Looking for Latvian Roots?

Deciphering Latvian names

A small country with many regions.

This is not a lesson on how to do a genealogical search but the following information about Latvian names may be helpful in your search. Today’s post is longer than usual as the subject of Latvian names is pretty complicated. Don’t let that discourage you.

You most likely won’t find a family tree that looks like his. My cousin in Latvia sent me a family “tree.” It was just a list of names and relationships on my father’s side.

When Latvians emigrated to other countries, either they or immigration officials might have Anglicized their names. Some people, like my father, lopped a syllable or two off the family name long before he had to flee his homeland.

Today a woman from Australia was looking for relatives in Latvia and not having much luck. She had only a few names to go by. One of the people she was looking for was named Helmut. That’s an anglicized spelling. In his homeland, his name would be spelled, Helmuts.

The Latvian alphabet does not include the letter “W.” If you’re looking for someone with “W” in their name, try substituting “V.”

Men’s names, both first and last, have “-s,” “-is,” “-š,” or “-iš” as suffixes.

Women’s names, first and last, end with “-a” or “-e.” If she is using her father or husband’s name the suffix of her last name assumes the feminine ending. Which noun becomes the suffix depends on the spelling of the last name. If a last name ends with “-s” or “-š” the feminine suffix becomes an “-a.” Mr. Kalns’ wife or daughter’s last name is spelled Mrs. Kalna.

Most, but not all, married women in Latvia use their husband’s name.

If the man’s last name ends in “-is” or “-iš” the feminine version of the name ends with an “e.”  On the other hand, if the man’s last name ends with “-is” or “-iš” his wife or daughter’s last name is spelled with an “e” at the end. Mr. Cālītis’s daughter would be Miss. Cālīte. Latvians have no equivalent to Ms.

This is not a hard and fast rule regarding suffixes. Sometimes both the man and woman’s last name ends with a vowel as in the case of Mr. and Mrs. Timma.

A keyboard capable of inserting diacritical marks would be a timesaver.

Letters in the Latvian language have only one pronunciation, unless they are modified by a diacritical mark, which makes them critical (!) Search engines and genealogy sites may not find the correct name if the diacritical mark is missing. This is where Google comes in handy if you don’t have a keyboard with that function. Google has a version for the Latvian language, Google.lv. There’s a tiny icon of a keyboard in the search window, click on that and a larger version pops up which includes diacritical marks, click on the mark you need and the correct letter will show up in the search window. However, if the next letter in the word does not have a mark, be sure to close out the keyboard or you’ll get the wrong letter. The letters on the virtual keyboard are not in the same as on your real keyboard so it will take a bit of searching to find the right one.

The lady mentioned above was also looking for a relative whose name was Jacob. That’s an Anglicized spelling. The correct Latvian spelling is “Jēkabs” because in our language a “c” is never pronounced as if it were a “k.” The name Veronica is spelled, Veronika. A name like Veronica would be simple to change but figuring out the Latvian spelling of a name like Jacob can be a puzzler. If you don’t know the correct spelling of the name you’re looking for check an online Latvian Name Day calendar. You may have to go through all 365 days to find the right one.

Diminutives can also complicate your search. The suffix “-īte,” (pronounced “ee-teh”) is used with feminine nouns (all nouns have gender-specific suffixes) to show affection or small size. As Latvians say, “The smaller, the dearer.” Usually, such endings are not used for women’s first names. Except that sometimes they are.

Mārīte is the diminutive for the name Māra and is generally used as an endearment by family and friends, whether the female in question is a woman the size of a female sumo wrestler or girl, a tiny elfin creature. But some parents give their daughter the name Mārīte as her legal name, a permanent term of endearment. The diminutive for a woman named Sarma is Sarmīte. Both are used as legal first names. If you know of a relative named Sarmīte but can’t find her in any database with that name, try looking for Sarma instead. Bitīte in Latvian means “little bee” but I know of no woman named Bite (bee) That doesn’t mean some woman isn’t out there whose moniker is Bite. 

