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 Is of Slavic names

Female:

Iglika is a rare Bulgarian name meaning “primrose.”

Ilinka (Serbian, Macedonian, Croatian), Ilina (Bulgarian, Macedonian), Iliana (Bulgarian, Russian), and Ilijana (Serbian, Croatian) are feminine forms of Elijah, from the Hebrew name Eliyahu (my God is YHVH [the unpronounceable Tetragrammaton]).

Iskra means “spark” in Bulgarian, Serbian, Macedonian, and Croatian. This was also a popular Soviet name.

Ivančica means “daisy” in Croatian.

Izida (Russian, Bosnian, Ukrainian, Croatian) and Izyda (Polish) are forms of Isis, an Egyptian name which possibly means “the throne.” I truly hope this beautiful name eventually loses the current ugly associations with a terrorist organisation. They shouldn’t ruin such a gorgeous, historied name forever.

Izvorina means “source” in Serbian.

Male:

Illarion (Russian) and Ilarion (Bulgarian, Macedonian) are forms of the Greek name Hilarion (cheerful).

Isandr is the Russian form of the Greek name Isandros (equal of a man).

Iskren means “honest, sincere” in Bulgarian and Serbian. The feminine form is Iskrena.

Ivaylo may mean “wolf” in Bulgarian. This is often given as the name of a 13th century Tsar, though it’s also possible this stems from a 15th century misreading of his birth name, Vulo, on historical documents.

Izbygniew is derived from either Old Polish izba (hut, room) or modern Polish verb zbywać (to dispose, to dismiss), and Polish gniew (anger), from Slavic root gnev. The feminine form is Izbygniewa.

Iztok, Istok is a Slovenian, Serbian, and Croatian name derived from an Old Slavic root meaning “east.” The feminine form is Istoka.

Doubling up on vowels

I’ve always loved names with two of the same vowel in a row (often found in Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, and Greenlandic). I’ll feature more of these names in a future post, but for now, I’m focusing on names starting with two of the same vowel in a row.

Unisex:

Aajunnguaq means “dear older sibling” in Greenlandic.

Iimaan is the Somali form of Iman.

Ooquna is Greenlandic.

Uukkarnit means “calved ice” in Inuktitut.

Male:

Aabraham is Finnish. An alternate form is Aapo.

Aadam is Estonian.

Aadolf is Finnish, with alternate forms Aatu and Aatto. The lattermost also means “evening before, eve.”

Aage is the modern Norwegian and Danish form of Áki, an Old Norse nickname for names with the element Anu (father, ancestor).

Aali means “sublime, lofty, high” in Arabic.

Aamir is a variant of Amir (prince, commander). When rendered ‘Aamir, it means “substantial, prosperous.”

Aapeli is the Finnish form of Abel, which derives from the Hebrew Hevel (breath).

Aarne is the Finnish form of Arne, which originally was an Old Norse nickname for names starting in Arn (eagle).

Aaron is the English form of the Hebrew Aharon, which possibly means “exalted” or “high mountain.” Other sources suggest it’s more likely of unknown Egyptian origins.

Aarti is a Hindi and Marathi name taken from a ritual where candle and lamp offerings are made to deities, from Sanskrit aratrika. The Tamil form is Aarthi.

Aatami is the Finnish form of Adam.

Aatos means “thought” in Finnish.

Eeli is the Finnish form of Eli.

Eelis is the Finnish form of Elijah.

Eemeli is the Finnish form of Emil.

Eenokki is the Finnish form of Enoch.

Eerik is the Finnish form of Eric. Alternate forms are Eerikki and Eero.

Eetu is the Finnish form of Edward.

Iiggiti, or Iigiti, means “oak,” from Ancient Scandinavian eik. The name is Greenlandic.

Iikkila means “how sweet you are” in Greenlandic.

Iiku is the Finnish form of Igor.

Iisaja is the Greenlandic form of Isaiah.

