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 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 Alfred

King Alfred the Great of England, ca. 847-849–26 October 899, my 36-greats-grandfather

Alfred is an English, French, German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Polish, Estonian, Slovenian, Finnish, Catalan, Georgian, Armenian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian, and Serbian name derived from the original Old English Ælfræd (elf counsel). Its roots are ælf (elf) and ræd (counsel). Though many Anglo–Saxon names fell out of use after the Norman invasion and occupation, Alfred stayed popular thanks to my amazing ancestor Alfred the Great, a fellow scholar and person of letters.

By the Middle Ages, the name had become rare, but returned to common use in the 18th century. When the U.S. began keeping track of name popularity in 1880, it was #35, and stayed in the Top 100 (albeit on a very gradual downward decline) till 1950. Its highest rank was #32 in 1882.

Since dropping out of the Top 100, it’s mostly declined in popularity each year. In 2018, it was #872. The name is much more popular in England and Wales (#107), Sweden (#12), Denmark (#8), and Norway (#52).

The variation Alfréd is Slovak, Czech, and Hungarian, and Alfreð is Icelandic. Other forms of Alfred include:

1. Alfredo is Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Galician, Aragonese, and Esperanto.

2. Alfrēds is Latvian.

3. Alfredas is Lithuanian.

4. Alfrid is Tatar.

5. Alfredos is Greek.

6. Alfreeti is Finnish.

7. Alfried is a Dutch and German variation.

8. Alured is Manx.

9. Elfried is an alternate German and Dutch form.

10. Alfredu is Asturian and Sicilian.

11. Alperda is Basque.

Female forms:

1. Alfreda is English, Italian, German, and Polish.

2. Alfrédie is a rare Norman form.

3. Albrea is Middle English.

4. Alfredine is a rare French and English form.

5. Alverdine was occasionally used in English in the 19th century.

6. Alvedine is the 20th century form of the uncommon Alverdine.

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.