3 Albanian Baby Names: Liridona, Liridon, Ilirida

albanian flagThe collapse of communism (and the economy) in Albania in 1991-1992 triggered a mass exodus.

Hundreds of thousands of Albanian refugees fled to other countries — primarily nearby countries like Italy and Greece. But some refugees ended up in entirely different parts of the world, such as the United States.

Evidence of this 1991-1992 wave of Albanian immigration can be see in the sudden appearance of several rather patriotic Albanian baby names to the U.S. baby name data:

Year Liridona Liridon Ilirida
1994 unlisted 5 baby boys unlisted
1993 9 baby girls
(5 in NY)
11 baby boys
(5 in NY)
1992 21 baby girls
(12 in NY)
10 baby boys
(5 in NY)
5 baby girls [debut]
1991 29 baby girls [debut]
(18 in NY)
13 baby boys [debut]
(8 in NY)
1990 unlisted unlisted unlisted

(“Unlisted” means the name was used fewer than 5 times — the minimum for inclusion on the national list.)

The Albanian names Liridon, Liridona and Ilirida are all based on the Albanian word liri, which means “freedom, liberty.” The one-hit wonder name Ilirida refers specifically to the “Republic of Ilirida,” a theoretical secessionist state of Macedonia proposed/declared in early 1992 by Macedonian politician Nevzat Halili (who is an ethnic Albanian).

While I think it’s most likely that these names were bestowed by recent Albanian immigrants, it’s also possible that they were used within Albanian-American families. (New York City has the largest Albanian population in the country.)

And no doubt these names became even more popular in countries that absorbed larger numbers of Albanians. In Switzerland, for instance, both Liridon and Liridona and broke into the national top 100 (!) in 1991:

Year Liridona (Switz.) Liridon (Switz.) Ilirida (Switz.)
1995 16 baby girls 21 baby boys 6 baby girls
1994 32 baby girls 19 baby boys 2 baby girls
1993 60 baby girls 50 baby boys 4 baby girls
1992 114 baby girls
(rank: 77th)
84 baby boys 19 baby girls [debut]
1991 181 baby girls
(rank: 47th)
125 baby boys
(rank: 79th)
1990 37 baby girls 63 baby boys 0
1989 11 baby girls 29 baby boys 0

The variants Liridone and LiridonĂ« also show up in the Switzerland data — Liridone over 40 times in the ’80s and ’90s, LiridonĂ« a handful of times in the ’90s.

Sources: Albanian Diaspora – Wikipedia, Swiss Statistics

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