Czech Names are Cute

Mr Little MoleOne of the things I like about living here is experiencing the people, their culture and their way of life.

A lot is similar to what I am used to from New Zealand, but at the same time, a lot is different. One example is names.

In New Zealand, people name their children whatever they feel like. If you want to call your son or daughter, Peaches, Apple, Moon Unit or whatever, then that’s fine. There are some rules, but they are reactive rather than proactive. For example the papers here reported the case of a couple in New Zealand who wanted to call their child “4Real”, on the basis that when they saw the ultrasound, they realised that he was ‘for real’. The authorities refused to allow them to register this name, so they decided to go for their second choice “Superman” which was apparently OK! I feel a bit sorry for Superman Smith. He’s probably going to be a weedy looking kid, and will undoubtedly have a tough time at school

In this country it’s a bit different. Here, you basically have the choice of any name so long as it on the list of names which have name days. (I say basically, because there are some exceptions for foreigners etc. However, few Czech parents would deviate from the list, even if they could, because this would mean that their child wouldn’t have a name day on which to celebrate their “second birthday”).

In practice this means that parents have about 350 names from which to choose. In reality the choice is even smaller, as from the 350, you immediately eliminate half the names (wrong sex), plus another 75 or so (archaic, old fashioned, or just plain weird – Adolf for example is not such a popular choice).

That leaves you with a real choice of about 100 names. If you are interested, you can find the complete list of names here

For many Czechs the choice is even easier, as they simply use their parent’s name. This leads to many problems. For example one friend here is called Jana (Jane), but her older sister, her mother, her grandmother, her father’s sister and her other grandmother are all called Eva (Eve). It makes for confusing family gatherings. They are referred to as Old Eva, Young Eva (she’s 50), Little Eva, and Big Eva (nice for her self esteem). I can’t remember what the other Eva is called – Thin Eva?

Another complicating factor is that Czechs don’t normally have middle names (and if they do, they don’t use them). This makes the telephone directory almost completely useless. Say for example you are looking for Jan Novak in the telephone (the Czech equivalent of John Smith – except much more common), you just get an endless list of “Novak, J.”. Unless you know his address, you are out of luck, and even then a lot of patience is required!

But the best thing is the medieval feel that Czech surnames have. Many, (but not all) surnames actually mean something – and some of the things they mean are very cute!

If you are telling a story about your friends, it might begin with “One day Old Jane Hedgehog was walking to town with her daughter, Young Jane Hedgehog, As they walked they talked about their friend Big Jane Rooster and The problems she had been having with her boyfriend Old John Alarm Clock. At the market they saw Mrs Jane Black Beard (the thin one), who was with her daughter Little Jane Pussycat. They met with Fat John Raspberry and His son Small John Raspberry.

You get the idea.

Anyway. It’s all good fun, especially as we go through the exercise of choosing a name for the newest member of our family



  1. Dan said

    And what is interesting, most of the Czech surnames are diminutives, usually with the suffix -ek, e.g. Vaclavek (little Vaclav), Slepicka (little hen), Komarek(little mosquito).

  2. I just read this post for the first time now, having stumbled across a link to your blog flicking around my blogs stats… I should’ve read this a few years ago, might have saved us some grief! I love the tradition and warmth of family names/ belonging to something, but the Supermans and 4Reals might feel more special in todays world! Hope you’re well, am loving seeing your FB posts about Madla’s art and Daniel skiing. Would be wonderful to get the kids together one day xxx

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