Difference between revisions of "What's in a Name? The Etymology of Armenian Surnames"
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Reading Lecture (On line) What’s in a Name? The Etymology of Armenian Surnames By C.K. Garabed
Slide #1 – (title of presentation)
I wish to emphasize, first and foremost, that I am not a linguist or philologist, and
certainly not an expert on names or languages. I am simply an ordinary fellow who has
taken an interest in Armenian surnames. Forty years ago, I started collecting names from
church telephone directories and donor lists as a hobby; at first manually, then with the
aid of a personal computer. I have collected well over 10,000 names to date, though not
all of them are defined yet. The task of collecting names has been made easier by the
publication of the UNIARTS Armenian White Pages telephone directory in California.
Also, what greatly facilitated my work were the dictionaries that were provided me by
my daughter, Lucine, and good friend, Cesar Chekijian. Of course, there were many other
friends who helped me in my work, one way or another. Their names are listed at the end
of this lecture online.
Curiosity was my first motivation for exploring the subject of Armenian family names.
How-ever, I then came to appreciate the diverse nature of Armenian surnames, which
appear to cover the gamut of our ancestors’ life activities in the Old Country. I found that
many interesting and unusual names cannot be deciphered merely by looking them up in
books, but also require knowledge of the circumstances leading to the formation of such
names. In many cases, direct contact with their owners is needed in order to get the
With names like Bajaksouzian, which means legless, for a short man; Soghanyemezian,
which means one who does not eat onions; and Srmakeshkhanlian, which means
owner/worker of a factory where gold/silver thread is drawn,. I sometimes think we
Armenians, more than any other ethnic group, possess the most fascinating surnames.
Incidentally, Armenian writer Yervant Srmakeshkhanlian chose the name Yeroukhan as
his pen name, a truncation and blending of his first and last names.
In the course of my investigations, I was struck by how many Armenians didn’t know the
meaning of their names. When some of them learned of my hobby, they would ask me to
find out the meaning of their surnames. I would try to comply with such requests as best
as I could, and if I were successful, it would highly please the requestor. For my part, it
was a distinct pleasure to conduct research and then pass on the results. I felt gratified in
helping people learn more about their names.
Now for my lecture –
What's in a Name?
(The Etymology of Armenian Surnames)
Slide #2 – (Sources)
The following are segments of an illustration by David S. Merrill for an article titled “The
Mother Tongue” published in U.S. News & World Report magazine on November 5,
Slide #3 –(Mother Tongue)
Let’s start with the Indo-European language branch of the human language tree. An
original Mother Tongue, the provenance of which has never been determined, is the
source of the Indo-European branch, seen in the highlighted area, which includes
Slide #4 –(Indo-European Branch)
Recent scholarship suggests that, contrary to what was believed to be true of the order of
languages in the branch, Armenian has now been given a more prominent place.
Starting from the base of the ProtoIndo-European branch, we see the European languages
off to the left; and then to the right are the Anatolian languages, which are extinct; and
then, in between, is the Aryano-Greco-Armenio branch.
Slide #5 – The following is a segment of the same illustration, enlarged and colorized.
Slide #6 – (The Aryano-Greco-Armenio branch)
From that orange point to the left are the Greek languages; and to the right, the
Armeno-Aryan languages, seen in red. Then we come immediately to Armenian which is
a continuation of the red, followed by the yellow group that includes Persian; and
subsequently to Sanskrit, that includes the Indian tongues: Hindi, Urdu, Bengali,
etc. Thus, we see that Armenian is closer to the Mother Tongue source than Persian
and that Armenian and Persian are no longer believed to be derived from Sanskrit.
Slide #7 –(Anatolia) – This slide shows the movement of the language.
It is now believed that the Indo-European model originated in Anatolia, and spread west
to Europe, and east to India. Also, it is now believed that the language spread, not
by horseback, as previously assumed, but by farming.
Slide #8 – (A suitable international language?)
There has been a great deal of interest in the formal adoption of an international
language. Esperanto has been considered, but rejected as an artificial one that is
deemed undesirable. English, which has become important in international relations,
has also been rejected on grounds that it is too difficult to learn.
Slide #9 – (Ough – bough, cough, dough, rough, through)
Just take a look at these five English words that all end with the letters ough.