Men’s first names can also be turned into diminutives but I’ve never known of a man with a diminutive as his first name. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

The Latvian alphabet that is currently used is based on Latin orthography. However, if you’re searching for pre-1922 records they could well be written in German orthography which was used at the time.

Older records may be written in an alphabet that looks like this.

Not confused enough? The Latgallain (Latgale) dialect will remedy that. The Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais is from Latgale (Latgola) In standard Latvian, her last name would be spelled Apaļais. Unfortunately, I can’t offer much help if you’re looking for someone with roots in Latgale. Try to find someone from the region to help you, perhaps someone in a local library or on a Latgaliešu (Latgalian) social media group.

I hope I’ve succeeded in making your search for Latvian ancestors a little less confusing.

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Ancient Latvian Folk Dress

From the 11th to the 14th centuries, CE.

The colorful folk costumes most Latvians are familiar with may seem to have been around forever, but they actually date back only as far as the 19th Century.

“Modern Latvian National Costumes”

Photos of archaeological folk costumes were used with permission from the Latvian National Cultural Center.

These are the garments worn by the peoples from the various tribes that came together to form modern Latvia. The folk costumes, decorations, and jewelry were recreated from fragments found in archeological digs. The clothing shown here is very similar to that worn by other Nordic people.

The word Nordic derives from “nord” meaning “north,” which would include the people of Northern Europe who live along the Baltic Sea.

I love the subtle colors of these costumes, especially the different shades of blue.

Map of Latvia’s different regions.

The regions of Latvia where these folk costumes were worn. Courland. Senigallia. Livonia. Vends, a county by the Venta River. Selonia. Latgalia.
11th Century Livonian (Lībiešu) folk dress.

The woman’s wool cloak is decorated with braided bands and fringe around the edges. She’s wearing a narrow belt that’s the precursor of elaborately woven modern belts of the 19th Century. On her belt, she is wearing small chains that hold tools, such as keys, sewing needles, and amulets. Modesty required that married women keep their hair covered. Rings were made of bronze or an alloy of lead and tin.

The information from the Cultural Center doesn’t specify how the blue color was achieved. However, it was most likely woad, Isatis tinctoria, which was used throughout Europe until the 17th Century. Crafters in our century also use dye from the Isatis tinctoria plant.

11th Century Livonian (Lībiešu) warrior’s tunic.

Decorations on men’s clothing are minimal, except for embroidery at the neckline which is fastened with the same style horseshoe-shaped brooch. He’s wearing a leather belt with a tooled scabbard for his dagger.

11th Century Livonian folk costume for a 2-3-year-old child.

Children were adorned with more jewelry and their clothes were more elaborately decorated than clothes for adults.

The mantle is studded with woven-in bronze studs. The linen shirt and wool shawl are fastened with horseshoe-shaped brooches, a design that is still used in Latvian jewelry. Her torc necklace is decorated with metal tassels that are used to this day in Latvian jewelry design. My mother once has a silver bracelet like the headband the model is wearing.

Unmarried women wear headbands or coronets of flowers, metal, or fabric that are embroidered and decorated with beads and crystals. Each region has its own characteristic designs.

An interpretation of a 12th-13th Century Couronian (Kuršu) simple and practical warriors clothing.

The outfit consists of a shirt, trousers, tunic, and cloak. In the days before buttons brooches were used to fasten garments. The warrior’s status in society was indicated by his weapons–helmet, sword, and shield.

14th Centurļļy Latgalian (Latgaļu) recreated costume.

The Fourteenth Century brought many changes to clothing. The mantle is more ornately woven of wool and linen in more intricate patterns and decorated with fringes and fiber tassels, instead of metal ones. The bracelets are more delicate. The coronet is decorated with yellow glass beads.

