32 – What’s In A Name?

Why Teply instead of Teplý or Teplá? Or Tepliho?

And why Frantisek instead of Frank or Franz or Franciscus?


Many surnames morphed over time. Often the scribe or priest or immigration officer would record an incorrect spelling, and the name would mutate. Then later, mutate again. Like DNA.

My surname has been Gervais, Garvais, Gervis, Jervis, and Jarvis.

Teply, Teplý, Teplá

The name Teply is rock-solid. It has remained constant from 1650s until today without change.

Even the CIA agrees.

Once the Teplys came to America, the name Teply lost its gender and diacritical accents.

I decided to use Teply (not Teplý or Teplá) for both Bohemia and America. So I’ve documented citations and Ancestry tree, and written this blog using Teply. It makes searching, sorting, and filtering much easier.

Teplý (pronounced [ˈtɛpliː]; feminine form Teplá[ˈtɛplaː]) is a Czech surname. It is derived from the Czech–Slovak word teplý for “warm.”


Here are some interesting possible etymologies, but who knows:

Teplá (GermanTepl, formerly Töpel) is a town in the western Czech Republic.


Tyoply/Teply (Russian: Тёплый; masculine), Tyoplaya/Teplaya (Тёплая; feminine), or Tyoploye/Teploye (Тёплое; neuter) is the name of several inhabited localities in Russia.



We’ve seen the same few first names over and over, like Frantisek, Anna, Joseph, Terezie, etc.

Czechs share relatively few given names — roughly 260 names have a frequency above 500 in the Czech Republic

In the past, it was common to give only officially recognized names to children, which were mostly adopted from extended Christian calendar. A special permission was necessary for other names


I’ve mentioned my spreadsheet, where I add Teply and close in-law citations. There are 6,873 citation rows. There are only 102 unique names in all those citations – not very many.

But amazingly, just five names account for half (52%) of all citations. Anna is the clear winner, followed by Jan, Joseph, Katerina, and Frantisek.

The top 25 most common names account for 6,467 citations, a whopping 94%.

Top 25 names in citation spreadsheet

Frantisek or Franciscus or Franz or Frank

But what to do when a first name has many variations, whether in spelling or language or priest? Here are examples, some in Latin, German, Czech. And some with spelling differences. Frantisek examples:

I decided to use two standard given names – one in Bohemia and another in America.

And I wanted a standard spelling for the Bohemian name. I used the website Behind the Name – Czech Names to determine a standard for Bohemia.

Here’s the Behind the Name standard for Frantisek.

So I standardized on Frantisek for Bohemia and Frank for America.

Same for:

  • Alzbeta Elizabeth
  • Dorota Dorothy
  • Filip Phillip
  • Frantiska Frances
  • Jan John
  • Jiri George
  • Josepha Josephine
  • Katerina Catherine
  • Matej Mathias
  • Terezie Teresa
  • Vaclav Wenceslas
  • etc.


Of course.

I decided to use Joseph in Bohemia. The Behind the Name spelling is Josef.

By the time I realized I need to standardize names, I was deep into Joseph citations and Ancestry tree. It was too hard to change.


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