What is a typical Armenian-American name for a character in my story? Where can I look for other potential character names?
September 10, 2006 6:26 PM   Subscribe

What is a typical Armenian-American name for a character in my story? Where can I look for other potential character names?

I'm writing a story set in Boston, and one of the very minor characters is Armenian-American (total arbitrary choice - I picked it because I have relatives of Armenian heritage).

What is a typical Armenian-American name for a man in his 40's in Boston?

I wanted to look this up on my own, but I'm not sure where to look. I thought of borrowing names of local commemorative veterans' signposts, but I was worried I might unknowingly choose something unusual or noteworthy (like someone picking "Presley" for an ordinary American surname, or how Colossus, the one Russian in the X-Men, has the surname "Rasputin"). What resources are out there for writers in need of names?
posted by cadge to Writing & Language (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One classic way is just to steal names from people you know. Pick one of your Armenian relatives' first name. Pick another's last name.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:34 PM on September 10, 2006

I had a friend with the surname Hagopian (there might be a few ways of spelling that)--his first name was something typically "American."

So there's one random example for you.
posted by hototogisu at 6:40 PM on September 10, 2006

how about some armenian newspapers?

published in l a



you should be able to get a few names out of there
posted by pyramid termite at 6:43 PM on September 10, 2006

-ian surnames (especially -o*ian, -a*ian or e*ian) are a telltale of Armenian origin. First names are more often 'western' or anglicised.
posted by holgate at 6:50 PM on September 10, 2006

Rabo Karabekian
posted by tylermoody at 6:52 PM on September 10, 2006

Football (soccer) teams are a great way of finding names. Use google to find teams in the desired country and then check out their squad via Wikipedia, or other resources.
posted by fire&wings at 7:01 PM on September 10, 2006

Don't use Rabo Karabekian. That's a character in several Vonnegut novels (in case the OP wasn't aware).
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:05 PM on September 10, 2006

Vahan Sharoyan.
posted by perissodactyl at 7:11 PM on September 10, 2006

Both the first name and the family name are pretty typical Armenian, I was told.
posted by perissodactyl at 7:12 PM on September 10, 2006

Anything ending in -yan or -ian is likely anglicised Armenian (the French translated my last name with a '-quriand' ending, instead of a -kerian ending, & Armenian relatives in Buenos Aires translated it different yet, although I don't remember how). My grandfather, who was full Armenian, adopted an English name (Charles) when he immigrated to the United States in the early 1900's. Western first names seem to be the standard among the Armenians I know.
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:23 PM on September 10, 2006

For the purpose of your story, I'd choose an Armenian last name, & a sort of antiquated/slightly off first name, showing the character was either the son of a recent immigrant or an immigrant himself, & didn't fully understand the implications of the name. This would be a touch ironic, since you don't fuly understand the implications of the surname you, as the author, are giving the character.

I'll give you permission to use my last name, if the story is any good, that is ;) I can mostly guarantee it doesn't mean anything too spectacular.
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:26 PM on September 10, 2006

Garo, Hovig, Hagop, Aram, Kevork, Vatche, and Ara are some of the common first names that come to mind immediately (well, common for me growing up outside of Boston and being part Armenian).

Minassian, Sarkissian, Manoogian, Bedrosian, Kevorkian, Abdalian and Haroutiounian are some of the last names that I hear more often than others.
posted by jdl at 7:29 PM on September 10, 2006

Ara Bedikian
posted by convex at 7:58 PM on September 10, 2006

Glendale, CA has the second-largest Armenian population in the U.S. (first being Los Angeles.) Scrolling through the Armeniapedia link shown above will give you some names, but I also found this link for the faculty/staff directory of a local Glendale Armenian school that will give you a LOT of options.
posted by invisible ink at 8:11 PM on September 10, 2006

Behind the Name has an international name generator that includes Armenian. (Unfortunately it only generates one at a time, unlike the otherwise excellent Random Name Generator, which doesn't let you choose nationality.)
posted by booth at 8:22 PM on September 10, 2006

According to some sources, the Armenian diaspora extends over many eons and countless galaxies, and even encompasses varying ethnicities.
posted by rob511 at 9:16 PM on September 10, 2006

I know a lot of guys with Armenian heritage on their mother's side who have Anglo last names and "Armen" as their first name. They're all in their twenties, though.