Photos by Mārtiņš Cīrulis

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Latvian Love Words

Valentine’s Day is known among Latvians as Sirsniņdiena, which can mean Sweethearts Day, as in lovers, but also anyone you love. My mother called me, Sirsniņa. My aunt called me, Sirds, which means heart, as a term of affection.

For my Valentine’s Day post I’m writing about the words Latvians use to express love. These words are used much more conservatively than the terms of endearment I wrote about before.

Latvians are a reserved people. It used to be, and maybe still is in some circles that Latvians’ idea of a proper public display of affection was to go to church and get married in front of God and the congregation of family and friends. Latvians don’t say the words “love” or “I love you” lightly. People don’t generally use such expressions as, “I love this pair of shoes” or “I love pizza.” They like the shoes. They like pizza. “I love you” is reserved for spouses or fiancées/fiancés. They’re not even used for one’s parents, children, or other family members. 

An embrace like this should probably be kept private even when married.

I remember overhearing a parent criticize an in-law for saying “I love you” to his young daughter. It’s not a phrase I remember hearing around my house when I was growing up. It should be enough that love is demonstrated by providing food, clothes, and a roof over one’s head. Some might say such an attitude is outdated, Things have changed, the world has changed. But I got criticized in a Latvian social media group for saying people should say, “I love you” much more often. That happened not only in this century but as recently as last year.

Here are those very exclusive words.

Mīlestība = Love

Es mīlu Tevi = I love you

Mīlulis = loved one

Mīlīgs = lovable

Mīļošs = loving 

Mans Mīļiotais = my lover 

These next diminutives are okay to use with adults, children, and even pets.

Mīlulītis = my little loved one

Mīļumiņš = my little loved one (smaller and thus more dear)

Sieva = wife (the diphthong “ie” is pronounced like the “ea” in “ear.”

Sieviņa = my dear little wife. It can be used affectionately, but depending on context can also be belittling.

Vīrs = husband (veers)

Vīriņš = dear little husband. Most likely used only in private. The word could also refer to a little old man.

Possessives:

Mans = (pronounced “muhns”) My. Masculine. But it refers to the subject,  not to the person who is speaking. e.g. “Mans vīrs” is what a woman would say when introducing her husband.

Mana = My. Feminine, also refers to the subject. A man introducing his wife would say, “Mana sieva.” 

A Latvian friend and I had a discussion about whether a declaration of love should include the word, “es” (pronounced like the letter “S.”) meaning “I.” He said that “es” = “I” is understood, so it’s enough to say, “mīlu Tevi.” Technically, in English, the word “I” would also be understood nevertheless people say, “I love you.” To me, just saying “mīlu Tevi” sounds abrupt, like you’re eager to get on to the next thing, maybe “What’s for dinner?” This rule could be a familial difference or a regional one.  My choice would include the first person singular pronoun,

Have fun with these loving words. Use them however you please on Valentine’s Day or any other day you want to tell someone you love them. Some rules are meant to be broken. 

Hearts can break when they don’t hear these words. And stay broken even though hidden.





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Candle Day: Latvia

February 2 Sveču Diena, affectionately known as Svecīšu Diena

February 2 is a cross-quarter day. It’s the day that marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Depending on which hemisphere you’re in the cross-quarter day could also fall on February first. In the northern hemisphere, it means that winter is on its way out and spring is just around the corner.

Halfway to spring. Winter is going.

In Latvia, February second is called Candle Day. In fact, all of February is known as Candle Month. I’m not sure why maybe because it’s a dark month requiring more candles to brighten things up.

For many centuries Candle Day was a day for making candles out of wax or tallow. I imagine that by the time winter was half over the store of candles had been used up and needed to be replenished. Candles that are made on this day are supposed to burn bright and last long.

Flames can assist with meditation.

Candles are symbols of warmth and light. A flame is magical; it bears the powerful energy of light. It can calm and cleanse, but it can also destroy.

