Bulgarian Words and Names
Name days in Bulgaria are name days associated with Eastern Orthodox saints. Some names can be celebrated on more than one day and some have even started following foreign traditions (like Valentina celebrating on the Catholic St Valentine's day).
According to the tradition, guests are supposed to come uninvited and the person who has the celebrated name is supposed to be prepared to treat everyone. Today people prefer to invite their guests at home or at a bar or a restaurant. The celebrations are similar to those of birthdays, but usually the food, the music and the feel is somewhat more traditional, and rarely even religious.
Here are some revised & compiled Bulgarian words/phrases, many contributed by Adriana Aldjova, Karl Aldjov, Maria Fung, and others. Some words included are "toddler slang" - consistantly the way many of the parents heard what the kids said when they were first united. Some words, slang, pronunciation, and toddler words depend upon the area of Bulgaria and the particular "home"/orphanage where the child has been living, and how much he/she was talked to in the "home". Most toddlers and preschoolers from these homes/orphanges do not have an extensive nor gramatically correct vocabulary.
Starred words were the most commonly used/understood in the first days and weeks by most of the adopted toddler/preschool children that we spoke with.
You might wonder at some of the negative words which have been included. They are here only because many of our children came with this vocabulary, and it is sometimes important to understand and be able to reassure them that they are doing nothing bad.
*nyama - nothing, all gone, and general negative word for toddlers/preschoolers
*da - yes
*neigh - no
beecham, tay obicham, or obeecham - love you or I love you
Ne razbiram! - I donít understand!
momchentse - boy
momichentse - girl
az - I
nie - we
ti - you (singular, familiar)
vie - you (singular or plural, formal)
te - they
*zhadden - thirsty
*gladden / gladdna - hungry
Gladen (boy) / Gladna (girl) li si? - Are you hungry?
Zhaden (boy) / Zhadna (girl) li si? - Are you thirsty?
*pishka - urinate/pee (for a younger child, this is a verb)
pishkam - I urinate
*aka - bowel movement/poop (for a younger child, this is a verb)
Ima li pish/aku? - Is there urine/feces?
Iskash li da otidesh o garneto (or clozetcheto or toaletnata) - Do you need to go to the bathroom? (older child)
Izmoren (boy) / Izmorena (girl) li si? - Are you tired?
spree - stop
*tam - there
Idi tam - Go there
*toook - here
el-la took or toooka (toddler) - come here
Stoi toook. - Stay here
Vreme e da si liagash - It is time to go to bed
Oblechi se, molia te - Get dressed please
*bravo - good job, congratulations
*dobra, dobray or dober (depending on gender) - good
Ti si dobro momche/momiche. - You are a good boy/girl
*lohsh, loshss, or zle - bad
neposlushen (boy) or neposlushno (girl) - naughty (refers to the person, as in a naughty boy, not an act)
bel-YA (plural is bel-EE) - a naughty act
Ti si hubava. - You are beautiful.
sladourche - sweetie
slunchitze - little sun
o-BEE-cham te za VI-nagee. - I will love you forever.
*mama or mamo - mom
maika - mother
Az sam tvoita mama zavinagi. - I am your mama forever.
*tatko or tatee - daddy
bashta - father
Az sam tvoia tati zavinage. - I am your daddy forever.
brat - brother
(Name) e tovia brat. - (Name) is your brother.
sestra - sister (also nurse)
(Name) e tvoita sestrs. - (Name) is your sister.
dasteria - daughter
sin - son
*bebe - baby
*baba - grandma, granny
*diado, dyado, or dido (rustic) - grandfather
*cheecho - uncle, also used when calling to a person (like: Hey, man!)
*lalya - aunt, also used for orphanage staff
sapruga - wife
saprug - husband
*kooche - dog
koocho - come here dog (& then feak out if the dog actually comes)
kotka - cat
priatel - friend
zakuska - breakfast
obed or vecheria - dinner (which is usually at our lunch time) or supper
*kasha - oatmeal like cereal
*voda - water
*hlyap or hlepche - bread
*mlyako or mlektse - milk
kiselo mlyako - yogurt
salata - salad
*sok - juice
*bonnie or bon bon - candy
Nazdrave! - Cheers!
HEALTH AND SAFETY
*bo-LEE - hurt, injury, owie
kuh-day te bo-LEE? - Where does it hurt?
lepinka - bandaid or sticker
Strah li te e? - Are you scared?