Iisakki is the Finnish form of Isaac (he will laugh). Nicknames include Iikka and Iiro.

Iissát is the Sami form of Isaac.

Iivanni is the Greenlandic form of John.

Iivari is the Finnish form of Ivar.

Oochalata is Cherokee.

Ooqi is Greenlandic.

Uugi is the Greenlandic form of Áki. Another form is Ûge.

Uula is the Finnish form of Ola, a Swedish and Norwegian nickname for Olaf (ancestor’s descendant), and a nickname for Uljas (proud, gallant, noble, valiant). Another form is Oola.

Uularik is the Greenlandic form of Ulrich (prosperity and power). Another form is Uulorik.

Uuli is a Greenlandic form of Olaf. Another form is Uuluffi.

Uuloffi is a rare Finnish form of Olaf.

Uumaaq is a modern Greenlandic form of Ûmâk (green, fresh).

Uuno possibly means “one” in Finnish, from Latin unus, or is a male form of Una. It’s very rare today, owing to becoming an insult meaning “dumb, stupid.”

Uuttuaq is Greenlandic.

Female:

Aalis is the Medieval French form of Alice.

Aaliyah is the feminine form of Aali. As anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows, it got really popular and trendy thanks to the late singer Aaliyah Haughton.

Aamina, or Aaminah, is an alternative form of the Arabic Amina (feel safe).

Aamu means “morning” in Finnish.

Aava means “open, wide” in Finnish.

Eedit is the Estonian and Finnish form of Edith.

Eelisi is a Greenlandic form of Elizabeth.

Eerika is the Finnish form of Erica.

Eeva is the Finnish form of Eva. An alternate form is Eevi.

IidaIitu, and Iita are Finnish forms of Ida (labour, work). Sami forms are Iidá and Iiddá.

Iidaliisa is a rare Finnish name.

Iines is the Finnish form of Agnes (chaste; lamb).

Iingili is the Greenlandic form of Ingrid.

Iingka is the Greenlandic form of Inga.

Iintariina is the Greenlandic form of Henrietta.

Iiris is the Estonian and Finnish form of Iris (rainbow). A Finnish varation is Iiri.

Iisimaleq is Greenlandic.

Iista is the Greenlandic form of Esther. Another form is Eersta.

Oona, or Oonagh, is an alternate form of the Irish Úna (possibly meaning “lamb”). The first spelling is also Finnish. Its most famous bearer was Charles Chaplin’s fourth wife, Oona O’Neill, daughter of famous playwright Eugene. Their marriage was far and away Charles’s happiest and most successful, in spite of the 36-year age difference.

Uularikka is the Greenlandic form of Ulrika.

Uulina is a Greenlandic feminine form of Olaf.

Uullat is the Greenlandic form of Olga.

Uuriintuya means “light of dawn” in Mongolian.

The Is of Medieval names

Unisex:

Imake (Baltic, Livonian): “Miracle.” A male-only form of this name, from the same root im, is Imme.

Ishraq (Moorish Arabic): “Illumination, sunshine.”

Female:

Iaquinta (Italian): Probably a form of Jacinta (hyacinth).

Ihtizaz (Moorish Arabic): “Path of a fallen star.”

Ilcarthon (Cornish)

Ildaria (Spanish)

Illuminata (Italian): From a Latin word meaning “filled with light, illuminated.”

Ilsene (Baltic)

Ilža (Baltic)

Isengard (German): “Iron enclosure,” from roots isen and gard.

Isentrud (German): “Iron strength,” from roots isan and þruþ.

Iseut (English): Form of Isolde, a name of uncertain etymology. It may be Celtic, or might come from an Ancient Germanic name such as Ishild, with roots is (ice, iron) and hild (battle).

Islana (German)

Ismeria (German, Spanish, English): Possibly a feminine form of Ancient Germanic name Ismar (famous ice); a Picard form of an unknown Arabic name; a form of Ismenia; or a form of the Arabic name Asma (supreme) or Isma.

