My wife wants to name our daughter Ilja (Ilya) but I think this name is reserved as a Slavic Male name. Is that the connotation in Germany also? What do you think? Are there any female Ilja in germany or europe? How does the name sounds for a girl? Thanks a lot.

  • 3
    That guy de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilja_Richter is the most known Ilja in Germany. The female form is Iljina but that name is not common at all in Germany. If the meaning isn't important but you only like the sound, you may settle on Ilvy or Anja instead.
    – Janka
    Oct 4, 2017 at 11:52
  • 3
    I think Ilja is in the same grey area as names like Kim (Asian male name or short form of Kimberley). On the one hand, Germans generally know the Slavic Ilja, but on the other, names ending in -a are almost always female in Germany, so it would sound natural enough to not raise too many eyebrows, imo.
    – Annatar
    Oct 4, 2017 at 12:24
  • 3
    I also would say that "Ilja" (or any other spelling, also Ilija etc.) is understood to be primarily for male persons. Although of course, first, gender issues tend to get more open these days, and, second, the name is so rare in Germanistan that perhaps it would be irritating only in rare cases when speaking with a person who is acquainted with slavic culture and knows that this is actually the biblical Elias. I would rather be concerned about how does the name sound in English (as this is becoming a Replace-them-all language, obviuosly): does it sound like "ill" (sick)? Oct 4, 2017 at 12:25

2 Answers 2


I'm living in Eastern Germany, the area where – especially within the older generations – there is strong connection to Slavic World due to the cultural exchange during the Socialist era. While the aforementioned older Easterners usually percieve Ilja as a male name, Westerners and people who didn't learn Russian etc. guess people with this name to be woman. Some (male) friends of mine with this name often receive letters from offials addressed to some "Frau Ilja B****" what always raises laughter among us. So even here you may get away with it.

Note: In Germany the first name of a child has to match it's gender until 2008. Since then it can also be neutral. It also shall not make the child ridiculous are otherwise effect it's growing up negatively, what may the case if you give it a gender-wise inapproriate name. So it may also depend on the person at the Civil Registry (Standesamt) who registers your daughter.


I can't talk about Germany, just about Austria (where I live), but since we speak German in both countries (and in some more countries too), I think that my answer will be correct for Germany too:

First names, that end with -a are always thought to be female in German language.

I give you two examples:

This name has a greek origin, and it even means »the brave, the male« (compare with Androgen = male hormons, Andrology = Science of male health). This name was used in Italy many centuries before it was used in German spoken countries. And of course it is a male first name in Italy (think of Andrea Doria or Andrea Bocelli)

But in countries, where German is spoken, it is a female first name (Andrea Ypsilanti or Andrea Berg)

Another Example is Nikita, which is a slavic male first name (Nikita Khrushchev) But in the song »Nikita« by Elton John, is Nikita a Girl, and also the main character in the Movie Nikita is a woman. Many Girls born after 1985 in German spoken countries (but even more in the Netherlands) are also named »Nikita«.

So, if I would read a name like »Ilja Schuster«, I would believe that this is a girls name, becasue of the letter a at the end.

In roman mythology there even is a female Ilja: The Mother of Romulus and Remus, who was raped by Mars, the god of war, is known under two different names: One mane is »Rhea Silvia«, the other is »Ilia«, which is just a form of »Ilja« (I and J was two forms of the same letter in roman alphabet).

  • 3
    As a german, full ack up to shy of the conclusion. Because of Ilja Richter and the whole slavic male name thing, none of the explanation would change my unguided interpretation that Ilja is a male. That said, the "-a" rule should be taken as a mere heuristic, not a fixed rule. Oct 4, 2017 at 13:22
  • 1
    @hiergiltdiestfu: I didn't know Ilja Richter before. If I would have read this name 2 hours before, without any context that would reveal this persons gender, I would have been absolutely sure, that this person is a woman. Oct 4, 2017 at 13:26
  • 1
    Maybe this is, because the first name Ilja is very rare in Austria. I know absolutely nobody with this name. Oct 4, 2017 at 13:28
  • 1
    Yeah, the heuristics you'd have used are not wrong. It might be that Mr Richter is much better known in Germany, which might also indicate that your assumption "I think that my answer will be correct for Germany too" is wrong, but then again, I'm only one data point either :) Oct 4, 2017 at 13:29
  • 1
    in 2013 only 6 boys in Austria was named Ilja: diepresse.com/mediadb/namen_2014.pdf Female Iljas are not listed, which means: 4 or less girls got this name in Austria in 2013. Oct 4, 2017 at 13:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.