Actress January Jones at the 60th Annual Emmy ...
January Jones; Image via Wikipedia

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on December 31, 2008 and was revised and republished on January 2, 2012.

She’s an Emmy-nominated actress with a name inspired by a bestselling novel.

Today’s Name of the Day is the forward looking January.

Actually, January looks forward and backward. The month is named after Janus, the Roman god of doorways – and the beginnings and endings they symbolize. It has been the first month of the year as early as the fifth century BC, but it wasn’t until the sixteenth century that January 1st was cemented as the first day of the new year.

Of the twelve months on our calendar, at least four have history as given names and have ranked in the US Top 1000:

  • April peaked at #23 in 1979. As of 2010, she ranked #378.
  • May has been used as a nickname for Mary, Mabel and Margaret. As an independent name, she peaked at #57 in 1883 and was last ranked in 1982;
  • June peaked at #39 in 1925 and has been making a comeback, both in the middle spot and as a given name. In 2010, June ranked #597.
  • August, the sole calendar name typically reserved for boys, has perhaps the longest history of use and doubles as a masculine virtue name of sorts. He peaked at #74 in 1882 and today ranks #607.

In their company, January seems less outlandish. She’s also helped by her construction. The three-syllable, ends-in-y pattern is common in girls’ names throughout the years: Marjorie, Dorothy, Rosemary, Kimberly, Destiny, Mackenzie, Delaney.

Here’s an equally intriguing fact: January has ranked in the US Top 1000 before.

Back in 1973, Jacqueline Susann chose the name January for the lead character in her novel Once is Not Enough. Susann’s 1966 novel Valley of the Dolls was a smash hit, as was the 1967 film adaptation. While she’d never equal the success of Dolls, Once is Not Enough was also a bestseller and quickly adapted for the big screen in 1975.

The glamorous January Wayne inspired a handful of namesakes. Between 1976 and 1979, the name ranked in the US Top 1000, peaking at #639 in 1978.

While they’re dated now, the Jan- names were just ending their run of popularity in the 1970s. In the 1940s and 50s, Janet and Janice both regularly ranked in the Top 25 names given to girls. By the 1960s, variants Janelle, Janine and Jana were all common, with multiple spellings in use. January must have seemed a logical extension of the category, with the familiar Jan was waiting as a nickname.

Actress January Jones was born in 1978, part of the short-lived January boom. And yes, her birthday is just a few days from now – January 5. Her big break was playing bride Michelle’s little sister in American Wedding, the third installment in the American Pie series. (Her character was called Cadence – but that’s another post!) Today, she can be seen bringing back Betty on AMC’s series Mad Men, as the icy cool former Mrs. Draper. She’s also portrayed White Queen Emma Frost, one of the X-Men.

So far, the actress hasn’t inspired enough parents to return January to the Top 1000 – fewer than two dozen daughters were given the name last year. But Winter seems to be catching on for the same reasons – she’s modern, but not invented. Her sound is unisex, but just on the right side of feminine.

If you’re expecting a daughter this month, January might be one to consider.

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. Way way way back in the distant past, there was a pop song called “January” – it got to #1 here and must have been played enough that I still have very dim memories of hearing it on the radio a few years later. It must have been during the 1970s January-boom.

    I’ve always thought the name seemed fresh and attractive and still very “normal” sounding.

  2. I used to live in January Jones’ hometown. Back then she was just starting to make a name for herself as a model and I would have never remembered her… except for her remarkable name.

    January feels rather singular, not quite Oprah or Gaga level, but it’s so associated with Ms. Jones (and her portrayal of Betty and Emma Frost didn’t exactly add warmth to the name.)

    I don’t know if it’s used legitimately as a name, but I’d prefer the French Janvier.

  3. I am partial to August or even better Augustine or Augustus.
    I like January in theory, but I don’t think many people could pull it off.