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.