Francis Names: Frannie, Franklin, Francesca

Francis names

Francis names owe their original popularity to one figure: the thirteenth century Saint Francis of Assisi.

Born the far more ordinary Giovanni, he earned his nickname for his father’s love of all things French. Little Francesco became one of the most popular religious figures in the Catholic church – and beyond.

In 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope, and took the name Francis.

Yet it’s far from an exclusively religious name. There’s Bacon and Sinatra, Drake and Crick, Scott Key and Ford Coppola. Factor in surname form Franklin, and there’s founding father Ben, legendary singer Aretha, and two US presidents – FDR, of course, but also Franklin Pierce.

Celebrities have embraced the names, too. Jason Bateman is dad to Francesca; Drew Barrymore has a Frankie. Amanda Peet opted for Frances, as did Jimmy Fallon. But the first is called Frankie; the latter, Franny.

Let’s take a deeper look at all the Francis names.

Francis Names: Francis and Frank

Francis
Current US popularity rank: #461
Read more about Francis here.

Friend to animals, patron saint of the environment, founder of religious orders that continue nearly a millennia later, Francis is the original. While the -is and -es endings haven’t always rigidly been used for boys and girls, Francis tends to be the preferred masculine form now. Worn by kings and scientists, adventurers and athletes, it’s an enduring classic choice for a boy.

Frank and Frankie
Current US popularity rank: #373 (Frank) and #898 (Frankie)

The go-to nickname for Francis in many generations, Frank also stands alone. It ranked in the Top Ten into the 1920s, and remained a Top 100 choice well into the 1980s. It’s a synonym for honest, which almost makes it a virtue name. While it’s been falling in use for years, Frank makes for a solid citizen.

Francis Names: Around the World

Francisco
Current US popularity rank: #259

Pronounced just like the city by the bay, it is the Spanish and Portuguese form of the name. Lin-Manuel Miranda named his younger son Francisco in early 2018, a brother for Sebastian. It fits with those longer, elaborate boy names. It’s been worn by famous figures like painter Francisco de Goya, as well as explorers Pizarro and Coronado.

Francesco
Current US popularity rank: unranked

The Italian version feels forever tied to pasta sauce in the US. While it’s rare in the US, other Italian names, like Lorenzo, are having a moment. So let’s not rule Francesco out.

Franklin
Current US popularity rank: #440

Linked to a founding father, more than one president, and an animated turtle of children’s book fame, we all recognize Franklin. It’s easy to imagine it fitting right in with Lincoln and Kennedy, a surname name that feels distinguished but approachable, too.

Franz and Frans
Current US popularity rank: unranked

They’ve never been familiar as given names in the US, but they belong here, if only because they appear in the history books. Indie band Franz Ferdinand took its name from the assassinated Austrian emperor of the same name. His death sparked the first World War. (Well, actually, they found the name a racehorse who was named for the emperor who … nevermind.) With the ‘z’ sound so stylish, there might be a chance for Franz to feel wearable today.

Francis Names: Frances and Francesca

Francesca
Current US popularity rank: #435
Read more about Francesca here.

Francesca gained in use in the 1990s, peaked around 2005. File it with elaborate, feminine, strong girl names, like Alexandra and Isabella. They sound like sisters, don’t they? Francesca remains relatively uncommon, though, hovering in the mid-400s and never cracking the Top 300. In England, however, it’s a long-time Top 100 favorite.

Frances
Current US popularity rank: #438
Read more about Frances here.

It’s the birth name of Judy Garland, and the sweet little badger of bedtime stories. Oscar-winner Frances McDormand lends it an air of accomplishment. Could Frances be the new Alice, a classic name that feels serious and light all at once?

Francis Names: More Feminine Forms

Frankie
Current US popularity rank: #844

As spunky as Sadie, more unisex than James, Frankie works as a nickname for any of the Fran- names on this list. But it increasingly stands alone, too.

Frannie, Franny
Current US popularity rank: unranked

Frannie is Frankie’s slightly more lady-like sister. JD Salinger’s Frances answered to Franny. So does late night talk host Jimmy Fallon’s daughter.

France, Francie
Current US popularity rank: unranked

Neither of these names ranks in current US Top 1000, but it’s easy to imagine them serving as diminutives for many a longer Fran- name. And, given the popularity of place names, France might emerge as a possibility, too.

Francine
Current US popularity rank: unranked

A 1950s favorite with a very French feel, Francine might seem slightly dated today. But it offers a nice blend of the dainty and the capable, a no-nonsense name that offers a lot of feminine frill.

Françoise
Current US popularity rank: unranked

If Genevieve and Marguerite intrigue, why not Françoise? It sounds something like fran SWAHZ, which might not be intuitive – but isn’t actually difficult to say.

What’s your favorite Francis name?  Are there any names on this list that you would consider?  Do you prefer the boy Fran- names, or the girls’ list?

First published on June 6, 2014, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on Monday, January 7, 2019.

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5 Comments

My daughter’s middle name is Frances. I love it. I sometimes wish I’d used it as her first; Franny is so charming to me! Love Francine, and Francis for a boy too.

I really like Francis for a boy, but I don’t know if I’d ever use it. It’s special, because a great-great-grandfather of mine bore this name, as did his oldest grandson, my great uncle. But there are other, even more special family names that I would choose before this one. Even so, Francis is handsome and classy and WAY underused!

For girls, Francesca is gorgeous. . .but I think Frances has a charm of its own, too.

I love Francis. It is very high on our list for a second boy. The only downside is that I think Frank does not sound great with our last name. I just can’t imagine calling a Francis anything other than Frank. So it might be better suited for our middle name list.

I know a Francine in real life who was born in Switzerland. Her name is pronounced ‘frahn-SEEN’. It is lovely! She also has the charming accent to go with it, so that goes a long way to making her name stylish. 🙂

Nice post!