Mongolian names: Bilguun, Nergui, Sazug

Camel in Mongolia
Camel in Mongolia

Around the time I spotted the names Wicahpi and Wakinyan in the SSA’s baby name data, I also noticed a few Mongolian names:

Bilguun means “sage” or “wise,” and both Temuujin* and Temuulen were derived from the Mongol word temür, meaning “iron.” I’m not sure about the definition of Sodbileg, though. (Anyone know?)

While looking up these definitions, I found some other interesting Mongolian names, like these super-long ones:

  • Dorjsurenjantsankhorloonerguibaatar
  • Ochirbaynmunkhdorjsurenjav
  • Olzmedekhkhuukhenbaatar
  • Naimanzuunnadintsetseg, “eight hundred precious flowers”
  • Enkhtuguldurbaysgalan
  • Mongolekhorniiugluu, “Mongol country’s morning”
  • Uuliinyagaantsetseg, “pink flower of mountain”
  • Ulamundrakhtuya

And these super-short ones:

  • Az, “luck”
  • Od, “star”
  • Ur
  • Ya
  • Ish
  • Och, “sparkle”

Many older Mongolians have apotropaic names, which were meant to ward off evil spirits. Examples include Enebish, “not this one,” Khunbish, “not human,” and Nergui, “no name” (!).

Apotropaic names have since fallen out of favor, but many modern Mongolian baby names have similarly odd definitions. Writer Louisa Waugh, who spent time teaching English in Mongolia, had students named Buttakuz, “camel-eyes,” and Sazug, “smelly.” She asked fellow teacher Gansukh (“steel axe”) about the names:

‘Why would anyone call their child “Camel-eyes”?’

‘Have you ever looked at a camel’s eyes?’ she replied. ‘They’re beautiful’.

It’s true – Tsengel is full of long-lashed, coy-eyed camels. So Butta-kuz is really quite a compliment. As for Smelly, that took a bit more unravelling. ‘It’s affectionate,’ said Steel Axe. ‘No-one thinks it is offensive. As a name, in Mongolia, it actually implies that he smells quite nice.’

Do you known of any other Mongolian names? Have any favorites?

*Temuujin, “iron-worker,” was Genghis Khan’s birth name. I typically see it spelled Temujin.

Sources: N.Khurelbaatar: There are 1000 people with extraordinary and unusual names living in Mongolia, In the eye of the beholder, Mongolian Name – Wikipedia, Mongolian Names

Image: Adapted from A little white camel 02 by Alexandr frolov under CC BY-SA 4.0.

5 thoughts on “Mongolian names: Bilguun, Nergui, Sazug

  1. I attended high school in an area with a sizable Mongolian immigrant population, and names in my graduating class included Temuujin, Biligzaya, and Khongor. As for favorites, I’ve always liked Narangerel and Sarangerel – sunshine and moonlight.

  2. So far this is the best article which explains about Mongolian names. Sod means unique or at highly, and bilig means intelligence. To sum, Sodbileg means he/she who has extraordinary intelligence or highly knowledgeable.

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