Screenshot of Janet Leigh and Charlton Heston ...
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Violet and Juliet are at the height of fashion, so why is this ends-with-t choice on the outs?

Thanks to Laney for suggesting Janet, her mom’s name, as our Baby Name of the Day.

When I hear Janet, I think immediately of the Three’s Company roommate – no, not the rotating blondes: Chrissy, Cindy, and Terri.  Janet was the dark-haired, sensible one played by Joyce DeWitt.  Janet was a Top 100 pick from the 1920s through the 1960s, so the character’s name was perfectly on trend.

Of course there’s also:

  • Hollywood star Janet Leigh, remembered for roles from Little Women to the terrifying shower scene in Psycho.  She was born Jeanette.
  • Leigh wasn’t the first Janet to strike it big in Hollywood.  Laura Augusta Gainor became an early Hollywood star in the 1930s as Janet Gaynor, racking up three Best Oscars.  Her first starring roles came in 1927 and 1928 – just as Janet entered the US Top 100.
  • Then there’s the youngest of the Jackson family, littlest sister Janet, who grew up on television.  She’s had a tremendous career of her own, transitioning from child actor to recording artist.
  • The cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show cast a very young Susan Sarandon as Janet, girlfriend to Brad, and made good use of her name’s rhyming possibilities.
  • Janet Reno was the first female attorney general of the US, and General Janet Wolfenbarger is the highest-ranking woman in the US Air Force.

But Janet’s history of use goes back much farther than the 1930s.  Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was the daughter of Janet Bouvier.  Janet’s sisters were Winifred and Marion, names that were all fairly common in the early part of the twentieth century.

Even farther back?  Jane Eyre takes us back to the name’s roots.  Mr. Rochester called the famous, fictional Jane by the pet form Janet.

And so it was.  Let’s start with JohnIoannes is the Biblical Greek original; Iohannes is the Latin form.  In medieval French, it became Jehan for boys and Jehanne for girls.  They evolved into Jean and Jeanne in modern French, but when they were imported to England, Jehanne became Jane.  Joan comes from the same roots, via Johanne.  A tremendous assortment of related names were in use in medieval England: Jinny, Jenny, Johana, Jennet, and yes, Janet.

You might also find Janet in use as a surname, in reference to the given name Jan.  This raises the possibility that Janet may not have been exclusively feminine early days, much like short form Charlie can be used for either gender today.

So Janet’s history of use goes back centuries, enough to make her as classic as Joan or Jane.  But she’s on a sharp decline in 2013.  As of 2011, she ranked just #952.  In 2012, she left the rankings entirely.

The Duggars used Jana, but not Janet.  Janessa, Janelle, Janiya, Janiyah, and Janae rank in the Top 1000.  Jane continues to gain, reaching #340 in 2012.

So is Janet gone for good?  One of the twins Liz Lemon adopted at the end of 30 Rock wears the name, but somehow I doubt that’s enough to brush off the dust.  And yet if you’re daring, Janet could be a surprising choice in 2013 – like Violet, but far less likely to share her name.

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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.

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What do you think?


  1. I love Janet and would be happy to see it make a comeback. It would indeed be a breath of fresh air compared to Violet and Juliet, which although very pretty, seem to be everywhere.

  2. I love Janet. I’d like to use it as a middle name one day, to honor my mom and also a cousin in Latvia named Jānis (pronounced Yah-niss). My mom was named after a childhood friend of my grandma’s. I think it would be great to meet a little Janet.

  3. No mention of Interplanet Janet from Schoolhouse Rock?!

    Janet was the other name my mother had picked out for me before I was born. I’m glad she went with C instead.

  4. My name! I’m 32 and have only met one other Janet my age, but I liked that. I’m named after my great grandmother, who was called Nettie, but my mother nixed that when I was born (fine with me). People used to mishear my name as Hannah or Shannon, probably because Janet on a young person was unexpected. 🙂

  5. I like it! But I have a very soft spot for trim, spunky girls’ names. I’d never use it as I have a cousin called Janet. I’d love to meet a little Janet, though.

  6. I know a little girl called Janet, nicknamed ‘Jan-Jan’. I never really considered the name before but the nickname is very cute on her.