She’s simple, sophisticated and classic. It’s hard to go wrong with this choice.
Thanks to Lola for suggesting our Name of the Day: Jane.
Thanks to John the Baptist and John the Apostle, John has long been a staple for boys. Some estimates suggest that as many as 20% of English boys were given the name during the Middle Ages. In the United States, John was the number one name for boys from 1880 through 1923; today he’s still #19. Travel the globe, and you’ll meet boys called Giovanni, Hannes, Johann and Sean, to name just a few.
So maybe it comes as no surprise that there’s more than one way to feminize John. At the moment, Jane is among the most popular, though Johannah is also rather fashion-forward and Joanna is actually the highest ranking in the US as of 2007.
Through the ages, Jane has swapped places with Joan, Janet and Joanne. All come from John, via the Old French Johanne or Jehanne. Just for kicks, here’s the Medieval Names Archive list of Jane’s variants:
Believe it or not, that’s just a sampling.
Joan and Jane have co-existed through much of history, swapping places for which is more appealing. Baby Boomers were Joan; so was Hollywood’s Joan Crawford. Jean has also been a contender. But the list of Janes is quite appealing:
- Literary powerhouse Jane Austen lived two centuries ago – but remains among the English language’s most beloved writers;
- Speaking of beloved, there’s Jane Eyre, the heroine created by another nineteenth century writer, Charlotte Brontë;
- Ms. Austen also named a character Jane – Pride and Prejudice’s eldest sister was the beautiful Jane Bennet;
- Jane Seymour was the third wife of England’s King Henry VIII. Instead of execution, the queen lost her life in childbirth;
- Lady Jane Grey wore the crown of England for just a few days in the sixteenth century before her father-in-law’s grab for power crumbled. Luckless Jane went to her death branded a traitor;
- Nineteenth century reformer Jane Addams won a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing social services to the urban poor;
- Agatha Christie’s clever Miss Marple wears the first name Jane;
- Jane Birkin was a model-actress best known as part of the scene in 1960s London and most remembered because the designer Hermès named the iconic Birkin handbag after her;
- Martha Jane Cannary-Burke is known to history as frontierswoman Calamity Jane;
- Jane Goodall is known as a primatologist, environmentalist and activist.
The list is nearly endless. There are even a few Saints Jane.
This is Jane’s strength – indeed, it is the gift offered by many a classic appellation. There have been so many famous bearers, that it is difficult to pigeon-hole Jane as anything. She’s fashionable, literary, royal, religious and bold.
It’s also difficult to argue with her simplicity. Jane is complete in four letters, one syllable. She shares the upbeat, no-nonsense vibe of Kate, but unlike Kate, there’s no sense that Jane is a name that requires a more formal version.
With her fashionable “ay” vowel sound and the popular J, Jane even fits with trendy picks like Jayden and Jada. But while she’s undeniably familiar, she ranked a mere #426 in 2007.
Then there’s the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” and alt rockers Jane’s Addiction – musical notes that lend this streamlined name a hint of wit.
If you’re looking for a tailored name that will be instantly familiar, but shared by a surprisingly small number of girls, Jane is one to consider.