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.

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The Gs of Slavic names

Female:

Glikeriya is the Russian form of the Greek name Glykeria, derived from root glykys (sweet).

Gordana means “dignified” in Macedonian, Serbian, and Croatian. The male form is Gordan. Both were popularised by the 1935 novel Gordana, by Croatian writer Marija Jurić Zagorka.

Grażyna is a Polish name derived from the Lithuanian word for “beautiful.” It was invented by great national poet Adam Mickiewicz in an 1823 poem of the same name.

Grozdana, Grozda means “grapes” in Bulgarian and Macedonian. The male form is Grozdan.

Gvozdana means “iron-like” in Serbian and Croatian. The male form is Gzovden.

Gvozdika means “carnation” in Russian. This was one of the newly-created Soviet names, used by parents eager to reject traditional names. It refers to the red carnation, a symbol of both the February and October Revolutions.

Male:

Geberyk is the Polish form of the Ancient Germanic name Geberic, Gabaric, derived from Gothic roots giban (to give) and rîcja (strong, powerful, mighty). The second root also has cognates in Gothic reiks and Celtic rix and rîg, which all mean “king, ruler.”

Gennadiy (Russian) and Genadiy (Bulgarian) are forms of the Greek name Gennadios (generous, noble). The nicknames are Genna, Gena, and Genya. A less common feminine form is Gennadiya.

Genseryk is the Polish form of Ancient Germanic name Geiseric, Gaiseric (powerful spear). Geiseric the Lame was a fifth century king of the Vandals and Alans.

Gerasim (Russian, Bulgarian, Macedonian) and Gerazym (Polish) are forms of the Greek name Gerasimos, derived from root geras (gift, honour). I have a priest character named Father Gerasim.

Gleb is the Russian and Ukrainian form of the Old Norse name Guðleifr (good heir). Though most classic Russian names are of Slavic or Greek origin, there are a few Old Norse ones bearing testament to their ancient history and how the first of their two dynasties was founded by a Varangian (Viking) prince.

Goran means “mountain man” in Serbian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Slovenian, and Croatian, from root gora (mountain). It became popular thanks to Croatian poet Ivan Goran Kovačić, whose middle name came from the mountain town where he was born. The feminine form is Goranka.

The Gs of Medieval names

Female:

Gaila (Basque): Feminine form of Gailo.

Gaitelgrima (Italian): Also an Ancient Germanic–Lombardic name.

Galiana (Italian, German): Feminine form of Galian. The Medieval Occitan form was Galiane.

Gamitza (Basque)

Gazte (Basque): “Young.”

Gelleia (English)

Gelvira (Spanish)

Gervisa (Italian)

Gerwara (Danish): Either a form of unisex name Gerwar or a feminine form of Ancient Scandinavian name Gæirvarr. When Gerwar was used on a girl, it was a form of Ancient Scandinavian name Gæirvǫr (from roots geirr [spear] and vár [woman, spring]). On a boy, it was a form of Gæirvarr (from roots geirr and varr [wise; alert, shy, attentive).

Gherardesca (Italian)

Ghisolabella (Italian): Combination of Ghisola and bella (beautiful).  Ghisola was a form of Ancient Germanic name Gisila, whose modern form is the familiar Giselle). It derives from the word gisil (pledge, hostage). I completely fell in love with this name when I discovered it in The Divine Comedy.

Giralda (Occitan)

Girolama (Italian): Feminine form of Jerome, which derives from Greek name Hieronymus (sacred name). Its roots are hieros and onoma.

Gordislava (Russian, Slavic)

Gostansa (Catalan): Probably a form of Constance.

Male:

Galeazzo (Italian): Form of Galahad, via alternate form Galeas.

Galfrido (Italian): Form of Medieval Tuscan name Gualfredo, which derives from Ancient Germanic names Walahfrid and Walfrid. The roots of the former are the Ancient Germanic walha (stranger) and frid (peace), while the roots of the latter are the Gothic valdan (to reign) and Old High German fridu (peace).

Galib (Moorish Arabic): “Victor, winner.” The feminine form was Galiba.

Gangalando (Italian): Derived from an Ancient Germanic name with roots gang (path) and land (same meaning in English).

