With Summer in the US Girls’ Top 200 for the past few years, it might seem too obvious a choice for an August-born daughter.
Thanks to Sebastiane for suggesting a truly unusual twist on a seasonal name. Our Name of the Day is Vasarė.
Vasarė is a Lithuanian given name meaning summer. The pronunciation might not be immediately obvious, but Sebastiane lists it as vah SAY ray – perfectly reasonable to an American English speaker.
In fact, the average American might struggle more to find Lithuania on a map. The nation borders Belarus, Latvia and Poland, and has been independent since 1990. Still lost? Look for the Baltic Sea.
Linguistically, Lithuanian is quite a bit like neighboring Latvian. Like many a European tongue, it is littered with imports – you work on a kompiuteris and hail a taksi. But it is far from familiar to many outside of the culture. And while you’ve probably heard of Vilnius – the capital and largest city – other major hubs, like Klaipėda, Šiauliai and Panevežys are probably new to you.
(In fact, I’m still trying to gauge precisely how successful the bike shop known as www.vasare.lt might be.)
It is little surprise that this one has never popped up in the US Top 1000. There are Vasarės found in the US census records, but a surprising number of them are male. And while a few of their surnames could be Lithuanian, many are anything but. I’ve hit a brick wall on the alternate origin. Hungarian-born Victor Vasarely was a 20th century Op Art innovator, but the surname isn’t close enough to suggest any leads.
Many of the most popular baby names in Lithuania last year look remarkably like the US Top Ten. Emilija comes in at #1, with Gabija, Kamilė, Gabrielė and Austėja right behind.
Vasarė may simply be part of a growing interest in Lithuanian noun names. While gender neutral names appear to be all-but-unknown in Lithuania, plenty of other familiar trends have caught on. Gabija, for example, was a fire goddess in Lithuanian mythology. Other names, like Rasa – dew, come from nature. Odds are she’d wear just fine in Vilnius.
In the US? That’s a bit harder to say. Vasarė won’t retain her diacritical mark any more than Chloë or Franciška. She doesn’t need the mark necessarily – it’s an obscure symbol unlikely to signal the correct pronunciation anyhow. And the names shortens nicely, though Vasey would probably be rhymed with Casey.
Overall, she’s a true rarity and one that no one will share. If you don’t mind explaining your child’s name over and over again, it is quite pretty, too.
I’m divided. Even if I were Lithuanian, I’m not sure I’d choose something so very obviously an import. But then again, I’m not sure that Emilija makes for a satisfying heritage choice, either.
What do you think? Would you use something so very rare, or is Vasarė best left to those dwelling within a day’s drive of Vilnius?
In fact there is masculine version of this name as well – Vasaris. It’s literal meaning is “February”, yet the name of this month cognates with the name “vasara” (summer). This is strange for me as well as February is certainly winter month, yet both of these names sound nice to me.
Thank you Sigita, I know this is months later, but I am so happy to meet someone else who has actually considered this name and actually used in some form or another.
I was delighted to stumble upon this wonderful exchange about the name “Vasare”, which rolls off of a Lithuanian speakers tongue effortlessly and, had our second child been a girl, would have been our first choice for a name. Instead, we had a boy and named him the masculine equivalent, “Vasaris”, which is also the Lithuanian word for the month of February.
In Lithuanian, the name has etymological associations with “pavasaris” spring and “vasara” summer. My mother explained that February marks the time of year when the first thaws herald the arrival spring and the promise of summer. After a cold dark winter, Lithuanians eagerly await this change of seasons.
Today, I also discovered that “Vasant” in Sanskrit means spring. As an Indo-European language, Lithuanian has links to Sanskrit, and this ancient name, may be another connection.( I am not a linguist, and offer this up merely as a an observation.) Vasaris is easy for non-Lithuanian speakers to pronounce and you are absolutely right about the “reh” sound of the letter “e”. Don’t be afraid to roll the “r”. It’s a soft sound, similar to true dental cluster in “ladder” if you let the “d”s roll off your tong like aspirated “t”s.
Vasare is a beautiful, ancient name. I haven’t read further along in your blog, and am not sure if you settled on that name, but am glad you gave it serious consideration, particularly because of your Polish/Lithuanian ancestry.
