Like in any unique culture, some names within the Bulgarian society are more common than others. If you're familiar with the people of Bulgaria, you will discover how names like Ivan, Stefan, and Nikolay are very popular among males. At the same time, Elena, Ivanka, and Maria are also some of the most famous female names in Bulgaria. Let's take a closer look and see the full list of some common Bulgarian names.
In general, Bulgaria has been a melting pot as its citizens are descended from people of multiple ethnicities and origins.
Today, most modern Bulgarian people are successors of the ancient Bulgars, Thracians, and Slavs origin. The culture is also heavily revolved around Greek, Persian, and Ottoman influences.
Bulgaria is an East European country surrounded by Turkey, Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia, and Greece. The people of Bulgaria speak the South Slavic language, which is said to be mutually intelligible with the Macedonian language.
The are several layers to explore when it comes to Bulgarian names.
Of course, the naming conventions among Bulgarians today have changed from the ways of the old days. Fundamentally, Bulgarian names are gender-based. You'll see later in the examples that it's pretty easy to distinguish between a male and a female name.
Traditionally, there were a few traditions that the ancient civilization of Bulgaria practiced:
Up until today, this tradition is quite common among Bulgarians (though it might not necessarily be practiced). This is definitely the traditional way a child is named in Bulgaria. Some people may follow this custom, while some may not.
To be specific, Bulgarians name their male newborn after the father's father, the grandfather. What if the newborn is a girl? Yes, she is named after the grandmother.
Correspondingly, the second child will be usually named after the mother's parents. What's the logic behind this tradition? It's to display how a child belongs to his father and how his father belongs to his father (the grandfather). This, in a way, entails how the Bulgarian community traces its legacy. Beautiful, isn't it?
In Bulgarian names, there is a particular suffix at the end, signifying possession (like the English 's). Let's see these suffixes and how they work.
Most Bulgarian male surnames have an -ov suffix, a tradition practiced mostly by Eastern Slavic societies, particularly those from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus.
Alternatively, the feminine form of -ov suffix is -ova:
Clearly, this is how a part of the Bulgarian legacy is built - by adding the suffixes at the back of the newborns' names. This indicates how the child belongs to the father and family.
Then again, traditions could vary according to the region, and they're often not followed anymore.
I've also discovered the fact that some Bulgarian parents name their children after themselves, which is quite unique and interesting.
As a matter of fact, this is an uncommon practice (unlike the first one). Typically, the custom is to name the firstborn after the father's parents, not after the father himself.
However, these methods are not fixed as each region may exercise different naming standards and conventions. It all depends on one's geography or cultural background.
This is another distinctive custom in naming children in Bulgaria. In general, some people are named after the nearest holiday to his birthdate, so you will see many Bulgarian names that sound like a festivity.
For example, if someone was born prior to (or closely after) St. George's Day, there's a really high chance that the newborn will be named Georgi (for male) or Gergana (for female).
Alternatively, Bulgarian parents may be inspired by wishful names. These names hold positive connotations such as good health and life (like Zdravko or Stoyan). Still, although this tradition is particularly unique, only a few people would actually consider and stick to it.
Let's see some most popular Bulgarian names for boys.
|Ivan||God's gift. Also, the name of six Russian rulers (the first Russian Tsar is called Ivan the Terrible)|
|Vasil||The Bulgarian form of Basil, which means king|
|Georgi||Farmer or husbandman|
|Haralambi||To shine with happiness|
|Apostol||Apostle or messenger|
|Dimitar/Demeter||A variant for Demetrius, meaning earth|
|Hristo||A Bulgarian form of Christopher, meaning carrier of Christ|
|Emil||Masculine form of Emilia, meaning to strive, excel or work hard|
|Petar||Inspired from old Greek word, meaning a rock or stone|
|Alexander||Defender of man|
|Martin||Derived from the Romanian form of Mars/Martis; the Roman god|
|Viktor||A masculine form, meaning victory|
|Vladimir||Ruling the world|
|Dragomir||From the word dragu, meaning precious|
|Chavdar||Persian word meaning leader, dignitary|
|Stanko||Derived from Stanislav, meaning to stand with glory|
|Bozhidar||Bulgarian form of Bozidar, meaning divine gift|
|Bojidar||A variant transcription of Bozhidar, which also means divine gift|
|Desislav||Means finding glory or searching for glory|
|Asen||The name of a Bulgarian king|
|Momchil||Derived from the Bulgarian word momche, which refers to boy or youth|
|Atanas||An immortal man|
|Doncho||Bulgarian form of Andon, which means priceless|
|Andrey||A born warrior, manly and courageous|
|Todor||A beautiful and pleasant gift from God|
|Tsvetan||From the Bulgarian word tsvetan, meaning flower; blossom|
|Krastio||A Bulgarian form of Krastyo, referring to a cross|
|Blagun||Originated from a Slavic word: blag, meaning sweet, pleasant, and good|
|Grozdan||A shiny star|
