The baby name Inez blends classic roots with global and vintage appeal.
Thanks to Stephanie for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Inez is the Spanish form of Agnes.
Well, wait. Inez is the English form of Inés, which is the Spanish form of Agnes.
And Agnes? It has history galore. It comes from the Greek hagnos – chaste. But over the years, this Greek name became associated with the Latin agnus – lamb.
Depending on your faith tradition, that’s not just some random piece of trivia. Agnus Dei means lamb of God, and it’s mentioned prominently in both the Catholic liturgy and the Anglican and Lutheran services, too.
That means the meaning of the name Inez is the same … though you can choose whether the name meaning lamb or chaste appeals more, and you’re free to embrace or overlook the religious significance.
During the 3rd century, Roman emperor Diocletian sent scores of Christians to their deaths. One such Christian martyr was the future Saint Agnes.
Born into the Roman nobility, her family were early converts. She was just twelve or thirteen when the emperor had them arrested.
The tales surrounding her death are fantastic, with multiple attempts to end her life thwarted. (In one case, the wood wouldn’t catch fire for her pyre.)
She’s been venerated as a saint since at least the 4th century, and her January 21st Feast Day has been celebrated for ages, too.
THE EVE of ST AGNES
In fact, tradition says that a young, unmarried woman may dream of her husband during the night of January 20th – the Eve of St Agnes – if only she observes several rituals.
John Keats wrote a poem about it; Keats’ poem is a tale of star-crossed lovers who are ultimately united thanks, in part, to the Eve of St Agnes.
All that means that Agnes – and international forms like Inez – have been used over and over again, thanks to the saint’s enduring popularity and association with so many customs.
But it wasn’t just Agnes that was familiar.
Before Arthur Sullivan joined forces with WS Gilbert, he collaborated on a comic opera titled The Contrabandista.
It wasn’t a big hit, and is rarely performed today – in contrast to constant revivals of Gilbert and Sullivan productions.
But it did give us a bandit queen named Inez de Roxas. It was performed in the US in 1880. A revamped version, titled The Chieftain, kept the character, and fared slightly better.
It seems unlikely that such a little-known musical would’ve boosted a baby name, but it might suggest that Inez felt stylish and fashionable in the moment.
The numbers back that up.
BY the NUMBERS
In the US, at least, Agnes was a Top 100 pick from 1880 through 1929, but it’s failed to rank in the Top 1000 at all since the 1970s.
During the same era, Ines occasionally ranked in the US Top 1000, teetering on the edges of the rankings from the 1880s into the early 1930s.
The baby name Inez, on the other hand, fared reasonably well. It appeared in the US Top 200 from 1880 into the 1930s, and remained in the Top 1000 – again – into the 1970s. So while this variant of Agnes was never as popular, Inez had a good run, too.
That makes this a surprisingly popular name, and a vintage gem.
Speaking of vintage, suffragist Inez Milholland lends a certain antique charm to the name.
Born wealthy and beautifully educated, Inez became a leading suffragist of her day. In 1913, it was the beautiful and principled Inez who led the Woman Suffrage Procession on horseback, the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.
Trained as a lawyer, Milholland epitomized the ideal New Woman of her day – capable, independent, and determined to bring about change.
HAIRSPRAY, FUTURAMA, and CHARLIE BONE
While the name has become obscure, it’s remained a pop culture staple.
John Waters’ Hairspray gave us L’il Inez Stubbs. She appears in the 2002 musical, as well as both versions of the movie – 1988 and 2007. But the 2007 version gives Inez an even bigger role. (Spoiler alert: in the more recent movie, Inez wins the pageant – and permanently integrates the television show at the heart of the plot.)
Long-running animated series Futurama gives us another character: Inez Wong. She’s wealthy – and greedy – and not a great standard-bearer for the name. But the show ran from 1999 through 2013, and a Hulu revival is slated for 2023, so it’s kept the name on fans’ radar.
And then there’s Children of the Red King, the story of Charlie Bone. Charlie is the son of magical parents, who goes to a school for children with such abilities, and faces all sorts of peril and adventure. Shades of another English book series, of course but Charlie Bone lives in an entirely different world. Inez Branko is a character in the series, along with her twin sister Idith. The character first appears in Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors, published originally in 2005.
There’s also long-running PBS Kids’ series Cyberchase, featuring Inez as one of their animated heroes. It debuted in January 2002 and is still going strong.
It’s occasionally seen as a surname, too, it shares the same roots.
While these all feel a little on the obscure side, it’s proof that the baby name Inez is there, waiting on the fringes, ready for rediscovery.
One possible place we’re hearing more of Inez?
The three baby girl names chosen by actress Blake Lively and actor Ryan Reynolds – so far! – have each made waves.
The A-list couple rarely shares details about their children, though Blake has revealed each pregnancy during public appearances.
