Baby Name of the Day: January


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.

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21 Comments

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.

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.

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.

January Jones has to be one of the best actress names ever, made better by the fact that it’s her real name 🙂

I like month and season names, but only if there is meaning behind it (like she was born/conceived in June, Autumn is your favorite season, etc.) I do love the meaning behind January, the beginnings and endings. That meaning alone is enough for me to consider her in the middle spot, though December is the most special month to DH and I as a couple. All in all, and as long as she’s not shortened to Jan, I really like January.

I think January is a cool name, especially when paired with the alliterative surname Jones – it’s a fitting actor’s name. However, it’s not a month name I’d ever go with, personally – Jan isn’t for me, and January just calls for shortening…

I love May. She’s one of my favorites – sweet, delicate, but perhaps too much so, which is why I don’t think I’d ever use her. June has more impact, yet the goddess-like Juno or, even more, the nature-friendly Juniper are more for me. I suppose, overall, August is my favorite month name, for a boy – Gus is cute and intriguing, and August is handsome as I’ll get out!

Speaking of month names, I was watching an episode of America’s Super Nanny and a family had ten kids (with twins on the way!), one of whom was named September. The other names were interesting, too, from Desmond and Desja (pr. DAY-ja) to Nevada (called “Vada”) to the infant twins, Weston and Winter. I got a bit hooked on the show and watched a second episode featuring triplets Roman, Xavier, and Giovanni and baby sister, Scarlet.

Oh, gosh! I forgot the most ‘unique’ name in that last family. So, they had triplets Roman, Xavier, and Giovanni, then a son named Armani, then baby Scarlet. Hearing them call out, “Armani!” was far funnier than it should have been…

I love January! It’s so cool. The one problem I have with this name, and month names in general, is this: if you have a daughter born in January, and name her January, it seems a little bit cheesy to me. But if you have a daughter in May, and name her January, then it seems sort of meaningless.

I’ve got a soft spot ofr May and June too but I’m afraid January doesn’t do it for me. I once met a January but all her friends called her Jan, I think that’s what put me off more than anything.

I like October and January for girls! The former is on my short list even. I prn. January with four syllables, like Jan-You-Air-Ee. How do you prn. it?

Oh, JNE, I’m right there with you. I loathe winter and whle Februrary seems to be my lowest point, January’s no picnic for me either. (I’m a Summer chick, give me 98 degrees with 90% humidity and I’m in heaven!)
I’ve got a soft spot for May, & June (Auntie & cousin by marriage) but even April bothers me a bit. March & October might be good on boys. And I dislike the Jan-sound. So while it works beautifully for January Jones and would probably be stellar on someone else’s kid (especially with a smiple surname like Smith, Jones, etc.) but January is so not for me!

I don’t mind it at all as a name though I wouldn’t use it myself. Does sound silly with many surnames though, including mine.. I’m kind of bored by May and June but have a certain fondness for April and Autumn. Have not read or seen Secret Life of Bees, but isn’t there a female August in that? As well as a May and a June. I heard of a September the other day. I can see someone using December as well.

January is an alright name. It doesn’t bug me and I kind of like it, although Jan is not a favorite nn for me. It’s more unexpected than April, May, and June, which is nice. January Jones is one of those stage-y artsy names that works as a dashing sound to me – the two Js – the sound is out of an old film noir in my mind – I can hear the raspy detective voice saying, “Her name was January Jones, and she blew in like a cold snap on this hot July evening…” OK, I’m no writer, but it’s something like that for me… it’s a cool name as the whole package. Putting it with my last name doesn’t sound nearly so cool.

This is probably ridiculous, but I don’t really like winter (the season) – the cold, snow, ice – ugh! So January is too closely tied to my least favorite time of the year. It’s the same with the name Winter. Maybe if those names get more popular I’ll disassociate them with the months (I don’t really think of April, May and June as months when they’re used as names, oddly). Of course, by the time they’re that popular I probably will not like them for that reason – too many little Winters and Januarys running amok.

With that said, I’m more partial to Autumn – it’s really the only time-frame name I’m partial to. Augustus is fine too. Wednesday is fun – but hump day? – nah. The rest of the months, days of the weeks, and seasons are not so much my cup of tea.

For others, though, I think a baby naed January would be cute.