Anna, Anne

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Biblical Hebrew
Meaning: “grace.”
(ANN; AHN). (ANN-uh; AHN-nah). (HANN-uh; HAHN-nah)

Anne is possibly one of the quintessential classic English and French female names. Prior to the 18th-century, it seems that every other girl born in England was either named Anne, Jane or Mary. There were several British and French queens who bore this simplistic moniker, including the ill fated Anne Boleyn, the mother of Elizabeth I. The history of Anne is rather long and complicated.

It was foremost popularized through the cult of St. Anne, a legendary figure who was said to be the mother of the Virgin Mary and the grandmother of Christ.

In Brittany, the name became especially popular because it happened to coincide with the name of an ancient Celtic goddess, her cult being replaced by St. Anne’s. In fact, it was borne by one Breton Princess, Anne of Brittany.

The name was introduced into Britain by the French-Normans after the invasion in 1066. Previously, there had been a minor Saxon king named Anna, but in this case the name is related to the Saxon arn (eagle). Anna and Anne are still occasionally used as male given names in Friesland.

Other than the apocryphal saint, the name Anne can be traced directly back to the Bible. In the New Testament, it is the name of a prophetess who predicts the Crucifixion of Christ.

Anna (Αννα), is the Greek translation of the early Hebrew Channah חַנָּה, usually transliterated as Hannah, meaning “grace.”

Hannah is borne in the Old Testament by the faithful mother of the prophet, Samuel.

Hannah has always been popular among Jewish families, but was virtually unheard of among non-Jews before the Reformation, except in some cases where it may have been used as a diminutive form of Johanna, spelled Hanna.

It was the Byzantines who had introduced the Anna form to the world, making it popular throughout Eastern and Southern Europe. It was a very popular name among the Byzantine royal family and it was borne by the majestic Anna of Byzantium.

Anna may be the more melodic form of the bunch, but Anne’s minimalistic qualities are charming. Short, to the point, no frills. It’s not a bad name, though it does lack some spice, which is why parents are probably more attracted to its more exotic alternatives. In fact, Anne only comes in at # 608 in the top 1000 female names of the United States. It is safe to say, however, that she is very much loved in the middle name spot.

Anna is currently one of the most popular female names in Europe and abroad. Her rankings are as follows:

  • # 1 (Austria, 2010)
  • # 1 (Estonia, 2011)
  • # 2 (Hungary, 2010)
  • # 3 (Ana, Georgia, 2010)
  • # 3 (Iceland, 2010)
  • # 4 (Ana, Croatia, 2010)
  • # 4 (Czech Republic, 2010)
  • # 4 (Germany, 2011)
  • # 4 (Ukraine, 2010)
  • # 5 (Faroe Islands, 2010)
  • # 5 (Ana, Portugal, 2010)
  • # 6 (Armenia, 2010)
  • # 6 (Ane, Greenland, 2002-2003)
  • # 6 (Ana, Romania, 2009)
  • # 6 (Ana, Serbia, 2010)
  • # 7 (Latvia, 2011)
  • # 7 (Russia, 2011)
  • # 8 (German-speaking Switzerland, 2010)
  • # 9 (Denmark, 2011)
  • # 10 (Netherlands, 2010)
  • # 10 (Northern Ireland, 2010)
  • # 10 (Norway, 2010)
  • # 11 (Italy, 2010)
  • # 12 (Ireland, 2010)
  • # 14 (Poland, 2010)
  • # 16 (Catalonia, 2010)
  • # 26 (Canada, B.C., 2010)
  • # 28 (Italian-speaking Switzerland, 2010)
  • # 28 (United States, 2010)
  • # 29 (Scotland, 2010)
  • # 40 (France, 2009)
  • # 46 (French-speaking Switzerland, 2010)
  • # 53 (Belgium, 2009)
  • # 63 (England/Wales, 2010)
  • # 71 (Australia, 2010)
  • # 81 (Sweden, 2010)
  • # 83 (Spain, 2010)
Other forms of the name include:
  • Anneen (Afrikaans/Low German)
  • Anna Анна (Afrikaans/Albanian/Armenian/Breton/Bulgarian/Catalan/Corsican/Czech/Dutch/English/Estonian/Faroese/Finnish/French/Frisian/German/Greek/Hungarian/Icelandic/Italian/Latvian/Limburgish/Maltese/Polish/Russian/Ukrainian/Scandinavian/Slovak)
  • Anne (Basque/Dutch/English/French/Scandinavian)
  • Gánna Га́нна (Belarusian)
  • Annaig (Breton)
  • Annick (Breton)
  • Maina (Breton)
  • Mannaig (Breton)
  • Mannick (Breton)
  • Naig (Breton)
  • Ana Ана ანა (Bulgarian/Croatian/Galician/Georgian/Lombard/Macedonian/Portuguese/Romanian/Samogaitian/Serbian/Slovene/Spanish/Venetian)
  • Jana (Croatian/Ladino)
  • Aneta (Czech/Polish/Samogaitian/Slovak)
  • Aina (Catalan)
  • Anica (Croatian/Serbian/Slovene)
  • Ane (Danish)
  • Anika (Danish)
  • Anneke (Dutch)
  • Anneken (Dutch)
  • Annika (Dutch/Finnish/German/Latvian/Scandinavian)
  • Anka (Dutch/Frisian/German)
  • An(n)ke (Dutch/Frisian)
  • Anouk (Dutch/French)
  • Ans (Dutch)
  • Enneke (Dutch)
  • Enneken (Dutch)
  • Anita (English/German/Polish/Spanish)
  • Annette (English/French/German)
  • Anissa (English)
  • Annelle/Annella (Estonian)
  • Anete (Estonian/Latvian)
  • Anett (Estonian)
  • Anu (Estonian)
  • Anni (Finnish)
  • Annikki (Finnish)
  • Anniina (Finnish)
  • Annukka (Finnish)
  • Niina (Finnish)
  • Anaïs (French/Provençal)
  • Annouche (French)
  • Ninette (French)
  • Ninon (French)
  • Ninouk (French)
  • Anje (Frisian)
  • Ankea (Frisian)
  • Antje (Frisian)
  • Antjen (Frisian)
  • Anute (Fruilian)
  • Anano (Georgian)
  • Annchen (German)
  • Annel (German)
  • Annele (German/Latvian)
  • Anneli(e) (German/Finnish/Swedish)
  • Annet (German)
  • Anina (German)
  • Anja (German/Slovene)
  • Anouschka (German/Italian/Russian)
  • Annaki (Greek)
  • Annoula (Greek)
  • Noula (Greek)
  • Anikó (Hungarian)
  • Annuska (Hungarian)
  • Panni (Hungarian)
  • Áine (Irish)
  • Ánna (Irish)
  • Annarella (Italian)
  • Annella (Italian)
  • Annetta (Italian)
  • Annettina (Italian)
  • Nona (Italian/Romansch)
  • Ance (Latvian)
  • Annija (Latvian)
  • Anninya (Latvian)
  • Ona (Lithuanian)
  • Annamma (Malayalam)
  • Annam (Malayalam)
  • Onnee (Manx)
  • Âone (Norman)
  • Aenna/Aenne (Old High German)
  • Annehe (Old High German)
  • Änna/Änne (Old High German)
  • Neta (Piedmontese)
  • Noto (Piedmontese)
  • Anke (Plattdeutsch)
  • Anneke(n) (Plattdeutsch)
  • Analia (Romansch/Spanish)
  • Annina (Romansch)
  • Annotta (Romansch)
  • Anca (Romanian)
  • Anicuta (Romanian)
  • Anėta (Samogaitian)
  • Anėkė (Samogaitian)
  • Annag (Scottish)
  • Ghianna (Sicilian)
  • Janna (Sicilian)
  • Nanna (Sicilian)
  • Anniken (Swedish)
  • Ann (Welsh)
  • Nan (Welsh)
  • Nanno (Welsh)
  • Nanw (Welsh)
  • Aana (Wolof)
As for the Hannah forms

