Wiktionary:About given names and surnames

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Accessories-text-editor.svg This is a Wiktionary policy, guideline or common practices page. Specifically it is a policy think tank, working to develop a formal policy.

The Wiktionary rules about inclusion and formatting are mainly designed for words that mean something. They are sometimes illogical when applied to names.


From the CFI: "Given and family names":

"Given names (such as David, Roger, and Peter) and family names (such as Baker, Bush, Rice, Smith, and Jones) are words, and subject to the same criteria for inclusion as any other words. Wiktionary has main articles giving etymologies, alternative spellings, meanings, and translations for given names and family names, and has two appendices for indexing those articles: Appendix:Names, Appendix:Surnames-A.
For most given names and family names, it is relatively easy to demonstrate that the word fulfills the criteria, as for most given names and family names the name words are in widespread use in both spoken communication and literature. However, being a name per se does not automatically qualify a word for inclusion. A new name, that has not been attested, is still a protologism. A name that occurs only in the works of fiction of a single author, a television series or a video game, or within a closed context such as the works of several authors writing about a single fictional universe is not used independently and should not be included.
Hypocoristics, diminutives, and abbreviations of names (such as Jock, Misha, Kenny, Ken, and Rog) are held to the same standards as names."

Given name entries have been deleted because there is no data of actual usage nor valid citations. The fact that a name is included in a baby name website or book does not prove that it exists.

Common names for animals (such as Fido and Rover) have also been accepted. They do not use the given name template.


Use of Template:given name and Template:surname is recommended. Defining, for example, Spanish Alejandro as "1. Alexander" is inaccurate because names are not normally translated, and the English entry for Alexander might have, or acquire, several definitions as a surname, historical person, etc. Examples:


===Proper noun===
{{en-proper noun}}

# {{given name|male|from=Hebrew}}.
# {{surname|patronymic|from=given names}}



===Proper noun===
{{head|sv|proper noun|c}}

# {{given name|female|lang=sv}}.

A common way to start a non-English entry is the definition "A male given name, cognate with English Alexander". There are also sequences like "1.A surname. 2. A male given name transferred from the surname." Some users think that any etymological information, even stubs like these, should be in a separate etymology section. Proper etymologies with ancient language forms naturally belong there.

Grammatical gender and inflection tables are welcome, but plural forms should not be linked, and separate entries should not be made for plural forms. See WT:Votes/pl-2008-06/Plurals from proper nouns.


This header is designed for words that mean something. Names are not normally translated, except when they refer to foreign historical persons. Names have cognates and transliterations. Usually the script makes clear which one is meant, but in western languages that don't use Latin script, like Russian or modern Greek, confusion is possible. Some translation sections have a separate gloss for transliterations and cognates. Some surnames even have a gloss for translations by the meaning (A surname meaning "a smith").

A cognate is always an approximation: a name with the same (or similar) etymology. If there are many cognates of an English name, they should not all be listed in a translation table; better just give the most common one, and list others as "Related terms" in the non-English entry. If one name is used for historical persons and another for native speakers, it might be simpler to explain it in the non-English entry, to avoid further cluttering the translation tables.

All English names cannot be expected to have cognates. Giving cognates of diminutives (like Josh) seems questionable, since pet forms have a different image in every language.

Translations are only allowed for English names. But a Chinese transliteration of a French name can be listed under ====Descendants==== in the French entry, and modern Scandinavian names that are related can be listed as ====Descendants==== in the Old Norse entry.

The language statement of a name[edit]

This section is disputed.

Names are constantly borrowed from one language into another. It is difficult to say when a French name, for example, becomes an English one.These are some indications:

  1. There is a well-known pronunciation, phonetically suited to the "new" language.
  2. Several native speaker parents, without personal connection to the "old" language or culture, give the name to their children. This can be deduced from the surnames. If frequency graphs are available, a graph that is different in shape (regardless of volume) from that of the "old" country is a sign that the name has changed language.
  3. Descendants of immigrants change their mother tongue but keep the old spelling of their surname.

If in doubt - and specifically, if you cannot define the pronunciation - it is better not to make a new entry, as long as there is an entry in the original language. For example, there might be a few genuine English speakers named Solange, but information about etymology can be given in the French entry.

The CFI about being mentioned three times in text makes no sense with names, since names of foreign persons are often mentioned in all languages. The sentence "Nicolas Sarkozy is the president of France" can be translated into any language, but Nicolas and Sarkozy are just code-switching: French words used in a foreign sentence.

Transliterated names[edit]

A transliteration means how the name of a foreigner is represented in a different script, or in the same script in languages like Latvian and Lithuanian that systematically change the spelling of foreigners' names. A transliteration should be used in the context of the language that it is transliterated into, and follow the orthography of that language. Phonetic transcriptions only used in dictionaries are not accepted. English entries for Dmitry and Medvedev are accepted, but Dmítrij and Medvédev would be deleted.

Transliterations are listed in topic categories. For example Kirill, the English transliteration of Russian Кирилл (Kirill), is in Category:en:Russian male given names, and Сирил (Siril), the Russian transliteration of English Cyril, is in Category:ru:English male given names.

Alternative forms[edit]

English spelling variants are listed under this header, even though they are not alternatives. "Catherine" is a misspelling if a person's official name is Kathryn. Genuine alternative spellings might exist some languages.


Numerical data and graphs about frequency are encyclopedic, and do not belong in a dictionary. If statistics are needed to verify the existence of a name, the language statement, or other information, it may be given in ===References=== or on the talk page of the entry.

Many given name entries have short verbal descriptions about the use of the name, such as "In continuous use since the Middle Ages", "Popular in the U.S.A. in the 1930s". {{rare}} may be used for names that have always been very rare. The frequency of given names is in constant motion, so defining names as {{archaic}} or {{obsolete}} is risky. The frequency of surnames is stable, so a surname may be defined as "common".

Specific individuals[edit]

Being a dictionary and not an encyclopedia, Wiktionary does not include lists of notable individuals bearing the name. However, many given names, and some surnames, have additional definitions as biblical, mythological or historical characters. Inclusion of historical persons is much debated. Such definitions are directly translated. Example:

# {{biblical character|lang=it}} [[David]]


Categorization is built in the given name and surname templates. The from= parameter can be used for creating subcategories, in order to prevent giant size categories. Names of similar origin can be grouped together by language of origin, or by some other criterion that makes sense in the language in question.

Names typically derive through several languages, and grouping them by origin isn't an exact science. English names are grouped by the language where they first appeared as names. For example, Michael is in the Category:English male given names from Hebrew. However, use of common sense is allowed. Michelle was only borrowed from French in the 20th century, so it is in the Category:English female given names from French.

Avoid creating subcategories that would only have a few members. Try to think if some existing category would do. If you are not sure, don't use the from= parameter at all. Subcategories are not really needed for languages with only a few hundred entries yet. English subcategories should not be directly copied, since the origin and structure of the name stock is different in every language.

Category:English surnames from India and Categories:English male/female given names from India include names that are, arguably, transliterations. The problem is that we get many anonymous contributions for such names that clearly meet the CFI, also in surname appendices. The categories are used as a storage, waiting for a regular contributor who has the will and knowledge to clean them up.