They are all pronounced differently:
Slide #10 – (Ghoti = fish: Shaw)
That eminent playwright and music critic, George Bernard Shaw, called English a
ridiculous language. He said that he could take a word with the letters ghoti and
make it spell fish. He would take the gh from the English word rough for f, the o
from women for i, and the ti from nation for sh. Result-- Fish.
Slide #11 – (Margaret Mead, Sol Tax, anthropologists)
Anthropologists Margaret Mead and Sol Tax have recommended that Armenian be
adopted formally as the international language for two reasons: One is that adoption
of the language of a larger or prominent country such as England, France or Germany
would give that country significant political power. The other is that the proposed
language should be relatively easy tolearn. Armenia fills the bill in both cases. It
is a small country with a small population, and its language is easy to learn. With
some minor exceptions, the written alphabet provides a single sound for every letter
and a single letter for every sound.
Interaction among languages is quite common in history, and all languages borrow
from others. Latin borrows from Greek; French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese
borrow from Latin; and English borrows from everybody.
Certainly Armenian borrows from the language of other cultures with which contact
has been made, notably Persian, Greek, Arabic and Turkish. A language that borrows
from others is thereby enriched. Very often, to make a point, a good speaker will
have recourse to a borrowed word in preference to a native one.
Slide # 12 – (O.K.)
Can it be denied that the most successful English word (if you can call it that) to
pervade practically all other world languages is “O.K.?”
English has been influenced by the same languages that have influenced Armenian,
notably Persian and Arabic.
Slide # 13 – (Persian influence on English)
Persian influence on English can be seen in the following:
cummerbund: kamarband (waistband)
orange: naranj (The letter n shifted from a naranj to an orange)
checkmate: shahmat (The king is dead).
Slide # 14 = (Arabic influence on English)
Arabic influence on English can be seen in the following:
algebra: al jabra ( reduction of parts to a whole).
cipher: sifr (zero), which has come to mean a code. Arabic numerals provide a
flexibility that Roman numerals cannot. One wonders how the Romans, with their
cumbersome numerical system, were able to divide their enemies, and multiply
admiral: amir al bahr (lord of the sea). There’s nothing admirable about an
The Turkish influence on English is negligible. All we come away with is Turkish
bath,Turkish coffee, Turkish tobacco, Turkish towel, and Turkish delight, none of
which are truly Turkish in origin.
Slide # 15 - (Persian influence on Armenian)
Armenian has likewise been influenced by interaction with Persian, Arabic, and
Turkish. Armenian use of Persian vocabulary includes, for example:
bakht to pakht (luck)
dushvar to tuzhvar (difficult)
pil to pigh (elephant)
Mardo Soghomian, a former staff member of the Armenian Prelacy of NY, told me that
the father of the last Shah of Iran commissioned his scholars to study the Armenian
language because he knew there were 200 loan words that Armenians borrowed from
Persian which were no longer in use by the Persian people. The Shah wanted to
restore those words to the Persian language.
Krikor Pidedjian, esteemed Armenian Ethnomusicologist, had this to say about Aryan
languages: "There is some question as to which language influenced which when it
comes to Persian and Armenian. Many people assumed Armenians derived words from
the Persians. However, there are just as many words that the Persians derived from
One that comes to mind is the word vard for the rose flower. The primary word for
rose in Persian is gul, and secondarily vard, which suggests that it came from vart,
the Armenian word for rose.
Slide #16 (Arabic influence on Armenian)
Armenians, especially in their dialects, make use of Arabic vocabulary –Examples
aman (woe, my God!)
mashallah (how amazing!)
Slide #17 – (Turkish words used by Armenians)
Having lived for centuries with the Turks, who occupied the Armenian homeland, it
would be remarkable if the Armenians had not adopted many Turkish terms in their
everyday speech. Some Turkish words regularly used by Armenians, especially in the
towns and cities with mixed populations, are:
Slide #18 = (terms used by Armenians that are not Turkish, as thought)
However, we tend to give the Turks too much credit for some common terms that most
people are familiar with and use in their daily conversation. Examples are:
finjan (coffee cup)
jan (term of endearment)
zourna (wind instrument)
The original source of these words is Persian.
We also have:
The original source of these words is Arabic.
Lieutenant Colonel Harry Sachaklian, a career U.S. Air Force officer stationed in
Turkey, told me that the only truly Turkish vocabulary consists of military terms.
The rest is all borrowed. Now, that may be an overstatement, but there is a germ of
truth in it. Turkish, after all, is a carrier language, the Turks having borrowed
from all the cultures in their midst.
