Jane isn’t so plain

U.S. reformer Jane Addams, 1860–1935

Jane, like its male counterpart John, is a timeless, universal mainstay. It’s the Middle English form of the Old French Jehanne, which in turn derives from the Latin Iohannes and Greek Ioannes, ultimately derived from the Hebrew Yochanan (God is  gracious).

The name was #98 in the U.S. in 1880, and stayed near the bottom of the Top 100 and just outside of it for the remainder of the 19th century. Jane went up and down until 1909, when it rose from #130 to #116. The name proceeded to jump up the charts to the Top 50, attaining its highest rank of #35 in 1946. Its last year in the Top 100 was 1965. In 2019, it was #291.

Jean, a Middle English variation of Jehanne, was common in Medieval Scotland and England, then fell from popularity till the 19th century. In the U.S., it was Top 100 from 1906–64, with the highest rank of #12 in 1926 and 1928–29. It fell off the chart in 1995.

Joanna is English and Polish, and became common in the Anglophone world in the 19th century. Its highest U.S. rank was #88 in 1984.

Joan Crawford, née Lucille Fay LeSueur (1904–1977), with Lon Chaney, Sr., in The Unknown (1927)

Joan is a Middle English form of the Old French Johanne, and was the most common English feminine form of John till the 17th century, when Jane rose to the fore. It skyrocketed to popularity in the U.S. in the 1920s, jumping from #127 in 1922 to #5 by 1931–33. Joan stayed in the Top 10 till 1938, and slowly descended the chart. Its final Top 100 year was 1964. In 1993, it fell off the Top 1000.

Other forms include:

1. Johanna is German, Dutch, Scandinavian, English, Hungarian, Estonian, and Finnish. The variant Jóhanna is Icelandic.

2. Jeanne is French and English, and of course the name of one of France’s most beloved native daughters and sheroes, Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc).

3. Jana is Czech, Slovak, Catalan, Dutch, German, Slovenian, Georgian, and English.

4. Johanne is Danish, Norwegian, and French.

5. Joanne is English and French. It was Top 100 in the U.S. from 1930–60, with its highest rank of #48 in 1942.

6. Joana is Portuguese and Catalan.

7. Ioanna is Greek, Georgian, Ukrainian, and old-fashioned Russian.

8. Ioana is Romanian.

9. Yoana is Bulgarian.

10. Ivana is Macedonian, Serbian, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Bulgarian, and Croatian.

Jeanne d’Arc, painted by Harold Piffard

11. Jone is Basque.

12. Yanna is Breton and Greek.

13. Jóna is Faroese and Icelandic.

14. Ivanna is Ukrainian.

15. Juana is Spanish.

16. Yana is Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian.

17. Janka is Sorbian.

18. Xoana is Galician.

19. Zhanna is Russian.

20. Giovanna is Italian.

Queen Juana the Mad of Castille (1473–1555), painted between 1496–1500 by Juan de Flandes

21. Giuanna is Sardinian.

22. Gianna is modern Greek, and an Italian nickname for Giovanna.

23. Janina is Lithuanian, Polish, German, Finnish, and Swedish.

24. Janna is Swedish, Dutch, Finnish, and English.

25. Ghjuvanna is Corsican.

26. Siân is Welsh. Nicknames are Siana and Siani.

27. Siwan is also Welsh.

28. Seonag is Scottish. Nicknames include Seona and Seònaid.

29. Siobhán is Irish.

30. Síne is also Irish.

German opera singer Johanna Gadski, 1872–1932

31. Sinéad is another Irish form.

32. Jovana is Serbian and Macedonian.

33. Janessa is English.

34. Janelle is English.

35. Jeannette is French, Dutch, and English.

36. Jeannine is French and English.

37. Janine is English, German, Dutch, and French.

38. Žanna is Latvian.

39. Žaneta is Czech, Slovak, and Lithuanian.

40. Teasag is Scottish.

Soviet actor Yanina Zheymo, 1909–87

41. Jenny/Jennie began as a Middle English nickname for Jane, though eventually became used as a full name in its own right and a nickname for Jennifer.

42. Yanina is Russian, Bulgarian, and Spanish.

43. Hēni is Maori.

44. Jâne is Greenlandic. Unlike the English form, this has two syllables.

45. Janissa is English.

46. Seini is Tongan.

47. Hoana is Maori.

48. Joane is Gascon.

49. Ivanija is Vlach, a variation of Romanian spoken in Serbia.

50. Jaanika is Estonian and Finnish.

Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, née Johanna (1820–87), painted 1845 by J.L. Asher

51. Jânotte is Norman.

52. Ohanna is Armenian. I have a character by this name, one of the orphanage girls in my Russian historicals.

53. Hovhanna is also Armenian.

54. Yohana is Amharic and Indonesian.

55. Yuwana is Arabic.

56. Yochana, or Yochanah, is Hebrew.

3 thoughts on “Jane isn’t so plain

  1. Made me think about how many Janes are out there in the world, doing distinctly un-plain things!

    And Ivankas and Joannas and Janines and Zannas [though I thought Zanna was short for Suzanna when I first read about one in a Troll book].

  2. Reblogged this on My Inner MishMash and commented:
    I definitely agree with the title of this post! How can a name with such an abundance of colourful and varied forms be plain?
    I also feel like even if the name Jane itself is very popular and may feel a bit neutral or a filler for some, many women with this name are really original and interesting. I like Jane because it’s so classic, feminine, goes well with many other beautiful names, has something both simple and elegant in itself.
    If I had to choose I’d rather say it’s Jean or Joan that are more plain and have less character on their own than Jane. I love Joanna but only the way we pronounce it in Poland (with a Y and double n). Janina is also nice, although I used to think about it as old-fashioned. I think it’s due for a come back, and has lovely nicknames, which I think Joanna doesn’t really, I like Joanna most in its full form.
    I love the Celtic forms of Jane, especially Siwan and Sinead. English Janelle is also nice, as are some others.
    I could also add that other forms of this name that are used over here are Żaneta, Żanna, and – already mentioned in the post – Jana, which is not a standard form in Poland in opposite to some other Slavic countries but there were 782 women in Poland with that name in 2017 and it can be also used as a nickname for Janina so you get to hear it occasionally.
    What is your favourite form of Jane, guys? Do you think it’s plain?

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