By Dr. Amine Jules Iskandar President of the Syriac Maronite Union – Tur Levnon
When a Lebanese is called Gabriel or Daniel or Andraos or Antonios, is he carrying a foreign name?
Syriac is Canaanite-Aramaic that has been enriched with Greek and was Christianized.
As we have seen in the previous parts of this series, Syriac vocabulary reflects both Semitic and Greek origins. In Part 7 of this series, we will show how Syriac is also obvious in surnames and first names.
Firstly, we will present names from Cananean origin. They are easily recognizable because of their el endings, El being Canaanite for God.
Here are several examples:
- Gabriel, from Gabr El | in Syriac, man of God
- Daniel | Judgment of God. The word Dan or Din is also found in the name of the village of Bteddin: the place of judgment
- Emmanuel | God is with us
- Mikhael or Michel or Michal | The image of God
- Shmael or Samuel | Listen to God
- Raphael | Rophé means medicine in Hebrew, making Raphael the medicine of God
- Charbel | Charbo means story in Syriac, making Charbel the story of Go
- Tayboutel | Grace of God, translated today to Neemetallah
Our second group contains Syriac Names with Greek origins.
They are also recognizable due to their ending with os, for example:
- Pétros | Peter
- Poulos or Paolos | Paul
- Andraos | Andrew
- Koriakos | Cyriaque or Cyriakus
- Kyrillos | Cyril
- Qouprianos | Cyprian
These are very typical names widespread in the mountains of Lebanon.
Qouprianos, Kyrillos, Keriakos were very typical Mount Lebanon names up until the beginning of the 20th century.
More names ending in os are:
- Ghnatios or Ignatios | Ignatius
- Ghostinos or Agostinos / Agostin / Gostine | Augustine
- Costantinos | Constantine
- Antonios or Tanios or Antoun or Tanous / Antoine | Anthony
- Estéphanos or Estphén | Stephan and Stephany, from Stephanos meaning to be crowned in Greek
- Klimos or Euclimos
- Georgios or Guewarguis | Georges
- Gregorios | Gregory
- Germanos | Germaine
- Théodoros or Tédros | From Théos doron meaning gift of God
- Théophilos | Love of God
The following are typical names found in Maronite monastery inscriptions:
- Séwérios or Sévérios
- Dionisios or Denys
- Martinos or Martin
- Marinos or Morine or Marina
- Athanasios | Eternal
- Anasthasios or Anasthas | Resurrection
- Youllios | Jules
- Youlianos or Youliano | Julien
- Youstinos | Justin
- Youstinianos | Justinian
There are other Syriac names that are typically Lebanese even though they end in neither el or os:
- Risha | from risho, meaning head or chief
- Matta or Mattay | Matthew
- Ashaïa | Isaiah (lost first letter becoming Shaïa)
- Elyshaa | Élysée (lost first letter becoming Lychaa)
- Avrohom or Abrohom | Abraham (lost first letter becoming Brahim)
- Levnon or Lebnon | Lebanon
- Yammine or Yamine | The right or righteous
- Benyamin or Benjamin | Sons of the righteous
- Férzlé | From farzlo, meaning iron craftsman or blacksmith
- Kordahi | Metal craftsman
- Zayno | Weapon
- Sh3aito | From sha3outo meaning yellow
- Shbat or Shvot | February
- Youhanna or Youhanon | John (lost first letter becoming Hanna)
- Lahoud or Lahd or Lahdo | The Son of God, Jesus
- Maroun or Moroun | Little lord
- Abdo | Worshiper (of God)
- Malek or Melké | From malko meaning king or malakho meaning angel
- Ain Malak | The king’s spring
- Louis | This name expresses the importance of Saint Louis, King of France, to the Maronite people
- Ain Louis | Louis’ spring
- Saliba | From Slibo or Slivo meaning the Cross
- Kassis | From qashisho meaning the deacon
- Zakhia or Zakhio | Equivalent of Victor meaning victorious
- Séba | From saba or sovo meaning the senior
- Jaber | From Gabr, Gabro, or Gavro meaning man
- Sassine | Saint Sassine
- Elias or Elia or Elio | The prophet Eli
- Keyrouz | From korouzo meaning preacher
- Chalhoub | From chalhéb meaning flame or inflamed
- Touma or Toumo | Tomas
- Erémia | Jeremy
- Sarkis or Sarguis | Sergius.
- Nohra | From nouhra or nouhro meaning light
- Luqa | From the Latin luce, the light
- Awguin | Eugene and also Eugénie for the feminine
- Sauma or Sawmo | to fast
- Bakhos | Bacchus
- Shémeoun | Simon
To mention a few female names:
- Marta | Lady or wife in Syriac
- Ema | Mother in Syriac
- Rachelle or Rakel | From Rahel
- Brigitta | From the mother of Saint Charbel
- Helena or Héléni | From the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine
- Barbara | From the saint from Baalbek
- Raphqa or Rapqa | Rebecca
- Yuliana | Juliana
- Shmoné or Shmona
It is also interesting to note that these names are found in villages starting with Mar which means Saint:
- Mar Elias
- Mar Touma
- Mar Botros (Petros)
- Mar Georgis (Guiorguis)
- Mar Zakhia
- Mar Séba
- Mar Sarguis
- Mar Semaan (Shémeoun)
- Mar Achaaya or Mar Chaaya
- Mar Doumet
- Mar Abda Herhréya
- Mar Elishaa or Mar Lishaa
- Mar Méma
- Mar Mikhael Bnébil
- Mar Moussa (Moushé) Douar
There exist several examples of Syriac Maronite inscriptions all over Lebanon, in which we are able to find some typical Syriac names.
In Aqoura, for instance, we see the name Estéphanos Qsantine (Stephan Constantine) engraved in the rock inside the cave chapel.
In the Beirut National Museum, we read the name Dionisios (Denys) on a Syriac Orthodox inscription.
In Ilige, in the inscription of the the year 1276, we read Dawid and Yohanon for David and John.
Again in Ilige, in the inscription of the year 1746, we read the names of two priests, Amon and Mikhoyel, and four Patriarchs: Pétros (Peter), Erémio (Jeremy), Yaacouv (Jacob), and Yohanon (John).
In Mar Abda Herhréya, on an epigraph dated 1788, we read Yustus (Justin) and Guiorguis (George).
And finally, in Gosta in 1797, we read: Yawséf (Joseph) referring to the Maronite Patriarch Joseph Estéphan.
Our names look like Western names. But if we read history, we discover that these names were here in our society long before they became European names. And if we learn Syriac, we understand the meaning of these names that originated in our land between Mesopotamia, Greece, and Canaan.
Amine Jules Iskandar is President of Syriac Maronite Union-Tur Levnon
For the article in Spanish. You can also watch episode 7 of the associated TV-series as broadcast by Nour Al-Sharq Tv.