Names that don't cross the language barrier

There are some names you just shouldn't give a child if there's any chance you'll be moving to Hungary: Rhonda, Ruth, Anya, and Tanya come immediately to mind. (Ronda and rút both mean "ugly", anya is "mother", and tanya is "farm" in Hungarian.) There are also some names that are recognizable as names in both languages, but with opposite genders: Bela only shows up as a girl's name on the current Social Security list, whereas in Hungary Béla is firmly and stricly a boy's name. Luca is the opposite: in English it's generally a boy's name (a "foreign" version of Luke: /LOO-kah/), while in Hungarian it's strictly a girl's name (/LOO-tsah/, cognate with Lucy/Lucia).

What similarly unfortunate name/language combinations can you think of?


June 6, 2012 7:59 PM

Just to start things off, a few more Hungarian/English examples that didn't make it into my initial post:

Leokadia: strongly reminiscent of leokádja "he/she/it vomits on it"

Alma: "apple"

Finn: "Finnish", Román: "Romanian"

Julius: július is "July"

from the fastest rising list: iker is "twin"

Talan: talán is "maybe"

And going the other way, Matthew in Hungarian is Máté. Remove the diacritics (as most American computer systems do, including the SSA's), and you have "mate."

June 6, 2012 8:19 PM

A long time ago (like in the 90s) I saw a website for Turkish-Americans talking about names NOT to name your child. Most of them involved the ending -şit. When you know that "ş" is a "sh" sound, you'll understand why. They specifically gave the warning, "Never, EVER name your child Hurşit!"

My German wife gets a laugh out of the name Gretchen. The -chen ending is specifically a diminutive modifier, so the name means "little Greta." It's kind of like naming your child Billy. 

I've had trouble with the name Imtrude. But no one's really using it these days. 

June 6, 2012 10:07 PM

The other side of that is the Indian name Dikshit, which doesn't actually have the "sh" sound, and is sometimes written as Dixit. (It reminds me of something like Holtham, which in Britain would be pronounced Holt-əm, but was mispronounced when it was used for a street near where I live, making it sound like someone with a lisp saying "wholesome". But I digress.)

Apparently, Dikshit comes from a Sanskrit reference to a priest or other scholar of religious writings/one who is initiated. It's typically a surname but I met a man with that as his first name. Having first seen it in writing, I have to admit that I laughed to myself about how poorly the name transitioned to use with English speakers.

By hyz
June 7, 2012 9:46 AM

I wish I could think of some more English names that don't do well in other languages, but I'm drawing a blank offhand.  I will say, though, that there are some Korean names that do not transport at all well into English-speaking countries.  For instance, bum, suk, dong, young, mi, yoo, and ho are all common syllables in Korean names.  All are bad enough on their own (except young, yoo, and mi), but they can be and often are combined into truly unfortunate names.

June 7, 2012 2:28 PM

And that reminds me of the Vietnamese names "Phuc", which seems to be used in many restaurant names, Dung, Hung, and Phat. There is an infamously-named noodle bar in London called "Phat Phuc". I hope that it was done intentionally to gain attention and get a few laughs, like the generically Asian character Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles.

Then there is "Fanny", which no longer translates well into its own language. I know a French Canadian girl in her 20s named Fanny, and I can't help but wonder if her parents knew how the name was used in English. AND, that name has the particular distinction of having two slang meanings, depending on where you live.

There are also several commonly-Jewish surnames that I have always thought were unfortunate, such as Fuchs, Dreckman, and Butts. Especially since the girl named "Butts" that I knew had a rather large one. Fuchs means Fox in Yiddish German and is pronounced FEWKS, but that doesn't stop people from (un)intentionally mispronouncing it. Dreck is a semi-vulgar Yiddish word for excrement.

I also want to think of English examples...

December 29, 2012 9:39 PM

Not exactly in regards to names, but:

Dyslexia -- wouldn't someone with Dyslexia have trouble writing "Dyslexia"?

Lisp -- people who have lisps cannot say the word "lisp." I know there must be some origin to it, but I can't overlook that very important aspect.


I cannot think of any names at the moment.


January 7, 2013 2:36 AM

The Swedish name Jerker (Eric) sounds a lot like jerk.

July 5, 2013 2:26 PM

My godsons call me Auntie Kiki, since it's easier to pronounce than my given name. Later I found out when I was nannying for a French & German family that this doesn't translate too well to the French, as it turns out KiKi is slang for lady parts... Lets just say we had a big laugh, but the boys still call me Auntie Kiki! Lol

March 4, 2014 9:19 PM

Anne/Ana means mother in Turkish!

March 5, 2014 2:13 PM

A few Scandinavian names that should never be given to an American child. They are lovely names in their native languages but in English… :/







March 5, 2014 2:43 PM

Urk! Nobody named Dögg should EVER move to Hungary: dög means 'dead animal, carcass', and when applied to a person, something in the range of 'a**hole, d***head' (or worse).

By JuLu
June 9, 2016 4:31 PM

Pippa would never fly in Sweden as it means "to f**k". So yeah, no. Still giggle every time I hear it used as a name which is very mature I know.