Candle Day traditions and practices vary from region to region. 

The most important thing is to be jovial to laugh and sing so you’ll be jovial happy, and full of laughter all year. To help the jollity along one must drink a great deal of beer and eat a lot.

Spending lots of money on this special day means you’ll be prosperous for the rest of the year.

Weather forecasting on this day in Latvia doesn’t involve rodents.

Dripping eaves mean a lovely spring.

A hard freeze means don’t expect a warm spring.

Fog on February second indicates that a rainy summer is in store.

Frost on trees predicts a bountiful summer.

Some of the information I found was consistent across more than one site. Other information was unique to one site. I admit I didn’t check all sites, there were many too many.

Don’t blow out the candle to get your wish. When you make it imbue it with positive thoughts.

A handmade candle is a special gift to make a special friend happy. The person who makes the candle should hold her hands over the wax and concentrate on the positive things she wishes the recipient of the finished candle to have–happiness, well-being, prosperity, love. These positive thoughts should continue while pouring the melted wax into the mold. When the candle is finished the maker should hold it in her hands while continuing to think of positive wishes for the recipient.

The candlemaker should tell the recipient of the positive wishes that the candle brings with it that way when he lights the candle he will think of her and the positive things she wishes for him. Sounds like a bonding ritual.

The candle should be lit naturally, that is with a match, not a lighter.

The flame is not to be blown out because you might blow away all the good wishes. Instead, it should be pinched out with moist fingers or with a snuffer.

Candle-makers were supposed to be in a good mood while at their task. That’s where feasting, beer-drinking, singing, and laughing come in. If the candle-maker is in a bad mood the candles will sputter and burn with a dim light. Another example of sympathetic magic.

There is so much candle lore it’s hard to fit into one blog post and still publish it on February second.

Happy Candle Day. dear readers. Be sure to eat, drink, sing, and laugh.

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30th Anniversary of Barricades in the Streets of Riga

In January 1991 the Soviet military attempted to force Latvia back into the USSR. Latvia had declared its renewed independence the previous year. The siege lasted two weeks from January 13 to January 27th.

Copied from the Embassy of Latvia post on Facebook.

Today we pay tribute to the efforts of people in Latvia to protect their newly-regained freedom in 1991. That month, leaders of the USSR in Moscow decided to mobilize security forces to restore Soviet order in the three Baltic countries. Upon realizing this, people of all ages and backgrounds rushed to Riga – they brought trucks, tractors, and heavy equipment to build barricades around government buildings. They spent days outside in the freezing cold of January. The face-off culminated on January 20th when Soviet special forces initiated a gun battle and temporarily seized the Ministry of the Interior. Several people were killed. But the barricades held! Pro-democracy forces prevailed and went on to restore full independence. In honor of these events, today is marked as the Commemoration Day of Defenders of the Barricades in 1991. We thank and honor everyone who stood up for freedom and joined the barricades! 🇱🇻

Riga is 820 years old but Latvia has known freedom for only a fraction of those years.

Latvian Stuff: A Hiatus

Writing about Latvian culture, traditions, and eccentricities has been a great deal of fun. My posts have received lots of attention, comments on social media, and even a bit of money. It’s also been a lot of work writing my essays, editing, and illustrating them. It’s not that I’m out of ideas, I have plenty more but blogging isn’t the only writing I do. During my six-day streak (today’s day seven) I’ve neglected my other writing.

“Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great.”
― Roger de Bussy-Rabutin

My novel in progress that needs editing and rewriting. As Wind to Flame is a historical romance that is set during the mid-19th Century, so it requires a lot of research, which is also fun. My heroine, Thea Lowell starts out as a bumptious girl and ends up as a nurse during the Civil War. Along the way, Thea falls in love with a rancher’s son, Adam Hastings.

My exiled heroine’s Bārta’s folk costume which shows up at a critical junction in the story.