Garindo (Basque)

Garnier (French): Form of Werner, which derives from Ancient Germanic roots warin (guard) and hari (army).

Garsea (Spanish): Possibly derived from the Basque word hartz (bear).

Gatbay (Judeo–Catalan): Form of Hebrew name Gabbai, which possibly means “to dig.” In Aramaic, the word gabbai refers to a tax-collector, treasurer, or charity-collector.

Gelfrat (German): From High German roots gelf (boast, yelp) and rat (advice, counsel).

Gelmiro (Spanish)

Geragio (Italian)

Giuscard (Norman French): Form of Norman name Wischard, which derives from Old Norse roots viskr (wise) and hórðr (brave, hardy).

Gladman (English)

Glockrian, Glogryan (German): Form of Kalogreant, which derives from Arthurian name Calogrenant.

Glúniairn (Irish, Scandinavian): “Iron-kneed.”

Godlamb (English)

Goldhere (English)

Goldstan (English)

Gostislav (Slavic): “Guest’s glory,”  from roots gosti and slava.

Guildhelm (Dutch): Form of William, which derives from Ancient Germanic name Willahelm (roots wil [desire, will] and helm [helmet, protection]).

Gwenwynwyn (Welsh)

All about the name Gregory

Pope Gregory I (ca. 540–12 March 604), by Francisco de Zurbarán

Gregory is the English form of the Latin Gregorius, which in turn comes from the Greek Gregorios. The original roots are gregoros (alert, watchful) and gregorein (to watch). Thanks to folk etymology, the name also became associated with the Latin grex (stem form greg), which means “herd” or “flock.”

Thus, there arose an association with a shepherd carefully guarding his flock, and led to the name’s great popularity among popes and monks. To date, 16 popes have taken the name Gregory, tying it with Benedict as the next-most popular papal name after only John.

Austrian geneticist Gregor Mendel, 1822–1884

Because of the many saints, monks, and popes bearing this name, it’s been widely used through the Christian world for almost 2,000 years. In England, it’s been used since the 12th century. However, it had become much more uncommon by the late 19th century.

In 1880, it was #909 in the U.S., and was on and off the chart until it permanently came to stay in 1892. It gradually rose and fell until 1924, when it began picking up speed and moving up slowly but consistently. In 1945, it entered the Top 100 at #96.

Gregory leapt to #56 in 1946, and #33 in 1947. It entered the Top 25 in 1950, and remained there till 1967. In 1971, it again was #25. The name gradually descended, and had fallen to #361 by 2016.

The name’s rise to popularity was due to American actor Gregory Peck.

Gregory Peck, 1916–2003

Other forms of the name include:

1. Gregor is German, Icelandic, Slovak, Slovenian, and Scottish.

2. Grégoire is French.

3. Gregorio is Spanish and Italian. The alternate form Gregório is Portuguese.

4. Grigor is Bulgarian, Macedonian, Eastern Armenian, Albanian, and Welsh.

5. Krikor is Western Armenian.

6. Grigol is Georgian.

7. Gligor is Macedonian and Romanian.

8. Greger is Swedish and Norwegian.

9. Grigoriy is Russian. Nicknames include Grisha, Grishechka, and Grishenka.

10. Grigore is Romanian.

Henri Jean-Baptiste Grégoire (Abbé Grégoire), bishop, politician, reformer, abolitionist, revolutionary leader, 1750–1831

11. Gregers is Norwegian and Danish.

12. Griogair is Scottish.

13. Gréagóir is Irish.

14. Grzegorz is Polish. Nicknames include Grześ and Grzesiek.

15. Grega is Slovenian.

16. Řehoř is Czech.

