Ukrainian names

A full Ukrainian name consists of 3 parts: family name, given name and patronymic (middle name).

All three parts of Ukrainian names could be derived from one name, which is very confusing for a foreigner (for example: Petrenko Petro Petrovych); that is the way one should pay particular attention to the endings.

Patronymic refers to a person’s father name: Petrovych (Petro’s son), Petrivna (Petro’s daughter). It always has an ending –ovych for males and – ivna, –yivna for females. Patronymic is used in formal speech, and especially when approaching an elder or unknown person.

Contrary to Russian language, Ukrainian family names do not vary depending on sex.

Typical Ukrainian names can be easily recognized by such endings:
-ko: Boyko, Slisarenko, Petrenko, Sirko;
-enko: Shevchenko, Tymoshenko, Yushchenko;
-uk: Tymoshchuk, Dmytruk, Kostkiuk; or –yuk: Polishckuk, Kvasnyuk; Zyablyuk;
-yn: Lytvyn, Polyn, Turchyn, Voloshyn;
– yets, -ets, : Kolomiyets; Dubovets, Shvets, Gorobets; – iv: Petriv, Markiv (common for Galicia region).

There is a category of family names developed during the 15th and 16th century with the spreading of the Cossack movement (semi-military comminutes of ‘free men’).

Such family names refer to the former position of a person in Cossack social hierarchy or military unit: Sotnyk, Horunzhy, Storozhenko. Some of these names are often comical for Ukrainians, due to their hidden meaning, and difficult to pronounce for foreigners, for instance: Navarykasha (could be literary translated as “cook some porridge”), Perebiynis (meaning “to beat the nose”), Salovoz (“the one who transport lard”), etc.

Ukrainian first names are similar to those used in other Slavonic languages, and especially in Russian and Belarusian, with variation in only one or two letters: Pavlo (Ukrainian)- Pavel (Russian); Oleksandr – Aleksandr, Andriy – Andrey, Olena – Elena; or even identical: Oksana, Ivan, Mariya, etc.

However, due to the harsh repression of Ukrainian language throughout the centuries, and the appreciation of the need to protect own traditions, there is a widespread practice (particularly, in the Western part of Ukraine) to give names culturally and historically closer to ethnic Ukrainian customs.

For example, such male Ukrainian names as Taras, Nazar, Orest, Lyubomir, and female names as Dzvinka, Zoryana, Myroslava are very rare in Russian language.

At the same time, in the realities of the globalized world it is getting popular to give a baby, especially a girl, some fancy name, such as: Liza, Tina, Mika, Nika, etc.

Coming to Ukraine and meeting local people, you should be aware about the tradition to use the short instead of the full forms of a name, or nicknames.

For instance, such popular long name as Oleksandr could be contracted to Sasha, Shura, Sania, and even Oles’, while such popular worldwide female name as Mariya in Ukrainian spoken language could be easily transformed to Mariyka, Marusya, Masha, Marichka, Marysya and many other forms.

In order to avoid any misunderstanding, meeting Ukrainian person, ask his or her name, and also a preferred form he or she wants to be addressed.

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