My father, Hagop Der Kasbarian, advised me that it was the Armenians who beautified
the Turkish language.
Slide #19 = (Martayan)
This brings to mind the name Martayan, which is Turkish for mistress, and the family
name of Hagop Martayan, commissioned by Mustafa Kemal to modernize the Turkish
alphabet, and was given the title of Dilachar, tongue-opener.
What is true of the general vocabulary is also true of surnames.
Slide #20 - Examples of Armenian names that contain Persian roots are:
Goulkhasian (best variety of rose)
Shahbazian (royal falcon)
In 1969, when I attended a military comptrollership course at Ft. Benjamin Harrison
in Indianapolis, Indiana, there were two foreign service officers in our class, one
Korean, and the other Iranian, whose name was Rezvanian. I introduced myself to him,
and then began conversing in Armenian. I saw immediately that he did not understand
me, so I apologized, and told him that I assumed he was Armenian because his last
name ended in “IAN,” which in Armenian means “son of, family of, or issued from.” He
then told me that many ethnic Persians have names that end with IAN.
Slide #21 - Examples of names that contain Arabic roots are:
Habeshian (native of Abyssinia or Ethiopia)
Jelalian (majesty, glory)
Maksoudian (design, intention)
Slide #22 - Examples of names that contain Turkish roots:
Examples of names that contain Turkish roots are:
Boyajian (painter, dyer, or artist)
Kazanjian (kettle, boiler or cauldron maker)
Slide #23 – (Names that are not Turkish in origin)
As with the general vocabulary, we tend to assume that many Armenian surnames
reflect Turkish roots, when in fact a closer examination reveals that many of them
are borrowed from Persian and Arabic, which were a significant part of the Ottoman
Najjarian (carpenter) from Arabic
Nalbandian (blacksmith specializing in the shoeing of horses) from Persian
Nakashian (engraver) from Arabic
Slide #24 – (Modified Armenian names India)
Because of the length of some Armenian surnames and the difficulty in their
pronunciation, some Armenians have changed their family names. In some cases, it was
done by removing the "ian" ending, and in others, by adapting to the customs of a
new country. This practice, especially among the Armenian merchants who settled in
India and Southeast Asia, has produced some surnames which are very hard to
recognize as being Armenian.
Asdvadzadourian (God-given) evolved to Chater
Haroutiunian (resurrection) to Arathoon
Mardirosian (martyr) to Martyrose
Mgrdichian (baptist) to Mackertich
Sarkisian (rainbow) to Serkies
Slide # 25 – (The Armenians and the Jews)
There was a time when people were known by one name, and if necessary to distinguish
one from others, would be referred to by trade, location, or parent affiliation. For
example, Resartus the tailor, Isaac of York, Abou ben Adhem. Then, some time later,
not too long ago, people adopted family or surnames, so we got Herman Miller, Hovsep
Shamlian, Jack Johnson.
An interesting parallel can be drawn between the Jews of Germany and the Armenians of Turkey. In both cases, sometime about the eighteenth century, the rulers of those
countries mandated the adoption of family names in the language of the host or
occupying countries. The difference is that whereas the German Jews were often
permitted to select theirnames, the Turkish Armenians were often assigned names by
local officials. Thus came about the adoption by Jews of beautiful names, such as:
Morgenthau (morning dew)
Schoenberg (beautiful mountain)
Blumenthal (blooming dale)
Mandelbaum (almond tree)
Saperstein (sapphire stone)
The Armenians, on the other hand, were as often as not given uncomplimentary names,
in derision. For example:
Tekirian (marked with spots)
Topalian (lame, crippled)
Zouloumian (cruel, oppressive)
Armenian names may possess endings such as ian, iantz, oghlu and ov, but their
stems determine their basic meaning, Armenian surnames can be classed generally in
seven categories, such as:
Slide # 26 – Aristocracy, Patronymic, Occupation, Geographic origin, Physical trait,
General descriptive, Special circumstances
Armenians who are direct descendants of dynastic nobility still carry their
ancestral family names. These names usually have the ending "ouni". Examples:
Many Armenian surnames originate from the first name of an ancestor. This practice
is very common among all nations of the world. Examples:
Avedisian (Good news!)
