Names carry power. They are culture, history, and stories. You can learn a lot about a country’s past, present, and future thanks to the names they prefer, and Georgia is not the exception.
Georgia has a rich history and an exceptional mixture of cultures and influences. As such, the currently popular names for babies display an eclectic combination of roots, origins, and reasoning behind their widespread charm.
Whether they have Georgian, Greek, or Iranian roots, these names have become part of Georgia. Be it through historical importance, lovely meanings, or religious fervor, these names are part of our culture.
In two twin installments, I’ll take you on a journey through the most famous Georgian names for babies nowadays. This time, we’ll talk about Georgian names for girls.
01. Nino / ნინო. (Pronunciation: /ˈniː.no/)
Not many popular Western names for girls finish in “o”. We are, after all, used to see it as a masculine termination. However, despite what you may assume, here in Georgia, the name Nino is feminine.
In fact, Nino is quite the common name in Georgia, with over 100,000 women and girls claiming it as theirs. The popularity of the name is all thanks to Saint Nino—one of the most important saints in Georgia, responsible for the country’s Christianization during the early middle ages.
According to tradition, Saint Nino converted Georgian king Mirian II and Queen Nana to Christianity after healing wounds and performing miracles for the royals. With her blessings, the country shunned paganism and started worshipping her God.
02. Tamar / თამარ (pronunciation: /ˈtɑːm.ɑɹ/)
If the popularity of Nino is rooted in Georgia’s Christian tradition, Tamar, as a name, remains beloved thanks to Georgia’s history.
Etymologically, the name Tamar is not too impressive or deeply meaningful. Its roots come from the Hebrew word tamar, which means “palm tree”, and is the given name of plenty of women described and mentioned in the Old Testament. It’s not a surprise, then, that the name takes off in a Christian country such as Georgia.
However, the name existed in these lands way before that. Tamar is also the given name of a pagan goddess in pre-Christian Georgia, controlling the morning star and the weather of the country.
Tamar merges the best of pre and post-Christian Georgia, but its real importance comes from its historical role. King Tamar, the first female ruler of the country and one of the greatest, it’s responsible for the popularity of the name. Under her rule, Georgia prospered, and her legacy remains alive today in her name.
03. Mariam / მარიამ (pronunciation: /ˈmar.jam/)
Georgia is, first and foremost, a Christian country. As such, Mariam boasts of the popularity derived from being the name of the Mother of Jesus Christ.
Mariam derives from the Hebrew name Miryam, meaning “beloved” or the vastly different “indomitable”, which itself evolved in Aramaic to the form Maryam. Despite this, certain etymological studies speculate that may derive from the Egyptian word Myr, also meaning “beloved”.
More internationally-known versions of the name are Mary or Maria, but in Georgia, we also have Mari and Mariko.
The name rose in popularity after Georgia’s Christianization, reaching vast popularity on each cast and social level out of pious respect to Virgin Mary. Nowadays, it’s believed that over 70,000 women are named Mariam within Georgia.
04. Maia / მაია (pronunciation: /ˈmeɪ.ə/)
Moving away from Hebrew names with Christian roots, Maia stands out as a wildly popular given name with etymological origins in Ancient Greek.
According to Greek mythology, Maia is the mother of Olympian god Hermes, and one of the Pleiades—daughters of the titan Atlas. In the tales, Maia and her sisters became the cluster of stars named after them, in the Taurus constellation.
Due to the antiquity of the name, the meaning behind it is lost in history. However, many experts speculate it may mean “growth” or “greatness”, as it has notable similarities with the Greek word maius, meaning “large.”
Despite not being a historically prominent name in Georgia, in the last decades, it has grown in popularity amongst the citizens.
05. Nana / ნანა (pronunciation: /ˈnæ.nə/)
Nana is a common name around the world and has plenty of homophones in each culture. However, the origins of the name in the Georgian language remain obscure, despite its antiquity and prominence across history.
However, and despite its obscure origins, Nana remains a popular name thanks to history. Nana was the given name of the Queen Consort in the Kingdom of Iberia that preceded Georgia, wife of the ruler Mirian III. Queen Nana was the first to believe Saint Nino and converted to Christianity, convincing her husband to follow suit and, eventually, start Georgia’s glorious journey towards the religion.
