Saturday, September 30, 2017

Some Cuban & Other Caribbean First Names That Begin With "Y" (Article Excerpts & Some Name Meanings)

Edited by Azizi Powell

Update: November 9, 2019 [addition of the name "Yamiche" before the Addendum to this post]

This pancocojams post provides excerpts from several online sources about some Cuban and other Caribbean first names that begin with the letter "Y".

The Addendum to this post provides name meanings for a few "Y" names that are found in the Caribbean and in Mexico.

Although it doesn't directly relate to the topic of this post, information about some Spanish surnames ending with "ez" is found in the comment section of this post.

This post is the part of an ongoing pancocojams series on Caribbean names. Click the "Caribbean names" tag below to find other pancocojams posts in this series.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Special thanks to San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for her leadership amid the devastation of that city and thanks to all others who are working and volunteering on behalf of Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean who experienced Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. (September 2017).

My prayers, concerns, and well wishes remain for the people of the Caribbean.

Here's a link to an article about how to donate money to help:

I'm interested in naming customs in addition to my interest in other aspects of African, African American, and other African Diaspora cultures. By no means am I an expert on name origins and meanings (onomastics).

I learned about Generation Y names when I started looking online for information and examples of Caribbean names largely out of curiosity, and mostly to ascertain whether the naming traditions of Cuba, Haiti and other Caribbean nations were similar to some of the contemporary naming traditions of African Americans.

Pancocojams Editor:
These excerpts and partial lists are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purpose only.

Many of these articles use what I consider to be negative adjectives such as "unusual" and "weird" to refer to or describe "Generation Y" names. I prefer adjectives such as "distinctive" or "unique". That said, a person with a "Y" name whose interview is given in Excerpt #3 indicated that she disliked being told that her name is unique. However, as a person with a name that isn't common in the United States ("Azizi"), I think that calling my name "unique" is okay, although, depending on the context, I've sometimes shared that my name isn't actually unique since "Azizi" and its male form "Aziz" are quite common in a lot of cultures.

Excerpt #1:
From "Why Cubans Have Such Unusual Names" by Newsweek Staff 8/8/08
"Dayron. Yampier. Yankiel. Yordenis. Yulieski. Eglis. Idel. These are just some of the stranger given names to be found among the 149 athletes representing Cuba at this year's Summer Olympics in Beijing, and they spotlight a quirky custom practiced by many of the island's 11 million inhabitants: a penchant for giving newborns unusual, custom-made monikers, many of them beginning with the 25th letter of the English alphabet.

This trend goes back years. Among the gold-medal-winning pugilists of Cuba's illustrious Olympic past are heavyweight Odlanier Solís, flyweight Yuriorkis Gamboa and light flyweight Yan Barthelemy. And the phenomenon goes beyond athletics. The island's best-known antigovernment blogger is a 32-year-old philologist named Yoani Sánchez, and the parents of the once famous shipwrecked boy Elián González came up with his handle by fusing their own (Elisabeth and Juan).

Why is this? Sánchez theorizes that in one of the world's last remaining Stalinist regimes, fashioning a bizarre name from whole cloth has been one safe way of flexing creative muscles without running afoul of the authorities. "Cuba is a country where everything was rationed and controlled except the naming of your children," she says. "The state would tell you what you would study and where, and creating names was a way of rebelling." Jaime Suchlicki, a Cuba expert at the University of Miami, says many middle-aged Cubans spent their youth fighting Fidel Castro's proxy wars in Ethiopia and Angola and may have given their kids African-sounding names in tribute to the continent. Similarly, the preponderance of names starting with the letter Y may reflect the contact Cubans had with Russian advisers sporting names like Yuri and Yevgeny in the years when the Soviet Union was bankrolling Castro's revolution.

Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits associate the practice with the Communist era. Suchlicki spent his formative years in pre-revolutionary Havana, and says his friends, relatives and neighbors all went by traditional, Spanish-language names. He left the island a year after Castro ousted a U.S.-backed dictator in 1959, and says the growing popularity of unconventional names among his younger countrymen came to his attention only after Castro had consolidated his grip on power. He speculates that this preference for unusual names might signify a denial on some level of the country's Spanish Roman Catholic heritage. "This may be a rejection of the Spanish past since Cuba is much more black today than it once was," he says, noting that an estimated 62 percent of all Cubans are of African descent (up from 40 percent 50 years ago)

The trend is not confined to Cuba within Latin America. Female weight lifter Yudelkis Contreras is one of 23 athletes representing the Dominican Republic in Beijing. And Venezuela's female softball team will include Yaicel Sojo and Yurubi Alicart. But no country in the region comes close to Cuba in the weird-name contest, a fact of life that has bedeviled some of the island's leading sports chroniclers. The legendary Cuban sportswriter and broadcaster Eddy Martín once claimed to have counted 400 baseball players whose given names began with the penultimate letter of the alphabet. "Yuniel, Ynieski, Yulieski, Yolexis, Yusian, Yoanni, Yumiel, Yadel, Yoneiki, Yunior, Yusded, Yinier, Yusnel," a weary Martín once told an interviewer. During live broadcasts he was sometimes known to set the stage for the next batter by muttering "And now to the plate comes another impossible name." Martín died in 2004, but he'd likely be grumbling still today, given the names of the Cuban delegation at this year's Olympics—though at least for onomastic innovation, the Cubans would certainly bring home the gold.

Sources: Islan"

Excerpt #2:
Did you ever notice a lot of Cuban players' names start with "Y"? (
submitted in 2015 by thedeejus
"Yoenis. Yasiel. Yonder. Yasmani. Yasmany. Yunel. There's 20 big leaguers from Cuba, and 30% of their first names start with a Y. Yan, Yangervis, Yoervis, Yovani, Yimi, Yusmeiro, Yohan and Yadier are the others, they were all born in various Latin American countries (none are American-born).
The question is...y?"

[selected responses]

WillyBoy69, 2015
"Is it the Cuban j? Cuz there's lots of English names that start with j."

[–]funyun, 2015
"My guess is that because spanish doesn't have a natural J sound, the letter Y is being used instead. This happens in Hebrew as well. The letter J is the most common letter to start names in English, so its replacement should be common as well."

daroon5, 2015
"Y not?
they're cool names"

Excerpt #3:
"A Story of the Cuban Y Generation" By Amy S. Choi
"We’ve loved our extraordinary friend and Cuban-American, Miami-born Mash-Up Yanik Marie Fernandez Breving for so long that we’d forgotten that her name was a little bit…unusual. But this recent Associated Press story* on Cuba’s Generation Y, born during the Cold War and given Spanish-inflected nombres inspired by Russian names like Yevgeny or Yulia, got us thinking. How does a Caribbean island Cold War tradition, born of Eastern European political influence, translate in Mash-Up America? We chatted with Yanik and her mom, Tania, to find out how Yans became Yans.

The Mash-Up Americans: Why Yanik?

Tania: It was my brother’s girlfriend’s name and I thought it sounded beautiful! No cultural consideration, only how it sounded.

Was your brother’s girlfriend Cuban?

Tania: Yes.
So you didn’t feel social pressure to choose a Y name? Since Yanik was born and grew up in Miami, was it actually a rebellion of any sort?

Tania: Actually, her name IS a bit of rebellion. My family wanted a Christian or Saint’s name for her, and I compromised by using Marie, for Maria, as her middle name.
Do you associate it with Russia at all?

Tania: A little bit.


How do you pronounce it? What’s the craziest pronunciation you have ever heard?

Yanik: Ya-NEEK. I hate when people say YAH-nick.

How did you feel about your name growing up?

Yanik: I cringed every time I heard someone repeat a crazy variation back with what sounded like a question mark at the end.
When did you realize it was unusual? Or was it not unusual in Miami?

Yanik: Everytime I heard the comment “Yanik… That’s a unique name.” [Editor’s note: Groan.] It was definitely unusual in my circle in Miami, where I stood out in a sea of Christinas, Carolinas and Marias.


Have you ever met another Yanik? Or another Cuban with a Y-name?

Yanik: I’ve never met another Yanik, but I heard lots of crazy Y names when we visited Cuba: Yesenia, Yosary, Yamile. Not to mention J names that are pronounced with a Y, like Yessica, Yenny, or Yulie.

What’s the craziest Y name you heard?