Some Armenian surnames are derived from a person’s profession or trade, or that of
an ancestor. These names (most have Arabic, Persian or Turkish origins) were
assigned by the taxation officers to help them identify individuals in their own
An Armenian who has migrated from a certain geographic region (city, town or
village) in Armenia was typically given a surname which was based on his/her
Izmirlian (native of Izmir)
Marashian (native of Marash)
Vanetsian (native of Van)
A significant number of names are derived from obvious physical characteristic
features The names often are not flattering, but the category is too extensive to be
GEOZKEUCHEUKian (T) One with small or deep set eyes.
This is a catch-all category that contains names that do not fit the other
Mampreyan (fertile, fruitful)
Yotnakhparian (seven brothers)
Servantsdiantz (contemporary, up-to-date)
An interesting category of names is that where some unusual occurrence or
circumstance gave rise to the name. Examples:
Choukhasouzian (without a winter overcoat)
Haviters (contrary nap)
Kherdian (break and run)
I will explain the origin of these names later in the lecture.
Kathryn Manuelian has suggested the inclusion of yet another category, which is
Biblical.This concept has merit as many Armenian surnames are derived from Biblical
sources. Examples are:
Aprahamian (Father of peoples)
Hampartsoumian (Ascension of Jesus Christ)
Mgrdichian (St. John the Baptist)
There is, of course, plenty of room for overlap. Many names can be classified as
both Biblical and patronymic. I came to realize that like the O prefix to Irish
names, and the Mac prefix to Scottish names, practically all Armenian names with the
suffix ian can be considered patronymic.
Some obscure names can be deciphered fairly easily, such as:
Bohajian for Boyajian (painter)
Kahaumjian for Kouyoumjian (jeweler)
Kerbeykian for Kurbuyukian (which means grey moustache), and
Akim Tamiroff, the name of the noted actor of Armenian ancestry, where Akim is
the diminutive for Hovakim (the father of St. Mary), and Tamiroff is the Russian
form of Demirjian (blacksmith)
Slide #27 = (Detective work)
There are other names that require extensive detective work in order to get at their
meaning. Shareshian is a case in point.
According to Nicholas Shareshian, the father of a prominent Dikranagerdtsi family
that resided in Union City, New Jersey, the name means black silk. Now, how do you
get black silk from Shareshian?
The Turkish word for silk is ipek.
The Arabic and Persian words for silk are abrishoom, abrishim, and ibrishim.
The Armenian word for silk is medaks, which, however, is borrowed from the Greek
word for silk, metaxi.
Well, where do we go from here?
In the course of my perusing an English-Armenian Dictionary published by Prof.
Hagopian of Anatolia College, Merzifoun, Turkey, I came across the word for silk
sieve, which was sharmagh. Further investigation revealed that the Armenian word for
silkworm is sheram, and that sericulture is sherama-pou-dzou-tioun.
Here, then, was an important clue. The shar portion of the name was validated as
Now, what about esh?
Esh is Armenian for donkey or ass. Nothing pertinent there.
Esh in Turkish can mean one of a pair; a husband, wife, or mate. Nothing there.
Eshek is Turkish for donkey or ass. Nothing there, either.
Eshik in Turkish is a doorway threshold, or a violin bridge. In other words, that
which is weight-bearing. No connection here, also.
I, then, proceeded to check on the various words that were likely to yield the color
black. The Armenian word for black is sev. The Turkish word for black is kara.
However, there is a secondary word for black used in Turkish, borrowed by Ottoman
Turkish from Persian, and that word is siyah.
Voila! Siyah is Persian for black. It is also used in Turkish for black or dark.
It is possible that ‘share’ (of silk in Armenian, plus siyah (black in Persian =
Sharesiyah plus ian = Sharesiyahian, which was contracted to Sharesian, subsequently
P.S. The Shareshians were prominent members of the Union City “Arsen” AYF chapter.
Ann was a perennial member of the executive board, and the brothers Boubo and Dick,
were players on the famed Union City basketball team. Dick’s
son, John, is a professor of mathematics at Washington University in St. Louis. His
younger son, Steven, is a producer of award winning TV and movie films, such as “My
Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “John Adams,” and “Game Change.”
Slide # 28 – (Spelling and Country)
The spelling of a name can vary depending on the country to which the owner of the
name has immigrated.
