Girls’ Names

CHANTAL. French, “to sing.” This classic French name can also be spelled CHANTALE or CHANTEL, and has a Kreyol equivalent, CHANTÉ.

CLAUDIE. From the Latin gens name Claudius, meaning “lame.” Variations include CLAUDE, CLAUDELLE, CLAUDETTE, CLODIA, CLOLINE, LOVE-CLOUDE, and MARIE CLAUDE.

CLÉANNE. A combination of Cléa, from the Latin Cloelia, “illustrious, famous,” and ANNE.

DAPHNEY. The most common spelling of Daphnée, from the Greek daphnē, “laurel tree.” Daphnée can be combined with Love to become DAPHLOVE or DAPHENALOVE,  and can be spelled Daphne, Daphney, Dapheney, or Daphmie. In any of its spellings and variants, it’s one of the more popular names in Haiti.

DAPHKAR. Also spelled Daphcar, Daphka, or Daphca.

DASHKA. One of the Russian names that became popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Dashka is a Russian nickname for Daria, “wealthy.” It can also be written Dashca, Dachka, Dacheka, or Dachecka.

DÉNAÏZA. A rare form of Denise, the French form of the Greek name Dionysia, “devoted to Dionysus.”

DIEUFELY. Kreyol, “God made her.”

DJENIE, DJENNIE. Kreyol form of JENNY.

FLORGENA. A combination of FLORE and GINA.

GARCELLE. A name newly minted in Haiti, possibly based on the French word garçon, “boy.”

GENÈSE. French, “genesis.” The name of the first book of the Bible.

GERTRUDE. From Old High German Geretrudis, meaning “spear-strength” or “spear-maiden.” Also spelled GUERTRUDE. The variant GUERDA has overtaken Gertrude in popularity.

GODLIE. English, “godly.”

GUERDA. This distinctively Haitian variant of GERTRUDE is popular both on its own and dressed up with new endings: GUERDINE, GUERLANDE, GUERLINDIA, GUERLINE, GUERLINEDA, GUERMYLOVE, and GUERTINE.

ISELANDE. Islande is the French name for Iceland. However, this popular Haitian name may be a combination of ISA and -lande. Common variants are ISLANDA, ISLANDE, YSLANDE, and YSELANDE.

JENNY. A nickname for JENNIFER, or a variant of GINA. Spelled DJENIE or DJENNIE in Kreyol.

JÉSULA. This very popular name means “Jesu la,” Kreyol for “Jesus is here.” Also spelled JÉZILA.

JOCELYNE. The feminine of Joscelin, the Old French version of Gautzelin, a Germanic nickname for any name beginning with Gaut-, meaning “a Geat, a Goth.” In Bretony, Joscelin was also a nickname for Josse, a variant of Joyce (“lord”). In the U.S. and the Philippines, Spanish speakers use it as a feminine diminutive of José (“God shall add”). [add “joyful” etymology] However you arrive at the meaning of the name, it’s wildly popular around the globe, and no less so in Haiti. Also spelled JOCELYN (which is also the male form), JOCELENE, and JOSELAINE. Combined with –lande, it becomes JOCELANDE. YUSELINE is a newly minted variation.

JOLANDA. An Eastern European version of YOLANDE, popular in its own right.

JOVANA. A form of JEANNE used in Serbia and Macedonia. Haitian variants are JOVANIA and JOVIANA.

JOVANICA. From Jovanka, the Serbian and Macedonian nickname for JOVANA. Also spelled JOVANIKA.

LOURDES. A Marian name derived from “Our Lady of Lourdes” or “Maria de Lourdes,” an epithet of the Virgin Mary. When a 14-year-old girl from Lourdes, Bernadette Soubirous, began having visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858, the town became a center of pilgrimage and Marian devotion. The name of the town of Lourdes is derived from the name of the original Roman colony, Lapurdum or Lapurda, which may be a corruption of the Basque name Lapurra, “desert country.” The name “Lourdes” is popular in Haiti both on its own and combined with other names. Among its variants are ALOURDES, LOURDIA, and LOURDENA.

LOVELIE. English, “lovely.” The trendy name LOVE plus the built-in English meaning were guaranteed to make Lovelie a top choice for Haitian parents. Also spelled LOVELY.

LYDIA, LYDIE. Latin, “woman of Lydia.”

MAHALIA, MAHALIAH. Hebrew, “tender.”

MARDOCHÈE. The French feminine form of Mordechai, the cousin and foster-father of Queen Esther. The meaning of Mordechai is open to interpretation, but the likeliest original form was Marduka or Marduku, “servant/follower/devotee of the god Marduk.”

MARITZA, MARHITZA. A Spanish diminutive of MARIE.

MARTHE. From the Latin name Martha, which stretches back through a long string of languages to the Hebrew word M-R-H, “lady, the mistress of the house.”

MARYSE. A Dutch contraction of MARIE-LOUISE that became a name in its own right. Also spelled MARISE.

MELINA. Greek, “honey.”

MELISSA. Greek, “honey bee.” Also spelled MELYSSA.

MÈSIDYE. Kreyol form of “Merci Dieu,” or “thanks be to god.”