17. Grigorijs is Latvian.

18. Grigalius is Lithuanian. Other Lithuanian forms are Grigorijus, Gregoras, and Gregas.

19. Hryhoriy is Ukrainian.

20. Reijo is Finnish.

Comedic Romanian actor Grigore Vasiliu Birlic, 1905–1970

21. Reko is another Finnish form.

22. Gregoor is a rare Dutch form.

23. Gergely (GER-gay) is Hungarian. The nickname is Gergő.

24. Grigorios is modern Greek.

25. Girgor is Maltese.

26. Gergori is Basque.

27. Drigo is Mordvin.

28. Grégori is Gascon. The alternate form Gregori is Catalan.

29. Gregoriu is Sardinian.

30. Gregorije is Serbian. Another Serbian form is Gligorije.

The Venerable Dr. José Gregorio Hernández (1864–1919), a Venezuelan national hero and folk figure

31. Guergorio is Aragonese.

32. Hrehary is Belarusian.

33. Kelekolio is Hawaiian.

34. Kӗrkuri is Chuvash.

35. Reigo is Estonian.

36. Grgur is Serbian and Croatian. The nickname is Grga.

37. Gërgur is Albanian.

38. Ryhor is Belarusian.

39. Grækaris is Faroese.

40. Gregors is Latvian.

Grigorios Xenopoulos (1867–1951), Greek writer and journalist

41. Grigorij is Macedonian.

42. Gregoria is an Italian, Spanish, and English feminine form.

43. Gregorie is a German feminine form. The variant Grégorie is French.

All about the name John

In honour of John Lennon’s 37th Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I felt it would be fitting to do a post about this most historically common of all male names, in just about every single language.

John comes from the Hebrew Yochanan, which means “God is gracious.” Its massive popularity over the ages originated thanks to John the Baptist and John the Apostle (traditionally-attributed author of the fourth Gospel and Book of Revelations).

Initially, the name was more common among Eastern Christians in the Byzantine Empire, but it took off like wildfire in the West after the First Crusade. It was particularly popular in England, where roughly a fifth of all boys received this name during the Late Middle Ages.

U.S. President John Quincy Adams, 11 July 1767–23 February 1848

Over the centuries, the name John, in all its linguistic variations, has been borne by countless writers, musicians, artists, scientists, philosophers, emperors, kings, popes, military leaders, politicians, and countless other types of people.

John was #1 in the U.S. from 1880–1923, and remained in the Top 5 until 1972. It was in the Top 10 until 1986, and the Top 20 until 2008. As of 2016, it was #28, a rank it previously held in 2012. The name has never charted any lower than this, though it feels like a breath of fresh air and original choice these days.

English poet John Keats, as painted by William Hilton, Halloween 1795–23 February 1821

Though it’s been a good many years since John was as common and popular as it once was, its continued presence in the Top 30 is a credit to its enduring appeal. It also still enjoys respectable popularity in Ireland (#28), Northern Ireland (#44), Scotland (#56), Canada (also #56), New Zealand (#85), Sweden (#87), Australia (#97), and England and Wales (#120).

John also used to be very popular in Norway, with a high rank of #10 in 1947. It fluctuated in popularity over the years, fell off the Top 100 in 2003, came back the next year, and then fell off again.

King John of England, 24 December 1166–19 October 1216, painted by Matthew Paris

Other forms of the name include:

1. Ivan is Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Slovenian, Czech, Slovak, Serbian, Croatian, Belarusian, Bosnian, Italian, Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish. The variation Iván is Spanish and Hungarian. The proper pronunciation, Ee-VAHN, is so beautiful, but the Anglo EYE-vinn just throws this gorgeous name away.

Nicknames include Vanya, Vanyechka, Vanyushka, Vanyusha, Vanyushechka, and Ivanko (Russian); Ivo, Vancho, Yanko (Bulgarian); Ivica, Ivo (Serbian and Croatian); and Vančo, Ivo (Macedonian).

Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, my fourth-favourite writer, 28 October/9 November 1818–3 September 1883

2. Ioann is the older Russian form.

3. Iwan is Polish and Welsh. The Polish one pronounces the W like a V.

4. Ivane is Georgian. The nickname is Vano.

5. Ioane is the older Georgian form.

6. Giannis is modern Greek.

7. Giovanni is Italian. Nicknames include Gianni, Gian, Vanni, and Giannino.

8. Gjon is Albanian.

9. Ion is Romanian and Basque. Romanian nicknames include Iancu, Ionuţ, Ionel, and Nelu.

10. Jon is Basque and Scandinavian. The variation Jón is Icelandic and Faroese. This is #4 in Iceland.

11. Ioan is Welsh and Romanian.

12. Joan is Catalan and Occitan.

13. Ganix is Basque.

14. João is Portuguese. This name is #2 in Portugal.

15. Yoan is Bulgarian.

Giovanni Boccaccio, author of The Decameron, 16 June 1313–21 December 1375, engraved 1822 by Raffaello Sanzio Morghen in the style of Vincenzo Gozzini

