She’s a sophisticated French spin on an evergreen choice for girls – and a goddess name, too!
Thanks to Sophie for suggesting Anais as Name of the Day.
Anais is almost always written with a diacritical mark over the i: Anaïs. Purists will tell you that the diaresis matters. Otherwise, how would you know to pronounce the name ahn na EES?
Here at AppMtn, I like to think I’m more pragmatic – at least on this topic. Umlauts, cedillas and the like are not used in American English. More often than not, they’re also not captured accurately in a database. And while part of this name’s charm is that distinctive diacritical mark, I’d argue that you’ll still find yourself pronouncing this one multiple times.
I came across a bunch of variant pronunciations, including ahn NA ees, an ah iss, ahn ees and ahn ess. After all, the name is a Top 25 pick in Chile, and a Top 50 staple in French-speaking Canada. Inevitably, the name will sound different on the opposite side of the world.
She’s often listed as a French version of the evergreen Anne. That’s not perfectly accurate. Instead, Anais evolved in the Provençal and Catalan dialects. Both are living languages in use today. They’re an intriguing mix of French and Spanish – in Catalan, for example, hello sounds like the Spanish hola while good-bye is closer to the French adieu.
Before we put her down as another attractive outcome of the evolution of various Romance languages, perhaps we should consider the Persian goddess of romance – or at least fertility. Anaitis, or possibly Anaiti, is the Greek form of Anahita. She was worshipped as far back as 500 years before the birth of Christ. You’ll sometimes see her listed beside other Eastern goddesses like Ishtar, Astarte and Inanna, as well as more familiar figures like Aphrodite and Venus.
But Anais leans French – and literary – thanks to writer Anais Nin. Her heritage was Cuban, Spanish and French. And while her provocative writings don’t quite square with our notions of childhood innocence, her bold and creative spirit certainly could inspire a modern parent.
Besides her popularity in some French and Spanish speaking communities, she has a nicely global presence. Anais Catala was Miss Iraq 2007 and Anais Lameche is a Swedish pop singer, best known as part of now defunct tween girl group Play. (However both have French roots.)
Noel Gallagher of Oasis chose Anais name for his daughter. And there’s an mutant in Marvel Comics’ X-Men universe who wears the name, too.
In the US, Anais has charted sparingly, appearing in 1988, 1992, 1993, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007. She’s not completely unfamiliar, but name your daughter Anais and odds are you won’t meet another.
Overall, there’s something beguiling about this choice. Cacharel even used it – twice – for their fragrance Anaäs Anaïs. It’s awfully glamorous for a little girl, but offers the option of using homespun Annie or simpler Anna if the full name seems too much. But in a world full of vowel-intensive names like Zoe and Kaylie, Anais doesn’t seem so complicated.