*oboofka, obuvki, o boo li kee, bouika (toddler), boookie (toddler) - shoe
shapka - hat
bluza - shirt
GREETINGS, POLITE WORDS, AND GOODBYES
*lecka nosh or noshie (toddler) - good night
molya, molia te, or ako obichate - please
*chow-chow (Italian), doskoro - so long
spogom, or do-VIZH-da-ne - goodbye
*mare-see (French) or blagodar-YA - thank you
Blagodarya vi mnogo. - Thank you very much.
molya - you are welcome
*dober den, or zravei / zdrasti - good day or hello
iz-vin-E-te / iz-vin-iavaite - pardon me or excuse me
Kak stey? - How are you?
Blagodaria dobreh. - Fine, thanks.
Priatno mi e. - Nice to meet you.
kogah? - when?
kak? - how?
kakvo? - what?
zahshto? - why?
koy? - who?
kude eh? - where is?
Govoreetee lee ahngleeyskee? - Do you speak English? (to an adult stranger)
Kak shte kajesh tova na Balgarski? - How do you say this in Bulgarian?
Kak se kazvash? - What is your name?
Kolko struva - How much does this cost?
Otivame v novia ti dom. - We are going to your new home.
Otivame na samoleta. - We are going on an airplane.
PLAY RELATED WORDs
igrat - play
kofa - pail
kole-LO - bicycle
Also remember that nodding and shaking the head for yes and no may be confusing, as most Bulgarians do it the opposite of our way. However, some Bulgarians modifying their nodding to comform to Western gestures. It can cause misunderstandings and it may be wise to keep your head still and use the words da and neigh.
Here are some links to some Bulgarian language lessons on U-Tube:
Questions and Answers
Many Bulgarian names are traditional Slavic names, and/or Greek or Roman in origin. However, in order to understand the complex heritage and components of Bulgarian names one must know a little about Bulgarian history.
There were people living in the Bulgarian lands over 100,000 years ago in cave dwellings. The Thracians arrived from the north during the Bronze Age, about 4000 BC and settled in these lands. The advance of the Great Migration of Peoples began in the 3rd-7th centuries AD with the Barbarian raids, as many as 54 different tribes who came either from the Russian steppes or the Asian deserts into what is now Bulgaria.
Slavic names are very common in Bulgaria, Russia, Croatia, Serbia, Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. Most of these names are compound names consisting of two elemants, most common being the words "bog" (God), "lyub" (love), "lyud" (people), "mil" (beloved), "mir" (peace), "mir" (world), "slav" (glorious), "dan" (gift), "bori" (battle), "dobro" (good), "rad" (joy), "vlad" (master). For example, Vladi-slav means he who is master of glory". Bogdan means given by God. Radoslav means enjoying glory. Vladimir means mastering peace
The Slavs raided from southern Poland and Russia, then more or less peacefully settled in the area, assimilating the Thracians into the mix. Soon most of the Thracian language and history was forgotten in favor of the Slavic language. The last of these early raiders to settle there were the warrior Bulgars, who came across the plains of central Asia. They may have been a nomadic tribe from the highland regions of China and Mongolia. Their language was related to the Turko-Altai group, belonging to the same ethnolingual group as the Huns, Avars, Pechenegs and Cumans. The Bulgars soon settled with the local Slavic population and they too were assimilated, and accepted the language.
The Hunnish-Bulgarian association existed between 377-453 AD. In the 5th century they assimilated what was left of the ancient tribe of the Sarmatians, chased away the Goths, and overtook peoples with whom they probably had the same origins (in Russian steppes).
To add to the historical variety of the country itself, Bulgarian names are also influenced by the countryís location. The area was right in the pathway between the world's greatest civilizations: China, India, Persia and the Byzantium.
Some Bulgarian names sound as if they are of Thracians, old Bulgar, Kuman, or Petcheneg origin but research shows that they may actually be of comparatively recent origin. However, they may indeed be ancient names which have been altered to bestow a Christian meaning to them (The name Golcho was originally from the Old Bulgarian meaning little naked one. Current folk usage applies a Christian name meaning that of a child not yet baptized and having no personal name.) Most of the earliest Bulgarian names appear to have originated with the Slavs who came in the beginning of the 6th century AD. Some linguists have also suggested that components of Basque words can be found in East European names.