Keshishian (English) vs. Kechichian (French) which means priest
Haroutiounian (English) vs. Arutunyan (Russian) which means resurrection
Ohanesian (English) vs. Oganesyan (Russian) which means John
Vapurdjian (French) vs. Vapurciyan (Turkish) which means steamship owner or
Slide # 29 - Other Strange, Humorous and Unusual Names
Slide #30 – (Ajelejian)
Ajelejian: (T) Someone always in a hurry.
Slide # 31 – (Altimarmakian)
Altiparmakian (T) One with six fingers. This can be taken literally, or
Literally: I, myself, in my youth, knew of a dishwasher who worked at the Bergenline
Restaurant in Union City, N.J. who had six fingers on each hand. The sixth was a
tiny finger adjoining the pinkie finger.
Figuratively: The name would be applied to someone who was possessed of great
dexterity, such as a musician who played a string instrument with great skill so as
to make one believe that he had six fingers. One such case is the master oud and
violin player Roupen Altiparmakian of Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Slide # 32 – (Arkun)
Arkun (T/A) According to Aram Arkun, currently the assistant editor of the Armenian
Mirror-Spectator, this is his reply to my question about the derivation and meaning
of his surname:
“My Sepastatsi grandfather’s name was originally Yesai Karageuzian (which by the way
means black or dark eyes). He is said to have traced his genealogy back 400 years to
Van, with clergy in the family tree. Unfortunately, the information is lost to us.
My grandfather was a physician in the Turkish army during WW I. For obvious reasons
he changed his name to Ismail Shevket.
His last name was probably formally changed during the name law in the 1930s to
Arkun. My grandfather was an amateur philologist, and I perceive a correlation
between Shevket and Arkun, which latter can be construed as both Armenian and
Turkish. Shevket, in Turkish, means majesty, pomp. Arkun, in Armenian, is a form of
arka, a term used to describe a king or royalty. Thus, Arkun (or Arkuni) would mean,
of the royal court, or, belonging to the king. In Turkish, as far as I know, Arkun
has two meanings: soft, gentle; the name of a Mongol Ilkhanid ruler Arghun (the gh
sound changed to k in modern Turkish.) For the foregoing reasons, there is only one
family group with the name Arkun.
As an interesting aside, I would mention that during the 1930s name change law,
those who had changed their names earlier now had to register their names. Others
were forced to take on new names. For example, a couple on my mother’s side went
together to the same registry official. One was given the name Karaboulout, black
cloud, and the other Siyahboulout, also black cloud, siyah having been borrowed from
Persian. The official was apparently playing a cruel joke on the couple by assigning
different last names with the same meaning. They had a great deal of difficulty in
trying to get the same last name for both husband and wife.”
Slide # 33 – (Arnavoudian)
Arnavoudian (Al) Eddie Arnavoudian, who is a regular contributor to The Groong
Armenian News Network, has the following to say about his family name as it was
handed down to him:
"My dad’s side of the family were from an area around Istanbul called Arnavoudkoy or
something like that. The area was named after it was settled by emigrants from
European Albania called Arnavouds. The Arnavouds were divided in their religion, one
part Christian, the other Muslim. How they became Armenianised or why our family
adopted this name if they were not actually Arnavouds will remain an eternal
Slide # 34 – (Boujicanian)
Boujicanian (T) Buchuk: half; an: man; half a man for a short man.
Slide # 35 – (Boynoubouroukian)
Boynoubouroukian (T) One with a twisted neck.
Slide # 36 – (Choukhasouzian)
Choukhasouzian: (T) Without a winter overcoat.
Now, chukha in Turkish is a kind of broadcloth used in the manufacture of heavy
coats, and by extension synonymous with winter overcoat. The suffix souz means
without. Thus: without an overcoat. I wasn’t sure if it meant that the bearer of the
name could not afford an overcoat, or that he didn’t need one.
It wasn’t until I was introduced by my brother-in-law Ardashes Hamparian to a family
relative, Levon Chookaszian that I was able to settle the matter. Levon is Professor
Emeritus of Art History at Yerevan State University. When he was visiting the U.S.,
Levon advised that the name began with an ancestor, in Sepastia, when he bravely
went out in winter without an overcoat. Levon also stated that all the persons with
that surname and variations thereof are related, including Lily Chookasian, the
famous opera singer.
Slide # 37 – (Dadekian)
Dadekian: (H/P) According to Zaven Dadekian, this surname was originally Dadekhian.
