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.

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The many forms of Louis and Louisa

Louis was a Top 100 name in the U.S. from 1880–1959, with a peak of #18 in 1882. It gradually began falling in popularity during the 1920s, and fell out of the Top 50 in 1942. In 2009, it reached its lowest rank of #353. In 2016, it was #289.

Louis is the French form of Ludovicus, which in turn is the Latinized form of the German Ludwig. Its ultimate origin is the Old Germanic Chlodovech, which is composed of the elements hlud (famous) and wig (battle, war).

Louisa likewise has seen much more popular days, though it was never close to as popular as Louis. Its highest rank was #119 in 1881, and its final year in the Top 1000 was 1969, when it was #954. It only re-entered in 2014, at #971. By 2016, it was #825.

The French and English variant form Louise has historically been more popular than Louisa. It was in the Top 100 from 1880–1948, with the highest rank of #17, from 1912–14. Like its counterparts, it gradually began sinking, and fell out of the Top 1000 in 1988. It re-entered in 1990, fell out again in 1992, and had another re-entrance in 2016, at #895.

Louise is much more popular in France (#1) and Belgium (#2). It’s also fairly popular in Norway (#75), Switzerland (#73), and The Netherlands (#101). Louis also enjoys more popularity outside the U.S. It’s #1 in Belgium, #4 in France, #12 in Switzerland, #59 in Australia, #71 in England and Wales, and #82 in New Zealand.

Other forms of these names include:

Male:

1. Ludwik is Polish.

2. Ludwig is German.

3. Ludvig is Scandinavian, with the nickname Ludde.

4. Ludoviko is Esperanto, with the nickname Lučjo.

5. Lodewijk is Dutch, with nicknames including Ludo and Lowie.

6. Loïc is Breton and French.

7. Ludovico is Italian.

8. Lodovico is an Italian variant.

9. Ludis is Latvian.

10. Ludvigs is also Latvian.

11. Liudvikas is Lithuanian.

12. Lluís is Catalan.

13. Luis is Spanish, with the nickname Lucho. The variant Luís is Portuguese.

14. Lúðvík is Icelandic. The alternate form Ludvík is Czech, with the nickname Luděk.

15. Loís is Occitan. The variant Lois is Galician.

16. Ludovic is French.

17. Luigi is Italian, with nicknames including Gino and Luigino.

18. Luiz is Brazilian–Portuguese.

19. Lodosis is Aragonese.

20. Loeiz is Breton.

21. Loudovikos is a rare Greek form.

22. Loys is Gascon.

23. Lûíse is Greenlandic.

24. Lujo is Croatian.

25. Luui is Greenlandic.

26. Lüwi is Alsatian.

27. Koldobika is Basque, with the nickname Koldo.

28. Alajos is Hungarian.

29. Alojz is Slovak, Slovenian, and Croatian. The Slovenian nickname is Lojze.

30. Alojzij is Slovenian.

31. Alojzije is Croatian.

32. Aloysius is the Latinized form of Aloys, an archaic Occitan form of Louis.

33. Alois is German and Czech.

34. Alojzy is Polish.

35. Aloisio is Italian.

36. Alvise is Venetian.

37. Aloísio is Portuguese.

38. Alaois is Irish.

39. Aloxi is Basque.

40. Rewi is Maori.

41. Ruihi is also Maori.

42. Lajos is Hungarian.

Female:

1. Luisa is Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Czech, Slovak, German, Dutch, and Croatian. The variant Luísa is Portuguese.

