Jane 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.
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.
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!
Jane is a lovely name so classy and elegantly timeless.
Love the name Jane, so classy and elegant.
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!
Glad to hear Jane wears well!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I might not see it, but what about
Me Tarzan, you Jane?
Jane is my middle name and I often thought it plain and quite boring.
I am just starting to warm to it and would consider giving it as a middle to my own daughter.
Christina Fonseca says
Love Jane as a mn if I were to use it myself. Love the simplicity of it for other people, especially with siblings that have the same simple classic feel – Anne, Mary, Henry, William.
Lyndsay Jenness says
Wow, I never knew that about the makeup brand Jane, and they’ve been a favorite for years!
Emmy Jo, thanks for the info on June, I kinda figured that’s where it came from! I love June. Cleaver and Carter make her so wonderful to me.
Emmy Jo says
Jane is lovely. There’s something so refreshingly and unpretentiously elegant about one-syllable names (Anne, Rose, Jane, Eve).
I like Joan quite a lot, too. Jean is a tricky one. I think Jean needs to be paired with something sophisticated and elegant in order to avoid sounding like a “country bumpkin” name. Daisy Jean and Ruby Jean don’t really appeal, but Cecelia Jean and Jean Eleanora do.
Nessa — June has roots in Roman mythology rather than Christianity. It’s from the goddess Juno. I love June’s spunky retro vibe.
Laney McDonald says
I really like Jane. I have an Aunt Jane and my mother’s name is Janet so I am very partial to those names, although they would most likely be middle names. I love Joanna too. My boyfriend and I really like Cassia Jane after my little sister Cassandra and my mom and aunt, or the even more exotic Kaijsa Jane (pronounced Ky-sa. It’s the Russian, Finnish, and Estonian form of Katherine and I am part Latvian which is pretty close to Russian. It’s more often spelled Kaisa but that might be mispronounced as Kay-sa so I went with the Finnish spelling.)
Serena Jane is cute too. I love that one, or Seren (seh-ren), but that doesn’t flow as well with Jane or I’d use it.
I know someone who named her child Serenity Jayne. Jayne looks downmarket to me and Serenity comes across as trashy too.
Cassia Jane is beautiful!
I knew someone in college named Kaisa, prn. ‘ky suh’. I think it will be easier for people to guess the correct pronunciation of Kaisa than Kaijsa, at least in the U.S. The j would just confuse a lot of people. I like Cassandra Jane the best of all those options for honoring your sister. Also, Serena Jane is great idea!
I have a soft spot for Jayne spelled like this because of Jayne Mansfield.
Oh, isn’t Kaisa short for Katherine in Finnish? Love the sound of Kaisa.
Serenity Jayne makes me think the parents were Firefly fans, with those names being their home ship and a key character respectively. It’s funny how two names can be interpreted so differently.
Oh thank you! 😀 Jane was my Mom’s middle name and I toy with it to honor her, she who hated being a Frances (which is why that figures in the middle too)!
I love her sweet simplicity and her timeless look. I also love that she’s still quite overlooked. I like that she’s a magazine and a makeup line as well (where she’s an acronym for the products in all of them: “jane is an acronym. It stands for the botanical ingredients you’ll find in most of our cosmetics – juniper, aloe, nettle, and elderflower” direct from the website)! Jane travels effortlessly and is always stylish in her simplicity. Jane is Fabulous!
Oh I do love the sweetness of Jane! She is one of a few gems that packs simlipicty, charm, class and strength all into one syllable, imo! Her fascinating and equally charming history is a definite positive too! (Jane Eyre is one of my favourites..)
She features as a second middle in many of my combos, but I generally prefer something a little more overtly feminine up front. I love hearing her on other people’s children though! My niece Lucille’s best friend’s name is Jane, they’ve started school together a few weeks ago. It just sounds very fresh – and sophisticated, amongst all of the Mias and Olivias and Charlottes we have running around in Australia!
I like Jane a lot. It used to be a name that bugged me when I was younger because my name is often mis-heard as Jane. I also thought it plain, but now it feels elegant and understated, rather than plain. For me, it could only go in the middle due to the similarity to my own name, but I think it can definitely hold its own up front, too. It’s got such a fantastic history, it’s hard to believe I thought of it as plain previously! Of all the variants listed, Jane’s my favorite, but, not surprisingly, I do like Jana (pronounced the Russian way with the softened J: ZHAH nah). It would be my choice to follow Eleanor if I had another girl and by some strange stroke managed to skate Eleanor by the other half. Jane is definitely a “yes” for me.
Jane is one of my recent favorites in the middle, for Austen and Eyre. It has a definite understated elegance. Just gorgeous, and my favorite feminization of John, although Jean comes close. I think Joanna is too, but I don’t count it as such.
I think I like Jane best in the middle. I like meeting someone named Jane, but I have a harder time thinking of a good middle name for Jane than a good first name for it. Also love Jean! (and the sp. Jehanne)
Jane is one of my favorites! She doesn’t sound at all plain to me, she’s sophisticated and beautiful and understated. I adore Jane. I hate being trendy, but I love the “ay” sound in general: James, Drake, Kate, Faye, and May are a few examples of my favorite favorites. Jane is a possibility for me, since his dad’s middle name is John, and I’ve got a few other John’s in my family tree I’d like to honor. Jane is by FAR my favorite feminization of John, though I like Jean, too. Another love is June, is that related or does it have a different source?
I was so excited to see this name today! Good one!