Accent marks, known as ‘diacritics’ are used worldwide in a variety of different languages. Some countries are limited to 26 letters in the alphabet, so it is easy to forget that many languages have more letters. And this is when choosing a great name for a baby can get tricky.
A French court banned a couple from giving their baby a name with a ‘tilde’, as they said that the character ‘ñ ‘ is unrecognised by the French language. In Australia, the list of rules surrounding naming a baby states that no special characters or diacritical marks are allowed. In some places, official names cannot contain accents due to the limitations of the computer system recording their names. If they want to use them for everyday use no one minds, but their official names cannot contain them.
So what are these little lines and dashes that are causing so much trouble? The most common accents are the acute (é), grave (è), circumflex (â, î or ô), the tilde (ñ), umlaut and dieresis (ü or ï) and cedilla (ç). These symbols change the sound of the letters, so they alter the name. In Norway and Denmark, the 27th letter of the alphabet is Ø, a vowel.
So whilst choosing to use a diacritic might seem cute, trendy or something a little different for a baby, bear in mind that it will change the sound of the name, and may well not be allowed in many countries. Have a look at these 25 names for some inspiration.
This beautiful French name is the female form of René, with the extra –e being added on to make it feminine according to French grammar. In other countries, it is often spelt as Renee or Renae.
This name is a form of the late Roman name ‘Renatus’, which means ‘reborn or born again’. There are a number of actors worldwide with this lovely name and it is even good enough for royalty, as Princess Renée of France, the Duchess of Ferrera will agree.
This lovely French masculine name instantly summon up images of Christmas and all things snowy and wintery. And for good reason, as Noël, along with the feminine version Noëlle, actually translate a ‘Christmas’. Perfect for a child born around the festive season, non-French speaking countries have removed the umlaut but still pronounce it correctly as ‘no-EL’.
There are a number of famous ‘Noels’ around, including musicians, TV hosts and comedians. Possibly the most notable is Noel Coward, the famous playwright.
The Danish alphabet features the ‘ø’, character as an extra letter and this name is often banned in other countries due to technology’s inability to cope with anything other than the standard 26 letters. The name comes from the Latin ‘sĕvērus’, meaning ‘severe, serious, strict or Inflexible’. Harry Potter’s Severus Snape is a famous example. Serena is widely considered to be the anglicized equivalent as it sounds similar even though it has completely different origins! It comes from the Latin ‘serēnus’, meaning ‘clear, tranquil or serene’. Sorina is an American version of the same name.
This Spanish boy’s name is popular around the globe and is often spelt as Adrian or Adrien in non-Spanish speaking countries. It originates in the Latin names Adrianus or Hadrianus. These names, in turn, come from the former river ‘Adria’. This is an Illyrian word meaning ‘sea or water’.
Despite being in use since the middle ages, it has never been a well-used name until recently. In the last 50 years, Adrian’s popularity has climbed steadily and it is now number 60 in the boy’s name charts.
This popular French name can also be spelt without the umlaut as Zoe or Zoey. Zoe has only been used in the west since the 19th-century but has been popular with Eastern Christians for centuries. Meaning ‘life’, it was adopted by Jews as a version of ‘Eve’. Notable Zoes include two early Christian saints and an 11th-century Empress of the Byzantine Empire.
Zoe has starred in the top 1000 names nearly every year since 1880 and is currently the 41st most popular girl’s name in America.
The use of the cedilla on the ‘c’ is very important with this name, as it changes the sound of the word. Without a cedilla, the ‘c’ would be pronounced hard (as in ‘k’), but this creates an ‘s’ sound instead, meaning that this boy’s name is ‘frahn-SWAH’. The Latin translation of this name is literally ‘Frenchman’ and has been anglicized as Francis. Considered quite a sophisticated name, François was the name of two French kings and is sometimes translated as ‘free man’.
If you love two names and just can’t decide between them, then why not just use both and join them with a hyphen? This is not a new phenomenon, being particularly popular in the 1960’s with names such as Peggy-Sue, Sue-Ellen and Mary-Jane. Whilst there are no rules on what names can be joined, it is important that names flow as one. If you are interested in the meanings of names, you should probably check that the two names don’t conflict, for instance translating as ‘peace-war’.
