Mystery Monday: Zira/Ziros

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

Today we’re looking at a pair of names, because given where they are both found, and the similarity in their sound/spelling, we’re wondering if they aren’t perhaps related.



So we’ve got two examples, both from 13th C Poland, both recorded in Latin, both masculine nominative; one Zira, one Ziros. Neither of these is in a usual masculine Latin nominative format, which is a strong clue that both names are not native Latin names, and thus we should (or at least, could) look for Slavic roots. Given that neither was Latinized in the expected way (Zirus), this makes us think that the name which is being both of these instances is possibly the same name, one which does not lend itself to Latinization well, so whatever scribe is rendering it must take a stab at Latinizing it himself.

Now, the -os ending smacks very strongly of Greek declensions, which is one possible route into the Slavic name pool; however, Ziros is not itself an immediately identifiable Greek personal name — though it is the name of a lake (and of a newly formed municipality that takes its name from the lake). So that doesn’t help us very much.

Stretching out further afar, and quite a bit more tangentially, there is a modern Armenian masculine name Ժիրայր, which has a nickname Ժիրո or Žiro. Could this be related?

We’d love to know your thoughts, especially if you’ve got more expertise in Slavic names than we (currently) have!


Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

5 responses to “Mystery Monday: Zira/Ziros

  1. Rebecca

    “Słownik staropolskich nazw osobowych” doesn’t help us with etymology, but does give us what Witold Taszycki gives as the normalised Polish form.

    Volume 5, page 79 has an entry for Siro/Żyro, with Latinised examples like:
    Dominus Ziro, 1198
    Principis Sironis 1194-1206
    and refers to the entry on page 77 for Sira/Sirza/Żyra/Żyrza.

    While page 80 has the name Sirosz/Żyrosz with a single example:
    Ziros, subpincerna (Mazouiensis) 1228-1235.

    The element does seem to appear in the name Sirosław or Żyrosław (Latin: Siroslaus), and Wikipedia offers an etymology of the name, but I don’t know if it’s based on reality or not:

    • Brian M. Scott

      Taszycki’s Ziros is definitely the one from the 1228 charter in Hennes.

      This snippet, if I’m not mistaken, says that Zyra and Zyro are shortened from Żyrosław. Miklosich apparently derives these from *žirъ ‘vita’ (life). On further investigation it appears that while *žirъ is derived from *žiti ‘life’, its actual reflexes have such senses as ‘pasture; fodder; mast (e.g., acorns)’. This seems to be more or less in accord with the etymology given in Polish Wikipedia.

      However, a number of apparently decent sources point instead to *sirъ ‘orphaned, abandoned, deprived’ for the S- forms, and at least one suggests that it may be a possibility for the Ż- forms as well.

  2. Jörg Knappen

    For a Slavic explanation, there is the Polish name Żyrosław, the protheme is explained as żyr “prey” (Source: wiktionary) another, unverified source (user submitted name at claims “endorsement” as a meaning.

    Alternatively, one can also think of a variant of Greko-Latin names like Syrus or Cyrus.

  3. Chris

    My grandfather’s middle name was “Zira” and his uncle (after whom my grandfather was named), his middle name was “Zirus”. The family was originally Czech/Bohemian. Had always wondered where these names came from. Thanks!

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