Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Ivan

The name Ivan is the Russian form of the name John.

All About the Baby Name – Ivan

Personality

OF THE BOY NAME IVAN

The number one personality is a leader - strong and competitive. They are willing to initiate action and take risks. One personalities work hard toward their endeavors and have the ability to apply their creative and innovative thinking skills with strong determination. They believe in their ability to succeed and are too stubborn to be hindered by obstacles. Ones meet obstacles head-on with such mental vigor and energy that you better step aside. They resent taking orders, so don't try telling them what to do either. This is an intensely active personality, but they are also known as starters rather than finishers. They have a propensity to become bored and will move quickly to the next project if not properly challenged.  They are the ones to think up and put into action new and brilliant ideas, but they are not the ones to stick around and manage them. This personality has an enthusiastic and pioneering spirit. They are distinctly original.

Popularity

OF THE BOY NAME IVAN

While never achieving a position on the Top 100 list of most favored boys’ names in the United States, Ivan has been holding its own for well over a century. The name experiences very moderate usage over the course of its history in America compared with Slavic nations such as Russia, Bosnia, Croatia and the Ukraine; however, interestingly, it’s the Spanish-speaking Americans fueling Ivan’s growth in the 20th century. In the Spanish and Portuguese languages the name is written with an accent (i.e., Iván which is pronounced more like Yvonne) and is sometimes considered a substitute for the name Juan. Evidence of the Hispanic-population’s contribution to the growth of Ivan in the past 25 years comes from the states where the name has achieved a position on the Top 100 list: California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas – states with the highest concentration of Spanish-speakers and those of Hispanic descent. Nevertheless, when we hear the name Ivan, we think of Russia. In fact, the name is so distinctly Russian; it’s practically equivalent to Patrick in Ireland. An ethnic definer in a way. And yet, in America the name is becoming much more Spanish!

Quick Facts

ON IVAN

GENDER:

Boy

ORIGIN:

Russian

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

2

RANKING POPULARITY:

137

PRONUNCIATION:

EYE-vin (Slavic) or ee-VAHN (Spanish)

SIMPLE MEANING:

God is gracious, God is merciful

Characteristics

OF IVAN

Independent

Individualistic

Ambitious

Strong-willed

Inventive

Successful

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Ivan

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME IVAN

Kolya Vdovushkin is a character in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1962 novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a novel that takes us through one day in a Soviet labor camp. Alas, our Nikolai is perhaps not the most sympathetic of characters, being used as he is by Solzhenitsyn as a representation of the uselessness of literary poseurs in the face of brutish reality. Nikolai has an easy job in the labor camp; he is a medical orderly. The only problem is that he hasn’t any medical experience. What Nikolai wants is to be a poet, and the patronage of the camp’s medical doctor encourages him in this endeavor. It is the likes of Ivan Denisovich who suffer from the natural outcome of such favoritism. On the outside, Nikolai would probably be an acceptable person; in the camps, he’s a disaster.

Lisa Ilyich is the daughter of the title character in Leo Tolstoy’s 1886 novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich. While Ivan lies dying and reviewing his life, turning over all his decisions and actions, his daughter, alas, is not of such a philosophical bent. In her defense, let it be said that Lisa has been raised to be a self-absorbed young woman, much like her mother, whose interests lie in her beautiful appearance, her social standing and her suitors. How is she different from any other twenty-year old girl? The illness her father sustains, which leads to his death, is rather annoying to Lisa, and she is less than sympathetic and helpful to the invalid. In fact, she seems to blame her father for selfishly disrupting all of their lives by this very inconvenient malady. And we have the hint, in the father’s ruminations, of the possible future that might affect the daughter as well. She is young and beautiful now – introspection on the nature of her father’s may come later, as life deals with her as it may.

Ivan is the middle of three sons in the classic Russian novel The Brothers Karamazov, completed in 1880 by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Long acknowledged as a masterpiece of philosophical profundity, the tale of the three brothers is revered worldwide. Ivan is tormented by his lack of faith, his disbelief in a god who would allow base human suffering such as he observes around him. He is unable to achieve the simple piety of his younger brother, Alyosha or the initially insouciant attitudes of his older brother Dimitri. His loathing for his father produces tremendous guilt in him, especially when he thinks he might be indirectly responsible for the father’s murder. This leads him deeper into despair and madness, but there is a distinct possibility left for us at the end of the book that Ivan will find salvation purely through his rejection of a deity, a salvation that comes quite simply from his unadorned love for humanity in all its expressions. This and the loving ministrations of the devoted Katerina give us hope that he will find hope.

Ivan is the title character of Leo Tolstoy’s 1886 novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich. A high court judge, Ilyich has lived his entire life in the pursuit of the most materialistic, proper way of living, enjoying the trappings of his professional and personal life, and feeling that he is the best and has done the best. His marriage is unhappy, his children are emotionally neglected, his legal judgments are cold and calculated, but he sees none of that. Then he suffers an accidental domestic injury, which leads to his decline and demise. He is in the throes of terror – how can this be – how can one who has lived so well – die? As he contemplates his life with the help of his faithful servant, Gerasim, he comes to see that it has all been a sham, a pretense, and an empty search for meaning in the meaningless. Comes the proverbial bright light, and Ivan Ilyich is delivered into an ecstasy of understanding and acceptance, leaving this world for a better one, in full knowledge and acceptance of all that has been.

