Karen is the Danish shortened form of Katherine, which is the English form of Greek Aikaterine though the etymology behind the name is not certain. It could be derived from another Greek name, Hekaterine from hekateros meaning “each of the two” or from Hecate, the name of the Greek goddess of witchcraft, the underworld, and crossroads. Though her name is of uncertain meaning it’s often been associated with Greek hekas meaning “far away” so the name would essentially mean “one who works from afar” or “the far-reaching one”. It’s also been linked to Ancient Greek hekṓn meaning “willing”. It might also be derived from Greek aikia “torture”. Katherine could also be from a Coptic name meaning “my consecration of your name”. The spelling of the name was later changed to be associated with Greek katharos “pure”.
Karen is also an Armenian male name, the West Armenian transcription of Garen, a shortened form of Garegin which is of unknown meaning. Karen is also the name of one of the Seven Great Houses of Iran (aka the Seven Parthian Clans), whose founding is attributed to a Parthian prince, also named Karen. The name seems to be derived from a Parthian origin but I couldn’t find a meaning behind it. In Persian mythology, Karen is the son of Kaveh the Blacksmith, whose sons (all but one) were killed by an evil ruler, Zahhak, and in revenge he helped lead an uprising against him.
Karen is also a Japanese female name with a variety of meanings depending on the kanji used:
- ka 華 “flower; petal; splendor” + ren 蓮 “lotus” (華蓮);
- ka 華 “flower; petal; splendor” + ren 怜 “wise” (華怜);
- ka 伽 “nursing; attending” + ren 恋 “romance; in love” (伽恋);
- ka 可 “passable; allowed” + ren 憐 “sympathy; pity; mercy” (可憐);
- ka 加 “add; addition; Canada” + ren 恋 “romance; in love” (加恋)
There are other meanings depending on the kanji used. Written in hiragana it’s かれん.
Karen is also a surname, as an Iranian surname derived from the given name while it’s also a Czech surname, which derives from given name Karel, a Czech, Dutch, and Slovene form of Charles meaning “man” via Proto-Germanic *karilaz (free man) derived from a PIE root word.
Origin: Proto-Indo-European, Coptic Persian, Japanese
- Karyn (English)
- Karin (Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, German, Dutch, Finnish, English, Japanese)
- Caren (English)
- Caryn (English)
- Carin (Swedish)
- Karena (English)
- Kerena (English)
- Garen (Armenian)
- Garegin (Armenian)
- Karekin (Armenian)