Tania: Yesenia.

What name do you give when you order at Starbucks?

Yanik: Jenny. Or my last name.

Tania, how do you feel about the name Yanik now?

Tania: I still love it.

And you, Yans?

Yanik: I like it and that it’s different from everyone else’s. But I still automatically repeat it when I meet someone new. I just hope they don’t tell me it’s, you know….unique."

Excerpt #4:
From "Forget Yevgeny and Yilka: Cuba’s ‘Generation Y’ returns to roots for names" Feb. 24, 2014
"HAVANA – Yanitse Garcia has spent three decades correcting people on the pronunciation and spelling of her first name.


Garcia is part of Cuba’s so-called Generation Y, the thousands upon thousands of islanders born during the Cold War whose parents turned tradition on its ear by giving them invented monikers inspired by Russian names like Yevgeny, Yuri or Yulia. The phenomenon was so prevalent that dissident writer Yoani Sanchez chose “Generation Y” as the title of her well-known blog; her counterpart on the cyber-ideological battlefield is a pro-government blogger and tweeter who uses the handle Yohandry Fontana.

More than two decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Cubans are increasingly returning to more traditional handles for their kids, saying they believe it will better suit them personally and professionally when they grow up. More and more, names like Maria and Alejandro are replacing the likes of Yoleissi, Yuniesky, Yadinnis, Yilka, Yiliannes, Yonersi, Yusleibis, Yolady, Yudeisi or Yamilka.

“The Y thing was like a fever, a boom. It was (about) doing something different from the monotony of the Pedros and the Rauls,” said Carlos Paz Perez, a sociolinguist at Miami Dade College and the author of a dictionary of Cuban slang. “But now that has passed and there is a tendency to recover traditional names.”

Decades ago many Cuban parents named their kids after other family members or hewed to the common practice in the Spanish-speaking world of honoring the Roman Catholic saint associated with a child’s birthdate.

There were only a smattering of eccentric monikers back then, said Uva de Aragon, a retired Cuban-American academic and writer born in 1944 in Havana. De Aragon’s own name was inspired by her grandfather, Ubaldo.

After the 1959 revolution and Cuba’s subsequent self-declaration as an officially atheist state, folks really started getting creative.

“As many people stopped baptizing their children, it was no longer necessary to pick a name that was in the calendar of saints,” de Aragon said.

Inventions like Vicyhoandry began creeping into state birth registries, as did names such as Daymer — a combination of Daniel and Mercedes — and backward renderings as in Airam instead of Maria. So too did curious English-language borrowings: More than a few Cubans can say with a straight face that Danger is not their middle name, but their first.

Meanwhile, Cold War geopolitics also inspired names such as Katiuska, after the Russian-made Katyusha missile launchers. Other kids were called Che, Stalina or Hanoi.

But it was the Generation Y phenomenon that was uniquely Cuban, and brought out many parents’ creative instincts. Consider the name Yotuel, a mash-up of the Spanish-language pronouns “yo,” “tu” and “el,” or “I,” “you” and “he” in English.

Y-fashion spread overseas through migration to Florida and elsewhere, and some of the most famous examples are found on Major League Baseball rosters in the names of defected stars Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes.

While there is no public data available, experts and parents alike have noted a clear trend away from Y-based and other eccentric names in recent years.


Recent months have seen articles in Cuban official media warning of the need to regulate naming practices and urging parents to be thoughtful when it comes time to register their newborns.

But the simple ebb and flow of naming fashions seems to be turning the tide even without the heavy hand of the government.”

Excerpt #5
From "The Y’s and Wherefores of How Cubans Name Their Children" by Eli Rosenberg, June 1, 2016
"The roster of the Cuban national baseball team is weighted curiously toward the end of the alphabet. There are Yordanis, Yurisbel, Yunior, Yeniet and Yorbis: more than one-quarter of the 41 players considered for this spring’s historic game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Havana had first names starting with Y.

It reflects a national trend informally known as Generación Y, in which thousands of people born toward the end of the Cold War have uncommon first names that share that initial. Perhaps the best-known example: Yoenis Cespedes, the power-hitting outfielder for the New York Mets, who was born in Cuba in 1985.