The first two-thirds of A Home for an Exile’s Heart is available on Amazon Vella. The next chapter is finished but needs more editing before I can publish it. Exile is also a historical romance but it’s set in Seattle, Washington in 1952. The heroine is a widowed Latvian World War II refugee. Līvija Galiņa’s leading man is dashing former fighter pilot Cameron Quinn. I’ve left my readers waiting too long for the next chapter.

Phew!

Today I published a story for children called, A Pocketful of Kitten. Currently, it’s under review on Amazon Vella but should go live pretty soon.

“A Pocketful of Kitten.” A freebie read on Kindle Vella.

Did I mention that I also write short stories? I did. Not in this post, but in earlier ones. Anyone who’s interested can check under the category “fiction.” I’d like to write more short stories but my ideas have a way of growing like the magical beanstalk.

Then there are such minor annoyances as cooking and eating. I have the ingredients for borscht but who knows when I’ll get around to making the soup.

Oh,  look! I’ve managed to procrastinate on that pesky chapter of Exile. And I’ve been sitting at my computer so such a long time that it’s gotten painful. I need to break for chocolate.

A short story.

Diminutives Controversy, Part 3

My posts on Latvian diminutives have stirred up a tempest in a teapot.

Latvians use a lot of diminutives, not just for family members and friends. Not just for humans but also for animals and inanimate objects. A few people have objected to such usage. They feel diminutives should be used only for loved human beings. These objections are nothing new. Years ago I read a verse by a Latvian writer who made fun of the indiscriminate use of diminutives. Other blog readers felt that employing diminutives in such a manner shows warmth, kindness, and compassion.

To some extent, I agree with both points of view. Diminutives applied willy-nilly can come across as saccharine. Even pukey. But the objectors seem to have overlooked the fact that diminutives aren’t used just to express affection but also to indicate size.

“Vista” is the word for a hen. The diminutive is “vistiņa.” One lady said she objects to eating a “vistiņa.” To her, it felt like she’d be eating someone’s pet. Farmers are far more practical. They can be fond of their chickens, even give them names, but eventually,  cook them up in a stew. For all the woman knows, the “vistiņa.” could be a bantam hen or other small breed of chicken.

The lady with objections has a dog. I don’t know if she speaks to him in Latvian, as many Latvian pet owners, including me, do. If she speaks Latvian to him does she call him, “sunītis” or “suņuks,” “šunelis,” or other diminutives for the word “suns”?

Doesn’t this sweet little critter deserve a pet (!) name?

My late great kitty (!) went by the name of Mincis, a Latvian word meaning, kitty cat, so she had a term of endearment for her proper name. Yes, I know the name has a masculine suffix but the suffix is used for both male and female cats (and people and other critters) Male cats would be called “runcis,” or “runcītis” or “runčuks.” Heaven forbid that someone might call a pet “mīluls,” (loved one) “mīlulītis” or “mīļumiņš.” Those terms of endearment should be reserved for humans. Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not one to judge.

My Minčuks

Not just domestic animals, but wild animals too get diminutive, e.g. “stirna” a.k.a. “stirniņa.”

A dear deer.

Diminutives are used for the names of body parts. Mostly in regards to children, but also adults, who can be fond of their own body parts. It’s okay. “Acs,” eye, becomes, “Actiņa” or “Ačele.” Hair = “mati” (pl) diminutive, “matiņi,” Hand, “Roka” = “rociņa” = “roķele,” and so on. This also goes for people you’re fond of no matter their age. As Rodolfo sang in “La Boheme” to a young woman he’s just met and is falling in love with, “Che gelida manina.” “What a cold little hand.” “Cik auksta rociņa.” Lovers are a whole other story.

