She’s an operatic elaboration, instantly transforming Ann from straightforward classic to exotic appellation.
Thanks to Emily for suggesting her childhood friend’s name for our Baby Name of the Day: Annina.
Ann, Anne, and Anna are evergreen, with Anna the most popular at this moment – she’s been in the US Top 100 since the 1970s. In the meantime, Ann has migrated to the middle spot. Not only do you know plenty of women named Jennifer and Melissa, an awful lot of them have the middle name Ann.
The original Anne was a saint, mother to Mary. That makes her Jesus’ grandmother. She’s not actually mentioned by name in the New Testament, but the name does appear in the Gospel of Luke. Ann, Anne, and Anna have been in steady use since the Middle Ages.
With all of those Anns, little wonder that nicknames and diminutives abound. Like Annette or Annie, Anita or Annushka, Annina is simply a way of saying “Little Ann.”
There are multiple spellings in use:
- Anniina is the Finnish option, heard on athletes in the Winter Olympics and a number of reality stars who are probably stopped for autographs of the streets of Helsinki. You can listen to the pronunciation here. The quirky double-i is perfectly legit in Finnish, but I’m hard-pressed to imagine the spelling working well in the US;
- Annina is Violetta’s maid in Verdi’s enduring opera La traviata. This gives her an Italian feel, but -nina and -ina are common diminutives forms in other languages, too;
- James Fenimore Cooper used the name for a minor character in his 1831 novel The Bravo. It is set in Venice, and she’s a minor character – and here’s where I confess that I haven’t got a clue if Cooper’s Annina is a worthy namesake or not because I’ve only read this summary;
- There’s no Saint Annina, but there is a character in the twentieth century opera The Saint of Bleecker Street called Annina. It’s set in New York’s Little Italy, reinforcing her Italian vibe;
- Anina, the sparest of the spellings, is sometimes listed as a German elaboration of Ann, but also appears as a place name in Romania, and is occasionally listed as a separate Aramaic name. There is a masculine Old Testament name – Ananias in Latin, Hananias in Greek, and Hananiah in Aramaic. A few figures answered to one form or another, and it also appears in the historical record. Was Anina a given name amongst Aramaic speakers in ancient times? That I can’t say.
But back to that town in Romania. Back in 2002, the lower jaw of Ion din Anina – John of Anina – was discovered was discovered in a nearby cave. Ion’s remains are the oldest human remains discovered in Europe – estimated at about 40,000 years old. If you’re an archeologist, Anina might mean something very different.
Overall, Annina has the quality of a literary throwback – a rarity that is both perfectly wearable and the tiniest bit confusing. Natalie Portman just won an Oscar as Nina, so it is possible that many will mishear Annina as “A Nina.” That’s likely to be the pronunciation you hear, too – ah NEE nah. She makes a refreshing alternative to Ann and company, and could be a sister for Francesca or Juliet.