Five centuries of Ottoman rule beginning in the 14th century did not lead the Bulgarians to adopt many Turkish personal names. This was primarily due to religious differences. However the Bulgarian Mohammedans accepted Turkish names, mainly those of Arab origin. Some Bulgarian Christian girls adopted Turkish names also.
The largest number of Bulgarian names are of Christian origin, primarily of Jewish, Greek, and Latin derivation. Christianity was introduced to Bulgaria in the 8th century. In the middle ages Christian names were common among Bulgarian clergy, nobility and urban dwellers. In the villages, until as late as teh past century, most of the names were slavic. Many Bulgarians are named after Christian saints. Because the country adopted the Greek form of Christianity, Greek names are the most common. In Bulgaria the Christian names were changed to fit the sound and grammer laws of the surrounding language and conform to its rules. For example Hristina is from the Greek meaning anointed, Krustyo is from the Greek name Staurios meaning cross.
Bulgarian indigenous names have been formed over a period of fifteen hundred years or more. They are numerous and include many names that have their beginnings in Slavic and Christian names. Many are translations from other languages, Bulgarian states, events, plants, geographical sites, or character traits. By way of illustration, here follows a short list of male names, formed from the root "RAD" (one that causes or is filled with joy): Rade, Radi, Radyo, Radko, Radan, Radenko, Radoy, Radesh, Radin, Radoyko, Radoil, Radoul, Radon, Radota, Radovan, Raino, Raiko, Rayan, Radush...
New names became common during the Bulgarian renaissance of the 19th century. Children were named for Bulgarian Tsars (Kaloyan, Todor, Shishman, Asparuh, Krum, Boris, Kiril, Asen), people from other countries who were key to the Bulgarian situation (Venelin was a Russian historian who encouraged Bulgarian renaissance), historical figures (Gurko was an outstanding Russian general, Kalitin was a Russian lieutenant-colonel who fought at Stara Zagora), and other political figures (Lenin, Stalinka).
During the Soviet era it was common to see new names, created to renounce the established names of the past (Ninel is a name invented by the reversal of the name Lenin, Vladilen is a contraction of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin). Naming Day may be celebrated on July 15th for Vladimir.
Another category of names are names taken from various flowers (Edelvajs is from the flower edelweiss, Hristanta is related to the flower chrysanthemum), gems (the Bulgarian name Biser means pearl, Briljantina is related to the Bulgarian word brilyant meaning diamond), metals (Zlata means gold, Zhechka is from the word for iron), or birds (Gulubina is from the word for dove, the name Jastreb means hawk).
Names from Slavic phrases for various virtues are common (the name Boyka is from the Bulgarian meaning a fighting spirit, Gerasima is from the Slavic meaning venerable). Many Bulgarians believe in the power of words, and names that might give this power to a child are also common (Bratan is a name from the Slavic word brat, which means brother. This name was given to a baby boy in the hope that the first born would have brothers and sisters to call him big brother. Kimon is a Bulgarian indigenous name which means stone. This name is given to a baby in the hope that he will be as hard as stone and thus overcome diseases and difficulties in life.)
Traditionally, Bulgarians have three names: the first name (personal name, given name), the middle name (fatherís name), and the last name (family name, surname). On official papers all three names are always recorded.
At the beginning of the 19th century most Bulgarians were known only by their first names. Sometimes the personís occupation accompanied the name for better identification (Anton the baker, Petko the swineherd, Dimo Grunchar which means pot maker), or any other distinguishing feature (Hristo Tupchileshta which means lentils eater).
Before 1880 Bulgarian family names began to develop. Traditionally (and in rural areas today) a Bulgarianís last name was usually the paternal grandfatherís name. This is pretty rarely done today. This European patronymic naming pattern was common throughout Europe in the past. Sometimes the father's first name was given as a last or middle name. Today this is seen especially among young women as a way of acknowledging their fatherís support through school.
Today a family last name is usually handed down from generation to generation. Most Bulgarian last names are the adjective form of a masculine first name, formed by adding -ov or -ev for boys and -ova or -eva for women. (Zhivkov is formed from the first name Zhivko, which indicates son of Zhivko. Zhivkova indicates daughter of Zhivko.) Sometimes for reasons of better sound to the ear, the ending -chev is substituted for a boy, -cheva for a girl (Stoychev is derived from the first name Stoyan). All of these suffixes directly reveal the sex of the person merely by his or her name.