2. Luiza is Russian, Romanian, Polish, and Brazilian–Portuguese.

3. Lujza is Hungarian and Slovak.

4. Louiza is Greek.

5. Liudvika is Lithuanian.

6. Loviise is Estonian.

7. Lovise is Norwegian and Danish.

8. Lovisa is Swedish.

9. Lluïsa is Catalan.

10. Ludwika is Polish.

11. Loviisa is Finnish.

12. Ludovica is Italian.

13. Luigia is also Italian, with nicknames including Gina and Luigina.

14. Luise is German.

15. Alojzia is Slovak.

16. Aloiziya is Bulgarian.

17. Alojzija is Slovenian and Croatian.

18. Lavīze is a rare Latvian form.

19. Loeiza is Breton.

20. Loïsa is Occitan.

21. Loisa is Galician.

22. Ludovique is a rare French form.

23. Luīze is Latvian.

24. Lüwiss is Alsatian.

25. Ruiha is Maori.

The many forms of Gabriel and Gabriella

Gabriel entered the U.S. Top 100 in 1976, at #81, and stayed near the lower reaches of the chart till falling out in 1988. It re-entered at #82 in 1991, and began steadily climbing up the charts. Its highest position to date has been #21, in 2010. As of 2016, it was #25.

The name is also rather popular in France (#1), Switzerland (#4), Romania (#4), Belgium (#11), Portugal (#11), Croatia (#19), Chile (#19), Galicia (#25), Canada (#27), Italy (#27), Mexico (#35), Iceland (#37), Austria (#38), Spain (#39), Sweden (#42), Poland (#46), Norway (#47), Catalonia (#55), Slovenia (#66), England and Wales (#67), Australia (#78), New Zealand (#89), and the Czech Republic (#92).

This spelling is used in English, French, Finnish, the Scandinavian languages, Slovak, Czech, German, Georgian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish. The alternate form Gabriël is Dutch, Gábriel is Hungarian, and Gabríel is Icelandic.

Gabrielle, one of the feminine forms, is English and French. In France, it’s #74, and in the U.S., it’s fallen to #225, after peaking at #46 in 1999. The alternate form Gabriëlle is Dutch.

Gabriella is English, Hungarian, Swedish, and Italian. In the U.S., it’s #61, down from a peak of #33 from 2009–11. The alternate form Gabriëlla is Dutch, and Gabríella is Icelandic.

Gabriela is Polish, Bulgarian, Slovak, Czech, German, Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese, and Croatian. It’s #8 in Romania, #19 in Poland, #29 in Portugal, #30 in the Czech Republic, #36 in Croatia, #50 in Mexico, #56 in Chile, #73 in Spain, and #252 in the U.S. The alternate form Gabríela is Icelandic.

Other forms include:

Male:

1. Gabriels is Latvian.

2. Gabrielius is Lithuanian.

3. Gavriel is the original Hebrew. It means “God is my strong man.”

4. Gavrel is Yiddish.

5. Gavriil is Russian.

6. Gavril is Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Romanian.

7. Gavrail is Bulgarian.

8. Gábor is Hungarian.

9. Gavrilo is Serbian. This form was famously borne by Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and started the First World War.

10. Gabrijel is Slovenian and Croatian.

11. Havryyil is Ukrainian.

12. Kaapo is Finnish. An alternate form is Kaappo.

13. Kaapro is also Finnish.

14. Gabriele is Italian.

15. Jabril is Arabic.

16. Jibril is also Arabic.

17. Dzhabrail is Chechen.

18. Cabbrieli is Sicilian.

19. Djibril is Western African.

20. Džibril is Bosnian.

21. Cebraîl is Kurdish.

22. Cəbrayil is Azeri.

23. Crabiele is Sardinian.

24. Gabirel is Basque.

25. Gabrielo is Esperanto.

26. Gābriyēl is Telugu.

27. Kapriel is Armenian.

28. Gabriyel is also Armenian.

29. Gaibrial is Irish.

30. Gavrylo is Ukrainian.

31. Gēbriyal is Kannadan.

32. Gēbriyala is Hindi and Gujarati.

33. Habryyel is Belarusian.

34. Haŭryil is also Belarusian.

35. Jebreil is Persian.

36. Jiboraeel is Bengali.

37. Jibriil is Somali.

38. Kapeliela is Hawaiian.

39. Kâpriale is Greenlandic.

40. Kēpriyal is Tamil.

41. Xhebraili is Albanian. The XH sound is pronounced like the J in Jupiter.

42. Zibrail is Sylheti.

43. Cebrail is Turkish.

Female:

1. Gavriela, or Gavriella, is Hebrew.

2. Gavrilla is an alternate Hebrew form.

3. Gavrela is Yiddish.

4. Havyryyila is Ukrainian.

5. Kaapriella is Finnish.

6. Gabrielė is Lithuanian.

7. Gabriele is German.

8. Gabrijela is Croatian.

9. Gavrila is Romanian. An alternate form is Gavrilă.

Pumpkin names

Continuing with the theme of Halloween names, here’s a list of words meaning “pumpkin.” Most of these aren’t used as names in their respective languages of origin, and so might work better on a pet or fictional character. Some, however, might work as names on real humans.