Minoucheca: Also Manoucheka and ManouchecarMinouche is a French nickname that means “kitty-cat.” It began as a nickname for Mireille, but has acquired a life of its own. Where does the -ca come from? I have no idea, but it’s the same ending as the Daphnee-derived name Daphca.

MIREILLE. The poet Frédéric Mistral invented the name Mireille for his tragic heroine, who rejects three rich suitors in favor of her poor lover Vincent. Her parents refuse to let her marry Vincent, so she goes on pilgrimage to ask the saints to change her parents’ minds, and dies of heatstroke for want of a hat. The poem, “Mirèio” (the Provençal form of the heroine’s name), was a hit when Mistral published it in 1859. Four years later, Charles Gounoud turned it into an opera, the 19th-century equivalent of having your book turned into a movie. From then on, the name Mireille was a French classic. Mistral probably derived the name from mirar, “to see,” with the connotation of “to admire.”

MYRTHO. A poetic variant of the Greek word myrthe, or myrtle, a plant that symbolized love, sexual desire, and immortality. The name appears in the poem  “Myrtho,” by the French poet Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855):

Je pense à toi, Myrtho, divine enchanteresse,
Au Pausilippe altier, de mille feux brillant,
A ton front inondé des clartés d’Orient,
Aux raisins noirs mêlés avec l’or de ta tresse…

In the poem, Nerval  envisions Myrtho as a maenad-like enchantress who can make men drunk on inspiration, and who can cause volcanoes to erupt with a flick of her foot.

Nadège. From the Russian name Nadéžda, meaning “hope.”


NEPHTALIE. The French form of Nephtali, the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Also spelled NEPTHALIE. The name has multiple variants, including NAPHATALINE and NAPHETALOVE.

OPHÉLIA. Before Shakespeare, there was Jacopo Sannazzaro, who coined the name Ofelia in 1504 for the poem “Arcadia.” The poem helped to kick off an aesthetic movement, but the shepherdess Ofelia didn’t suffer enough, so no one was particularly interested in the name until Shakespeare’s heroine went mad and died horribly. The name is derived from the Greek óphelos, “help.” FELIA is a pet name for Ophélia.

REGINE. French, “queen.” REDJINA is the Kreyol  form of Regine.

ROSEMONDE. Though this name is riding on the success of Rose-derived names, it doesn’t refer to roses. It comes from the Germanic elements hros, “horse,” and mund, “protection.” If you would rather have roses than horses, choose the Latin folk etymologies rosa munda, “pure rose,” or rosa mundi, “rose of the world.”

SORAYA. “Brilliant gem,” a Persian name for the Pleiades. Also spelled SERAYA.

SOUKAÏNA. From sakîna, an Arabic word that means “tranquillity” and implies God-inspired peace of mind. Also spelled SOUKAYINA.

TAÏNA. French for “Taino woman.” One of the names that honor Haiti’s Taino past. Also spelled TAYINA or TAHINA.

YANICK. Breton for “Little John.” This traditional men’s name is exclusively feminine in Haiti, and is modestly common among older women. Also spelled YANNICK.

YANOUCHKA. A variant of Anoushka, a Russian nickname for ANNA.

YARDLEY. English, “from the enclosed meadow.”

YOLANDE. From the medieval French name Violante, which was a form of the Latin viola, “violet.” A Haitian nickname for Yolande is YOLY. Variations include YOLAINE, YOLDINE, and YOLETTE.


YUDELINE. An import from Cuba, where a mania for names beginning with Y created a generation of children named Yuset, Yumara, Yuniel, Yuslan, Yoandy, Yakarta, Yolaide, Yotuel… and Yudelina. In Cuba, the Y is pronounced as a soft J, so the Cuban pronunciation of Yudelina sounds to the Haitian ear like Judelina. Give the name a French twist, and it become JUDELINE. Keep the original spelling but pronounce it in French or Kreyol, and it becomes Yudeline—or, with a little creative spelling, Youdeline, Yodeline, Yoodeline, or Youdelyne. With a new ending, it becomes YOUDELANDE. All of these names (plus their male counterparts—just trim the -e off the end) are modestly common in Haiti, especially among people born in the 70’s and 80’s, when the craze for Y names began in Cuba.

As for what it means, no one is sure. Some say it was invented, just a collection of appealing sounds with no underlying meaning. Personally, I suspect that whomever invented it had the name Jude on the mind, making Yudeline a feminine variant of Hebrew Yehudah, “praised.”

Yudelines who want a more unusual folk etymology for their name can turn to the name Eudaline or Eudalina, a rare Spanish name (and even rarer French name) derived from the medieval French male name Eudes and its diminutive Eudelin. Eudes comes from Germanic Audes or Odo, meaning “wealth,” which would make Yudeline a Caribbean cousin of Ottoline.

YOSELINE. A newly coined Spanish variant of JOCELYNE. In the U.S., the male variant Yoselin appeared in the early 1980’s and spiked in popularity in 2007. It has since had a rapid falloff in popularity, from #454 in 2007 to #866 in 2011. (But for a minority name in the U.S., that’s not bad.) The spelling Youseline is wildly popular in Haiti. Occasionally written YOUSE ERLINE.