Inanimate objects aren’t left out of the affection/size equation. The same lady who objected to “vistiņa” also had issues with things such as spoons, “karote” (s) “Karotīte” and books “Grāmata” (s) = “Grāmatiņa,” Some of us are more fond of our spoons and books than others. Of course, spoons and books come in various sizes. I don’t recall my parents, who learned the

language while living in Latvia, using diminutives when speaking of spoons, books, or other household objects. Their use of the diminutive suffixes for these things was indicative of the item’s size. That’s how I’ve always spoken of most inanimate objects. But as always, there are exceptions to the rule and people’s personal preferences.

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Becoming a Bilingual Reader Latvian & English.

For many people being a bilingual reader is no big deal. Nothing to blog about. They do it all the time. These days, with so many distractions, reading in just one language can be an issue. With all those audiobooks and videos online, why bother to read?

Reading doesn’t bring the same joy to everyone as it does to me.

One of my fond memories is sitting in my mother’s lap while she read to me from a book that I was going to take to a party and give to the birthday girl. I wanted the book but it had to go. Getting it read to me was the next best thing to keeping it.

Kriksis, the star of four books beloved by many Latvian kids. He was better than Lassie and Rin Tin Tin put together. Here Kriksis meets Tomiņš. They’re both Latvian refugees in Germany.

We were poor refugee immigrants who had to pinch pennies. Until I was ten my uncle lived with us. For a while, we lived communally with my uncle and my godmother, and her family in order to be able to afford rent. Nevertheless, we always had books in the house. I had lots of children’s books in Latvian and later in English. My parents bought Little Golden Books for me and even let me get comic books. They didn’t much care what I read, as long as I read.

“World of Wonders.” A book of fairy tales by the author of the Kriksis books.

During my early years in Tacoma, we lived only a couple of blocks from the library. My father and I would walk there to get books. When we moved to a different neighborhood farther from a library branch, we’d drive there together. In those days the local library system issued library cards in two different colors, yellow ones for adults, blue ones for kids. My little blue card was a proud possession. My dad would let me use his yellow card to get any book I wanted. I don’t recall reading anything shocking.

Unfortunately, I don’t have memories of my father reading to me the way my mother did. Was she the only one to read all those kids’ books to me? Both my parents probably read aloud.  When I learned to read well enough my father and I read Latvian books to each other for several years.  He’d read one chapter aloud to me and I’d read the next chapter aloud to him taking turns through the whole book. Most likely we got into this habit because I saw no reason to learn Latvian. We lived in America now and more than anything, except for a horse, I wanted to be an American. English was language enough for me. My father would have none of it. He insisted that I learn Latvian. The most fun way to do so was to read to one another.

This practice probably ended when he picked a translation of a Swedish book,  Black Horses, I think. A book about horses? YES! I want to read it. We read happily until one of the main characters got his eye put out. That was enough for me. I didn’t want to read any more of that book. By then, the habit of reading had been well established in me.  From then on, I chose my own books and read them silently to myself in my room.

An illustration by Alfreds Plīte-Pleita. “Herta is reading.”

Every year, the Latvian newspaper, Laiks, (Times) printed coupons called, “Book Dollars.” Still on his campaign to make sure I learned Latvian (I was a Latvian school dropout) my father let me use all the coupons to order any book I wanted from a Latvian publishing company called, “Grāmatu draugs” (Friend of Books) Tētis paid for the books. They were my gift for successfully completing another school year. When the books arrived from  “Grāmatu draugs” it was like Christmas in summer. As a result of my father’s generosity, during those years I read many novels by popular Latvian authors who’d immigrated to the US. The publisher who’d founded  “Grāmatu draugs” in Latvia in 1926, escaped the communist invasion in 1944, and resumed publishing, under the same name in Brooklyn, New York in 1951.

An illustration from “World or Wonders.”

I can still read Latvian, just not as well as I used to. There are too many books in English that I want to read, including ones written by Latvians.

Thanks to my father’s diligence in encouraging me in every way he could and demonstrating the importance of books and reading by doing his own reading, I learned to love reading in both languages.