Monica or Monika are two popular non-Spanish versions of this name, whose most notable bearer may well be the overly organised character we all love from the ever-popular TV series ‘Friends’. Currently down at number 626 in the popularity charts, the end of ‘Friends’ actually had a negative effect on the use of this name, which had been quite well-used up until then.
The mother of St Augustine, Monica translates as ‘advisor’. Variations include Monise, Monnie, Monia, Monice, Monic and Monya.
Seán is an ancient Irish name, which for many years was the top choice for Irish boys. In other areas of the world, it has various spellings including Sean without the accent, or Shawn or even Shaun. It is an Irish version of ‘John’, which translates as ‘Jehovah has been gracious, or shown favour’. This Hebrew name has different versions around the globe. Whilst Sean is still popular, parents have been modernising and modifying this name, with versions such as Seanan and Senan becoming popular.
This name has its origins in the Hebrew name ‘Matityah’, which means ‘gift of God’. The acute accent appears in the Norwegian version of the name, but there are many different spellings worldwide including Matthew, Mateo, Matthaios and Matthias. Mateo has gained in popularity over the past year and now sits at number 1,343, making it a rare name and much more unique than Matthew, which sits at number 574. A traditional name with a Norwegian twist, Mathéo will make your little boy stand out from the crowd.
Pronounced ‘RO-ry’, this is an Irish boy’s name of Gaelic origin. Whilst it has never reached the top 1000 US names, it is good enough for Irish royalty, being the name of the last high king of Ireland, Ruairí O’Conor, who reigned almost 1,000 years ago from 1166-1170. This gorgeous name translates as ‘red’ or ‘rust-coloured’ and was traditionally a reference to a boy’s red hair. Also common in the Scottish Highlands, another meaning of the name is ‘red king,’ from ‘ruadh’ (‘red-haired or ‘rusty’) and ‘rígh’ (‘king’).
If you want to go all out and use two accents, then this lovely Hungarian name might be right for you. Pronounced ‘MA-kyash’, this is another version of Matthew, meaning ‘Gift of God’. Other Slavic versions of this name include the Lithuanian ‘Motiejus’, the Serbian ‘Mateja’ and the Polish ‘Maciej’. This has been the name of two Hungarian kings and has been in the top 100 Czech names consistently for over 30 years. In Hungary over 250 boys are given this name every year.
This Lithuanian name has an interesting story. It is thought to be a mix of two very popular first names: Jacob and James. Edvardas
Daukša (1836–1890), was a Lithuanian poet and was also famous for participating in the uprising of 1863. As the name became very popular then, it is thought that he was an influence on this name’s success.
However, it also comes from the Greek word ‘ya`aqob’, which translates as ‘seizing by the heel or supplanting’ and became the Biblical name, Jacob or Yaakov.
This male hyphenated name has a lovely rhythm to it and is one of the more popular couplings. Translating as ‘God has been gracious’ followed by ‘small’, the two names go well together mainly because of their Biblical references. John and Paul were both Jesus’ apostles and this name has been chosen by two Popes.
Modern bearers of the name include fashion designer John-Paul Gaultier. Sometimes this name is written without the hyphen, but it is more common this way.
The circumflex on the ‘a’ is often removed from this name, but actually, it helps you to pronounce this name correctly. Vowels can be sounded short or long, so either ‘Si- ann’ or ‘Si- ahhhhhn’, changing the sound of the name completely. In this case, the circumflex tells us it should be the letter, with a long vowel sound. So the name should sound ‘SH-ahhhn’, which is a popular Welsh girl’s name. It translates to ‘God is good’, or ‘God’s gift’.
Here is a pretty girl’s name that uses different accents and symbols all over the world. Originally Agnès comes from the Greek name ‘hagnē’, which translates as ‘pure or holy’. When the name reached Portugal it became ‘Inês’ and Spain turned it into ‘Inés’ or ‘Inéz’. Italy kept it simple with ‘Agnese’ and by the time it reached the UK the name had simply dropped the accent and become ‘Agnes’.
Agnes of Rome was a popular Christian saint, who was widely responsible for this name’s popularity.
This unusual name is a masculine name from Ireland, Wales and Brittany. Now a traditional name in Breton, it was made popular in the 5th-century by Saint Maël of Wales and was also the name of the 10th-century High King of Ireland, Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill. It translates as ‘chief or prince’ and has the feminine forms of Maëlle, Maëlly or Maëllie. It is pronounced ‘my-ELLE’ or ‘ma-ELLE’, with the accent on the second syllable. If you are looking for a rare name then this is a great choice, as it currently sits down at number 6,793 in the popularity charts.
