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.

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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 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.

Pearly names (including the many forms of Margaret)

Pearl used to be quite a popular name in the U.S. In 1880, it was #47, and it remained in the Top 100 until 1926. Its highest rank was #24, in 1889, 1890, and 1900. It sank lower and lower, until it fell off the charts in 1977, In 1979, it returned, but fell off again in 1987. It returned briefly in 2007, and then returned yet again in 2009. In 2016, it was #567, and has been pulling up quite a bit in rank each year.

Margaret means “pearl,” from the Greek margarites, which in turn is probably ultimately derived from the Sanskrit manyari. Historically, the name has been enormously popular. From 1880–1930 alone, it was in the Top 5, and it was Top 10 from 1931–39. It was Top 20 from 1940–51, and then gradually began sinking. In 1976, it left the Top 100, though it returned from 1982–89. In 2016, it was #139.

Here, then, are both the many forms of Margaret and names whose meanings relate to the word “pearl.”

Unisex:

Alnilam means “string of pearls” in Arabic. This is the name of one of the stars in Orion.

Dar means “mother-of-pearl” in Hawaiian.

Durdana is Arabic and Urdu.

Hae-Ju can mean “ocean pearl” in Korean.

Hyeon-Ju, or Ju-Hyeon, can mean “virtuous/worthy/able pearl” in Korean.

Poema means “pearl of the deep seas” in Tahitian.

Yao can mean “mother-of-pearl” in Chinese.

Yong-Ju can mean “dragon pearl” in Korean.

Female:

Bermet is Kyrgyz.

Bisera is Bulgarian and Macedonian.

Bitxilore is Basque.

Châu is Vietnamese.

Darya means “pearl of God” in Hebrew. This isn’t to be confused with the Persian or Russian name. All three have different etymologies.

Dordana is Urdu.

Durar means “pearls” in Arabic.

Durdona is Uzbek.

Durrah is a rare Arabic name meaning “large pearl.”

Enku is Amharic.

Gohar is Persian.

Gyöngyi is Hungarian. The letter GY is sort of pronounced like a soft, quick D followed by a Y, the way people in certain parts of the English-speaking world pronounce the first syllable of “due” and “during.”

Gyöngyvér means “sister of pearl” in Hungarian.

Gyöngyvirág means “pearl flower” in Hungarian, and refers to the lily-of-the-valley.

Helmi is Finnish.

Hessa is Arabic.

Inci is Turkish.

Inju is Kazakh.

Inthurat is Thai.

Jinju is Korean.

Jua can mean “second pearl,” “apricot pearl,” or “Asia pearl” in Japanese.

Jumana is Arabic.

Krõõt is Estonian.

Leimoni means “pearl lei” or “pearl child” in Hawaiian.

Lulu is Arabic, and not to be confused with the (mostly) English and German nickname.

Maarit is Finnish.

Maighread is Scottish. The nickname is Maisie.

Mairéad is Irish. Without an accent mark, this is also a Scottish variation.

Makaleka is Hawaiian.

Mākere is Maori.

Makereta is Fijian.

Malghalara is Pashto.

Małgorzata is Polish, with the nicknames Marzena, Gosia, and Małgosia.

Marc’harid is Breton.

Maret is Estonian.

Margaid is Manx.

Margalit, or Margalita, is Hebrew.

Margareeta is Finnish.

Margareta is German, Scandinavian, Romanian, Slovenian, Dutch, Finnish, and Croatian. The variation Margaréta is Slovak and Hungarian. German nicknames include Greta, Grete, Gretchen, Gretel, and Meta; Swedish nicknames are Meta, Märta, and Greta; Norwegian nicknames are Mette, Meta, Grete, and Grethe; Danish nicknames are Merete, Mette, Meta, Grethe, and Grete; Dutch nicknames are Griet, Greet, Grietje, and Greetje; and Finnish nicknames include Reeta and Reetta.

Margarete is German.

Margaretha is Dutch and German.

Margarethe is German and Danish.

Margareto is Esperanto.

Margaretta is an English variation.

Margarida is Catalan, Portuguese, Occitan, and Galician.

Margarit, Markarid, or Margarid, is Armenian.

Margarita is Russian, Bulgarian, Spanish, Scandinavian, Greek, and Lithuanian.

Marged is Welsh, with the nickname Mared.

Margherita is Italian.

Margit is Hungarian, German, Estonian, and Scandinavian.

Margita is Slovak.

Margreet is Limburgish and Dutch.

Margrét is Icelandic. The nickname is Gréta.

Margrethe is Norwegian and Danish.

Margriet is Dutch.

Margrieta is Latvian and Dutch.

Margrit is German.

Marguerite is French. Nicknames include Margaux and Margot.

Marharyta is Ukrainian.

Marhata is Sorbian.

Marit, or Marita, is Norwegian and Swedish.

Marjan is Kazakh.

Marjeta is Slovenian.

MarjorieMargery, or Marjory, is Medieval English.

Markéta is Czech and Slovak.

Marketta is Finnish.

Mèrdgitte is Jèrriais.

Mererid is Welsh.

Merit is Swedish.

Momi is Hawaiian.

Momilani means “heavenly pearl,” “royal pearl,” “noble pearl,” and “spiritual pearl” in Hawaiian.

Morî is Kurdish.

Morvarid is Persian.

Mukda is Thai.

Penina is Hebrew.

Perla is Italian and Spanish.

Perle is French and Yiddish.

Perlezenn is Breton.

Poerani means “divine pearl” or “heavenly pearl” in Tahitian.

Poerava means “black pearl” in Tahitian.

Retha is Afrikaans.

Sadaf means “mother-of-pearl, seashell” in Arabic.

Sadap means “mother-of-pearl” in Turkmeni.

Shinju is Japanese.

Male:

Akinci means “white pearl” in Turkish.

Akincibay means “white pearl lord” in Turkish.

Xhevahir means “pearl, jewel, diamond, gem, precious stone” in Albanian. XH is pronounced like the J in Jupiter.