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.

Francesca and Frederick

F

Francesca da Rimini, by William Dyce

Francesca da Rimini (1255–85) appears in Canto V of The Divine Comedy, as she tells Dante her tragic story. She and her lover Paolo Malatesta are condemned to the Second Circle of Hell, for carnal sinners.

Francesca was the daughter of Guido I da Polenta of Ravenna, who forced her to marry Giovanni Malatesta for political reasons. Their families had been at war, and Guido felt this marriage would solidify the peace which had recently been negotiated. After Francesca moved to Rimini upon marriage, she fell in love with Giovanni’s younger brother Paolo, who was also married.

Francesca and Paolo carried on a love affair for ten years, until Giovanni discovered what was going on somewhere between 1283–86, though probably about 1285. Giovanni surprised the couple in Francesca’s bedroom and murdered them both. Over the years, many legends about them sprung up. In Dante’s imagining of Hell, they’re trapped in an eternal whirlwind, symbolic of the passion they were swept away by. Dante is so moved by their story, he faints.

Francesca is the Italian and Catalan feminine form of the Late Latin name Franciscus (Francis), which means “Frenchman.”

Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (26 December 1194–13 December 1250)

Three Emperor Fredericks feature in The Divine Comedy—Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor (Frederick Barbarossa) (1122–10 June 1190); Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor; and King Frederick III of Sicily (13 December 1272–25 June 1337).

Frederick is the English version of a Germanic name meaning “peaceful ruler,” from the elements frid (peace) and ric (ruler; power). I’ve always absolutely loved this name, and all the foreign versions—Friedrich, Frederik, Frédéric, Fredrik, Federigo, Frigyes, Fredrikh, Fryderyk, Friderik. I’m particularly fond of the nicknames Fritz and Freddie, though the nickname Fred feels kind of dated.

There have been so many awesome Fredericks through history (with the name’s various forms), from all sort of fields—politics, philosophy, music, kings, emperors, science. As a classic rock lover, there’s also the association with Freddie Mercury, who still sang like a god as he was dying. (And yes, I know his real name was Farrokh, not Frederick!)