Karen (name)

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Karen is a given name. In English, it is a feminine name derived from the name Catherine, like other similar Germanic language names. In Kurdistan, Iran and Armenia, however, it is a masculine name deriving from other non-Germanic languages. The name is also found in modern Africa, as well as in Asia.


Karen entered the English language from Danish, where it has been a short form of "Katherine" since medieval times.[1] It became popular in the English-speaking world in the 1940s. The name Karen was one of the top 10 names for girls born in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, peaking as the third most popular girl's name in 1965.[2]

Variants include Caja, Kaja (Danish), Caren, Caryn, Karena, Kaat, Karin, Karyn. The name is used in the Danish, Arabic, Dutch, Hebrew, Norwegian, German and English languages.[3]

During the late 2010s, the name "Karen" was used in a similar vein as "Becky", to refer to a busybody middle-aged woman making formal complaints about trivial activities.[4][5][6]

In Armenia, Iran and Kurdistan[edit]

In Armenia, Iran, and Kurdistan Karen is a common masculine given name.

The masculine given name Karen derived from the Persian name of House of Karen (or Caren), one of the seven aristocratic families of the Mads Empire (Medians- Medes), who settled in Western parts of Achaemenid Empire. Several Persian princes named Karen are known before and after the Islamic period. The Karen house ruled the Tabaristan region of Iran, which approximately corresponds to the current provinces of Gilan state and Mazandaran. Moreover, Karen means a brave (or a valorous) man in Persian.

Kar or car (کار) means work or job in Persian and Kurdish. En (ین) is an archaic suffix, which acts similar to (ist) in English. Therefore, the literal meaning of the name is he who sees/gets the job done. The last son of Kaveh the Blacksmith was named Karen. Karen had lost 12 older brothers to the evil Emperor Zahak, but survived to see the end of a revolution initiated by his father. According to the legend in Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, Zahak was cursed with two snakes on his shoulders. Zahak was advised to feed the snakes using brains of young boys to keep the curse from growing. Kaveh managed to dismantle Zahak's reign and save his last son with the help of a Persian king.

In Armenian, Karen is also derived from the ancient Armenian masculine given name Kar. The masculine given name Garen is a Western Armenian form of the Eastern Armenian Karen.

The masculine given name Karen was mentioned by the prominent Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi (ca. 410–490s AD; Armenian: Մովսես Խորենացի) in his book History of Armenia.[7]

Karen can also be a surname.

In Asia[edit]

In Asia, Karen is a feminine given name. The name can be found in Japan, and less commonly in such places as China, Malaysia and Philippines

Notable people[edit]

First name[edit]


Armenian men[edit]


  • Zarmihr Karen (died 558), Iranian nobleman and Sasanian governor of Zabulistan

Asian people[edit]

Fictional people[edit]

Live action[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fijok, Ivana (2012). "Onomastics as evidence of linguistic influence". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Davidson, Andrew (2007), Population Statistics for Karen, Raleigh, NC: nameplayground.com
  3. ^ Вehind the Name
  4. ^ Amelia Tait (2018-01-24). "Karen, Sharon, Becky, and Chad: How it feels when your name becomes a meme". New Statesman.
  5. ^ Lana Andelane (2019-05-30). "'Karen': How one meme ruined a mother's favourite baby name". Newshub.
  6. ^ Thomas Dane (2019-08-23). "People Who Know Chads And Karens Admit How They Feel About Their Names Becoming Insults". GeorgeTakei.com.
  7. ^ History of the Armenia by Movses Khorenatsi: Book_2_#28 and Book_2_#68