The meaning of Kyrgyz names

Have you ever thought of names as a mirror of a nation’s soul or a doorway to the treasury of what people value, respect or extol? Kyrgyz names reveal this nation’s admiration and respect for nature, reverence for old traditions and an awe of love.

Female names in their overwhelming majority reflect a deep feeling of veneration for flowers, the Moon and light. For instance, a typical girl’s name Baktygul means ‘happy flower’ and implies that its bearer will be accompanied by luck. Jazgul means ‘spring flower’ and Tattygul – ‘sweet flower’, while Gulzat is translated as ‘flower creature’. As seen from these names, ‘gul’ (flower) is a widespread constituent of Kygyz female names. At the same time, such names as Aijan (‘moon soul’) and Ainur (‘moon light’) expose Kyrgyz’ admiration for the night luminary.

Male names, on the contrary, demostrate respect for strength, freedom, and determination.

If you happen to visit Kyrgyzstan, you will be amazed at how many men’s names end with ‘bek’ and ‘bai’. In Kyrgyz ‘bek’ means ‘strong’ or ‘robust’, while ‘bai’ purports ‘rich’. Hence, many parents add these endings to various names to encode propensity for strength, power, and wealth. Other names like Ishen and Kadyr show a deep feeling of consideration for faith and destiny, respectively.

There are also very specific names, which, unlike the ones mentioned above, originate from old Kyrgyz traditions or beliefs. A good example would be a male name Satylgan. Literally translated as ‘sold’, this name comes from a ritual of stealing newborns to later have their parents buy them out with money, crop, wood, etc. This ritual intended to ensure that a newborn son lives a long life.

In daughter-only families parents still tend to name their youngest child ‘Burul’ (‘turn’, i.e. ‘turning point’) or Chynarakul (‘lonely flower’), if they are willing to give birth to a son next.

In olden days, you could even come across such names as Sharshenbi (‘Monday’), Sheishenbi (‘Tuesday’) or Juma (‘Friday’), each of which, obviously, highlighted the day of the week, on which a person was born.

To cut a long story short, even today the Kyrgyz culture cherishes its rich naming traditions. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of names bearing very specific meanings, which, just like music or art, uncover this nation’s sense of beauty and grandeur.   

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