I left out words that didn’t sound so much like they could double as names. For example, the Korean word “hobag” would NOT be a good idea in an Anglophone country!

Bostan is Romanian.

Calabaza is Spanish.

Carbassa is Catalan.

Kabak is Turkish and Ukrainian.

Kabocha is Japanese.

Kaddi is Nepali.

Kaddu is Hindi.

Kadu is Tajik.

Kalabasa is Cebuano, an Austronesian language spoken in The Philippines. This is also the Filipino word.

Kalabaza is Basque.

Kara Safra is one of the Arabic words for pumpkin. In this case, it literally means “yellow gourd.”

Kukurbo is Esperanto.

Nangua is Mandarin Chinese.

Taub is Hmong. This is a female name.

Tikva is Bosnian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian. This is an entirely separate name from the Hebrew name Tikva(h), which means “hope.”

Tykva is Russian.

Olive names

Oliver has barreled up the U.S. charts in recent years, going from #173 in 2006 to #12 in 2016. The name is #1 in Canada, England and Wales, New Zealand, and Australia. It’s also very popular in Denmark (#4), Finland (#5), Norway (#2), Sweden (#7), Scotland (#3), Iceland (#6), Northern Ireland (#6), Hungary (#21), Ireland (#31), Galicia (#40), and the Czech Republic (#33).

The alternate form Olivér is Hungarian, and Ólíver, or Óliver, is Icelandic.

Olivia has likewise barreled up the U.S. charts, going from #248 in 1985 to a so far three-year reign as #2 from 2014–16. Olive, not too long ago largely written off as a musty old lady name, may be poised to become a replacement for Olivia, the way Jessica supplanted Jennifer and Amelia supplanted Emma supplanted Emily. It fell off the U.S. charts in 1951, and re-entered at #989 in 2007. In 2016, it was #272, while in Australia, it was #90, and in New Zealand, it was #43. In England and Wales, it was #176.

The alternate form Olívia is Hungarian, Slovak, and Portuguese. Ólivía is Icelandic.

There are several possible etymologies for Olivia, among them the possible connection to the Latin word oliva (olive). And though Oliver comes from either an Old Germanic name like Alfher (elf army, elf warrior) or an Old Norse name like Áleifr (ancestor’s descendant; the original form of Olaf), the spelling came to be changed by association with the Latin word oliva.

If the trendiness and popularity of those names puts you off, there are plenty of other forms of these names.

Male:

Oilibhéar is Irish.

Oliber is Gascon. This spelling is considered archaic today.

Ólivar is Faroese.

Oliverio is Latin American–Spanish.

Olivers is Latvian.

Olivey is modern Gascon.

Olivier is French and Dutch.

Oliviero is Italian.

Olivur is Faroese.

Oliwer is Polish.

Oliwier is an alternate Polish form.

Oliwjer is also Polish.

Ölu is Swiss–German.

Female:

Moria was the word for a sacred olive tree in Ancient Greek.

Oliivia is Estonian.

Oliva is Latin.

Olivera is Serbian, Macedonian, and Croatian.

Olivette is French, from the title character of Edmond Audran’s 1879 opera Les Noces d’Olivette.

Oliviana is English, Spanish, and Italian.

Olivie is French and Czech. In Czech, the last two letters are pronounced separately instead of as one.

Olivienne is English.

Oliviera is Italian.

Oliviette is English.

Olivija is Macedonian, Lithuanian, and Croatian. The alternate form Olīvija is Latvian.

Olivina is Faroese.

Oliviya is Bulgarian.

Oliwia is Polish.

Ouliva is Asturian, a language spoken in northern Spain.