She’s the spare sister of Biblical powerhouse Hannah – and a name in her own right, too.
Thanks to Rachel for suggesting Hana as Name of the Day.
It’s hard to avoid Hannah. She’s a Biblical good girl, the virtuous mother of Samuel in the Old Testament. Usually listed with the meaning grace, Hannah is feminine without being frilly and simple without being plain.
Of course, you’ll hear Hannah everywhere. She ranked in the US Top 100 back in the 1980s. More than 32,000 newborn Hannahs arrived in the decade best remembered for Flashdance and the Rubik’s Cube. By the 90s, Hannah was a hands-down hit, bestowed upon 158,000 baby girls. And in the current decade, she’s a solid Top Ten, already worn by 148,000 newborns.
While her popularity has slipped of late – she ranked just #17 in 2008 – you’ll still hear plenty of parents considering Hannah.
Just like Jennifer led to Jenifer and Zoe led to Zoey, some parents decided a variant spelling was in order. Hanna was #367 in 2008. And Hana ranked #827. (The similar, but not related, Johanna came in at #448.)
But Hana isn’t just a stripped-down version of the name. In Czech, Hana is the accepted spelling, and a fairly common given name, worn by athletes and models alike. Hana also features as a nickname for Johana in several Eastern European languages.
Hana also boasts pan-global appeal, with other meanings and origins attributed, including:
- Japanese for flower, bloom or blossom;
- Arabic for happiness – though that’s probably best spelled Hanaa;
- Persian for flower;
- Korean for one;
- Albanian for moon.
You’ll also find Hana on the map – she’s an isolated hamlet located on the eastern end of Maui, in Hawaii.
As with many names with multiple meanings attached, it is tricky – even impossible – to verify some of them. The Japanese origins are sound, with related names including Hanae, Hanako and Hanaye in use, too.
While there are plenty of famous Hannahs, it is a tough to turn up Hanas of note. On the animated series Kim Possible, Hana Stoppable is “unstoppable” – Han Stoppable. (Say it fast.) A minor character on the first season of Heroes was hero Hana Gitelman.
Just as Hannah herself is falling in the rankings, Hana is sliding from use. Cross-cultural vibe aside, she’s just not different enough from a tremendously popular name to satisfy most parents seeking something uncommon. She peaked at #621 back in 2002, and seems headed for obscurity.
The most interesting twist on Hannah/Hana might just be Hanae. It’s the given name of design powerhouse Hanae Mori, and a rising favorite in France, where it is spelled Hannaé, Hanaé and Hanaë. Pronounced hah nay AY, she’s an intriguing import, if a bit tricky to say for the average American.
But if nearly 400 American girls were named Chanel in 2008 alone, why couldn’t a few be named after a Japanese design icon?
Should you need a name that works in Tokyo and Prague equally well, Hana is a safe bet. If you’re looking for a truly innovative pick for a daughter, Hana will probably leave you wishing you’d looked a little bit more.