Research confirms this, and furthermore reveals that Dadekh is a variant of Dadegh,
in turn a variant of Dadagh, which is a conflation of Dada and agha, Dada being the
diminutive for David, and agha a term of respect for a gentleman, sir; therefore,
David the gentleman.
Slide # 38 – (Deoshoghlanian)
Deoshoghlanian (T) Deosh: breast; oghlan: boy; literally breast boy; figuratively, a
young man who proudly thrusts his chest forward. This comes compliments of Rosine
Deoshoghlanian Hovsepian of New Jersey, whose ancestor was given this name for the
Slide #39 – (Hajakian)
Hajakian: (Ab/H) This is a true story told to me by a bearer of the name Hajakian.
Once there lived a man named Hagop who was a supervisor at the stable of the
Padishah of the land. His jovial disposition and assiduous attitude for his work had
earned him an unswerving trust of his employer, his master, his king. The people
around him, the Turks, could not pronounce his Armenian name, Hagop. Instead they
called him AKUH. One bright day the Padishah received a gift from some prince. It
was a most ravishing, gorgeous looking, rare breed of an Arabian white horse. Akuh,
the horse keeper, fell in love with this horse and decided to steal it and ride all
the way to Jerusalem. He disappeared for seven years never to be heard from.
The Padishah, realizing that Akuh was more valuable to him than just a horse, issued
a Firman (an edict) declaring that he had forgiven Akuh for his misdemeanor and that
wherever this Akuh was he should return to the court and resume his work at the
Lo and behold, Akuh returned home with a big welcome to spend the rest of his life
as a contrite employee and determined to make up for his mistake. The horse had
passed away but in Jerusalem Akuh became emblazoned with a cross tattooed on his
wrist thus becoming a Hadji. The Turks, thereafter, call him HADJI AKUH.
This story was told to me by Yeghishe Hajakian of New Jersey. Hadji Akuh was
Yeghishe’s great, great, great, great grandfather.
Yeghishe was born in Lebanon as Hadjiakuhian (son of Hadji Akuh). It was too long, so
he shortened it to Hajakian.
I made certain to include Yeghishe’s story here as a remembrance of our dear friend who
passed away last week after a valiant battle with cancer.
Slide # 40 – (Haviters)
Haviters: (T) In the city of Sepastia in Historic Armenia, there lived and worked two
master rug weavers. A wealthy resident of the city wished to have a rug woven and
commissioned one of the weavers to do the job. The weaver commenced the work, but
halfway through, he died of consumption. The wealthy man who had commissioned the
work then approached the other weaver to complete the job. This other master weaver
accepted the offer, but being a proud artisan, decided to complete the job his own way.
So, instead of picking up where the other had left off, he commenced from the other side
and when he had gone for enough, joined the two parts. In doing so he ended up creating
a rug with the nap going in opposite directions. This became a source for his being named
haviters, hav (khav in old Turkish) meaning nap, and ters meaning contrary. Previously,
the family name had been Manougian (which, by the way, means youth).
(This comes compliments of grandson Mircan Haviters of Farmingdale, NY, whose ancestors moved from Van to Sepastia 1030 years ago.)
Slide # 41 – (Jingabedoghlu)
Jingabedoghlu: (T/A) A certain family migrated to the U.S.A. from Istanbul, Turkey
with this unique name. The original name of the family was Mgrdichian. However, the
grandfather, who had a given name of Garabed, earned the name of Jin-Garabed because
he was shrewdly intelligent; jin in Turkish from Arabic being a genie or intelligent man.
Jin-Garabed was, in time, abbreviated to Jin-Gabed, and thus the family name became
Jingabedoghlu, or son of Jingabed.
Slide # 42 – (Kanayan)
Kanayan: (T) Kan is Turkish for blood or bloody. From Khudaverdi in the Lake Urmia
region there came 5 brothers to Igdir. They were a rough crowd, and became land barons;
then became respectable.
(This comes compliments of Mardig Kanayan, son of General Dro, whose full name was
Slide # 43 – (Kardashian)
Perhaps the best known Armenians in the United States are the Kardashian sisters. The
name Kardash means “brother” in Turkish and “stone mason” in Armenian. Courtney
Kardashian, sister of Kim, named her son Mason, which leads us to believe that there
may have been masons somewhere in the Kardashian family tree.