I can only think of Giorigio Vasari, the oft quoted Renaissance art historian and architect, who wrote _Le Vite delle pi
Also, for Lithuanian pronunciation go here http://www.phantomranch.net/folkdanc/alphabet/lithuanian.htm
E is usually pronounced like the ay depending on the region. I may be wrong, but I think it can also be pronounced like an EH, but its standard pronunciation is the former. I had a Lithuanian friend named Gintare and she was pronounced it (geen-TAH-ray). So the Sare part of Vasare would rhyme with Gintare, if that makes sense 😆 I found a great video on Youtube that goes through Lit pronuniciation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyuQDzhBFJA at 0:12 when you hear her say Laime I believe will give everyone a better idea as to how that final e should be pronounced. I hope that helps.
Yay! I’m so happy that you finally featured this “squeals with delight.”
I have recently fallen in love with this name. She is on my middle name list. I don’t think I’d ever use her as a first name. But if I did, the nickname I’d use would be Sari (SAHR-ee) or Sara. I am Polish, but since Poland and Lithuania were so interconnected throughout the centuries, I found out that I have some Lithuanian ancestors, so now I have an excuse to use this beautiful name.
As for Vasare being a masculine name, at least in Lithuanian, from what I have researched, the e ending with the dot over it would indicate that this name is indeed feminine. Typically, male Lithuanian names end in -as, or -is, while female names either end in an -e with the dot over it, or an -a. There is a masculine version of this name and that is Vasaras. However, the feminine version seems far more popular. If you go on facebook and type in Vasare, you will find a bevy of them listed from all over Lithuania.
I wonder if the male Vasares on the US census records are just coincidental and have no etymological relation to the Lithuanian Vasare. Maybe it was an English or Dutch surname pronounced (vah-SAIRE) or whatever and they inherited it from a mother or grandmother’s maiden name. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Sebastiane, the wild thing is that the surnames strongly suggest it has a link to Spanish or Italian. I’m blanking on the surnames, but the list included things like Gonzalez and D’Argento. I wish I could figure it out, but I just couldn’t piece it together.
My husband is Polish, too, but it has made him quite horsey about Polish names. Our in-laws call the kids oh LOOSH (Olus) and clahr OON yeh (not even sure how to spell that one). Inevitably, I suggest a perfectly nice name and he responds with the Polish diminutive. And anything that smacks of being Russian or German is OUT. When we got married there was some controversy about the processional/recessional music – no German composers allowed!
Too bad, because we could’ve really have fun choosing authentic Polish choices. Then again, one of their Polish cousins is called Bruno …
Unfortunately my husband has put his foot down on any name whose pronunciation would have to constantly be explained. For myself, I look at it and think “Vassarette” – a lingerie brand. I don’t think it would work for us, but it would be pretty for someone else.
Personally, I’d be concerned about using a name that derives from a language I have no knowledge of… partly because of the randomness (‘why Lithuanian and not, say, Finnish?’) factor and partly because I’d be concerned that I somehow mispronounced the name (I’d definitely want a native speaker’s coaching to get it right and make sure I still like the sound). I’ve found so many of the pronunciation guides for languages I *do* speak to be not exactly precise, since the rely on approximations in a language that may not have the appropriate sound at all.
That said, in some ways accuracy is not so much the deal in some cases with names. My instinct was also vah-SAH-reh (with a soft ‘r’ because I can’t get away from the Russian influence)… I also kind of like vah-SAH-reh, but then, that may be because it’s more familiar sounding to my ear (it’s Russified in sound).
For the boys, maybe they’re pronouncing it vah-SAIR or something else that may not be based on the Lithuanian, since the link isn’t clear? How intriguing….
While I do dig cool names from other countries (one of my favorites is a name worn by my Mongolian friend from college Alimaa – so pretty), I wouldn’t have the confidence to use Vasare with basically no knowledge about Lithuanian language or culture.
Funny, Mookie – I was saying vah SAY reh! I agree – the “say ray” is nice, but I have the urge to change up one of the syllables.
Hm… Vasare is an interesting choice, but perhaps my liking for it comes with the territory of being an August baby. (Exactly three weeks until the big b-day!) When I first saw it, I thought it was Vah-SAH-ray, which I think I prefer, but Vah-SAY-ray is nice too.
Happy almost-birthday Mookie!
Thank you very much! *big cheesy happy grin* :
I could actually see my husband and I using Vasare if we really wanted to pay tribute to the season our daughter’s born in . I would never use it for a boy — sounds too feminine for me — but a little girl Vasare might be nice.
I don’t think I’d abbreviate it to Vasey though, because I went to school with a girl whose last name was Vasey. Maybe Sare (pronounced Sah-ray)?