Alexander – University of Copenhagen

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Names in Denmark > Selected names > Alexander

14 August 2012

Alexander

The name Alexander is originally Greek and means 'defender of men'.

It is one of the names that has given rise to many variants in different languages. From the European languages, for example, we know Alec, Aleck, Alex, Allie, Saner, Al, Alick, Alistair, Lex, Sasha, Sandy, Sascha, Xander, Aleko and Lexo. In Persian and Arabic we have the variant Iskander.

The name can be spelt in various different ways but in Denmark the most widespread form is that with an x. Statistics Denmark thus notes 9,458 by the name of Alexander, while only 585 are called Aleksander – and 4832 have the name Alex.

In the 90s Alexander became a fashionable name and it topped in 1994, when 624 small boys were called Alexander. Incidentally, the same kind of thing happened with the girls’ name Alexandra, although this has always been less common than the boys’ name and topped with 47 new bearers in 1993. Alexandra (1844-1925), daughter of Christian IX of Denmark was married to King Edward VII of England. She was very popular and the name had a significant revival in both countries in the nineteenth century.

From Macedonia to Alsønderup

Probably the most famous bearer of the masculine name is the king of Macedon, who lived from 356 to 323 B.C. He founded a vast empire but this soon disintegrated. Among the many traces he left behind him, however, are the more than 20 towns that were named after him. The most well-known of these is Alexandria in Egypt but another interesting example is Kandahar in Afghanistan, a name that is derived from Iskanderiya – from the Persian-Arabic form of Alexander.

Alexander has also given rise to place-names on Danish soil. One example is the village of Alsønderup in North Sjælland: We know this name in its earliest written form from the end of the twelfth century as Alexander Thorp, meaning 'Alexander’s dependent settlement'. This Alexander can hardly, of course, be the same man who gave his name to Alexandria and Kandahar.