The seeds for this unconventional nomenclature may have been planted by the Cuban revolution, which pulled parents away from biblical names. The influence of the Soviet Union, with its Yevgenis and Yuris, is also seen as a significant factor.

Experts differ on whether the pattern is a sign of tribute or rebellion. The dissolution of the Soviet Union was disastrous for Cuba, the start of the so-called Special Period, an extended economic crisis and recession in the early 1990s.

Lillian Guerra of the University of Florida sees Generación Y as part of a broader tradition of creative naming in Cuba, one she called a sign of cultural resistance. She pointed to unusual monikers like Milaidys, a phoneticization of “My lady” in Spanish; Dianisleysis, inspired by Princess Diana; and, get ready for this, Onedollar, Usnavy, Usmail, Usarmy and Usa, all inspired by Cubans’ increased contact with Americans travelers and culture during the 1990s.

“The names were deliberate,” Professor Guerra said. “You don’t name your kid without thinking about it.”

There are signs that Cuban names have been returning to more conventional patterns in the last couple of decades, according to Professor Guerra, who has written about Generación Y. Yoani Sánchez, a famous Cuban dissident who runs a popular blog called Generación Y, wrote in 2010 that “calmer winds have been blowing when it comes time to name a child.” She expressed relief that a friend named her baby Juan Carlos.

After decades in which “Cubans named their children with a freedom they could not experience in other spheres in life,” Ms. Sanchez wrote, “sanity has returned to the act of naming children.”

UPDATE: November 9, 2017
Here's another "Y" personal name from the Caribbean:
"Yamiche Léone Alcindor (born 1986 or 1987)[2] is an American journalist who serves as the White House correspondent of the PBS NewsHour and as a political contributor to NBC News and MSNBC.[3][4] In the past, she has worked as a reporter for USA Today and The New York Times. Alcindor has written mainly about politics and social issues.

Alcindor was born to two Haitian-born parents and grew up in Miami."...

Pancocojams Editor:
Some first names beginning with "Y" are variant spelling of names that begin with the letter "J". In that case, the meaning for that name can also apply to that "Y" name.

Here are meanings for a few distinctive Y beginning names:
Exceprt #1:
From What Do Haitian Names Mean
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."
I added italics to this portion of this sentence to highlight it.

Excerpt #2:
"YADIRA f Spanish (Latin American), American (Hispanic)
Meaning unknown, possibly derived from an Arabic name. It has been used in Mexico since at least the 1940s, perhaps inspired by the Colombian actress Yadira Jiménez (1928-?), who performed in Mexican films beginning in 1946."
This page contains other "y" given names.

Excerpt #3:
Origin: Hebrew, Spanish

Bitter grace.
Origin: Spanish

Bitter grace.
Origin: Spanish

The Gypsy title character of a Spanish soap opera from the 1970s.
Origin: Spanish, American

God's gift.
Origin: Spanish

Origin: Spanish, American, Greek, French"

Excerpt #4:
A Quranic Name for Girls
Short meaning of Yalina Tender and Delicate


Alternate spellings of Yalina
Yeleina, Yaleyna, Yalienaa, Yalinaa, Yaleina, Yalynaa, Yaleena, Yeleenaa, Yeleeinaa, Yelynaa, Yeleyna,

All of the above spellings are acceptable for this name. You may also create your own spelling.


Yalina is an indirect Quranic name for girls. It is a non-standard derivation of the name Aleena and has the same meaning."

Excerpt #5
A Quranic Name for Girls
Short meaning of Yameena - Benefit, Blessings and Profit


Alternate spellings of Yameena
Yameineh, Yamenah, Yamiyna, Yameeneh, Yamiena, Yemeeina, Yemeeneh, Yemeeineh, Yameeyneh, Yemeenah, Yaminah.

All of the above spellings are acceptable for this name. You may also create your own spelling.


All Quranic baby names derived from Y-M-N:


Meaning of Yameena
Yameena is an indirect Quranic name for girls that means “blessed”, “prospering”, “righteous”. It is derived from the Y-M-N root which is used in many places in the Quran."

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  1. I also noticed in the articles that are featured in this pancocojams post that some Cuban names beginning with "Y" end with "el": "Yasiel", "Yunel", "Yuniel", " "Yotuel", and "Yurisbel".