My father wasn’t alone in promoting reading. I remember watching a TV quiz show aimed at teens. I can’t remember who their guest was, some academic, I think. When asked what the best way to get into college is he said, “Read, read, read.” I don’t think that necessity has changed, nor will it any time soon.

* **

I do intend to get back to Latvian diminutive but I had to write something different for a change.

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A Bit of Latvian Whimsy

What I heard on Radio Latvia 2. Latvian pop, which tends to be cheerful and bouncy. There’s lots of chatter, too. I’m listening to it as I write. Here it’s evening, but in Latvia it’s morning. Everything’s in Latvian but you can scroll down and find a list of English language broadcasts.

It was kind of mind-blowing to hear one of the announcers whose voice sounded exactly like the voice of a guy I used to date. He also sounded like another Latvian who lives here in my state.

This is one of the songs I heard on Radio 2, along with my crude translation.

""Mīlestība karsta putra
Nelej māla podiņā.
Podiņš plīsīs, podiņš juks,
Mīlestība ārā spruks!"

"Love is a porridge hot,
Don't pour it in a clay pot,
The pot will shatter, the pot will break,
And love will escape."



Sad to say, I've poured my love into an unworthy vessel more than once. But at least I didn't marry my mistakes.


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Latvian Terms of Endearment, part 2

As a couple of readers pointed out, the use of endearments is a cultural thing. In college, the brother of one of my American friends lived and worked in South America for a while. His wife was of the opinion that Spanish speakers were childish because they used so many diminutives in everyday speech.

Years later, I still remember one of my Spanish classes where we were required to think up a sentence, using a diminutive, and speak it out loud going in turn around the room. The translation of one student’s sentence was, “My Mamacita is five feet tall.” She didn’t understand that a diminutive doesn’t just refer to something or someone small. Your mother can be six feet tall and weigh three hundred pounds, but you still call her Mamacita because you love her, not because of her size.

In Latvian the word for mother is “māte.” pronounced, maah-te. Common diminutives are, mamma, mammīte, mammiņa, and māmmuļa. I hate the latter; to me, its associations make it seem saccharine. A couple of my relatives called their mother mammsis. I sometimes called my mom mammele. (nothing to do with mammals, as auto-correct would have it.) Mammukiņš is another option. Families have a way of coming up with their own variations.

Dacīte un (and) Mammīte,

The word for father is “tēvs,” pronounced, tehvs. Fondly known as tētis, tētuks or tētukiņš. However, tētiņš means “little old man” so not necessarily an endearment. Some Latvians call their father “papa” but that word comes from German. It, too, has its diminutives, “papiņš” among them. My father was a stickler for using the Latvian language instead of borrowed words so he was tētis, not paps (German for “pop.”)

Dūdiiņa un tētis.

The word for “little old man” is “vecītis.” It’s sometimes used as an endearment, too. Latvians call Santa Claus, Ziemassvētku vecītis.(Little Old Man Winter Holiday) Yeah, it’s turned backward, but works better that way.

Grandfather is vectēvs but that’s too formal. Affectionately he’s known as vectēiņš, a.k.a., granddaddy. Opa, opaps, opiņš also come from German.

My vectēiņš, Mārtņš Francis. Despite the way his first name is spelled, it’s not a diminutive, it’s Latvian for Martin.

Grandmother must not be left out. More formally, she’s known as vecmāte. She’s also called, “vecmāmmiņa.” That’s a long word for little kids so she’s often called, oma, omi, omīte, omamma.

Mana (My) Omīte, Marija France (in the Latvian language the woman’s names, first and last are given the feminine suffixes “a” or “e.”

Going through the whole family tree would make for a very long post. I thought I could handle this topic in two posts. Who am I kidding? At least one more will be required.

No doubt readers will come up with their own family terms of endearment.

And, yes, as in any language, there are exceptions to the rules. English speakers know this weird rule, “I” before “e,” except after “c.”

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