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 Bs of Slavic names

Male:

Bazilid is the Croatian form of the Greek Basileides (prince), ultimately from basileios (royal, regal).

Blagun means “pleasant, good, sweet” in Bulgarian and Macedonian. The feminine form is Blaguna.

Blizbor is an archaic Polish name derived from the elements bliz (near, close) and bor (struggle, fight).

Božidar (Serbian, Slovenian, Croatian), Bozhidar (Bulgarian, Macedonian), Bożydar (Polish) means “Divine gift.” I have a character named Božidar Brinarsky, a half-Slovak, half-Slovenian former schoolteacher turned progressive home tutor. He’s one of my many left-handed characters, and teaches his lefty students proper left-handed writing methods (forming the letters, angling the paper, holding the pen). Many teachers don’t understand writing must be taught differently for lefties!

Budivoj means “to wake up the army” in Czech, Serbian, and Croatian.

Bystrík means “smart, shrewd, quick-witted, sharp, fast” in Slovak.

Female:

Biljana (Serbian, Macedonian, Croatian), Bilyana (Bulgarian) may come from South Slavic root bilje (herb).

Biruta is the Belarusian, Polish, and Latvian form of the Lithuanian Birutė, which possibly derives from birti (to pour out, to scatter) and a diminutive suffix.

Bisera means “pearl” in Bulgarian and Macedonian. Its origin is Arabic.

Bistra means “clean, pure” in Bulgarian and Macedonian.

Blažena means “happy, blissful” in Czech and Slovak.

Bogdana means “given by God” in Russian, Slovenian, Macedonian, Romanian, Slovenian, Polish, Bulgarian, Serbian, and Croatian. I have a character by this name, who goes by the nickname Bogusya.

The As of Slavic names

This year, my A to Z theme is Slavic names—Russian, Polish, Czech, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Slovenian, Serbian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Belarusian, Slovak, Bosnian, and Croatian. My focus is on lesser-known names, not ones most people are familiar with, like Boris, Irina, Vera, and Pavel.

My posts will also try to avoid names with the roots Mil(a), Mir(a), and Slav/Sław(a), since I’ll be featuring those classes of names in future posts.

Female:

Agnieszka is the Polish form of Agnes. I’ve loved this name since I discovered it, and have a character with this name (who’s about an eighth Polish). It’s just so cute!

Ajda means “buckwheat” in Slovenian.

Akilina, Akulina is the Russian and Belarusian form of Aquilina, a diminutive of Latin name Aquila (eagle).

Almira is the Bosnian feminine form of Al-Amir, which means “the commander, the prince” in Arabic. Many Bosnian names are of Arabic and Turkic origin.

Amina is the Bosnian form of Aminah, which means “truthful” in Arabic.

Anfisa is the Russian form of the Greek Anthousa, which derives from anthos (flower).

Male:

Alizar is Russian and Belarusian. It looks like it may be of Arabic origin.

Aniket is the Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian form of Aniketos, which means “unconquerable” in Greek.

Antim is the Bulgarian, Romanian, and Croatian form of Anthimos, derived from anthos.

Ardaryk is the Polish form of Ardaric, a form of Ancient Germanic Hardaric. This was a 5th century king of the Gepids.

Aristip is the Croatian, Romanian, and Catalan form of Aristippos, which means “the best horse” in Greek.

Avakum is the Serbian form of Habakkuk, which means “embrace” in Hebrew, from root chavak.

The many forms of Leah

Dante’s Vision of Leah and Rachel, Marie Spartall Stillman, 1887

Leah probably comes from a Hebrew word meaning “weary.” It may also be related to the Akkadian littu (cow). Though I’m not keen on the English LEE-a pronunciation, I love the Hebrew and French LEY-a (i.e., like Princess Leia’s name).

Leah has always been a common Jewish name, for obvious reasons, but wasn’t common among Christians until the Protestant Reformation. It was particularly popular among Puritans.