Iwerydd (Welsh): “The ocean,” from y werydd.

Male:

Iggelgoti (Dutch)

Ighulbiorn (Swedish): Form of Ancient Scandinavian name Ígulbiǫrn, from Old Norse roots ígull (sea urchin) or igull (hedgehog), and bjǫrn (bear).

Ighulfast (Swedish): Form of Ancient Scandinavian name Ígulfastr, from roots igull (hedgehod) and fastr (fast, firmly).

Ilmedous (Baltic and Livonian): Possibly related to the word ilma, which means “joy” in Livonian and “air” in Finnish.

Ilurdo (Basque): Possible from roots elur (snow) and urde (boar, swine).

Violet names

Violet Jessop (1887–1971), survivor of the sinking of the Titanic and Brittanic, and a collision of the Olympic, the oldest of the three sister ships

Violet is one of many formerly unfashionable names which has seen a stunning vault up the charts in recent years. It entered the U.S. Top 100 in 1901, at #91, and attained its highest rank of #74 in 1919. It slowly descended the chart, and fell out in 1972. In 1973, it returned at #926, but fell out again in 1975. Violet came back in 1981–82, and didn’t enter again till 1998.

In 2016, it had jumped quite a bit to become #47. The name seems to still be rising. It’s even more popular in Canada (#32), New Zealand (#44), and Australia (#43). It’s also popular in England and Wales (#65) and Scotland (#94).

Other forms of the name, and names whose meanings relate to the word “violet,” include:

1. Violette is French.

2. Violetta is Russian, Italian, and Hungarian. The alternate form Víóletta is Icelandic.

3. Violeta is Spanish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Serbian, and Macedonian.

4. Wioletta is Polish.

5. Wioleta is an alternate Polish form.

6. Ibolya (EE-bo-yah) is Hungarian.

7. Vjollca is Albanian.

8. Violetë is also Albanian.

9. Viola is English, Italian, German, Czech, Hungarian, and Scandinavian. The alternate form Víóla is Icelandic and Faroese.

10. Wiola is Polish.

U.S. artist Violet Oakley (1874–1961)

11. Iole is Greek.

12. Violante is Italian.

13. Yolande is French, and may be derived from Violante.

14. Yolanda is Spanish and English.

15. Jolanda is Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Croatian.

16. Jolana is Czech and Slovak.

17. Iolanda is Romanian, Italian, and Portuguese.

18. Jolanta is Polish and Lithuanian. One of the Polish nicknames is Jola.

19. Ljubica can mean “little violet” in Serbian and Croatian, in addition to “little love.”

20. Ione means “violet flower” in Greek.

French ballerina and choreographer Violette Verdy, née Nelly Armande-Guillerm (1933–2016)

21. Sigalit means “violet flower” in Hebrew.

22. Sigal means “violet, purple” in Hebrew.

23. Iolanthe is Greek and English, and means “violet flower.” Given the spelling and sound, its creation was doubtless influenced by Yolanda.

24. Ianthe means “violet flower” in Greek.

25. Calfuray is Mapuche, an indigenous language spoken in Argentina and Chile.

26. Banafsha, or Benafsha. is Persian.

27. Banovsha is Azeri.

28. Fioled is Welsh.

29. Fjóla is Icelandic and Faroese.

30. Ia is Greek and Georgian.

U.S. silent actor Viola Dana (1897–1987)

31. Kalili is a type of Hawaiian violet.

32. Manishag is Armenian.

33. Manoushag is also Armenian.

34. Manushaqe is Albanian.

35. Menekşe is Turkish.

36. Shouka can mean “violet sun fragrance” in Japanese.

37. Sumika can mean “violet summer,” “violet poetry,” “violet song,” “violet mist,” “violet river,” “violet air,” and “violet sky” in Japanese.