Russian Names

Russian NamesRussian names consist of three parts:
first name, middle (father’s) name and surname.

For example,
- Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin
(Russian: Александр Сергеевич Пушкин)
- Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky
(Russian: Федор Михайлович Достоевский)
- Anna Andreevna Akhmatova
(Russian: Анна Андреевна Ахматова)

The middle name is called patronymic (Russian: отчество). Russian middle names are formed by adding suffixes to the father’s first name. The suffixes depend on the ending of the father’s name. The basic rules are:

  • If the father's name ends in a hard consonant (except ж, ш, ч, щ, ц), male middle names end in -OVICH (Russian: -ович) and female middle names in -OVNA (Russian: -овна). For example:
    Ivan (Иван) → male: Ivanovich (Иванович) / female: Ivanovna (Ивановна)
    Alexander (Александр) → male: Alexandrovich (Александрович) /female: Alexandrovna (Александровна)
  • If the father's name ends in a soft consonant or ж, ш, ч, щ, ц, male middle names end in -EVICH (Russian: -евич) and female middle names in -EVNA (Russian: -евна). For example:
    Dmitri (Дмитрий) → male: Dmitrievich (Дмитриевич) / female: Dmitrievna (Дмитриевна)
    Igor (Note that the name Igor ends in Russian in soft sign Ь: Игорь) → male: Igorevich (Игоревич) / female: Igorevna (Игоревна).
  • If the the father’s name ends in a vowel, male patronymics end in -ICH (Russian: -ич) and female patronymics in -ICHNA. For example:
    Nikita (Никита) → male: Nikitich (Никитич) / female: Nikitichna (Никитична)
  • If the the father’s name ends in a vowel and consists of two syllables, female patronymics end in -INICHNA. Male patronymics still have the ending -ICH. For example:
    Ilja (Илья) → male: Ilyich (Ильич) / female: Ilyinichna (Ильинична)

If the father is unknown, the mother can choose the middle name.


Proper use of Russian names

  • In Russia it is necessary using both first and middle name when addressing people in formal. This is the most polite form of addressing people. Use both names when talking to business partners, bosses, colleagues, elderly people or people you don’t know well. It is unusual to address the Russians using Mr./Ms. plus their family name (Russian: господин/ госпожа).
  • Family, friends or people who know each other well (also colleagues) usually use the short "intimate" form of the first name.
    Volodya oder Vova (short forms of Vladimir)
    Natasha (instead of Natalia)
    Nastya (short form of Anastasia).
  • Pet names (affectionate diminutives) are usually used by close friends and family.
    Vovochka (from Vladimir)
    Natashenka (from Natalia)
    Nastyenka (from Anastasia).
  • Russian names have another form that can express affection or disrespect depending on the situation. Such names are formed by adding the suffix -k-.
    Natashka (Natalia)
    Volodka (Vladimir)
    It is better to avoid using this form if you are not familiar with it and don’t want to offend someone accidentally.

Most popular Russian first names are:

Girls’ names: Anastasia, Maria, Sophia, Daria, Viktoria
Russian girls' names

Boys’ names: Artiom (Tioma), Alexander, Dmitri, Maxim, Kirill
Russian boys' names

Some old Russian names come back into fashion again:
Girls names: Vasilisa, Varvara, Uliana, Arina
Boys names: Nikita, Egor, Timofei, Yaroslav, Matwei

Some specialists expect the girls’ name Olympiada to become trendy during the next couple of years. The name was quite popular in Russia during the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980. It might come back into fashion due to the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.

In the past, the Russians used to celebrate their Name Day (Russian: именины) in addition to their birthday. Today many Russians know when their Name Day is. Some throw a glamorous Name-Day party instead of (or in addition to) their birthday party. The Name Day is also called the "Angel Day" (Russian: день Ангела). And naturally most people in Russia would be happy to receive at least a little present for their Name Day, such as chocolate or a bunch of flowers.
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