baby name JaneJane pairs simple sophistication with a bright, strong sound. It’s hard to go wrong with this choice.

Thanks to Lola for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.

John’s Sister

Few names feel as classic as long-time #1 pick John. It remains broadly influential, even though it vacated the top spot long ago.

We whispered John into dozens upon dozens of international forms. (Evan, Ivan, and Giovanni; Jussi, Juan, and Hannes to name just a few.) Add in nicknames and surnames – Jackson and John – and other twists, like Jonathan and John Paul – and the list grows longer still.

Feminine forms abound, too, and it can be tough to draw the line. Does Janessa count? I’ll say no. But that still leaves Jana, Janelle, Joanna, Johanna, Giovanna, Giavanna, Gianna, Giana, Ivanna, and, of course, Jane in the Top 1000.

A Pair of Queens

There’s also Joan, of course, long the go-to feminine form of John. Saint Joan of Arc was actually Jeanne d’Arc – or Jehanne – in France during her lifetime.

The English feminine names descended from Johannes, via Jehanne.

The sixteenth century gave us two ill-fated queens by the name.

First came Jane Seymour. She married King Henry VIII in 1536, becoming his third wife. As queen, she gave him the son he so desperately wanted – but would die of complications following childbirth.

Fast-forward to 1554, when King Edward VI – Jane Seymour’s son – passed away. Religion divided the nation, and so a Protestant successor – Lady Jane Grey – was named instead. Intelligent and highly educated, and just seventeen years old, she reigned as queen for just nine days, and eventually went to her death for treason.

Despite these inauspicious namesakes, Jane eclipsed Joan over the next century or so.

Austen & Other Notables

Literary powerhouse Jane Austen was born in 1775. She shared her own name for characters in both Pride and Prejudice and Emma. If that wasn’t enough to make this name feel to the library born, there’s the heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s enduring novel, Jane Eyre.

Other notables include:

  • Nobel Peace Prize-wining reformer Addams, known for her work to bring social services to the urban poor in nineteenth century America.
  • Frontierswoman Martha Cannary-Burke is better known by her nickname and middle name: Calamity Jane.
  • Primatologist and activist Goodall lends the name some environmental bona fides.
  • Agatha Christie made this the given name of her oh-so-clever Miss Marple.
  • 1940s and 50s pin-up Jane Russell lends the name some Hollywood golden age glam. Other actors include 30 Rock alum Krakowski and Oscar-winner Wyman.
  • The Hermès Birkin handbag takes its name from Jane Birkin, a model-actor at the height of popularity in 1960s London.
  • Music ranges from the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” to Jane’s Addiction.

It’s Plain that Jane …

It’s plain that this name defies any attempt to pigeon-hole it. Fashionable and literary, royal and religious, quiet and bold, this name shape-shifts. It makes a strong choice, one that’s as no-nonsense as Kate, as accomplished as Eleanor. It’s an impeccable classic, and yet Janie is right at home with sassy, retro picks like Sadie and Frankie.

Best of all? While Jane routinely ranked in the US Top 100 from the 1910s into the 60s, it’s been ages since the name cracked the Top 250. (No, really – ages! Nixon was in office the last time.)

That might make this the perfect stands-out, fits-in name, a sister for Claire, an alternative to Grace.

What do you think of Jane?

Originally published on February 17, 2009, this post was revised substantially and re-published on August 26, 2013 and again on June  5, 2019.

baby name Jane

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. I adore Jane! (And I don’t understand the “plain Jane” connotation, because I think it has lots of style and spunk!) I would definitely use it as a middle in honor of Jane Austen, who is my inspiration. Also, considering that most all my favorite first names are 3-4 syllables and very flouncy, Jane balances while still being feminine. I just can’t recommend it enough!

  2. My name is Jane, and I really like it. Other names considered for me were Isabella, Amy(!), and Rebekah. I have to say I prefer Jane. When I was a little girl I always wanted a pretty, long name – like Isabella – but now I think Jane is a great name, because it fits in everywhere and nobody has any connotations of what I’m like before they meet me 🙂 Also, it is (as you said) a very strong name. Sometimes when I introduce myself though, people think I’ve said Jen or Jade or Jill… I don’t know why, Jane is not that different!! Having said that though, I only know two Jaynes, no other Jane. Sometimes I’m called Janey/Janie, usually just Jane.
    I love names, and generally like long names with a short nn best, but I love my name!

  3. Jane is a fabulous name! Jane Eyre has been one of my favorite literary characters since I first read the book when I was nine. I also love Jane Austen and her Jane Bennett. I agree that Jane is at her most wonderful when paired with an amazing middle name like Jane Illyria, Jane Melusine or Jane Oriana.

    On a historical note, Good Queen Jane, as she was called, did not die in childbirth. She died 12 days after the birth, possibly from a retained placenta, or puerperal fever.

  4. I love Jane. It’s one of my favourite names. It can fit with old-fashioned names or sleek modern sounds. It’s not at all ella-bella, but it’s completely feminine. And, perhaps nicest for a name nerd like me, it’s immediately recognizable, easy to pronounce, unassailable as a “real” name – and not in the top hundred!

    I really like the idea of pairing it with a quirkier (though, to be fair, MOST names will to most uninitiated people feel “quirkier than Jane” even if they are more popular….) middle. Like Jane Xanthe, or Jane Leocadia.

    My only word against Jane is that I don’t like it in the middle, it feels almost Rose/Grace default to me there.

    1. I know what you mean about Jane in the middle – and I love the rhythm of short first, longer middle. Jane Leocadia is gorgeous! And Jane Xanthe is just plain daring … can you imagine being Jane X. Lastname? Love it!

  5. As a Jane, it’s great to hear that so many people love my name. I love it too. It’s simple and memorable and at least in my generation, I stick out from all the Jessicas, Nicoles, and Stephanies.

  6. I hated my name growing up- why did my parents have to name me something so boring? I’ve come to terms with it now and while its not one of my favourites, I’m pleased so many others like it.