c) Names expressing education and culture, scientific notions, duties: Nazir (minister), Rais (chief), Hakim (judge), Alim (professor, scientist), Savad (education).
d) Names from Russian and European literature: Ruslan, Hamlet, Romeo, Juliette, Lyudmila, Ofelia, Esmira, Elvira, Isolde, Lisa, Tamilla, Natasha.
e) Foreign and local place names: Altay, Kazbek, Elbrus, Himalay, Tehran, Tabriz, Araz.
f) Names of nations and tribes: Khalach, Gashgay, Kazakh, Tatar, Afghan, Turkmen, Alman (German), Ingilis (English) etc.
However, there were also some fabricated names. These were later either changed or dropped on the grounds of taste. These included Kolkhoz, Sovkhoz (state owned farm), Traktor, Kombayn (Combine harvester), Pambig (cotton), Artel (workers’ and peasants’ co-op), Aptek (chemist’s), Prikaz (order), Faktura (invoice), Finjan (mug) etc.
One of the leading criteria in the creation of personal names in this period was a desire to distinguish women’s names from men’s. As mentioned above, there was no gender identification in Azerbaijani, however distinctions were introduced in personal names. In the 1950s the vowel ‘ə’ (pronounced like the ‘a’ in cat) was suffixed to men’s names to create new women’s names: Samir-Samira, Said-Saida, Ulvi-Ulviya, Jamil-Jamila, Kamil-Kamila, etc.
Many pseudonyms and nicknames gained ‘official’ status: Nizami, Khagani, Fuzuli, Vagif, Zakir, Natavan, Vahid etc. The names of literary heroes were adopted: Oghuz, Beyrek, Yashar, Eldar, Sevil.Independent return to roots4) The most recent stage for Azerbaijani personal names covers the last 20 years of renewed independence. This period is characterised by a return to traditional names. The suffixes ‘-li’, ‘-zadeh’, ‘oghlu’ became more common on family names. Verbs were more commonly adapted: Sevil (be loved), Sever (loving), Yashar (living), Gorkhmaz (not frightened), Yanar (burning), Anar, Sunar, Donmez (will not return, not give up), Solmaz (unfading), Sonmez (unquenchable). Women’s names often include: ay (moon), gun (day, sun), nur (light), gul (flower): Aynur, Ayten, Nuray, Gulnar, Gunay etc.

Currently, Azerbaijani personal names have three formal components: the given name + father’s name + family name: Samad Hasan oghlu Aliyev. However, recently the model of first name + patronymic has appeared more frequently: Vagif Samadoghlu, Novella Jafaroghlu etc. Informal forms are also gaining popularity:

1) The given name. Throughout history famous Azerbaijanis have been known by their given name: Bayindir, Bugha, Arslan, Samur, etc. This tradition is continued by prominent writers and artists: Anar (Anar Rzayev), Elchin (Elchin Efendiyev), Kamala (Kamala Aghayeva);
2) Given name and pseudonym. Zahide Gunesh, Aliagha Vahid, Mikail Mushfig.
3) Given name and last name without suffix. Ahmed Javad, Oktay Rza, Zalimkhan Yagub.
4) Given name and birthplace. Akber Yerevanli, Agha Lachinli, Ibrahim Goychayli, Ismail bey Gutgashinli.
5) Pseudonym and birthplace. Nizami Ganjavi, Khagani Shirvani, Gatran Tabrizi, Nasraddin Tusi.
6) Nickname and given name. Deli (crazy or brave) Hasan, Demirchi (blacksmith) Bekir, Baba, Kechel (bald) Hamza etc.
Nicknames have a long history among Azerbaijanis, originally used to distinguish two namesakes who lived near each other. Nicknames could refer to profession, character, personal appearance, tribe, family etc: Tajir (merchant) Ali, Deyirman (windmill) Almemmed, Gara (black) Kazim, Sari (yellow) Bashir, Uzun (tall) Bayram, Gargha (crow) Senem, Arsiz (careless) Melek, Lotu (bully) Azim, etc.

Neighbourhood influence

Although most Azerbaijani personal names are of Turkic origin, they have influenced the formation of personal names in neighbouring countries, as evidenced by research into personal names in the Russian, Persian, Armenian, Georgian and Iberian-Caucasus languages. Azerbaijani personal names used in Georgian surnames include: Aslanidze (Aslan – lion), Begashvili, (Bey), Poladashvili (Polad – steel), Kichikashvili (Kichik – small) and Bugadze (Bugha – bull). Our personal names are most widely used in Armenian and not only because we have lived closely together. The reason lies in the Turkic-Albanian origins of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Caucasian Albanians resisted Islam, remained Christians and were eventually armenianised. However, their cultural roots, including names, have been preserved down the centuries. Hundreds of Azerbaijani first and family names remain in Armenian. Over time the names have also been armenianised by the addition of the Slavic ‘-ovich’ as patronymic and the Persian ‘-yan’ to indicate the surname: Dursun Sarikhanovich Tanriverdiyan, Chichek Nishanovna Atabekyan, Aghajanyan, Arzuman-yan, Demirchiyan, Kocheryan, Babayan, Sardaryan, Amiryan, Atayan, Alikhanyan, Garibyan etc.

Personal names inevitably reflect our nation’s unique history, life and culture, ethics, aesthetics and politics.

About the author: Kamil Kamal oghlu Bashirov is assistant professor at the Azerbaijan State Pedagogic University, expert in anthroponomy and toponomy, author of several books and articles on these subjects.