One cool thing is the geographic-ness of the names. Often, the -ian or -yan suffix means "of" or "from," so Khanlarian means "from Khanlar" (Khanlar is in present-day Azerbaijan) and Esphahanian means "from Isfahan" (Isfahan is in Iran). So the last name can have subtle meaning of the character's previous life experience. See here for more info.

My recommendation: Jimmy Kaprelian.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:52 PM on September 10, 2006

Izzy Svatuvant?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:49 PM on September 10, 2006

Armenian Profiles.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:51 PM on September 10, 2006

Arman Tamzarian.
posted by stammer at 1:49 AM on September 11, 2006

Don't trust yourself to do it right. You have to ask Armenians.

You might make up a few names and briefly describe the sorts of people they are supposed to be, and then mail them to Armenians who should know. For example, the people at Blogrel or Oneworld might be happy to have a quick look and let you know whether you are calling your plumber the Armenian equivalent of James Bond or Percy Dovetonsils.

If you're naming a 40-year-old, you might also find a local Armenian social club and ask some 60-year-old Armenians what they would name their kids. (Or run some possibilities past them.)
posted by pracowity at 5:14 AM on September 11, 2006

fire&wings: Football (soccer) teams are a great way of finding names. Use google to find teams in the desired country and then check out their squad via Wikipedia, or other resources.

Except don't try this with the English league. Unless you want your "typically English" character to be called Thierry, José or Cristiano.
posted by afx237vi at 5:44 AM on September 11, 2006

In a lot of immigrant communities back when, people were picking aggressively "American" names for their kids. In Michigan, where I grew up, there were a lot of middle-aged Jimmys and Jacks and Johns with long Greek or Polish last names. Even the guys who were born Iannis or Nikos or Pavel went by John, Nick or Paul.

Anyway, for me, that combination of an American first name and a foreign last name is really evocative of a certain generation in the immigrant neighborhoods I saw as a kid. I wonder if something like infinitewindow's Jimmy Kaprelian would have the same connotations to someone who grew up near Armenian-Americans.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:22 AM on September 11, 2006

nebulawindphone, I definitely have the same experience growing up with Armenian-Americans (some who are my cousins). A lot of middle aged or older guys are Jimmy or Johnny with the long Armenian last name. My uncle Levon went by Leo, etc.

In my high school (I'm 33) there were a fair amount of Hovigs, Arams, Ara, etc.

And now I know people having babies and naming them Antranig and the like. It definitely is generational and how many generations removed you are from having come from "the old country." I've heard a lot of people say that it's the 3rd generation that wants to get back in touch with their ethnic roots and starts naming their kids more ethnic names.
posted by jdl at 7:11 AM on September 11, 2006

I used to know a dude named Yervon Agobian-Jones. Agobian has gotta be Armenian. I also knew some Oksayans. They were awesome.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:52 AM on September 11, 2006

posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:12 AM on September 11, 2006

In general, I use babynames.com when I'm looking for character names. Their advanced search option allows you to differentiate by origin or nationality (from Armenian to Aborigine). Good luck!
posted by changeling at 11:39 AM on September 11, 2006

I used to go to an amazing Armenian deli in Tampa called Antraniks bakery, how about the name Antranik?
posted by askmatrix at 1:04 PM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

If the person is 40 and from Boston, he or she would have a WESTERN Armenian name, ending in -ian, not -yan. Also, spelling will be different... for example, the Akopyans mentioned would definately be Eastern Armenian, because the Russian spelling dropped the H in Hakopyan. Ks and Gs switch in the 2 dialects, as do Ps and Bs.

Western Armenian names are typically Turkish occupations (Prudian = potter, Bardakj = glass maker) and Eastern Armenian names are typically from first names (Petrossyan (family of Peter), Hakobyan (family of Jacob)). There are some Western Armenians with family names too though. But it isn't as common.

Ignore Glendale references - they'll usually be Eastern Armenian names.

I'd need to know if he or she is from a particularly Armenian family for name choices and which political side they choose. (No kidding.)

Here are some Western Armenian 2-nd or 3-rd generation last names:

Manoogian (infant)
Karadolian (rock breaker)
Karakashian (brother)

First names:
Aram (a bit more for politically active Armenians)

A combo of these 2 first names and 3 last names should work for you.
posted by k8t at 9:38 AM on September 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Belated thanks to everyone who answered and gave advice - this is very helpful!
posted by cadge at 8:43 AM on September 24, 2006

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