The name has gone up and down in popularity in the U.S. for a long time, and was in the Top 100 from 1979–93, again in 1996, and then from 2000 through the present. Its highest rank to date was #24 in 2010. In 2017, it was #40.

Hungarian-born actor Lya De Putti, 1897–1931

Leah is #24 in Norway; #29 in Ireland; #30 in Sweden; #47 in Northern Ireland; #58 in Scotland; #76 in New Zealand; and #99 in England and Wales.

The variation Lea is German, Scandinavian, Finnish, Dutch, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Polish, Estonian, and Yoruba. Léa is French. This spelling is #6 (as Lea) and #65 (as Léa) in Switzerland; #8 in France; #10 in Austria; #18 in Belgium; #46 in Slovenia; #48 in Denmark; #83 in Norway; #84 in Bosnia; and #90 in Sweden.

Other forms include:

1. Lya is modern French.

2. Lia is Italian, Portuguese, Georgian, and Greek. The alternate form Lía is Galician and Spanish; Lîa is Greenlandic; and Liä is Tatar.

3. Leja is Slovenian and Croatian. The alternate form Lejá is Sami, and Lėja is Lithuanian.

4. Leia is Biblical Greek, and of course well-known from Star Wars.

5. Leya is Yiddish.

6. Laya is Arabic.

7. Liya is Amharic and Russian.

8. Leea is an uncommon Finnish form.

9. Leija is a rare Finnish and Estonian form, and modern Swedish. This is also the Finnish word for “kite.”

10. Liia is Estonian and Finnish.

11. Lija is Latvian, Dutch, Slovenian, and Serbian.

The many forms of Noah

Noah, a name which presumably 99.99999% of everyone recognises from the famous Biblical story, comes from the Hebrew root nuach (repose, rest). It became widespread in the Anglophone world during the Protestant Reformation, and was particularly popular among Puritans.

This name has been leaping up the U.S. charts since 1988. It entered the Top 100 in 1995, at exactly #100, and was #1 from 2013–16. In 2017, it was #2.

The name also enjoys great popularity around the world. It’s #1 in Switzerland; #2 in Denmark; #3 in Australia, New Zealand, and Northern Ireland; #4 in Belgium, Norway, and England and Wales; #5 in Scotland and The Netherlands; #6 in Ireland; #9 in Sweden; #17 in Austria and France; #67 in Portugal; #76 in Catalonia; #77 in Italy; and #93 in Spain.

American lexicographer Noah Webster (1758–1843), by Samuel Finley Breese Morse

Other forms of this extremely popular name include:

1. Noé is French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Hungarian. The variant Noè is Italian; Nóe is Irish; Noe is Alsatian, Georgian, Romanian, Polish, Greek, and Czech; and Noë is Dutch.

2. Noach is Hebrew and Dutch.

3. Noak is Swedish.

4. Nojus is Lithuanian.

5. Nooa is Finnish.

6. Nuh is Arabic and Turkish.

7. Noa is Hawaiian, Maori, Tongan, Yoruba, Serbian, and Croatian. The alternate form Nóa is Faroese.

8. Nói is Icelandic and Faroese. This may also be a separate name drawn from the Icelandic word nói (small vessel).

9. Noy is Armenian, Russian, and Bulgarian.

10. Noass is Latvian. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t recommend this spelling in an Anglophone country!

11. Nuhu is Arabic.

Georgian journalist and politician Noe Zhordania, 1868–1953

Feminine forms:

1. Noa is Hebrew, and quite a popular name. Though it truly transliterates as Noah, most people use the spelling Noa to avoid confusion with what everyone knows as an unmistakably male name.

Contrary to what many name sites report, this is also a completely separate name from the familiar Biblical name. In the Bible, Noa is one of the five righteous daughters of Tzelofehad. The name means “motion, movement.”

2. Noja is Lithuanian.