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.


The many forms of Anthony and Antonia

Saint Anthony the Great (ca. 12 January 251–17 January 356), by Giovanni di Nicola da Pisa

Though I’ve never been a huge fan of the English name Anthony, I love the Slavic form Anton. Its origins are in the Roman family name Antonius, ultimately of unknown Etruscan origin. The name became popular in the Christian world due to Saint Anthony the Great, an Egyptian who founded Christian monasticism.

Anthony became even more popular in the Middle Ages, thanks to Saint Anthony of Padua in the 13th century. He’s the patron saint of Portugal. Though the name was traditionally spelt Antony, the H was added in the 17th century due to an incorrect association with the Greek word anthos (flower).

The name was #103 in the U.S. when records began being kept in 1880, and has been in the Top 100 every year since except 1882, when it was #105. It was in the Top 50 from 1905–33, and again from 1936 till today. To date, its highest rank was #7 in 2007 and 2008. The name has been dropping in popularity rather sharply, and was down to #38 in 2018.

Anthony is also fairly popular in Ireland. It was #81 in 2017.

Other forms of the name include:

1. Anton is Russian, Scandinavian, Estonian, Macedonian, Icelandic, Finnish, Bulgarian, Slovenian, Ukrainian, Dutch, German, Romanian, Slovak, and Croatian. The variant Antón is Galician.

2. Antonio is Spanish, Italian, and Catalan. The variant António is Portuguese, and Antônio is Brazilian-Portuguese.

3. Antoine is French.

4. Antoon is Limburgish and Dutch. Dutch nicknames include Theunis, Toon, Ton, Theun, Teunis, and Teun.

5. Antonie is Dutch.

6. Antoniu is Romanian.

7. Antoni is Polish.

8. Antonije is Serbian and Bosnian.

9. Andon is Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Albanian.

10. Antono is Esperanto. The nickname is Anĉjo.

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, my third-fave writer, 17/29 January 1860–2/15 July 1904

11. Antonios is Greek.

12. Antonis is also Greek.

13. Tõnis is Estonian.

14. Anttoni is Finnish.

15. Anakoni is Hawaiian. The nickname is Akoni.

16. Antanas is Lithuanian.

17. Andoni is Basque.

18. Antton is also Basque.

19. Antnin is Maltese.

20. Atoni is Maori.

Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, 4 March 1678–28 July 1741

21. Antone is Corsican.

22. Atonio is Maori.

23. Jaontek is Vilamovian.

24. Pipindorio is Caló Romani.

25. Tönu is Swiss-German.

26. Tunièn is Emilian-Romagnol, a Gallo–Italic language.

27. Antanv is Konkani, an Indian language spoken along the Konkan coast in the southwestern area of the country.

28. Ante is Croatian, and the name of the vile leader of the fascist Ustaše during WWII.

29. Antonín is Czech.

30. Antal is Hungarian.

Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, 8 September 1841–1 May 1904

31. Antonijs is Latvian.

32. Antons is also Latvian.

Female forms:

1. Antonia is Italian, Spanish, Scandinavian, German, Dutch, Romanian, Greek, English, and Croatian. The variant Antónia is Portuguese, Hungarian, and Slovak. Antônia is Brazilian-Portuguese; Antònia is Catalan; and Antonía is Icelandic.

2. Antoniya is Bulgarian.

3. Antonija is Serbian, Slovenian, Sorbian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Croatian.

4. Antonie is Czech. The last two letters are pronounced separately, not as one.

5. Antoinette is French.

6. Antía is Galician.

7. Antona is Sardinian.

8. Antanė is Lithuanian.

9. Antonina is Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, and Italian.

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.

The many forms of Philip (and other horsey names)

Philip the Apostle, by Peter Paul Rubens

In spite of being considered somewhat outdated or geriatric these days, I’ve always quite liked the name Philip. It’s a solid classic that could use a comeback. Perhaps my positive opinion was influenced by having two friends named Philip in junior high, both of them great guys.

Philip means “friend/lover of horses,” from Greek philos (lover, friend) and hippos (horse). One of the Twelve Apostles, Philip was originally much more popular among Eastern Christians. In the Middle Ages, it became more common in the West.

Philip sank in popularity in the Anglophone world in the 17th century, thanks to King Felipe II of Spain launching the Armada against England. It became popular again in the 19th century.

