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.


All about the name Francis

Saint Francis of Assisi (ca. 1182–3 October 1226), by Jusepe de Ribera, 1643

Francis is the English and French form of the Latin Franciscus (Frenchman), which ultimately derives from the Germanic tribe the Franks. They were named for a kind of spear they used. The name became popular in Christian Europe because of the abovepictured St. Francis of Assisi (né Giovanni). His Francophile father nicknamed him Francesco.

St. Francis renounced his dad’s wealth and devoted his life to serving the poor and downtrodden. He also founded the Franciscan order. Because of his popularity and how beloved he was, the name became widespread in continental Western Europe in the Middle Ages. It was only in the 16th century that it became common in Britain, however.

The name was #50 when the U.S. began tracking name popularity in 1880, and stayed in the Top 100 till 1955. Its top rank was #29 in 1915. Though Frances is well-established for females, Francis was fairly common for girls during this same time.

In 2018, the name was #480 in the U.S., and in 2017, it was #232 in England and Wales.

Frank Sinatra (1915–1998), often called the quintessential Sagittarian man

The variant Frank has always been more popular. It was #6 in the U.S. in 1880, and stayed in the Top 10 till 1922, the Top 20 till 1940, the Top 50 till 1970, and the Top 100 till 1988. In 2018, it was #392. This was also a mainstay in the girls’ Top 1000 (albeit mostly in the lower reaches) through the 1930s.

Frank was #32 in Sweden in 2018, and #181 in England and Wales in 2017.

Other forms include:

1. Franz is German.

2. Frans is Dutch, Finnish, and Scandinavian.

3. Francesco is Italian.

4. Francisco is Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician.

5. François is French.

6. Frens is Limburgish.

7. Francescu is Corsican.

8. Frantziscu is Sardinian.

9. František is Czech and Slovak.

10. Frantzisko is Basque.

1815 self-portrait of Spanish painter Francisco de Goya (1746–1828)

11. Patxi is another Basque form.

12. Franjo is Slovenian, Serbian, and Croatian. I’m told it’s rather rare in Serbia nowadays, and that Franja is more common, albeit just as rare.

13. Frančišek is Slovenian.

14. Franc (FRAHNTS) is also Slovenian.

15. Franciszek is Polish.

16. Frañsez is Breton.

17. Francesc is Catalan.

18. Ferenc (Feh-REHNTS) is Hungarian. Nicknames include Feri and Ferkó.

19. Frang is Scottish.

20. Ffrancis is Welsh.

Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771), who designed many Imperial Russian buildings; probably painted by Lucas Conrad Pfandzelt

21. Pranciškus is Lithuanian.

22. Proinsias is Irish.

23. Ċikku is Maltese.

24. Fragkiskos is Greek.

25. Francëszk is Kashubian.

26. Francho is Aragonese.

27. Francisc is Romanian.

28. Frantsishak is Belarusian.

29. Franġisk is Maltese.

30. Franziskus is German.

Hungarian novelist and playwright Ferenc Molnár, 1878–1952

31. Frantsisk is Russian and Bulgarian.

32. Fraunçouès is Norman.

33. Porinju is Malayalam, an Indian language.

34. Prainsseas is Scottish.

35. Pranchi is another Malayalam form, used in central Kerala.

36. Françesku is Albanian.

37. Francisko is Esperanto.

38. Palakiko is Hawaiian.

39. Francisks is Latvian.

40. Francés is Occitan.

French writer Françoise de Graffigny, 1695–1758

Frances didn’t emerge as a female-only name till the 17th century. Prior, Francis and Frances were used indistinguishably. The name was #42 in the U.S. in 1880, and slowly rose to its highest rank of #8 in 1918. It very slowly descended the chart, exiting the Top 100 in 1956. In 2018, it was #445.

Other forms include:

1. Francesca is Italian and Catalan.

2. Francisca is Spanish and Portuguese.

3. Franciska is Hungarian. Nicknames include Franci and Fanni. The alternate form Frančiška is Slovenian, with the nickname Francka.