Ivan is a prisoner in a Soviet gulag in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1962 novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, loosely based upon his own experience in a Stalinist labor camp for eight years. Dinisovich is wrongly accused of being a spy after having been captured by the Germans during World War II. It is an extraordinary novel, an everyday look inside the oppressive Soviet prison system, where the men somehow manage to help and defend each other in small, significant ways even under the repressive regime in which they are forced to work and live. Unlike the heroes of the great, earlier Russian novels, Ivan is a modern day peasant, uneducated and unassuming. He adapts to prison life without any sentimentality, and brings every ounce of his abilities to his tasks, rising above the misery of his surroundings and representing the noble spiritual strength of an entire people.

A tragicomedy by the Russian playwright, Anton Chekhov, Uncle Vanya was first performed in 1899 in Moscow. The title character expresses the boredom and ennui of all when he enters in Act I, yawning. His further musings on the wasting of lives, the passed opportunities, the missed loves and the drudgery of the future are largely ignored by the other characters, but they are certainly already internalized by them. Everyone in this little aristocratic enclave has something to regret and little to look forward to. Uncle Vanya even farcically botches an attempt to shoot his brother-in-law, whom he mainly blames for the waste that is his life. There is little hope here, except for that of the afterlife proffered by Sonya, Vanya’s niece, at the play’s closing: “Ah, then, dear, dear Uncle, we shall enter on a bright and beautiful life… We shall rest. We shall hear the angels.” We don’t want to create too much of a downer here, so let’s take Chekov’s own advice on the matter, as he explained his play in a letter to a friend: “All I wanted was to say honestly to people: ‘Have a look at yourselves and see how bad and dreary your lives are!’The important thing is that people should realize that, for when they do, they will most certainly create another and better life for themselves.”

Popular Songs

ON IVAN

The Rise and Fall of Belinda and Ivan
Dogwood

Ivan Meets G.I. Joe
a song by The Clash

Dinner with Ivan
a song by Big Head Todd & the Monsters

Famous People

NAMED IVAN

Iván Rodríguez (baseball player)
Ivan Koloff (aka "The Russian Bear", wrestler)
Ivan Neville (musician)
Iván Helguera (soccer player)
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (Nobel Prize Winner, medicine)
Ivan Lendl (tennis player)
Ivan Bunin (Nobel Prize Winner, literature)
Iván Campo Ramos (aka "Pelos", soccer player)
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev (novelist/playwright)

Children of Famous People

NAMED IVAN

We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Ivan

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME IVAN

Ivan III was the Grand Prince of Moscow who is most known for his long reign (43 years) during which time the territory of Russia tripled (more than 15,000 square miles), and for laying the foundations of the future Russian-Muscovite state. Ivan’s reign took on a new autocratic form and he began stylizing himself as tsar (a word derived from Caesar meaning ‘Emperor’ and suggesting a divine right). He was following an idea, after the fall of Constantinople, that Russia was the true successor to the Byzantine Empire. If there’s anything you want to blame the Russians for, it’s certainly not their lack of hubris!

Ivan IV, grandson of Ivan the Great, was Grand Prince of Moscow and the first to be crowned Russian Tsar; his reign lasted from 1533 until his death in 1584. Under Ivan’s control, Russia’s landmass was unrivaled and the nation emerged from medieval times into the modern era as a regional power. He was forever branded with the moniker “Ivan Groznyi” (usually translated to Ivan the Terrible) which actually means Ivan the Redoubtable or Ivan the Severe – perhaps paying homage to his might and power rather than his monstrous or cruel acts. To be sure, this man was no angel. His bad behavior has earned him a place in infamy. However, his inherited circumstances were no picnic either. His father died when he was three and his mother acted as his regent until her (suspicious) death when he was only eight. He was constantly antagonized by the boyars (the class of families just beneath the princes) and so at a tender young age, he had already been taught to hold human life in contempt. Ivan was highly intelligent and a skilled politician, but he was also paranoid and ruthless. He conquered the last independent principalities such as Siberia and solidified the system of serfdom. In his later years he executed thousands and in a fit of regrettable rage, killed his own beloved son and heir.

You remember Ivan Pavlov from 9th grade biology, don’t you? Maybe this will ring a bell: Pavlov’s Dogs. Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist who would go onto win the 1904 Nobel Prize in medicine for his important research into the digestive system. But that’s not what he’s most known for. Ivan became interested in the laboratory dogs where he worked. He noticed that they would salivate every time they saw a lab coat. In fact, as residents of the lab, the dogs were always fed by a person in a lab coat so the little mutts began to associate food with the coats (whether or not food was present) and would spontaneously salivate/drool merely at the sight of the coats alone. Pavlov found this fascinating and studied this “conditioned behavior” more closely. Dogs actually salivate unconditionally when food is presented to them as an evolutionary mechanism in preparation to break down the food they are about to receive, and to swallow the food more easily. But Pavlov was interested in conditioning this response. He would ring a bell every time he was about to feed the dogs until they began to associate food with the sound of a bell. Eventually, the dogs would salivate at the sound of the bell even if food was not put in front of them. This was a major scientific breakthrough in terms of the study of the mind and behavior. Carl Jung would go onto follow Pavlov’s work and conditioned responses are a core part of more than you might think – from therapy to cure anxiety to the study of advertising.