|Lyuben||From the Slavic lyuby, meaning love|
|Radimir||Joy and peace|
|Borka||A good fighter boy|
|Spas||From Bulgarian term: spasen, meaning saved|
|Boyan||Similar to Borka; a warrior or fighter|
|Kaloyan||From a Greek phrase kalos Ioannes; handsome John (the nickname of the Bulgarian 13th emperor)|
|Mitre||Short form of Dimitar, which means earth|
|Tomislav||Probably from Slavic tomiti (torture) and slava (glory), the name of the first Croatian king|
|Bogdan||From the Slavic elements bogu (god) and dan (given), meaning given by God|
|Slavko||Originally from Slavic slava, meaning glory|
|Stoyan||From Bulgarian stoya; to stand, to stay|
|Tihomir||Derived from the Slavic tikhu (quiet) and miru (peace)|
|Gavrail||Bulgarian version of Gabriel, meaning God is my strength|
|Kosta||Bulgarian diminutive of Constantine, meaning constant|
|Rumen||Ruddy and red-cheeked|
|Damyan||Bulgarian form of Famian, meaning to tame|
|Sonya||A Russian diminutive of Sophia, meaning wisdom|
|Michaela||Feminine version of Michael, from Hebrew which means the leader of heaven, a saint|
|Tsvetoslava||Derived from Bulgarian Tsveta, meaning flower and glory|
|Irina||Derived from Irene, which means peace|
|Desislava||A female version of Desislav, meaning glory|
|Boryana/Boriana||Originally from Bulgarian, meaning glorious in battle|
|Tatyana/Tatiana||Feminine form of the Roman tatianus, referring to a saint who martyred in Rome in the 3rd century|
|Svetlana||From the Russian svet, meaning light and world|
|Kristina||English variant of Christina and Bulgarian variant of Hristina, referring to the 17th century Swedish queen|
|Mihaela||Feminine form of Mihael, derived from Michael. Refers to a saint|
|Liliya||Bulgarian version of Lily, refers to the flower; a symbol of purity|
|Polina||A feminine version of paulina, referring to Paul, a famous nobleman in the 5th century|
|Eva||Derived from Eve, meaning to breathe and to live|
|Dobromira||Of Slavic origin, which indicates good peace|
|Stanimira||Of Slavic elements stani (stand) and miru (peace, world)|
|Maria||Latin form of the Hebrew Mary, referring to the mother of Jesus|
|Ivanka||This Means God is gracious|
|Elena||From a Greek name that means bright, shining light|
|Yordanka||Feminine Bulgarian form of Jordan, which means to descend|
|Ana||Indicates compassion and grace|
|Boyka||Means fighter or warrior|
|Simona||Meaning the one who hears|
|Ognyana||Originated from the Bulgarian word "ognen" , which means fiery|
|Bilyana||In South Slavic languages, which means fair|
|Borislava||The feminine form of Borislav, meaning famous battle|
|Darina||From a Slavic term, which means gift|
|Bisera||From South Slavic word: Biser pearl|
|Galya||Of Greek origin which means serenity|
|Bilyana||A Bulgarian form of Biljana, meaning herb|
|Donka||A female variant of Andon, meaning priceless|
|Diana||Refers to the Roman goddess|
|Violeta||From Eastern Europe, meaning violet, the purple flower|
|Marina||Derived from a Roman family name: Marinus, meaning 'of the sea'|
|Krasimira||A female version of beautiful peace|
|Bozhidara||A feminine version of Bozhidar, meaning divine gift|
|Simona||Female form of Simon, meaning obedient|
|Roza/Rosa||Means rose in some Slavic dialects|
|Vera||Means faith in Russian and true in Latin, from the word verus|
|Anelia||Bulgarian adaptation of Angela, which means angel|
|Emiliya/Emilia||To work hard|
|Malyna||Sweet as raspberry|
|Zhivka||A feminine version of Zhivko, meaning living|
|Nadya||Bulgarian form of Nadezhda, which means hope|
|Emil Andreev||Bulgarian writer|
|Jules Pascin||Bulgarian artist|
|Georgi Tsonov||Bulgarian athlete|
|Ralitsa Vassileva||Bulgarian journalist|
|Grigor Dimitrov||Bulgarian tennis player|
|Binka Zhelyazkova||Bulgarian film director|
|Todor Kolev||Bulgarian film actor|
|Hristo Shopov||Bulgarian actor|
|Ivan Vladislav||Former Tsar of Bulgaria|
|Gloria Ivanova||Bulgarian singer|
|Stanislav Ianevski||Bulgarian actor|
|Kiril Gospodinov||Bulgarian theater actor|
|Yana Marinova||Bulgarian actress|
|Elena Yoncheva||Bulgarian politician|
|Edvin Sugarev||Bulgarian poet|
|Neva Krysteva||Bulgarian organist|
|Vesselina Kasarova||Bulgarian operatic mezzo-soprano|
|Ljubomir Chakalov||Bulgarian mathematician|
|Elka Todorova||Researcher at the Institute of Sociology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences|
|Nikolay Nenovsky||Bulgarian economist|
All in all, although some very unique naming conventions exist within the Bulgarian community and culture, not everyone decides to stick to the old-fashioned way. To certain extents, the customs and traditions may only apply to certain Bulgarians.
Like anywhere else in the world, we do have a modern take on Bulgarian naming conventions. Rather than naming the child after the grandparent's full given name, the child only inherits the first letter. It's called the first-letter rule.
Hence, the granddaughter of Petya might become Poli or Polina. Clearly, the first letter P from the grandparent is maintained. Another contemporary way of naming children in Bulgaria is by adopting any popular Western-sounding names, such as Martin, Alexander, Victor, Maria, and Sofia.
From some of the most famous Bulgarian names today, we can see how the culture of Bulgaria is deeply interlaced with the rich culture of its neighboring countries. This blog can also be the perfect list of baby names, which can be what you're looking for.
It's also very interesting to see how Bulgarians really want to preserve their cultural heritage. This intention then translates into their unique naming convention. It's beautiful and inspiring.