Vulcan naming practices stretch far back into the recesses of history and were once part of a very personal and private ceremony designed to reflect an individual’s ancestry or qualities. Today most Vulcans take a more practical view of names, and very few are interested in understanding the meaning or history of the name they bear. Instead, names are chosen for clarity, convenience, and ease of pronunciation – especially for those in frequent contact with other species. While the discovery of a name’s meaning might raise many a Vulcan eyebrow, it is still a worthwhile exercise in understanding Vulcan’s deep history. Names shed light on Vulcan places of origin, ancestry, birth conditions, occupations, spiritual beliefs, and personal qualities that were valued. Names are also indicators of the Vulcan people’s violent past and of their ancient nomadic way of life.
Over the next few months, we’ll take a closer look at Vulcan naming practices and the construction, derivation, and meaning of personal names. At the end of this exercise, I’ll post a comprehensive list of Vulcan names Terrans are most likely to encounter.
First, let’s look at the ways Vulcan names have been constructed down through the ages. Like many expression in both Traditional and Modern Golic Vulcan, personal names are formed using common prefixes and suffixes. The most common prefix used is one that is familiar to most Terrans – t’ affixed to female names, as in T’Pau or T’Pol – although not consistently. There has been much debate over the meaning and use of this prefix in recent years, but most scholars agree that in the distant past, many Vulcan women attached this prefix to their names when they married, or certainly when they obtained the status of Head of House. Thus, a woman with the name Para became known as T’Para (“Lady Para”) when she married or became the matriarch of her clan. Although many Vulcan female names incorporated the t’ prefix, the timing of its adoption varied from clan to clan. Some parents affixed it to their daughter’s name at her betrothal, usually at the age of seven. Noble families, where literacy was common, often used the t’ prefix from the time of birth to distinguish daughters from sons and to convey a title of respect. To this day, Vulcan names are not gender-specific. Therefore, some unmarried modern Vulcan women choose to use the t’ prefix to feminize their names and to avoid confusion with their male counterparts. Those of noble houses tend to follow the ancient customs of their clans. In all of these situations, t’ is a contraction of t’sai, meaning “lady.”
The t’ prefix is often a matter of confusion for offworlders when encountered with a male name. In this case, the prefix is not derived from t’sai but is the standard genitive prefix t’ meaning of/belonging to. Readers of the ancient sagas will encounter names like T’avon (“of the hunger/famine”) or T’oluhk (“of the snake clan”) and assume that the legends are populated mostly by women. Use of the neuter (nongender-specific) third-person pronoun ish-veh for both he and she doesn’t help to clarify things. In more modern times, the t’ prefix and the main element of the name became conjoined with the dropping of the glottal stop. Today these two names are rendered Tavin and Tolek to more accurately reflect their current pronunciation.
The s’ prefix, meaning “from,” has a similar history. Names such as Soval and Stel were originally rendered S’oveh Ashal (“from the honored beloved one”) and S’tel (“from the bond”). Other examples – most from prehistory and legend – have retained their original form. These include S’vec (S’vik, meaning “from the well”), and S’laron (S’lara-yon, meaning “from the fire-bird”), among many others. The name Surak falls into this category since it originally included the s’ prefix: S’ur-Ahkh (“from the tunnel-war”).
Here is a list of the most common prefixes:
Vulcan personal names often contain common suffixes which serve to reflect an individual’s qualities (such as “boldness”) or familial occupation. Two of the most commonly occurring quality-indicating suffixes are –vakh (“bold”) and –es (“embodiment of”). They can be found in names such as Kuvak (Ku-vakh = “bold palm”), Karra (Kar-vakh = “bold arm”), and Senva (Senepa-vakh = “knife-bold”); Tellus (Tel’es = embodiment of the telepathic bond”), Vaakis (Vakh’es = “boldness”), and Valeris (Va’lerash’es = “immeasurable hardness” – an indication of strength and fortitude).
Examples of occupational suffixes include –ar (derived from ar’kadan = “worker”) and –or (from torsu = “maker/doer”). Such names include Romar (Rom-ar’kadan = “good worker”), Kovar (Kov-ar’kadan = “stone-worker”), and Separ (Senepa-ar’kadan = “knife-specialist/worker”); Solor (Solek torsu = “worker of the soil”), Sefor (Sef torsu = “dune-maker/shaper”), and Falor (Fal torsu = “one who makes hot; a bellows-worker”).
Other suffixes are simple adjectival endings which qualify the proceeding element. Endings such as –ak or –auk, as in Harauk (Ha taurauk = “amazing life”), -ek in Varek (Var + ek = “talkative”), and –ik in Vanik (Vaunik = “hesitant”) are readily found today.
Suffixes are also indicative of Vulcan’s mystical past. Many ancient names still in use today are comprised of suffixes which derive from the words for “fire” (yon) and “star” (yel). Examples of these ancient names include: Skon (Sohk-yon = “elegant fire”), Ayhan (Vai-yon = “holy fire”), and Selon (S’yel-yon = “from the star-fire”); Sokel (Sohk-yel = elegant star”), Savel (Sahriv-yel = “storm star”), and Sevel (Seveh-yel = “star of prosperity”).
Here’s a list of common suffixes:
Next time we’ll examine Vulcan names derived from a place of origin.
*This term refers to the process of producing a noun from another part of speech via the addition of derivational affixes. English has many examples, such as the creation of the noun deflation from the verb deflate.
NOTE: Special thanks to Briht’uhn of korsaya.org for allowing me to pick his linguistic brains.