Infante Felipe of Spain, Duke of Parma (1720–1765), by Louis-Michel van Loo

The one-L spelling was in the U.S. Top 100 from 1880–1971, and again from 1973–88. It then began a slow decline, though in recent years, it’s gradually begun moving up. Its highest rank to date was #52 in 1941.

In 2017, it was #424 in the U.S.; #414 in England and Wales; #81 in Norway; #74 in Sweden; #39 in Denmark; and #206 in The Netherlands.

The two-L variant has always been less popular than the one-L, though it was Top 200 in the U.S. from 1880–1936, and Top 100 from 1937–91. Its highest rank to date was #64 in 1950. In 2017, it was #424 (same as the one-L spelling).

King Philippe IV the Fair of France (1268–1314), by Jean du Tillet

Other forms include:

1. Felipe is Spanish and Portuguese.

2. Felip is Catalan.

3. Philippe is French.

4. Philipp is German.

5. Filip is Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian, Polish, Czech, Dutch, Scandinavian, Bulgarian, Slovak, Macedonian, Hungarian, Finnish, and Croatian.

6. Filipp is Russian.

7. Pylyp is Ukrainian.

8. Pilypas is Lithuanian.

9. Filips is Latvian.

10. Filippo is Italian.

King Felipe II (1527–1598), by Tinian

11. Vilppu is Finnish.

12. Pilib is Irish.

13. Filib is Scottish.

14. Fülöp is Hungarian.

15. Filippos is Greek.

16. Piripi is Maori.

17. Filpa is Sami.

18. Phélip is Gascon.

19. Phillippus is Afrikaans.

20. Pilibbos is Armenian.

21. Pilipe is Georgian.

22. Ph’lip is Jèrriais.

Queen Filipa of Portugal (1360–1415), by António de Holanda

Feminine forms:

1. Philippa is English and German.

2. Philipa is English.

3. Phillipa is English.

4. Filipa is Portuguese.

5. Filippa is Italian, Greek, and Swedish.

6. Philippine is French.

7. Felipa is Spanish.

8. Filipina is Polish.

9. Filippina is Italian.

French poet, historian, and soldier Théodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné, 1552–1630

Other horse-related names:


1. Agrippa is a Latin name which may mean “wild horse,” from Greek roots agrios (wild) and hippos. Other forms include Agrippina (a Latin diminutive) and Agrafena (Russian, feminine only).


1. Alkippe comes from Greek alke (strength) and hippos.

2. Eowyn means “horse joy” in Old English, from eoh (horse) and wyn (friend). As most people know, this was invented for LOTR.

3. Epona means “horse” in Gaulish, from epos. She was the Celtic goddess of horses.

4. Jorunn means “horse love” in Norwegian, from Ancient Scandinavian jór (horse) and unna (love).

5. Rosalind means “tender/soft/flexible horse” in English, from Germanic hros (horse) and lind.

Rosamund Clifford, mistress of King Henry II of England (before 1150–ca. 1176), by John William Waterhouse

6. Rosamund means “horse protection” in English, from Germanic hros and mund.

7. Hippolyte means “freer of horses” in Greek, from hippos and luo (to loosen). Other forms include Hippolyta (Latin) and Ippolita (Russian).

8. Farnaspa means “horse glory” in Ancient Persian.

9. Lysippe means “she who lets loose the horses” in Greek.

10. Zeuxippe means “bridled horse” in Greek.

Hippocrates, ca. 460–370 BCE


1. Archippos means “master of horses” in Greek, from archos and hippos.

2. Ashwin means “possessed of horses” in Hindi and several other Indian languages.

3. Eachann means “brown horse” in Gaelic, from each (horse) and donn (brown).

4. Hippocrates means “horse power” in Greek, from hippos and kratos (power).

5. Hippolytos is the male form of Hippolyta. Other forms include Ippolit (Russian), Ippolito (Italian), Hippolyte (French), Hipólito (Spanish and Portuguese), and Hipolit (Polish).

6. Tasunka means “his horse” in Sioux.

7. Xanthippos means “yellow horse” in Greek, from xanthos (yellow) and hippos.

8. Ajwad means “horses” in Arabic.

9. Alabandos means “horse victory” in Greek.

10. Aristippos means “the best horse” in Greek.

Hipólito José da Costa Pereira Furtado de Mendonça (1774–1823), Father of the Brazilian Press

11. Chrysippos means “horse of gold” in Greek.

12. Dexippos means “horse reception” or “to receive horses” in Greek.

13. Lysippos is the male form of Lysippe.

The many forms of Paul and Paula

St. Paul, Andrea di Bartolo, early 15th century

Paul is the English, French, German, Dutch, Romanian, and Scandinavian form of the Latin family name Paulus (small; humble). Its widespread use in the Western world is of course due to St. Paul the Apostle (né Sha’ul [Saul] of Tarsus).

