Would you name your daughter Suejust Sue? In the Netherlands, plenty of parents are opting for a related nickname name.

Thanks to Kelleita for suggesting Sanne as Name of the Day.

I first mentioned Sanne more than a year ago in a post about Susannah. While Susannah is feminine and conjures up images of a pinafore-clad girl churning butter, Sanne is cosmopolitan, even sleek. And yet both come to us via Shoshannah – a Biblical, Hebrew name meaning lily that might just stretch all the way back to Ancient Egypt.

There’s nothing throwback about Sanne. While she’s never charted in the US Top 1000, she’s currently all the rage in the Netherlands, ranking #5 there in 2008, and even reaching the top spot #1 in recent years.

For an American audience, popular Dutch names range from the familiar (Sophie, Emma, Eva and Julia all feature in their Top Ten) to the surprising (Isa, Noa, Lieke, Lotte, Anouk and Maud are all current favorites, too). While a few of these – Lieke seems like a real stretch – would not import well to the US, many of the others have cross-cultural appeal.

Let’s put Sanne in that second group. The Dutch derived Sanne from Susanne, as a contracted form. (Scandinavians did the same with Susanna and arrived at Sanna.)

But what if you’re not Dutch? Let’s suppose you’ve never even been to Amsterdam. Would Sanne work for you?

Maybe. The ending -sana is common in plenty of languages. There’s the Russian Oksana, the Nigerian Hasana, even the (probably) Persian Roxana.

On the map, you’ll find a hamlet in Northern Germany and a village in eastern Nepal both called Sanne.

If we think of Sanne as a twist on the diminutive Sue, there’s even a stronger case for her use. As a stand-alone name, Sue charted in the US Top 100 from 1939 through 1950. That’s more than 40,000 Sues born in the 1940s alone.

Notable Sannes are few, and almost entirely European:

  • Sanne Salmonsen was a Danish pop singer in the 80s;
  • A handful of (mostly) Dutch athletes wear the name;
  • The winner of Holland’s Next Top Model back in 2006 was Sanne Nijhof. Fellow contestants included Marcia, Annika, Daisy and Charmayne.

While Sanne isn’t hard to say – SAH nuh, sort of like the Latina Ana with an S – the spelling could prove problematic. If you’ve never seen this name before, it could be tempting to rhyme her with sane, or even just give her a one-syllable pronunciation – sand sans the final d, maybe.

But if you’re willing to work through those challenges, Sanne makes for an international import that could wear well on both sides of the Atlantic.

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. Haha, funny to see this. My name is Sanne and I’m Dutch! How surprising. Most people, except for the Dutch, don’t know how to pronounce my name. But I don’t blame them 🙂

  2. I find the sound of Sanne so beautiful, but the spelling so annoying for English speakers. I recently discovered Sanna, a Swedish variant of the same etymology, and Sana, an Arabic name pronounced the same from a different route. I love all three, but I’d probably use one of the latter two for simplicity’s sake.

  3. I actually met a Sanne yesterday, five years old. Although she pronounced it suh-NAY. She had a seven year old sister, Marena.

  4. When I lived in Australia — where I was taking a diploma course — there were two Sannes on campus, both, of course, from the Netherlands. One of them was actually in my program. It’s a lovely name, but very distinctly Dutch in my opinion.

  5. This is a cute name, has the same appeal as Anna or Sienna. I can definitely see this catching on if more American parents were aware of it.

  6. Thank you for doing this name — it is one of my all-time favorites! Unfortunately, I can’t convince my husband to get on board my love affair for it. Oh well… I’ll just have to admire from afar… 🙂