Shams of Tabriz as portrayed in a 1500 paintin...

It’s a poetic pick with Japanese roots.

Thanks to Ette for suggesting Rumi as our Baby Name of the Day.

The most famous Rumi was a poet.

Wait, that doesn’t begin to do him justice.

He was a thirteenth century Persian thinker and writer.  His work was more than literature.  He was also a theologian whose spiritual guidance resonates with many today.  Rumi’s work influenced languages and literature throughout the Eastern world and beyond.  It was widely translated and remains read nearly everywhere – he’s a best seller in the US.

I tried to find a favorite quote from Rumi, but there are too many.  Here’s one:

We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.

It’s dazzling that he wrote in the 1200s, isn’t it?

Back to his name.  Rumi was born Jala ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi.  In Turkish and Persian and other languages close to his native tongue, he’s Melvana, Mevlevi, Mawlavi – of the master.  The title might have come from Rumi’s work as a scholar and professor at a religious school.

Rumi simply means Roman.  The poet lived most of his life an area then recently conquered by Turkish Muslims, the Sultanate of Rum.  We think of it as Anatolia.  Back then, its defining characteristic was that it had been settled by the Romans.  Trade flourished.  Konya was their capital, and it is where Rumi died, was buried, and today has a museum dedicated to his memory.

But Rumi has a completely separate source.  In Japanese, it is a feminine given name.  The exact meaning depends on the kanji – characters – used to write the name:

  • Beauty
  • Lapis Lazuli
  • Current or flow
  • Water

The elaboration Rumiko is also heard.

This puts Rumi in the unisex category – the most famous bearer is male, but the name has separate, distinctly feminine origins, too.

Actress Josie Maran has daughters named Rumi and Indi.  Maran and her husband aren’t the only couple to consider the name in recent years.  Over the last decade, a handful of boys and girls have received the name.  In 2012, it was 11 girls and a dozen boys – making it just about exactly even.

Popular vintage picks like Ruby and Lucy make me think of Rumi as feminine, but that oo sound is also heard in Jude and Julian.

Call it a draw: Rumi is so little heard that it works for either gender.

It’s a lot to live up to, as names go, but surely a poet so widely read should influence a few parents to consider his name – especially when it is so consistent with trends and favorite names of the moment.

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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I like Rumi, including the possible nn Rue which reminds me of the character from the Hunger Games.
    It would make sense if Beyonce chose Rumi with the Japanese meaning lapis lazuli, as this would create a connection with sister Blue as the stone has a dark blue colour.

  2. What a lovely name with great meanings! I remember hearing it back in 2006 when Rumi Joon was born, but I had completely forgotten about it until this post. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I used to work with a woman whose son was named Rumi. Her husband had immigrated from Iran and he wanted a Persian name, but they are Christians and my co-worker didn’t want a name Americans might consider Islamic… so Rumi was their compromise. I understood that Rumi isn’t usually used as given a name in Iran, but that basically every time a Iranian-American heard his name they would just gush in appreciation.

  4. That’s really interesting! My brother and his Japanese wife just had a daughter they named Ruli, which my SIL said was Lapis lazuli in Japanese. Translations/transliterations have lots of wiggle room, I guess. Rumi feels more “name-like” to me, and I think it’s a great unisex pick! I could see Rumi as a brother for River or Kai, or as a sister for Willow or Leila.