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What’s in a Russian Middle Name?

The short answer to that question is: the father’s name. Vladimir was a bit suprised when I introduced my dad. He had assumed that my dad’s name would at least bear some resemblence to my middle name, but the two were completely unrelated.

Russians always have a patronymic for the middle name. For boys, an ending of ‘ovich’ is added to mean, basically, son of whoever. For girls, this is usually ‘ovna’.

Let’s put this into real life. Let us say, for instance, we have a father named Boris. He has a son and daughter named Konstantin and Anastasia, respectively. They would be called Konstantin Borisovich and Anastasia Borisovna.

People would actually call them this. Adding the middle name is another way of making it friendlier, but with a slightly more formal flair. OR, it is a way to express your disapproval. Chances are, if you are a Russian boy whose mom is calling you by both your first and middle names, you are in big, big trouble.

Another interesting occurance is that Russians will also readily call a friend by their middle name only. I’ve even heard my husband call his mother by her middle name.

So many different ways of naming someone can confuse an American, but when you get used to it, you find there can be a great deal of communication just by the name you call a person. It makes Russian, in many ways, more capable of subtlety than English.

Next: The last name. Not too difficult, but still not quite as straightforward as English.

4 comments

  1. very interesting, i didn’t know this.

  2. A mother calling her child by both names can also mean trouble in English. Robert David sounds much more serious than Bob or Bobby. hehe Add a last name and your goose is really cooked. My mother did this and I must have done it also as I have heard you use all three names of your daughters when frustrated to the enth degree. hehe…. Tradition. I wonder how it started???

  3. Hi, Ami.

    I’ve found your posts on Russian last names and Russian middle names, but not one on Russian first names. Is this all you posted, or is there one comprehensive post that deals with all of the ways (10? that many?) that someone can refer to a Russian friend by name?

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