Popular in both Czechoslovakia and Hungary, this is a version of the name ‘Jehovah’. This translates as ‘God has shown favour’ or ‘God has been good’. Although the western version of this name is ‘John’, this Hungarian name is pronounced very differently as ‘YA-nosh’. Common nicknames or abbreviations are ‘Jancsi’ and ‘Jani’.
Although it has stayed firmly in the top 50 names for at least the last 20 years, it is slowly declining in popularity, having slipped from number 29 to number 45.
This difficult-looking girl’s name is more commonly spelt as Käthe or Kaethe. It is pronounced ‘KEY-ta’ and is German. Originally derived from Greek, Kaethe translates as ‘pure’. It is a German diminutive of the popular name ‘Katherine’. Variations around the world include the Finnish ‘Katri’ and the Georgian ‘Eka’.
In 2013 this name was ranked at number 18,317 and hasn’t appeared in any baby name lists for the last 5 years, so is a truly rare name with a beautiful meaning.
This name was originally Greek and means ‘blooming’ or ‘young green shoot’. It was used to represent the fertility goddess, due to its links with all things fertile and growing. There is a wide variety of spelling options with this name. Some people simply remove the umlaut but retain the pronunciation of ‘KLO-ee’. Others choose the Greek ‘Khloe’ and some even have an accent on it, as in ‘Khloé’.
This lovely name reached an all-time high at number 9 in 2009 and continues to be a popular choice worldwide today.
This Norwegian name was very popular for baby boys in the early 1980’s but has since become less well used. It is a very old name, originating in the Old Norse language name ‘Eyvindr’. This is made up of two parts - ‘ey’ meaning ‘island ‘ and ‘vindr’, meaning ‘victor’. Variations of the name include Eivind, Even and Øivind.
Other languages use this name but without the special character ‘Ø’, including the Ancient Scandinavian ‘Eyvindr’, the Danish ‘Ejvind’ and the Icelandic ‘Eyvindur’.
This Scandinavian male name is a variation of Ásbjörn, complete with an accent and umlaut. The word ‘as’ represent a Norse god whilst ‘bjørn’ means bear. So this name represents everything strong, powerful and mighty. Pronounced ‘OS-byawn’ or ‘AS-byawn’, this name has variations including Esben, Espen and Bjarni. The anglicised versions include Osborn and Ozzie.
This name was consistently in the top 100 in the 1940’s-50’s but has become unpopular since, making this a charming and quite unique name for your son.
The Franks were a Germanic people living in the Early Middle Ages, who got their name from the type of axe - the Francisca - that they used. Frankô or Franka means ‘javelin or spear’ and the name Fañch comes from the Medieval Latin ‘Francus or Franciscus’, meaning ‘Franco, belonging to the people of the Franks’. Spears and medieval Germans aside, it is an unusual name that carries an air of mystery. Different versions of the name include Françesku, Pranchi and Fransu.
This well known Spanish and Portuguese name is a form of the boy’s name Joseph. It is pronounced ‘ho-SAY’, and the accent is vital in this case in preventing it from becoming ‘Hose’. Coming from the Hebrew ‘yōsēf’, the name translates as ‘God shall add’ and is born by many famous Biblical characters including Jacob’s favourite son with the multicoloured coat, and the father of Jesus.
Used in the popular expression ‘No way, Jose!’ and starring in the song ‘Do you know the way to San Jose?’ this is a name that has endured hundreds of years.
This beautiful unisex name joins the lists of names that have transferred from family name to given name. Common in Spain and Portugal, Nuñez has a tilde on the ‘n’, meaning that the pronunciation should be ‘NOO-nyez’.
Its origins are uncertain but may come from the Latin ‘nonus’, meaning ‘nine’, ‘nunnus’ meaning ‘grandfather’, or even ‘nonnus’, meaning ‘squire’. Although it is at number 58 in the surname rankings, it is languishing at number 12, 772 in the first name lists.
References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaeresis_(diacritic) https://www.nordicnames.de/wiki/%C3%98yvind https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/13/french-baby-boy-banned-from-getting-name-containing-symbol https://www.babycenter.com/baby-names https://www.behindthename.com www.sheknows.com