4. Frangag is Scottish.

5. Frañseza is Breton.

6. Frantziska is Basque.

7. Františka is Czech.

8. Françoise is French.

9. Franciszka is Polish.

10. Frantzisca is Sardinian.

U.S. photographer and journalist Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1866–1952

11. Francine is English and French.

12. Fragkiska is a rare Greek form.

13. Franka is Croatian.

14. Franziska is German, and the name of the most infamous royal pretender of all time, Franziska Schanzkowska. I’m stunned there are still Anastasians convinced she was who she claimed to be! Countless DNA tests from multiple labs and countries, and a wealth of other damning evidence, have exposed the truth once and for all!

15. Franjica is Croatian.

16. Fransiska is Scandinavian and Icelandic.

17. Pranciška is Lithuanian.

18. Frančeska is Latvian.

19. Francëszka is Kashubian.

Dante and Virgil with Paolo and Francesca, painted by Ary Scheffer, ca. 1835, depicting tragic lovers Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta

20. Francheska is Russian and Bulgarian.

21. Franckage is Manx.

22. Frantzeska is Greek.

23. Jofranka is Romani.

24. Pantxika is Basque and Occitan.

The many forms of Eleanor

Queen Eleanor of Aquitane (1122 or 1124–1 April 1204), painted 1858 by Frederick Sandys

The name Eleanor, in the U.S. Top 100 in 1895 and again from 1897–42 (with its highest rank of #25 in 1920), is now quite trendy again. It began slowly rising in 1987, and was up to #32 in 2018. It’s not such a secret that more than a few parents choosing this name just want the trendy nicknames Ella and Nora.

Eleanor is also fairly popular in England and Wales, at #54, and New Zealand, at #76.

The name derives from the Old French form of the Occitan name Aliénor. One of the earliest known bearers was the above-pictured Queen Eleanor of Aquitane, named for her mother Aenor (of unknown etymology) and called alia Aenor, “the other Aenor,” to tell them apart.

It’s uncertain if other early bearers were Aenors to whom the name was retroactively recorded, or if the name has an alternate etymology.

Other forms of this name include:

1. Eleonore is German and Breton.

2. Eléonore is French. A variant is Éléonore.

3. Eleonora is Russian, Polish, Italian, German, Dutch, Scandinavian, Ukrainian, Greek, Bulgarian, Georgian, Czech, Latvian, Slovenian, Croatian, and Icelandic. The variant Eleonóra is Hungarian and Slovak.

4. Eleonoora is Finnish.

5. Eleonor is a Swedish variant.

6. Leonor is Portuguese and Spanish.

7. Leonora is Spanish, Italian, and Latvian.

8. Ellinor is Scandinavian.

9. Eilionoir is Scottish. The nickname is Eilidh.

10. Elinor is English.

Holy Roman Empress Eleonora Gonzaga (1598–1655), painted ca. 1623/24 by Justus Sustermans

11. Eleanora is English and Belarusian.

12. Elenora is also English.

13. Elnora is another English form.

14. Lenora is English, and is also an independent invented Soviet name meaning “Lenin is our weapon.” Some fool at Behind the Name thought my comment indicated I believed the name was created in the USSR and has no other etymology or history. Absolutely nowhere did I indicate I was ignorant of its other usage!

15. Leanora is English.

16. Lenore is English, most famous as the dead love interest in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” I have a character by this name, who indeed was named for the literary character.

17. Elionor is Catalan.

18. Alionor is Aragonese.

19. Eilénóra is Irish.

20. Eilionora is also Irish.

British novelist Elinor Glyn (1864–1943), whose work was hugely influential on early 20th century popular culture

21. Ailionóra is a rare Irish form.

22. Elenola is Hawaiian.

23. Eleonoor is Dutch.

24. Elianora is Sardinian.

25. Elinore is English.

26. Ellinoora is Finnish.

27. Léionore is Norman.

28. Lenoa is Provençal.

29. Llinor is Welsh.

30. Lonore is a rare Basque form. The variant Lonôre is Jèrriais.

The many forms of Christopher and Christina

Saint-Christophe, by Claude Bassot, 1607

Christopher, which comes from the Greek Christophoros (Christ-bearer), has been an extremely popular name since the Middle Ages. Contemporary evidence shows the Saint Christopher of legend may have actually been the historical Saint Minas of Egypt. Though he was removed from the liturgical calendar in 1969, Christopher is still very much a saint. Decanonization isn’t a thing.