Instead, their children’s names have come out through rumor and speculation. More recently, singer – and Blake BFF – Taylor Swift – has incorporated the girls’ names into her lyrics.
The coupled welcomed daughter James in 2014. She’s named after Ryan’s father, who passed away shortly after her birth.
Inez followed in 2016. Because Blake only said her name aloud, speculation stretched on about the spelling. Was it Ines or Inez? (Or Ynes or Ynez?) Blake eventually confirmed the Z spelling.
Baby Betty, who also has a family name, arrived in 2019. Her name was revealed relatively quickly, thanks to that Taylor Swift song.
They’re expecting their fourth any day now.
The Lively-Reynolds family is so high profile that it’s easy to imagine all of their children’s names getting a boost.
In 2015, just 62 girls were named Inez. By 2021, that number had slowly grown to 129 births.
SPARKY and VINTAGE
All of this makes the baby name Inez a sparky, vintage possibility.
The Z spelling is nicely phonetic, though the “I” sound can be eh-nez, ee-nez, or eye-nez, depending on preference and accent.
It’s easy to imagine Inez following favorites like chart-topping Isabella into wider use. Or possibly joining Harry Potter favorite Luna in the rankings.
For now, though, the baby name Inez remains under the radar. It’s a name with a touch of glam and lots of spirit, a vaguely international favorite heavy on Spanish heritage, but accessible in English.
If you’re after a surprising crossover choice in the spirit of Sofia, Inez is rich with potential.
What do you think of the baby name Inez?
Originally published on November 15, 2010, this post was revised and re-published on November 23, 2022.
Zena Eve says
This article is half gone. 🙁
One of my great-grandmas was also named Inez (with the Z at the end). She was from Spain and was a twin. Her twin sister was named Catalina. They had another sister named Pilar. My great-grandmother Inez died very young, at the age of 33. My grandmother was 13 yrs-old when her mom Inez died and spoke of her often. Although I don’t think I’d ever use it, I do think this name is rich in heritage and I love that it’s not so common. I do, however, prefer the Ines (with the ‘S’) spelling.
Inez was my mom’s middle name and I’m considering using it as a middle name for my daughter.
That’s a lovely way to honor your mom. You often hear parents say “Well, Ann is my middle name so we passed it down.” I understand that, but it is more interesting when the middle name is unusual. I mean … everyone’s middle name is Ann!
My daughter’s middle name is Inez. She is named for my mum, Agnes, who died before my daughter was born. She hated her name and when she was ill made me promise not to call any daughters Agnes. I wish sometimes I had gone for Inez (eeNEZ) as a first name, but I love my daughter’s first name too so she wins either way.
Annie, I had the same issue – my mother hates her actual name and forbid me to pass it down. But I still managed to name my daughter after her.
I think Inez for Agnes is a great compromise, and naming our daughters in honor of our mothers always feels very appropriate.
I like Ines — it does strike me as similar to Agnes, especially when both are spelled & pronounced more like their original languages…
How about Hazel for a name of the day?
Hazel was one of the first names that I ever covered – you can read the post here.
There’s a Hazel in my daughter’s classroom, and an older Hazel – 5 or 6, maybe? – in our neighborhood, too. It’s a great name!
My gram was born in 1922 named Hazel Lorene, but went by Lorene, which seemed cooler at the time I guess.
Lady Gwyn says
Inez (spelled this way) was my Great-Great Grandma. She was an old lady when I was born, and was very ill. She lived long enough to hold me (my mom has pictures), and then she died. I’ve heard this story from my mom for years. My mom even has Grandma “Iney” (as she was called) china. I would use Inez as a middle name because of this. I don’t know if I could like it as a first name, but I will use it in the middle someday for sure. I do like the Ines spelling better. Thanks for doing this as a Name of the Day.
What a lovely story, Gwyn!
Inez was the name of one of my great-great-grandmas.
I also like this name, but spelled Ines, and I don’t really like the ‘eye NEZ’ pronunciation. The ‘s’ spelling seems softer.
It came to my attention a few years ago as a possible name for a new baby girl – and not an ‘old lady’ – when it was bestowed upon a princess in the Netherlands in 2007 as one of her middle names. Ever since then I’ve thought it to be a very lovely name
Oooh … there it is: Ariane Wilhelmina Maxima Ines!
My parents have a friend named Inez who’s probably be in her early 80’s. She pronounces her name EE-ness, (sort of like Agnes, but more like part of a male’s anatomy.) Since I have a 12 year-old’s sense of humor, I always found her name really funny.
Anyways, when it’s pronounced eh-NEZ or ee-NEZ, it’s quite pretty and an excellent multicultural choice. Lovely.
Sarah A says
I don’t know why, but I don’t really like Inez. She doesn’t have the strength of Ingrid or the beauty of Paloma. My apologies to any young women with this name, but it sounds too old and dated for me. Also, it makes me think someone is saying Arnaz like Desi Arnaz. That said, I’d love to hear it over Ava!