When a masculine first name ends in an -a then -a is dropped before the ending is added (Gyula becomes the last name Gyulov.) If a name ends in -ur, the -u is dropped before the ending is added (as in Aleksandur, which becomes the last name Aleksandrov for a boy, or Aleksandrova for a girl). The suffix -ich was used during the 19th century from Serbian and Russian influences (Bozhka became Bozhich, Gendov became Gendovich). Ultimately many of the -ich suffixes were replaced again by -ov. A few last names end in -chin, from a past practice of referring to a woman as the wife of a man. (The wife of Andri would become Andreitsa, and her son would be named Andrichin, son of Andrei.)
The suffixes -shki and -chki indicate places of origin or activity; and related Bulgarian last names sometimes end in -ski for men or -ska for women. (The last name Dobrudzhanski indicated that the family was from Dobrudja, Pernishki meant either from the city of Pernik or acting in Pernik. Zidarski meant that the child was the son of a mason.)
Last names ending in -in may have been the result of a household headed by a woman. Rural peoples referred to a passive husband by the wifeís name. The character Genko Ginkin, from the book Under the Yoke by Bulgarian Ivan Vazov, literally means Ginkaís Genko. If a husband abandons the family, or if a widow supports her children, the children are sometimes called by the motherís name (the last name Radin means of Rada, Tonkin means of Tonka). Adults continue to use this form of the name in memory of their mother.
Many Bulgarian last names evolved in an effort to avoid commonplace last names. Some Bulgarians took the Turkish word for the occupation of their father and added a Bulgarian ending. (The last name Abadzhiev from the Turkish abadziya meaning cloth dealer; Sahatchiev meaning watchmaker instead of Chasovnikarov). Others used physical features of individuals or nicknames from Turkish words (Kabaivanov meaning heavy Ivan; Etimov meaning orphan instead of Sirakov). Some Bulgarians added Turkish endings to their family names (Kutsoglu, Papazoglu). Others adopted Greek names with Bulgarian endings (Despotov meaning despot; Zografov meaning an artist who paints icons). People who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem preceded their names with Hadji and descendants used it as a part of their family name (Hadjibonev, Hadjikalchev, Hadjimishev) or added only an -ev or -ov to Hadji. There were people who wished for family names symbolic of noble origin (Tsarev, Tsarsk, Kralev, Knyazov, Bolyarski, Grafov). Some families took the name of a geographic region or city (Berlinov, Amerikanov); or from modern technology (Energiev, Telefonchev).
Traditional Bulgarian first names followed a naming pattern. This tradition is primarily only adhered to today in the rural areas. These naming patterns followed the Slavic tradition of naming children, especially boys, with their grandparentsí names. The first born was named after the paternal grandparent of the same sex. (Grandfather Angelís son was named Velizar. Velizar's eldest son would have been named a form of the name Angel.) Thus the firstborn sonís first name might differ from his last name only in its ending (Angel Angelov). The second child was named after one of the grandparents on the motherís side. Subsequent children were named after the grandparents until all four grandparents were accounted for. Luckily, a majority of names in Bulgarian have both female and male analogues, and this gives one a limited choice. (For example, Radoslav and Radoslava, Ivan and Ivana, Penyo and Pen(k)a.)
A baby born on a great holiday was usually an exception and may have been named for that holiday, but subsequent children then carried on the tradition by being named after the grandparents. If a boy was born after his fatherís death, he was given the name of his father rather than that of his grandfather.
After the four children named for the grandparents, the next two children are named for the best man and the maid of honor (who typically are an older, more-established family member to whom the young couple can turn for advice). Finally (if there are more than 6 children) one can choose any name that one likes.
Nowadays, if one happens to like the names of one set of grandparents more, one just goes with those names. Variations of the grandparentsí names are frequent. Sometimes the name may keep only the foundation of the grandparentís name, or a syllable (Anton named after grandfather Andrei, Penka named after grandmother Pelina). A very popular modification is the "first-letter-rule". According to it, Polina may have been named after her grandfather Petko, Dessislava may be named after her grandfather Daniel. Also, the best man rule is usually thrown out.
