Want to name your baby boy after an Earth goddess?
Thanks to Laney McDonald for suggesting Dimitri as Name of the Day.
There are plenty of names with multiple variant spellings, from the classic Katherine to the flock of Aidan spinoffs. Dimitri seems like a special challenge. In addition to the spelling used in this post title, there’s:
- Demetri, as in comedian Demetri Martin, known for his Comedy Central series Important Things and Taking Woodstock, the latest Ang Lee flick;
- Dmitri, as in Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and Russian chemist and inventor of the periodic table Dmitri Mendeleev;
- Dmitry and Dmitriy, two common spellings used for early Russian rulers;
- You’ll also find Dmetrei, Dmitrii and other versions here and there.
That first Dmitry was not only a fourteenth century ruler, but is remembered as a saint, too. He was the first to challenge the Tatars in Moscow. After he defeated them in the 1380 Battle of Kulikovo, on the Don River, he became known as Dmitry Donskoy.
Princes aplenty have worn the name since, including Dmitry Pozharsky, who helped Russian overthrow a Polish-Lithuanian invasion and eventually ushered in the Romanov Dynasty. The entire period was known as the Time of Troubles – while a heroic Dmitry helped wrap things up, a number of pretenders to the throne wore the name, too.
With his multiple appearances throughout Russian history, Dmitry in all spellings leans Slavic. Today we’re less apt to think of princes and more likely to think ice hockey or Dmitry Medvedev, current president of Russia. It remains in heavy use.
And yet the name does hearken back to a Greek goddess – Demeter, part Mother Earth, part agricultural goddess. Demetrios would’ve been the original male version, Latinized as Demetrius. Several early saints wore those two names, and they also remain popular worldwide.
At first glance, none of the variants are doing well in the US. Dmitri last appeared in 2007, at a mere #995. Demetri hasn’t ranked for more than a decade. Feminine form Demetria is equally rare, despite the nickname potential of Demi. Demetrius ranked #520 last year – a respectable spelling, and the -us ending does evoke fashion-forward picks like Atticus.
Despite his spelling challenges, the pronunciation is straightforward – deh MEE tree. With boys called the French Andre and Italian Dante, Dimitri seems perfectly reasonable.
But that spelling! It almost invites creative (and not terribly sophisticated) approaches like D’Metri.
I’ll admit that I’m partial to Dmitri, but the best bet might be to stick with Demetri – and hope that the comedian’s career flourishes. As for whether this is wearable for a boy without Russian heritage? That’s harder to say, but given his roots in antiquity, it seems like this one might work – even if your last name is Murphy or D’Agostino.