The name began rising in popularity in the U.S. in 1939, and entered the Top 100 in 1949. It continued rising, and broke the Top 10 at #9 in 1967. Christopher was #3 and #2 from 1972–95, and remained in the Top 10 till 2009. In 2017, it was #38.

Danish statesman Christoffer Gabel (1617–73), by Karel van Mander III

Other forms include:

1. Christoffer is Scandinavian.

2. Cristoforo is Italian.

3. Cristóvão is Portuguese.

4. Cristóbal is Spanish.

5. Christoffel is Dutch.

6. Christophe is French.

7. Críostóir is Irish.

8. Christoph is German.

9. Kristoffer is Scandinavian.

10. Kristóf is Hungarian. The variant Krištof is Slovenian and Slovak.

King Christopher of Scandinavia, 1416–48

11. Kristaps is Latvian.

12. Kristupas is Lithuanian.

13. Krzysztof is Polish, with nicknames including Krzyś and Krzysiek. RZ is pronounced like the Russian ZH and the other Polish letter Ż, though I’m told RZ and Ż were historically pronounced slightly differently.

14. Kristofor is Croatian.

15. Hristofor is Bulgarian and Macedonian.

16. Risto is Finnish.

17. Ħamallu is Maltese.

18. Christoli is Gascon.

19. Crìsdean is Scottish.

20. Cristofanu is Corsican.

Polish military leader and poet Krzysztof Arciszewski, 1592–1656

21. Cristofo is Aragonese.

22. Cristòfuru is Sicilian.

23. Cristoc’h is Breton.

24. Cristolu is Sardinian.

25. Cristovo is Galician.

26. Cristovam is Brazilian–Portuguese.

27. Karistorfe is Greenlandic.

28. Kilikopela is Hawaiian.

29. Kristdapor is Armenian.

30. Kristafár is Faroese.

Self-portrait of Venezuelan painter Cristóbal Rojas, 1857–90

31. Kristapor is Armenian.

32. Kristobal is Basque.

33. Kristepore is Georgian.

34. Kito is Sorbian.

35. Khristofor is Russian.

36. Khrystofor is Ukrainian.

37. Kristófer is Icelandic.

38. Kristoforas is Lithuanian.

39. Kristoffur is Faroese.

40. Kristoforid is Albanian.

Duke Christoph of Württemberg, 1515–68

41. Kristoforo is Esperanto.

42. Kristofru is Maltese.

43. Krisztofer is Hungarian.

44. Stöffu is Swiss–German.

Queen Kristina of Sweden (1626–89), by Sébastien Bourdon

Christina has its origins in the Latin name Christiana, a feminine form of Christian. It was Top 100 in the U.S. from 1964–2002, with its highest rank of #12 in 1985. By 2017, it had plummeted to #408.

The French form Christine was Top 100 in the U.S. from 1942–93, with the highest rank of #14 from 1967–70. In 2017, it was #785. The name was also hugely popular in France from 1943–83, with a high of #3 in 1960–61. Today, it’s no longer on the charts.

Kristina enjoyed somewhat more modest popularity in the U.S. during the Seventies and Eighties, with a high of #57 in 1985. This spelling is also German, Scandinavian, Russian, Bulgarian, Slovenian, Czech, Serbian, Lithuanian, Faroese, and Croatian. The variant Kristína is Slovak; Kristīna is Latvian; and Kristîna is Greenlandic.

Norwegian biologist Kristine Bonnevie, Norway’s first female professor, 1872–1948

Other forms include:

1. Krystyna is Polish, and my favourite form of the name. I love how Polish names often use Y in place of I. I also love the nickname Krysia.

