave revolt"... But do we really know that much about Haiti and do we support that nation's people when they undergo natural disasters and otherwise? No.

      But pan-Africanism (including those in the African Diaspora) can be found all over the world. I see it in the comments that are written in YouTube discussion threads for African music in which African people from West, East, Central, & South Africa in particular, and people of some Black descent from the Caribbean, North America, South America, and Europe participate and call each other brother and sister and "fam" (family). I also see it in the natural hair movement for females as well as males.

      Since I know so little about Haitians, I can't say if they "more interested in emulating North American, Caribbean, or European cultures, or in celebrating what's unique to Haiti, rather than looking to Africa."

      It would be great if people who are Haitian and people who know about contemporary Haitian culture would share their opinions about this subject.

  4. It's interesting that that researcher mentioned name endings and not name beginnings. Prefixes such as "La","Sha", or "De" (pronounced dee or day) have been used since at least the late 1960s to coin new variants of names or coin new names. It doesn't appear that Haitians have a lot of names with those prefixes. I wonder which prefixes if any they have.

    Good point! I'll pay more attention to that next time I hit the data. AFAIK, My- is the only prefix with much traction, and even then it's not common. The action really is all at the end of the name.

    1. Thanks for commenting Issendai!

      And thanks for all of your research. I Love your website!

      You wrote that "The action [in Haitian personal names] really is all at the end of the name."

      That's interesting, and is another way that Haitian naming customs differ from African American naming customs.

    2. I wrote that "Prefixes such as "La","Sha", or "De" (pronounced dee or day) have been used [by African Americans] since at least the late 1960s to coin new variants of names or coin new names".

      Actually, African American have used prefixes to create name variants & coin new names looong before the 1960s.
      Here's an excerpt from Eliza Dinwiddie-Boyd's Proud Heritage: 11,001 Names For Your African American Baby [page 310]
      "La = Puckett documents an early preference for the La phoneme in these names: La Blanche, La Dora, La Eurnice, La Fay, La Jeune, La Perle, La Rossie, La Rue Forrest, La Tausea, La Vada, La Verne, La Zora".
      "Puckett" = educator, sociologist, and folklorist Newbell Niles Puckett

      Regarding those particular names that Puckett collected, I grew up with an African American girl named Larue in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the 1950s/1960s (I can't remember how she spelled her name.). I also have known African American women named "Lavada" and "Laverne".

    3. Correction:
      I should have written "Put another way, a significant portion of African Americans are interested in giving distinctive names within certain parameters (for instance, African Americans usually prefer to give our children names that have no more than two or three syllables and no consonant clusters).

      For those reasons, African Americans who were or are "in to" giving their children and/or themselves "African names" are much less likely to choose certain traditional African names than other names.

  5. Quoting
    "Where did Guer- come from? I have no idea, but my money’s on Cuba."

    Here are my speculations about that subject:
    My guess is that the "Guer" names in Haiti came from "Guevara" (Ernesto "Che" Guevara).

    Recall the statement quoted above from one of the pages: “Haitian spelling is flexible, especially where vowels and the letter R are concerned."

    Note that the Cuban revolution started in 1956: "The first step in Castro's revolutionary plan was an assault on Cuba from Mexico via the Granma, an old, leaky cabin cruiser. They set out for Cuba on November 25, 1956."

    Issendai indicates that the earliest "Guer" name in that collection is from 1956. (I wonder what month in 1956 that person with that "Guer" name was born.)

    Of course, the idea that the Haitian names that begin with "Guer" have their source in Che Guevara's name is just speculation on my part. I didn't know about any of these names before reading those pages.

    Again, this is just my opinion, but I think its unlikely that names beginning with "Gue" or "Guer" will trend in the USA. The "gu" letter combination is unfamiliar to us. I'm not even sure how "gu" is pronounced, but I think it sounds like "goo". My sense is that that sound wouldn't be considered aesthetically pleasing for names. Furthermore, I think that "Guer" element names might be confused with the female name "Gertrude", which rightly or wrongly, is now viewed negatively as it has come to connote a woman who is old fashioned and prudish.

    Given the number of Haitian female and male names that begin with "Guer", my speculative points about Americans' attitudes and opinions about that name element and the "gu" name element probably aren't pertinent to Haitians.

    1. "Gue" is pronounced "Ge," with a hard G. (In both French and Spanish, the U is there just to prevent it from being pronounced "Je.") Guer- is pronounced just like the beginning of Gertrude. I think you're right, it's not going to catch on in the U.S. because of the association with Gertrude.

      Then again, you never know. When I was a kid, Olivia was an old-lady name that was never, never coming back. Look at it now!

    2. Issendai, thanks for that information regarding the Haitian pronunciation of "Gue".

      I've also noticed that the name "Olivia" has grown in popularity for some years.

      According to "The name [Olivia] has been used in the English-speaking world since the 18th century, though it did not become overly popular until the last half of the 20th century. Its rise in popularity in America was precipitated by a character on the 1970s television series 'The Waltons'."
      But that doesn't explain why the name Olivia got to be so popular since the early 2000s. Here's some data from Social Security Administration regarding that name's popularity ranking:
      I believe that the Olivia cartoon series probably contributed to that popularity, but given the beginning date of that series, Olivia the pig (delightful as she may be) didn't start the "Olivia" name trend.
      "Olivia (also known as Welcome to the World of the Pig Olivia) is a British-American children's animated television series produced by media company Chorion and based on Ian Falconer's books. It is seen on Nick Jr. in the US, Milkshake!, Nick Jr. in the UK and Ireland, Disney Junior in Latin America and Brazil, and Treehouse TV in Canada. The show has won a silver Parents' Choice Award for its positive story lines and characters.[1]...

      Original network Milkshake! (United Kingdom)
      Nick Jr. (United States)
      Disney Junior Latin America (Latin America)
      Treehouse TV (Canada)

      Original release January 26, 2009 – March 26, 2011"
      I wonder why the name "Olivia" became hot decades after the the 1970s Waltons tv series and before the 2009 "Olivia" cartoon series.

    3. Not that this has anything to do with Haitian female names, but it just occurred to me that in 1989 Raven-Symone starred in The Cosby Shows "Olivia", the little girl who was the step-granddaughter of the Huxtables.

      I think that character was a big reason why the "Olivia" name became so popular.