Slide # 44 – (Kavazanjian)
Kavazanjian: (A/T) Staff/cane maker or seller. [Minas Arakelian suggests that kavazan
is derived from the Persian words gav for cow, and asa for rod or stick. Thus, a cow
This reminds me of a Nasreddin Khoja tale. Someone who was skeptical of Khoja’s
reputation as a great teacher, decide to put him to the test by asking, “What do you call a
baby cow?” to which Khoja replied, “We don’t call it anything. We wait for it to grow up
and then call it a cow.”
(Slide # 45) - Kherdian
Kherdian: (T) Truncation of kherd-kach: break and run.
The Kherdian sub-clan traces back to a common ancestor. The name of the entire clan
was Bakaian. One part of the clan became Kherdian as a result of the following event:
Garabed Kherdian, was a carpenter by trade. One day a Turk from a neighboring village
came to Khulakugh (a village near Kharpert City) and asked Grandfather Garabed to
make and hang a door for him. When the job was completed, Grandfather Garabed went
to see the Turk to get paid. The Turk told him that he did not have the money that day
and that Grandfather should come back another day. Each time Grandfather went to see
the Turk to get paid, he got the same answer. Finally, he was convinced that the Turk had
no intention of paying him.
So Garabed came up with a plan. Late one night, he along with his brothers and cousins
went to this Turkish village. While everyone was sound asleep, they chopped down the
door and fled. As they were fleeing, the Turks woke startled and started screaming
“kherduh khashduh” which in Turkish dialect means “destroyed and fled.”
This comes compliments of Charles (Garabed) Hardy of Racine, Wisconsin, whose
family name was Kherdian. Immigration officials gave his father a hard time and, in
desperation, he chose the name of the fellow who had passed through ahead of him.
Slide # 46 – (Kherlopian)
Kherlopian: (T) Kher: good; Lop: bolt (as in food). One who swallows food by
the mouthful; a gourmand.
Slide # 47 – (Koulaksouzian)
Koulaksouzian: (T) Literally, without an ear; figuratively, having no ear for music.
Slide # 48 – (Mghtsavanchian)
Mghtsavanchian: (A) One who dreams nightmares. According to Angele Manougian,
there is a family in Florida by that name.
Slide # 49 – (Shilgevorkian)
Shilgevorkian: (T/Gr) Shil is cross-eyed; Gevork is George; thus cross-eyed George.
Slide # 50 – (Sebiljian)
Sebiljian (A/T): Sebil in Arabic is a fountain where one can wash his hands and feet
before prayer; and a sebilji is Turkish for someone who distributes water in the
expectation of receiving charity.
Slide # 51 – (Sabiha Gokchen (Khatun Sebiljian)
Khatoun Sebiljian (Hatun Sebilciyan) was the name of the orphan girl who was adopted
by Mustafa Kemal, and given the name Sabiha Gokçen (Sabiha Gokchen). In Turkish,
both Sabiha and Gokchen mean beautiful. According to interviews with Sabiha, she was the daughter of Mustafa Izzet Bey and Hayriye Hanim. However, in February 2004, journalist Hrant Dink published an article in Agos daily newspaper titled “The Secret of Sabiha Hatun,” describing how the so-called first Turkish female fighter pilot and Mustafa Kemal’s adopted child Sabiha Gokchen, was actually Armenian.
In the article, Hripsime Sebilciyan Gazalyan said that her grandfather Nerses Sebilciyan was killed during the Armenian Genocide and that, in her words, “his two daughters were Hatun and Diruhi, my mother. Hatun is Sabiha Gokchen, my aunt.” Hripsime continued by saying that “Ataturk visited the orphanage in the Cibin village of Sanliurfa’s Halfeti township. He liked my aunt Hatun and adopted her. She was 5-6 years old then. My mother cried a lot when her niece was taken away.”
However according to Turkish official registers, Gokchen, who died in 2001, was born of Bosnian extraction in Bursa, and lost her father, an exiled Ottoman official, when she was in primary school. She was adopted by Kemal in 1925, who later trained her to become a pilot. Later on, she became the first so-called “female combat pilot” of Turkey. An International Airport serving Istanbul is named after Sabiha Gökçen. Lest we harbor feelings of pride as Armenians, let us bear in mind that Sabiha Gokchen took part in the bombing of Dersim in 1937-1938 in which 10,000 Turkified Armenians, Alevis and Kurds were massacred by the Turkish government in response to a so-called rebellion, and thousands were left homeless.
