Why do so many female names end in "a"?

Isabella, Maria, Anna, Patricia, Edwina, Air Italia. Perhaps not the last one.

Why does the letter “a” at the end of a name feminise a first name in Western languages?

And in Russian, why does this also work with surnames?

I suspect this is a holdover from Latin where first and second declension nouns ending in us and a, respectively (Hope I’m recalling right it’s 1st & 2nd declension) were male and female. It’s still true in Spanish that -a words are generally female while -o words are generally male. So Roberto and Roberta woud indicate a boy and a girl.

I know very little about Russian.

Right about -us and -a, wrong way round on the “respectively”. There are a very few anomalies, i.e. 1st declension nouns that are actually masculine, e.g. nauta, “sailor”, IIRC.

Curious that your own “Location” information points out your gender, given your user name ends in “a”!

I don’t know why (actually, I’m tempted to say : why not? Why not having a masculine and feminine form for a family name? It makes sense.) but Russian isn’t the only example. It seems to be common in slavic languages in general, and even in others, like greek. Also, whether it applies or not depends on the last syllabe of the name, if I understand correctly.

And it’s not to be mistaken for the -ovna endings which are added at the end of the father’s first name

Most (if not all) Slavic languages do this with adjectival last names. Since the adjectives modify feminine nouns, they must take feminine endings, which are "-a"s in these instances. So a name like “Kowalski” (adjectival form of “smith”) becomes “Kowalska” when applied to women. “Katarzyna Kowalski” just sounds wrong, because you expect a female given name to take a feminine surname (if the surname is adjectival. If a noun, it remains the same. For example, “Katarzyna Kowal” (noun form of “smith”).)

Other ending pairs for masculine feminine names you’ll see in the region are “-ov/-ova”, “-ow/-owa”, “-cki/-cka”, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a number of others.

So, in Slavic languages at least, grammar/gender agreement is the reason.

I always thought there were a lot of girls names that ended with a “y” or “i” or “ie”.

Jenny, Mandy, Ally, Mary, Chrisey, Missey, Shari, Loni, Stacy, Judy, Carrie, Lori, Kelly, Candi, Becky, Ashley, Courtney, Annie, etc. etc.

Jenny is short for Jennifer
Mandy for Amanda
Ally for Allison
Chrisey for Christina
Missey for Melissa
Shari for Sharon
Becky for Rebecca

Now I am not saying that some people don’t forgo the root name and just name their kid the shorter version.

And of course there are tons of men’s names that form a diminutive with -y/-ie: Bobby, Jimmy, Eddy, etc.

It may be that, due to gender roles, it is more common for adult women to use diminutives than adult men, or to have a diminutive name as an actual name (as opposed to just a pet name - being actually named Jenny, instead of Jennifer, for example). In fact, several women’s names we now think of as names in their own right started off as diminutives: Nancy for Anne, or Molly for Mary, for example.

And some names that were originally male became female, because they ended in -ie and sounded female. Ashley and Lindsey, for example.

-a or *-ah-/i] is the general feminine suffix in Hebrew, too, which is why many (but certainly not all) Hebrew female names end with it. For example: Rebbeca, Deborah, Leah.

Whatever answer is reached, I’m still very much a male with fully functional man-bits, thank you.

Funny, I had always assumed you were female.

Well, looks like there is no obvious reason for the difference between “Mario” and “Maria”.

Are there any Western girls’ names that end in a hard letter?



Do Charolette, Eleanor, Ellen, Sharon, Bridget, Rachel, Janet, Jeanette, Maeve, Shiobahn, Inid, Inez, Margaret, and Magrid count?

As do Abigail, Lucille, Marian, Hortense, Hermione and Ruth.

Heather, Amber, Caitlin, Brooke.

Also Shirley, Leigh and Leslie (Lesley). Mostly they seem to be ones that were once very popular in upper class British families.

Actually, there are quite a few masculine given (baptismal, I think Europeans generally call them?) names that parents in the U.S. have given to girls, even before that became something to do deliberately (in the 1970s?). I’ve been sitting here for the last several minutes trying to remember more of them, and can’t.

Can anybody help?