Kalaallit aqqi gives origins, history of Greenlandic Inuit names

An encyclopaedia-style book from Greenland explores the history and meaning behind traditional Greenlandic names.

Encyclopaedia-style book includes more than 400 first names, surnames and foreign names

The meaning of the name Maataaq is explained in Kalaallit aqqi. (CBC)

A new book from Greenland explores the history and meaning behind traditional names.

Nuka Møller, author of Kalaallit aqqi, says he researched Greenlandic names dating back hundreds of years. He says a lot of traditional names stopped being used when Christianity came to Greenland and people were encouraged to give their children biblical names.

"A lot of the old formal names, they disappeared over time and were replaced," says Møller, who works as a researcher at the Greenland Language Secretariat in Nuuk.

He says the project came about because many people were requesting information from the language secretariat about the history and background of their names.

Nuka Møller is the author of Kalaallit aqqi. (Submitted by Nuka Møller)

The book lists more than 400 Greenlandic first names, surnames and foreign names in encyclopaedia form.

He says it's common practice in Greenland to name a child after someone who died. He says that still happens with Christian and Danish names, but now Møller says some people are taking their Inuk names as a second spiritual name, or even as their first name. 

Kalaallit aqqi, published by the secretariat, is available in English, Danish and Greenlandic.