Out of respect for proper language usage and historical accuracy, we should take issue
with calling Sabiha Gokchen a “combat pilot,” which by definition means that she was
fighting another regular armed force. Dropping bombs on civilians is not combat but
genocide. Young Turk policies stripped Hatun of her Armenian identity. Mustafa Kemal
then trained her to kill her own people in addition to other innocent populations.
We must add that Hrant Dink’s exposé of Gokchen’s true identity is considered one of
the several reasons why the Turkish “Deep State” arranged for Dink’s assassination in
Slide # 52 – (Tahtabourounian)
Tahtabourounian (T): Wooden nose or beak. Figuratively, it can be construed to mean
someone who has no sense of smell, or even one with low self-esteem, as a nose was
considered a symbol of pride.
Slide #53 – (Tycho Brahe)
In the event that anyone is skeptical of such a thing as an artificial nose, he is reminded of
Tycho Brahe, the 16th century Danish astronomer who lost part of his nose in a duel, and
was fitted with a golden one.
Slide # 54 – (Tazian)
Tazian (T/P): From tazuh for greyhound. Retriever for Turkish hunters. (This comes
compliments of Zohrab Tazian, whose forebear earned the name.).
Slide # 55 – (Terlemezian)
Terlemezian (T): One who does not sweat. (I can imagine Armenian patriot Dajad
Terlemezian, when given orders to dispose of Davo the Traitor, saying, “No sweat!”)
Legend has it that an invading shah of Persia taxed the citizens of Van so severely that
when they met every fresh demand of his he was prompted to say, “Don’t these people
sweat?” According to Dajad, Terlemezian is a Turkification of Talamazi.
His ancestors from Van were advisors to royalty, and the symbol of their sagacity was the
long hair that they displayed. Thus they were referred to as talamazi, which, it is
conjectured, was a truncation of talarmazi, where talar, in Armenian, is deemed as
verdant, and maz as hair. In many cultures long hair was a sign of nobility. The Parthians
and Persians of high rank wore long flowing hair.
(This comes compliments of Arpi Haroutunian, Dajad Terlemezian’s grand-daughter.)
Slide # 56 – (Teoleolian)
Teoleolian- (A) Corruption of Tel Volor (thread spinner), a name bestowed on the great,
great grandmother of Khachig Tölölyan, professor of history and literature at Wesleyan
U., and the son of Minas Teoleolian, former editor of the Hairenik Daily newspaper.
Before that, the family name was Sarkisyan. Teoleolian is a name unique to that family
and Khachig is the last of the line.
Now, you might ask why people perpetuate strange, unusual or even uncomplimentary
names. After all, it’s easy to just change them by adaptation.
Well, people often are attached to their names because it gives them a sense of continuity
and tradition. There’s also the desire to honor their martyrs by perpetuating the memory
of their identity as Armenian Christians. We should be grateful to our fellow Armenians
for having retained their names as eloquent historical testimony to the oppression
suffered by the Armenians at the hands of the Turks. It’s fortunate for me that Armenians
have hung on to their names; otherwise I wouldn’t be here talking to you today.
I’m reminded of a story in this regard:
An American citizen of Armenian extraction wished to legally change his name, and in
applying to the court of jurisdiction, appeared for a hearing before a judge.
The judge addressed the applicant, “I understand you wish to change your name. What is
it?” The applicant replied, “Jack Beshigtashlian.” The judge replied, “I don't blame you.
What do you wish to change it to?” The applicant replied, “Joe Beshigtashlian.”
Incidentally, Beshigtash means stone cradle.
It is also the name of a district in Istanbul.
Thus, Beshigtashli would mean a native of that district.
Slide # 57 - (Website of Dictionary URL)
This concludes my presentation. I wish to thank the Committee, and all those who have
been helpful in sharing their knowledge with me. You can find a long list of personal
acknowledgments in the Dictionary online. I also encourage all to discover what their
own names mean by consulting this Dictionary. If you cannot find your name, email me
and I will try to assist you if I can.
Slide # 58 - (C.K. Garabed photo w/email)
Slide #59 – (Sketch. Last slide. The end.)
Hrachia Adjarian’s Root Dictionary and Etymological Dictionary of the Armenian Language;
Tigran Avetisyan’s Dictionary of Armenian Surnames;
Stepan Malkhasian’s Explanatory Dictionary;
Dictionaries in Arabic, Armenian, Assyrian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Greek, Kurdish, Persian, Turkish.
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