She’s been quietly rising since 2002. What’s behind this intriguing appellation?
Thanks to Samantha for suggesting her mother’s name, Danna, as our Baby Name of the Day.
The Biblical Daniel has a long history of use. He’s been in the US Top Ten most years since 1981, coming in at #7 in 2009.
Feminine forms of Daniel have come and gone, including:
- The French Danielle rose through the 1970s to peak at #14 in 1987 before sliding to #170 in 2009;
- The pan-European Daniela was also discovered in the 1970s, reaching a high of #108 in 2007;
- Surname/masculine moniker Dana migrated to the girls’ side in the 1960s. Child star Dana Plato raised her visibility in the 80s, but Dana has since dropped to #530 in 2009.
If Dana had not been popular a generation earlier, surely she’d fit right in with Jada and Layla today. Instead, the gentler, rhymes-with-Hannah Danna is catching on.
Some of it might be just parents honor dads and grandpas called Dan. But Danna has other possible sources, and she charted in the US Top 1000 from the 1940s into the 1970s.
In 2002, she re-entered the rankings at #838, and has since climbed to #390. Possible sources include:
- There was a tiny village in the Ottoman Empire called Danna, but it was abandoned in the 1940s;
- There’s a tiny, scarcely populated Scottish island called Danna, too;
- I’ve found a few references suggesting that Danna means something like “pearl” or otherwise references something of great value, but I can’t confirm the translation in any dictionary;
- Here’s a bizarre reference: Arthur Golden’s 1997 bestseller Memoirs of a Geisha explained that a danna is a geisha’s patron. The term was heard at the same time the name returned to favor, but I’ll chalk that up to coincidence.
Still, none of the possible origins explain Danna’s rise. Surely there’s a famous Danna?
- Bogotá-born actress Danna García is a major Latina star. She’s appeared in Telemundo productions, served as a Maybelline spokesperson and been named to People en Español‘s Los 50 más Bellos list;
- From 2005 through 2009, the reboot of Battlestar Galactica included a sinister Cylon reporter, played by Lucy Lawless. The character’s name is D’Anna Biers, but they pronounce it more like Diana;
- 90s Israeli pop singer Dana International started out her career as Danna International;
- Dannah Phirman is an Israeli-born comedienne, who has had a successful career in the US.
The -h spelling suggested one more possibility. There’s a town in the West Bank called Idhna, an ancient settlement thought to correspond to the Biblical Dannah. Just like Jordan and other Biblical place names have caught on as given names, that might help explain Danna.
Or is she just a twist – this generations D – n – a name? Donna reigned from the 1940s through the 1960s. Deanna peaked in the 1970s. Diana has been in the US Top 100 more years than not, beginning in the 1940s and continuing as recently as 2004/2005.
She’s neither retro nor nouveau, but with her appealing sound and respectable history of use in the 20th century, it is easy to imagine more parents choosing Danna.