16. Jowan is Cornish.

17. Yahya is Persian, Arabic, and Turkish.

18. Janusz is Polish. One of the nicknames is Janek.

19. Johan is Dutch and Scandinavian. Nicknames include Hans, Hannes, Janne (Swedish); Hanke, Hanne, Hannes, Hans, Joop, Jo (Dutch); Jannik, Jannick, Hans (Danish); and Hans (Norwegian).

20. Jens is Scandinavian.

21. Jan is Scandinavian, Dutch, Catalan, Czech, Slovenian, German, and Polish. The variation Ján is Slovak, with the nickname Janko.

22. Yann is Breton, with the nickname Yannig.

23. Johann is German, with the familiar nickname Hans. The variation Jóhann is Icelandic.

24. Johannes is German, Dutch, Scandinavian, Estonian, and Finnish. The variant Jóhannes is Icelandic and Faroese.

25. Juhan is Estonian. The alternate form Juhán is Northern Sami.

German scientist and mathematician Johannes Kepler, 27 December 1571–15 November 1630

26. Juanne is Sardinian.

27. Giuanne is also Sardinian.

28. Yohanes is Indonesian.

29. Hovhannes is Armenian. Nicknames include Hovik and Hovo.

30. Ohannes is also Armenian.

31. Ghjuvan is Corsican.

32. Ean is Manx.

33. Juan is Spanish and Manx, with different pronunciations.

34. Xuan is Asturian.

35. Jaan is Estonian.

German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, 21/31 March 1685–28 July 1750, painted by Elias Gottlob Haussmann

36. Jean is French.

37. János is Hungarian, with nicknames including Jani and Jancsi.

38. Juhana is Finnish, with nicknames including Juho, Juha, Jussi, Jukka, Hannes, and Hannu.

39. Janne is also Finnish.

40. Joni is Finnish and Fijian.

41. Jani is also Finnish.

42. Juhani is another Finnish form.

43. Jouni is also Finnish.

44. Johano is Esperanto, with the nickname Joĉjo.

45. Yan is Belarusian.

French philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 28 June 1712–2 July 1778, painted by Maurice Quentin de La Tour

46. Yann is Breton and French.

47. Jovan is Macedonian and Serbian.

48. Xoán is Galician.

49. Jóannes is Faroese.

50. Keoni is Hawaiian.

51. Jānis is Latvian.

52. Jonas is Lithuanian.

53. Sjang is Limburgish.

54. Sjeng is also Limburgish.

55. Chuan is Aragonese.

Spanish artist Joan Miró, 20 April 1893–25 December 1983

56. Gensch is Sorbian.

57. Ghjuvanni is Corsican.

58. Gian is Romansh and Swiss–German.

59. Gioann is Piedmontese.

60. Ġwann is Maltese.

61. Hoani is Maori.

62. Hone is also Maori.

63. Jardani is Caló Romany.

64. Jeian is Filipino.

65. Sione is Tongan.

Romanian writer Ion Creangă, 1837/39–31 December 1889

66. Tihoti is Tahitian.

67. Xán is Galician.

68. Yehya is Uyghur.

69. Yohana is Swahili.

70. Yohannes is Amharic.

71. Jaqiya is Kazakh.

72. Iefan is Welsh. The more familiar Anglicization is Evan.

73. Ifan is also Welsh, with the nickname Ianto.

74. Ioannis is modern Greek.

75. Eoin is Scottish and Irish.

Polish sci-fi writer Janusz Andrzej Zajgel, 15 August 1938–19 July 1985

76. Seán is Irish.

77. Iain is Scottish.

78. Ian is also Scottish.

79. Siôn is Welsh.

80. Yoann is Breton and French.

81. Giuàn is Lombard.

82. Giuvanni is Sicilian.

83. Yovaan is Tamil.

84. Hankin is a Medieval English nickname.

85. Jankin is another Medieval English nickname.

86. Jackin is a variation of Jankin, and the origin of the nickname Jack.