    Here's some information about "el" ending names from
    " What is the naming convention for Hebrew/Biblical names ending in -el (Gabriel, Samael, Azrael, etc), and what are their meanings?
    Martin Schneider, Answered Nov 12, 2015
    "As others have already pointed out, the "-el" stands for God/Lord/Power in Hebrew. It is most commonly read as either " of God" or "God is " in names, but there are many different other semantics possible, too."
    The custom among African Americans of giving males (I think more than females) a first name that end in "el" used to be much more popular pre-1960s than post-1960s. My sense is that a number of African Americans consider those "el" ending names to be old fashioned while the suffix "te" (or "tay") or "dre" (or "dray") are considered more up to date.

  2. Here's a comment that I wrote in the addendum to a closely related pancocojams post on Puerto Rican given names
    "One difference between African American given names and Caribbean names (including Puerto Rican names) that I've noticed based on the two lists that are featured here, is the relatively large number of Puerto Rican given female names that end in "is", "lis","ys", "liss", or "lys".

    Examples from the list featured above are the female names "Nayelis", "Alanys", "Norielis", "Adanelys", "Zoelis, "Ilianyelis", "Genesis", "Alanis, "Alianys, "Joelys, "Karielys", "Angelis" , "Janielys", "Julianys", and "Yarelis".

    "Genesis" is a word that is familiar to non-Puerto Rican Americans, although its use as a given name is unfamiliar."
    Notice the female name "Yarelis", "Milaidys", and "Dianisleysis".

    The male names beginning with "y" and ending with "is", ys", es" etc. are "Yordenis", "Yuriorkis", "Yoenis". "Yangervis", "Yoervis", "Yadinnis", "Yiliannes", and "Yusleibis".

    I may have missed some examples of these names from those articles. And I'm sure there are many more Caribbean "Y" names that begin with Y and end with "is" or "es".

    Even if these names began as a creative spelling of a standard name + an "is" or "es" ending (such as "Yordenis" which is probably a form of "Jodan' + "is" with "is"), that doesn't mean that their name meaning has to be the meanings that are ascribed to that name and that suffix.

    1. I wonder if the apparently frequent "is", "es, "ys", ending for Caribbean given (first) names is connected in any way with the also frequent "ez" endings for many Spanish surnames (family names). I'm assuming that those "is", "es" etc. endings for given names are pronounced the same as the "ez" suffix for Spanish surnames. Is that right?

      Here's an excerpt from an article about "ez" Spanish surnames:
      " for the common suffix –ez, patronymic considerations are at play. These family names are formed by adding a suffix to the end of a father’s name. The suffix –ez means “descendant of.”

      Here are the definitions and contexts of some of the most frequent –ez names:

      • Hernandez means “son of Hernando” or “son of Fernando,” which derives from the German name Ferdinand, or “bold voyager.”

      • Gonzalez means “son of Gonzalo.” The name Gonzalo originates with the medieval name Gundisalvus. The word part gund means “war.”

      • Perez means “son of Pero” and other versions of the name, such as Pedro and Petros. Pedro means “rock” in Spanish. It’s believed that the name comes from the apostle Simon, who Jesus called a rock, or foundation, of the church. The name may have also derived from “peral,” the name of a pear tree, or as a variation of the Sephardic Jewish surname Peretz.

      • Gomez means son of Gome or Gomo. Gomme is the similar English surname. The Middle English word “gome” means “man.”

      • Gutierrez means “son of Gutierre,” which means “he who rules.”

      • Lopez means “son of Lope.” Lope is a name that comes from Lupus, a Latin name meaning “wolf.” "

  3. The female name "Yamiche" is another example of a name from the Caribbean that begins with "Y":

    "Yamiche Léone Alcindor (born 1986 or 1987)[2] is an American journalist who currently serves as the White House correspondent of the PBS NewsHour and as a political contributor to NBC News and MSNBC.[3][4] In the past, she has worked as a reporter for USA Today and The New York Times. Alcindor has written mainly about politics and social issues.

    Alcindor was born to two immigrants from Haiti and grew up in Miami"...
    I don't know the meaning of the name "Yamiche".