Paul was #60 in the U.S. in 1880, the year name popularity began being charted. It steadily rose to the Top 20 by 1895, and continued a steady rise over the ensuing decades. Its highest rank was #12 in 1930 and 1931. The name descended just as gradually, only dropping out of the Top 20 in 1969.

Paul left the Top 100 in 2001, and had sunk to #206 by 2016. The name is more popular in Austria (#6), France (#13), and Romania (#41).

St. Paula of Rome; Source

Paula is English, German, Scandinavian, Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, Romanian, Polish, Dutch, Catalan, and Croatian. The variant form Pàula is Sardinian.

It was a Top 100 name in the U.S. from 1943–74, and currently enjoys popularity in Spain (#4), Catalonia (#8), Galicia (#9), Croatia (#31), Austria (#40), and Chile (#64). Its rank has sunk precipitously in the U.S. over the past few decades. As of 2016, it was down to #821.

Other forms of each name include:


1. Pablo is Spanish.

2. Pavel is Russian, Slovenian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Belarusian, and Czech. Russian nicknames include PashaPashenkaPashechka, and Pavlik.

3. Pavle is Serbian, Macedonian, Georgian, Bosnian, and Croatian. Nicknames include Pavo and Pave.

4. Pavlo is Ukrainian.

5. Paweł (PAH-vew) is Polish.

6. Pal is Albanian. The variant form Pál (nickname Pali) is Hungarian. Another variant, Pàl, is Scottish, and Pål is Norwegian and Swedish.

7. Pavol is Slovak.

8. Paulo is Portuguese and Galician. The variant form Paŭlo is Esperanto, with the nickname Paĉjo.

9. Paolo is Italian.

10. Paulu is Corsican. The variant form Pàulu is Sardinian.

Pablo Picasso, 1908

11. Paol is Breton.

12. Pòl is Scottish. The variant form Pól is Irish, and Pol is Catalan.

13. Pavli is Albanian.

14. Pau is Occitan and Catalan. This also means “peace” in Catalan.

15. Poul is Danish.

16. Paavo is Estonian and Finnish.

17. Pauli is Finnish.

18. Páll is Icelandic and Faroese.

19. Pavlos is Greek.

20. Pāvils is Latvian.

Count Pavel Aleksandrovich Stroganov, 7/18 June 1772–10/22 June 1817; painted by George Dawe

21. Paulius is Lithuanian.

22. Paulin is Basque.

23. Paulose is Malayalam, a language spoken in India.

24. Paal is Norwegian.

25. Pàil is Scottish.

26. Paili is Malayalam.

27. Pauls is Latvian.

28. Pawlu is Maltese.

29. Pawly is Cornish.

30. Pawoł is Sorbian.

Self-Portrait, Paolo Veronese, between 1558–63

31. Phóil is Irish.

32. Poalla is Sami.

33. Payl is Manx.

34. Phaule is Ossetian.

35. Piöel is Vilamovian.

36. Pavao is Bosnian and Croatian.

37. Boghos is Western Armenian.

38. Poghos is Eastern Armenian.

39. Boulos, or Bulus, is Arabic.

40. Paora is Maori.

Pauline Friederike Marie, Princess of Württemberg (1792–1839)


1. Paola is Italian and Spanish.

2. Pavla is Czech.

3. Paule is French. The nickname Paulette was fairly popular as a given name in its own right in the U.S. in the 1940s and 1950s.

4. Pauletta is English.

5. Pauline is English, German, French, and Scandinavian.

6. Paulina is English, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Scandinavian, and Lithuanian. The variant form Paulīna is Latvian.

7. Pála is Icelandic.

8. Pavlina is Bulgarian, Macedonian, Slovenian, and Greek. The variant form Pavlína is Czech.

9. Polina is Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, and Greek. The Slavic nickname is Polya. Variant forms are Pólina (Faroese) and Poļina (Latvian).

10. Poulina is Faroese and Danish.

Paulette Goddard, née Marion Levy (3 June 1910–23 April 1990), Charles Chaplin’s third wife

11. Bávlá is Northern Sami.

12. Päälag is Skolt Sami.

13. Paulė is Lithuanian.

14. Pálína is Icelandic.

15. Paulît is Greenlandic.