Attila (name)

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PronunciationHungarian: [ˈɒtillɒ]
Other names
Alternative spellingAtilla

Attila is a popular masculine name in Central and Eastern Europe, Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. Primarily in Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria[citation needed] and Chuvashia[citation needed]. Attila is the most used version in Hungary, however another version of Attila is Atilla and Etele,[1] the female equivalent of which is Etelka. Attila is used as Atilla in Turkish.


It has been traditionally claimed that the name Attila is formed from Gothic atta meaning "father", through the diminutive suffix -ila, the "little father".[2] Related names are not uncommon among Germanic peoples of the period, i. e. Ætla, Bishop of Dorchester.[2] The Gothic etymology was proposed by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm in the early 19th century.[3] Tom Shippey argued that the Gothic etymology is a product of 19th century Germanic romantic philological revisionism.[4]

Otto Maenchen-Helfen, who considered Gothic etymology, noted that Hunnic names were "not the true names of the Hun princes and lords. What we have are Hunnic names in Germanic dress, modified to fit the Gothic tongue, or popular Gothic etymologies, or both".[2]

Hyun Jin Kim noted Attila has more natural and probable Turkic etymology.[5] Omeljan Pritsak considered ̕Άττίλα (Attila) a composite title-name which derived from Turkic *es (great, old), and *t il (sea, ocean), and the suffix /a/.[6] The stressed back syllabic til assimilated the front member es, so it became *as.[6] It is a nominative, in form of attíl- (< *etsíl < *es tíl) with the meaning "the oceanic, universal ruler".[6] Peter Golden, citing Pritsak, like László Rásonyi connected Attila's name with a note by Menander in which the term Attilan was used as the name of the Volga River (Turkic Atil/Itil; "great river").[7] J.J. Mikkola connected it with Turkic āt (name, fame).[3] Gerd Althoff considered it was related to Turkish atli (horseman, cavalier), or Turkish at (horse) and dil (tongue).[3]

Given name[edit]


  • Attila (horse) (1839–1846), British thoroughbred racehorse and sire
  • Louis Attila (1844–1924), name used by German-born American strongman Ludwig Durlacher

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hungarian Wikipedia - Etele article
  2. ^ a b c Maenchen-Helfen, Otto J. (1973). The World of the Huns: Studies in Their History and Culture. University of California Press. pp. 386, 389. ISBN 0520015967.
  3. ^ a b c Snædal, Magnús (2015). "Attila". Studia Etymologica Cracoviensia. 20 (3): 211–219.
  4. ^ Kim 2013, p. 177.
  5. ^ Kim, Hyun Jin (2013). The Huns, Rome and the Birth of Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 30. ISBN 9781107009066.
  6. ^ a b c Pritsak, Omeljan (December 1982). "The Hunnic Language of the Attila Clan" (PDF). Harvard Ukrainian Studies. Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University. VI (4): 444 in 428–476. ISSN 0363-5570. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 3, 2014. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  7. ^ Golden, Peter Benjamin (1992). An introduction to the History of the Turkic peoples: ethnogenesis and state formation in medieval and early modern Eurasia and the Middle East. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. p. 90. ISBN 9783447032742.