In Bulgaria today, many families do not carry on this tradition of first names. Many Bulgarian children are given names picked by their parents, who are influenced not only by tradition and heritage, but also by experience and beliefs. Families may select names of authors, artists, writers, movie stars. Certain names become popular fads at various points in time, as they do in the west.
The middle name is not chosen randomly; in fact it is fixed. If the father is known, the middle name is the -ov(a), -ev(a) derivation of it. A womanís middle name is Georgieva if her father's first name was Georgi. If she were to have a brother, his middle name would be Georgiev. Her sister and she, of course, have the same middle name. If the father is unknown, then one does the same thing with the name of the mother. With the Turkish and Jewish and Armenian names of Bulgarian citizens, one just sticks for the middle name the exact name of the father (or mother if unknown).
A married couple is introduced using both forms of the last name. (For example Mr. Ivanov and Mrs. Ivanova, not Mr. and Mrs. Ivanov. If one must refer to the couple by one name it would be Ivanovi or Semeistvo Ivanovi.) When a woman marries in Bulgaria, she can , keep her own last name, take her husbandís last name, or hyphenate both names. Both married and unmarried women retain their middle name, the name of their father.
Nicknames are very popular. At birth a child is given a formal name known as a passport name, but the child is more commonly known by an affectionate name derived from the formal name. (For example, Angel and Aleksandraís oldest son is named Velizar Angelov Velizarov, and his friends call him Zario. Velizarís oldest sonís passport name is Vangel Velizarov Angelov, but his friends call him Ancho. Velizarís third child, a daughter, is named Alexandra Velizarova Angelova, but her friends call her Sashka.) Friends and family continue to use these nicknames, but professional associates would use the more formal name. Sometimes these nicknames follow very old patterns, and can be obscure in relation to the passport name. In the past, the suffix -ka was used to designate a serf, but today it usually signifies a nickname commonly used between children, although it is even seen as a passport name.
The way a name sounds changes when translated them from Bulgarian to another language. In the past, when translated to English, Bulgarian last names were ended with the suffix -off; now it is much commonly seen -ov. There are many sounds in the Bulgarian language that we do not hear in English, or what we hear as subtle variations that are whole different sounds in Bulgaria. The sound sht is often erroneously heard as the same sound as zht; sh may be changed to ch; the k sound can be written as the letter c or q; s to c; j may be inserted as a silent letter, as a g sound, or as a kind of i sound; and so on. Many times the letter b and v have been interchanged. All of this makes it interesting and challenging to group related names and meaning.
Bulgaria was at one time composed primarily of rural communities. Villages were cooperative settings where everyone helped and supported one another. Neighbors were like family. Even today Bulgarian children refer to adult family friends, teachers, doctors, and other adults as chicho (paternal uncle) or lelyo (aunt). Younger children call older ones bratko (older brother) and kako (older sister). A man older than oneself may be addressed with the prefix bai- (older brother), and an older woman strinka (wife of paternal uncle). Elderly women are referred to as baba (grandmother).
Names were not used very much within the family. Instead family members were called by words that indicated their relationship, marital status, or age. A husbandís unmarried sister was called zulva, his brother called dever, his brotherís wives were eturva, his oldest sister was kalina, his younger sister was malina , braino was his oldest brother, draginko his younger brother, svekur and svekurva were his parents. The wifeís sister was svestka or balduza, badzhanak was her sisterís husband, shurey her brother, tust and tushta her parents. Snaha was the daughter-in-law or sister-in-law, and zet was the husband of oneís daughter, sister, or close female relative.
Many Bulgarians are named after Christian saints. Instead of birthday celebrations, it is customary to celebrate Naming Day. These are days designated by the Orthodox Church to honor a patron saint, Bulgarians named after that saint celebrate on that day. Family and friends visit, make toasts, give gifts, and celebrate in remembrance of the naming.
The Romani have at least two names each: a private name in their own language that is not used outside their community, and a public name in the language of the country where they live. The public names seem to be typical of the country where they are found. So in general, a Romani boy or girl would be given a more or less normal Bulgarian name.
Adoption in Bulgaria - Clues as to How It Works... Sort of... |
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Support Groups, Physicians, & Other Resources |
Revisiting Bulgaria - Anton's Article & Terry's Journal |
Bulgarian Words and Names |
Bulgarian Adoption Blogs; Social Homes/Orphanages|
Bulgarian Holidays, Name Days, Orthodox Church Days, and Traditional Celebrations
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