Some personal names are of Tibetan origin or have come from Sanskrit via Lamaism, like Dorjpalam, 'diamond', and Ochir and Badzar (both meaning vajra or 'thunderbolt'), while Liankhua, 'lotus', is Chinese.
In this century, Mongols have sometimes been given Russian names like Alexander or Sasha, or mixed ones like Ivaandjav; also from Russian, Yolk, 'little fir tree', seems a bit strange. Politically correct parents once chose Oktyabr (October), Sehsehr (USSR), and even Molotov as names for their offspring, although the strangest of all is perhaps Melscho, composed of the first letters of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Choibalsan!
Modern Mongolian names for men often denote manly qualities, like Bat, 'strong', Bold, 'steel', Cholon, 'stone' or Sukh, 'axe'. Women may be named after flowers, like Narantsetseg, 'sunflower', Odval, 'chrysanthemum' or Khongordzol, 'thistle', or qualities like Oyon, 'wisdom'. It seems that traditional (Buddhist) names may now be coming back into fashion.
Mongolians have no inherited surname. Like Icelanders, they attach their father's name to their given name: Chuluuny Bat, 'Bat (son) of Chuluun'.
Sometimes names are shortened. For example, a man called Delgerbayar might be familiarly called Delger; a woman called Delgerdzaya may be known in her family as Dzaya, and her sister Delgermaa as Maa. A little girl Khongordzol could be called Khongi by her parents.
(Sanders, Alan J. and Bat-Ireedui, Jantsangiin, Colloquial Mongolian The Complete Course for Beginners, Routledge, London, 1999, p. 247.)
Muunokhoi, "Vicious Dog", may seem a strange name, but Mongolians have traditionally been given such taboo names to avoid misfortune and confuse evil spirits. Other examples include Nekhiig, "Sheepskin"; Nergui, "No Name"; Medekhgui, "I Don't Know"; Khoonbish, "Not A Human Being"; Khenbish, "Nobody"; Ogtbish, "Not At All"; Enebish, "Not This One"; Terbish, "Not That One".
(Sanders, Alan J. and Bat-Ireedui, Jantsangiin, Colloquial Mongolian The Complete Course for Beginners, Routledge, London, 1999, p. 132.)
Some of My Favourite Names
Western parents usually base their choice of names for their children on euphony; meaning is of little, if any, consequence, except as bits of interesting trivia. This is because nearly all of the names in the West are of Ancient Hebrew, Roman or Greek origin.
Korean names operate on much the same principle: they are all derived from Chinese. It is impossible to divine the meaning of a Korean’s name without first looking at its Chinese characters – unless that Korean is part of the 0.001% of the population with a purely Korean name, such as our children will be bestowed with.
Mongolian names, by contrast, have very definite, and often exquisitely beautiful, meanings, undisguised by the distance of time or the distortion of language – although they are sometimes intermingled with Tibetan names (Maa being the most common) whose meanings are well-known. Here are a few which we consider the prettiest and most colourful:
Bolormaa = "Crystal Mother" Solongo = "Rainbow" Odtsetseg = "Star Flower" Sarangerel = "Moonlight" Batkhuyag = "Strong Warrior" Dzoldzaya = "Light of Destiny" Bayarmaa = "Mother of Joy" Altantsetseg = "Golden Flower" Batuldzii = "Firm Peace" Mungentuya = "Silver Ray" Baatarsaikhan = "Warrior of Peace" Munkhjargal = "Eternal Blessing" Oyunbileg = "Gift of Wisdom" Erdenetsetseg = "Precious Flower" Naranbaatar = "Sun Hero" Altanchimeg = "Golden Ornament" Bolorerdene = "Crystal Treasure" Delgernandjil = "Great Elegance" Odgerel = "Starlight" Shurentsetseg = "Coral Flower" Nyamsuren = "Saturday Power" Batzorig = "Strong & Courageous"
Mongols Dig Up Their Family Trees - from The UB Post
A Buryat family recently proved that Mongolians can remember their clan names. At a recent genealogical competition, D. Handjav traced his family history back an impressive 13 generations.
Handjav was competing against 13 other families on the October 29 ‘Ulaanbaatar Day’. His effort was rewarded with a cash prize of T1.5 million. The competition was organised by the Cultural Section of the City Mayor’s office.
Handjav, from Dashbalbar soum, Dornod aimag, is from the Orgodoi Bodon family. His family history showed he was from a long line of herders.
The genealogical survey was impressive giventhat most Mongolians can only trace their history back two or three generations. Many have even forgotten their clan names. The recently implemented law which calls for Mongolians to take a last name has forced thousands to search out their clan name. For the past year, the project has sent urban Mongols back to their homeland to rediscover their names. The Ulaanbaatar Day competition was organised to promote such genealogical research.
The most successful families were ethnic minority groups from the furthest reaches of the country. Historian S. Idshinnorov says Khalkh Mongols have largely forgotten their clans.
“The minority groups have retained their culture and heritage far better than the Khalkh majority. This is not surprising. Minority groups anywhere cling to their past. Some clans in remote parts of Mongolia made their own Naadam last summer, which they recorded on video,” the historian said.
Idshinnorov added that many clans have their own seal and song, but because some have forgotten, clans have recently reinvented a personal seal and song.
Historical documents which recorded the clan the family events are hard to come by these days. Most records were destroyed or lost in the 1920s after the communists came to power. The government did away with clan names, believing that feudal ties might supersede allegiance to the state.
Clan names are believed to have originated in the 8th century. Historians say that clans took the name of a heroic warrior, a nearby mountain or popular animal. Some were named after their occupation. Zerdnoot, for example, means ‘horsecart driver’. Clan members paid special attention to the historical logs, careful not to marry within the same clan for nine generations – thereby keeping the blood clean to avoid inbreeding.
The Ulaanbaatar Day was also marked with an exhibition of family objects passed on through the generations. The collections included silver cups, chess boards, brass pots, drums, pipes, books, statues and sutras.
Such items were also confiscated in the 1920s and 30s. Some were taken as valued state property, and others were destroyed as feudal relics. Today, millions of sutra books, and scores of familytapestries, can still be found at the State Central Library.
One family book at the library includes 42 generations from a nobleman Borte to the Khan Gombodorj (b. 1594). Chinggis Khaan’s youngest son Tului (b. 1192) began a family chart with 15 generations of noblemen from seven soums of four aimags.