About Tímea's name

Tímea has an unusual name (outside of Hungary or Hungarian speaking regions). We've been asked many questions about it. Here are some answers.

How to pronounce "Tímea"

While we are not particularly worried about how people pronounce the name, we have been asked, and we've noticed that some English speakers have a difficult time with the name. That is a pity, as we deliberately tried to find a name that required no unusual sounds for English speakers.

Stress is on the first syllable, and the name should sound sort of like an English speaker saying "TEE-meh-aw" or "TEE-may-ah". In the International Phonetic Alphabet it is something like: [\stress ti-m\niepsilon-\openo].

Now what we have noticed is that while English speakers can get each syllable correct, the difficulty is with getting the stress on the first syllable. People appear to say "tee-MAY-uh" instead of "TEE-may-uh". So here is a brief lesson is getting the stress on the first syllable. One way to help you hear the difference is to think about the two English words "insight" and "incite". These two words are pronounced differently, but their syllables are the same. "Insight" has the stress on the first syllable, while "incite" has the stress on the second syllable. "Tímea" should be like "insight".

Another way is to contrast with her mother's name, "Lívia". Both the English and Hungarian pronunciations of this name have the stress on the first syllable. The difference between the English and the Hungarian pronunciations is that the the Hungarian would should be like "LEE-vi-uh" instead of "LI-vi-uh". But either one is a three syllable word with the stress on the first syllable. "Tímea" has the same rhythm.

Origin of the name, Timea

A number of people have asked us what the name means and about its origins. The name is known in Hungary, and we have never seen it used outside of some Hungarian connection. Within Hungary it is widely believed (well, it's what everyone tells me) that the name is the invention of the romantic author Mór Jókai (1825–1904) in his 1873 novel Az Arany Ember (Golden Man). In the novel the name is spelled Timéa. I don't know when it acquired its modern form, but it should be noted that were as a massive language/spelling reform in Hungary at the end of the 19th century. I (Jeff) have not read the novel (and I've only seen snippets of the movie based on it), but I understand that Timéa was a young Turkish women who agrees to marry the story's hero to escape poverty, but does not (initially) love him. To the best of our limited knowledge, the name is not Turkish.

There is reference to a Timaea/Timaia in Plutarch's Life of Agasilaus. Timaea was the wife of King Agis II of Sparta (427–399 BC) and had a child by Alcibiades, forcing him to flee to Persia. Following a lead from Timea Szell that the name means something like "honor" in ancient Greek and with the help of the humanities.classics newsgroup, I was quickly pointed to the masculine form of the name, Timaeus/Timaios, meaning "honor" or "highly prized".

Timaeus (Timaios) is the name of the father of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46) whose sight Jesus restored. The New testament Greek Lexicon lists it as meaning "highly prized" and "probably of Aramaic origin". If this is so it would have been borrowed into Greek centuries earlier.

Another Timaeus/Timaios participates in a number of Plato's dialogues. This is the one in which Plato fabricates the Atlantis legend to argue for his politics of eugenics and castes and introduce the general theme of ideal perfection and actual imperfection. In the glossary of my (Hungarian) edition of the complete works of Plato, Timaios is described as "philosopher from the Italian city of Locris, follower of Pythagoras".

According to a newsgroup posting (message id <3e684194.1373294@news.cityscape.co.uk>) by Robert Stonehouse,

Timaios (highly prized, say Liddell and Scott) was the name of two philosophers and a historian, and no doubt many people we have never heard of. Timaia would be the ordinary feminine form. [...] But the name Timaia need not depend on any one person - we can assume there were plenty of them. [...]

There is also a contemporary Greek name, Efthimia. It is unrelated, coming from Euthymos (kind, generous, good spirited).

How the name entered modern Hungarian is still something we don't know. Whether it was introduced by Jókai or just re-introduced is a question that could be answered by historical investigation. But that is investigation we will leave to others.

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Last Modified: $Date: 2003/05/05 04:32:15 $ GMT
Site first established October 3, 2000
Principle author: Jeffrey Goldberg