2. Kristine is German and Scandinavian. The variant Kristīne is Latvian.

3. Krisztina is Hungarian.

4. Kristýna is Czech.

5. Kristiina is Estonian and Finnish.

6. Kristiana is Scandinavian and Croatian. The alternate form Kristiāna is Latvian.

7. Kristjana is Icelandic. Another Icelandic form is Kristín.

8. Kistiñe is Basque.

9. Cristiana is Italian and Portuguese.

10. Cristina is Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian.

Medieval French feminist writer Christine de Pizan, 1364–1430

11. Khrystyna is Ukrainian.

12. Kirsten is Danish and Norwegian.

13. Kjerstin is Swedish and Norwegian.

14. Kerstin is Swedish.

15. Krystiana is Polish.

16. Kilikina is Hawaiian.

17. Hristina is Serbian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian.

18. Christiane is French and German.

19. Cairistìona is Scottish.

20. Kristiane is German.

British poet Christina Rossetti (1830–94), by her brother Dante Gabriel

21. Cristíona is Irish.

22. Kristiinná is Sami.

23. Kristin is German and Scandinavian.

The many forms of Magdalena

The Repentant Magdalen, Philippe de Champaigne, 1648

Some people express surprise the name Magdalena, so popular for so long in Europe and parts of Latin America, isn’t particularly common in the Anglophone world. It is, but the onomastic connection may not be so immediately obvious. English-speakers know this name as Madeline.

Magdalena, used in German, Dutch, Romanian, Spanish, Catalan, the Scandinavian languages, Occitan, the Southern Slavic languages, Polish, and English; Czech, Slovak, Hungarian (as Magdaléna); Latvian (as Magdalēna); and Icelandic (as Magðalena), comes from the Latin Magdalene. That in turn derives from a title meaning “of Magdala.” Magdala is a village on the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kineret), meaning “tower” in Hebrew.

Though nothing in the Bible calls Mary Magdalene a prostitute, she’s historically been conflated with Mary of Bethany and an unnamed “sinful woman” who anoints Jesus’s feet in Luke 7:36–50. Since the Middle Ages, this apocryphal story has snowballed, and many people still think she was a prostitute, decades after this misinformation was officially corrected.

Painted ca. 1520–40, by a group of Flemish artists retroactively named Master with the Parrot

Magdalena is #20 in Austria; #31 in Poland; and #65 in the Czech Republic (#33 as Magdaléna). The English form, Madeline, was in the U.S. Top 100 from 1994–2016. Its highest rank to date was #50 in 1998.

It’s rather depressing to see the kreatyv spylyng Madelyn is much more popular, Top 100 since 2008. In 2017, it was #63. If you’ve been paying attention to name popularity charts over the last 20 years, it’s obvious this name has become so trendy because it sounds similar to the massively overused Madison, and still produces the overused nickname Maddie. It’s like how Jessica replaced Jennifer, and Emma, Amelia, and Amalia have successively replaced Emily.

Danish artist Magdalene Bärens, 1737–1808

Other forms of the name include:

1. Madeleine is French, and used to be extraordinarily popular. It was Top 10 from 1900–27, with the highest rank of #3 from 1914–24. It remained in the Top 20 till 1938, was in the Top 50 till 1947, and in the Top 100 till 1955. This name is also #78 in Australia.

2. Magdalina is Russian and Bulgarian.

3. Magdolna is Hungarian. It’s unreal how many times this name pops up in the interviews from the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive! If the witness isn’t named Magda herself, her testimony includes at least one friend or relative named Magda. Lili is also a hugely oversaturated name in these interviews. The name is still Top 20 in modern Hungary.

4. Maddalena is Italian.

5. Mădălina is Romanian.

6. Matleena is Finnish.

7. Madailéin is Irish.

8. Maialen is Basque.

9. Magdalini is modern Greek.

10. Magali is Occitan.

Titanic survivor Madeleine Astor, 1893–1940

11. Madalena is Portuguese.

12. Magdaleena is Finnish.

13. Madli is Estonian.

14. Maguelone is Provençal and a rare French variant.

15. Malane is Manx.

16. Matxalen is Basque.

17. Maclaina is Romansh.

18. Madalen is Breton and Basque.

19. Madlena is Sorbian, as well as a Georgian, Bulgarian, German, and Croatian variant.

20. Madlaina is Swiss–German and Romansh.

Madeleine Brès (1842–1921), first Frenchwoman to earn a medical degree

21. Madelena is Medieval Spanish and Portuguese.

22. Magdalin is Medieval German.

23. Magdaline is Creole. Another Creole form is Magdaleine.

24. Matale is Basque.

25. Mátalîna is Greenlandic.