From very early times, children in Vulcan society were given childhood names at birth and later allowed to choose adult names upon the successful completion of a rite of passage. The most famous and widely accepted of these rites was the kahs-wan survival exercise in the torturous heat of the Vulcan deserts. In the city-state of Shi’Kahr during Surak’s time, only adolescent males were expected (and permitted) to undergo the kahs-wan. Those who were successful were granted an adult name – usually indicative of some noble quality – during an elaborate ritual. Those who survived the kahs-wan but did not complete it were not allowed to take adult names. Needless to say, this restriction brought shame to the unsuccessful young man for the rest of his life and prevented him from social advancement. By Surak’s time, however, boys were permitted to seek additional training and undertake the kahs-wan as many times as they needed in order to pass all its rigorous tests. It was not long after Surak’s death that many young men, upon reaching adulthood, began to adopt names starting with S in his honor. At the time of the Sundering, 28.6% of Vulcan’s adult population – both male and female – had taken S names.1 Shi’Kahran girls were permitted to take new names on their wedding day, if they so desired. It is not known what percentage of the female population actually did, but larger and larger numbers began taking S names.
But let’s take a step back and look at some of the names Vulcan parents historically gave to their children. Although the custom of adopting an adult name – in place of a childhood name – has died out, some of the oldest families still practice the tradition. Nowadays, most Vulcans retain their birth name.
Several children’s names survive from Surak’s time and express joy, love, gratitude, hope, legitimacy, health conditions, birth order, and birth time, among other things. As in earlier Terran times, a child’s conception by a bonded pair was crucial to his/her status in society. Two names emphasize this status: Stel (s’tel = “from the bond”) and Sopek (s’obek = “from the honorable wait,” that is, the child was conceived during a sanctioned pon farr). Both of these names are still in use these days, although their meaning has long been forgotten or considered unimportant.
Season of birth was noted in names like Stak (s’ta’Krat = “from the seventh month”), Stalat (s’ta’lakht = “from the tenth month”), Rovalat (rok + vahl + lakht = “a grant of hope in the tenth month”), and Salkath (salan-k’rhth’a = “k’rhth’a-wind”).2 The name Muroc (mu-yor rok = “night hope”) was likely given to a child born during the night, and Vektan (duvek ta’an = “shade gift”) was probably an indication that the child was either conceived or born in the shade. As one can imagine, Vektan has proven to be one of Vulcan’s most popular names.
Every parent hopes for a healthy child. Exceptions to normal health were noted in a few Vulcan names. Tekav (tekar-kaf = “deviant blood”) indicated some inherited blood condition, and Kesh (rik’esh = “without breath”) was perhaps a reference to asthma or difficulty getting the infant to take its first breath. On a planet with limited resources, twins were a notable and sometimes alarming exception to the single birth. The name Haadok (ha-dahkuh = “two-life/twin”) was not likely given in joy, and the name Rekan (rehr kan = “third child”) may also have been used in shame or defiance in the distant past when more than two children was considered excessive. The name survives today but no longer holds such negative connotation. It is not known if the name Anauk (ha nauk = “cries vigorously”) was given as an indication of the child’s healthy lung capacity or out of sleepless frustration.
Many Vulcan children’s names capture the joy and gratitude of their parents. Here are a few examples: Haurauk (ha taurauk = “amazing life”), Shanik (shan’hal’lik = “loved at first sight”), Talok (taluhk = “precious”), Stark (s’tah rok = “from unobtainable hope”), and Sitar (s’itar-bosh = “from the thankful”). Probably the most famous expression of parental joy is found in the ancient name Spok, a contraction of spo’k’hat’n’dlawa, meaning “resembling half of each other’s heart and soul” – a name given to the child of Ambassador Sarek and Amanda Greyson and modernized in Federation Standard English as Spock.
In my next post, I’ll give some examples of names that note personal qualities, which were often adopted upon the attainment of adulthood.
1 Sherman, J. & Shwartz, S. (2004). Vulcan’s soul, book one: Exodus. New York: Pocket Books, p. 209.
2 K’rhth’a is an herb. Its scent is particularly noted in the onshore winds that blow in from the Voroth Sea along the coast of Raal during the fourth month.