Due to her historical importance in this achievement, the Georgian Orthodox Church canonized her, further increasing the popularity of her name amidst the population.
06. Ketevan / ქეთევან (pronunciation: /kɛtɛvan/)
Ketevan, as a name, is intrinsically Georgian—no other country has similar spelling or pronunciation of it. Likewise, its historical relevance is deeply tied to these lands as a whole.
However, Ketevan has roots outside of Georgia. According to an etymological analysis of the name, it derives from the Persian name Katayoun, which has two root words—kata, “city”, “king”, or “house”; and banu, meaning “wife”. Subsequently, Katayoun implies something akin to either “housewife” or “king’s wife”. Katayoun as a name rose to prominence thanks to Persian mythology and the Book of Kings or Shahnameh, the famed Persian epic written by Ferdowsi.
However, the importance in Georgia of the name Ketevan is unrelated to its Iranian origins. In Georgia, it is mostly associated with Ketevan the Martyr, a Georgian Queen of the Kingdom of Kakheti, who died in Iran after being tortured for refusing to convert to Islam, defending her right to believe in the Christian faith.
From then on, it developed multiple variations, such as Keto, Keti, Kato, Ketino, and Ketato. Still, nowadays it has declined in popularity with the youth.
07. Natela / ნათელა (pronunciation: /nɑ.tʰɛ.lɑ/)
We’ve seen many names with growing popularity and multiple roots in many different cultures. However, Natela is different. Natela, it turns out, is entirely Georgian from its very conception.
Natela derives from the Georgian root nat (ნათ), used in words associated with light, brightness, and illumination, such as nateli—meaning bright. As such, Natela can be said to mean “light” or “the bright one”. Another Georgian name with a similar root, Natia, remains wildly popular.
Due to the convergence of languages and certain similarities, other areas developed similar names, such as the Russian Svetlana.
In Georgia, Natela is deeply tied with poetry and enchanting words. The name rose to prominence thanks to the work of Akaki Tsereteli, one of Georgia’s most celebrated literary minds, who penned a beautiful poem titled Song of Natela.
08. Manana / მანანა (pronunciation: /mɑ.nɑ.nɑ/)
Another name with exclusively Georgian roots, Manana is the Georgian name of the plant more well-known to English speakers as heather—flowers blooming from the genus Erica that boast of a lovely violet-pinkish coloration.
Names derived from flowers have always been common choices for women across the lands and ages, so it’s not a surprise Georgia is not the exception. The name, however, has been losing popularity with the newest generations despite being relatively commonplace for women over 40.
It is mostly associated with Manana, a Georgian film from 1958, and the poet Manana, born in the XVIII century.
09. Elene / ელენე (pronunciation.
Elene is, directly speaking, the most beautiful name there is. Stunning in its simplicity, it simply has no parallel in the world. Rumor is it has started wars. Of course, I am speaking from the bias of someone named Elene.
Jokes aside, Elene is, as you may have noticed, the Georgian form of the ancient Greek name Helene, which is itself a derivate from the root word ele, which is associated with words such as “bright” and “light”. Thus, Elene means something akin to “light” or “the bright one”—the same as the previously described Natela.
While the name Helene became famous thanks to Helen of Troy, in Georgia, it’s mostly associated with Saint Elene of Constantinople, a famous saint in the Georgian Orthodox Church, equal to the apostles.
After her, the name became commonplace for Georgian royalty and nobility, eventually deriving in its current popularity. Which I’m living proof of.
10. Ana / ანა (pronunciation: /ɑ.nɑ/)
Ana is, undoubtedly, one of the world’s most famous names, and Georgia has not escaped that. This particular spelling of the name is commonplace and can be found across many countries.
Etymologically, it comes from the Hebrew name Hannah, also spelled Channah, meaning “graciousness”. Although many Christian figures answer to this name, in Georgia, it refers to Saint Ana. According to all Orthodox churches, Saint Ana is the mother of the Virgin Mary, conceiving her miraculously her after years of infertility.
From then on, the name has been used by a plethora of saints and queens. It has remained a long-time favorite, mostly thanks to its versatile spelling and universal appeal—an essential attribute in this globalized world.
Despite this, the name Ana has many variants that remain popular in Georgia by their own right, including Ani, Anano, and Anuki.