Hanna without an H is the prefered form on Continental Europe, usually pronounced (HAHN-nah) and in French like Anna. Hanna and Hanne (HAHN-neh) are also used as diminutive forms of Johanna/Johanne in the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany. There is the Hungarian Hajna pronounced (HOY-no). The Czech/Slovak form of Hana nickname Hanka. There are the Yiddish forms of Heyna, Hayna, Hejna (all pronounced like HAY-nah) including the diminutive forms of HenaHende, Hendel and Henye.  The Polish diminutive form of Hania, which might make an interesting alternative to Anya or Hannah. Hannah, Hanna and Henna are all used in the Middle East.

Of course, how could we ever forget the popular diminutive forms of Annie and Nan.

11 thoughts on “Anna, Anne

  1. We toyed around with Anya as a Slavic twist on my great-grandmother Anna's name – sort of a mix of my husband's background and mine. But we just could NOT agree on a full formal name. I liked Diana, but he wasn't on board.

    It remains a favorite.

  2. May I suggest a few “exotic” (more or less ;)) variations on Anna/e all on my own authority?

    Anneli, Annelie, Annely, Annele – originally Southern German, Austrian and Swiss diminutive forms of Anne, they are now also used as independent names, with Annele being the rarest of these forms and Annely the most recent one (or rather a modern “respelling”). Since Emily is so popular, these variants of Anne might be interesting for some parents as well.

    Nona – Romansh variant of Anna.

    Anneen – a rare name, used on the German coast and in the German-Dutch and German-Danish boarder regions.

    Ane – a Danish variant (diminutive?) of Anna and a Frisian boys’ name derived from Germanic “arn” meaning “eagle”.

    Annehe – Old High German (und thus also Dutch) form of Anne. Apparently a predecessor of modern Annke.

    Anneken – variant of Anneke

    Ennike / Ennikke – Dutch variants of Anneke

    Annel – German diminutive of Anne (rare)

    Annet – German variant of Annette (rare)

    Aenne / Aenna / Änne / Änna – old (Northern) German variants of Anne and Anna

    Enna / Enne / Enni – Frisian name of debated origin (respectively several sources).
    1. Simplified spelling of Aenne, Aenna and Aenni.
    2. Feminine form of Enno. Enno itself is a short form of names beginning with the element “arn” = “eagle” as well as of names beginning with the element “ein-” or “agin” meaning “sword”.
    With Emma being so popular, Enna might be an appealing alternative.

    On a side note:
    In the Frisian areas of the Netherlands, Anne is also used as a boys’ name. A known masculine bearer of this name is
    the author Anne de Vries.

    Hanna, without the -h at the end, is usually a considered a short form of Johanna in German-speaking countries.

  3. And a few more (sorry, I seem to be a little forgetful…)

    Antje, Antye, Anntje (all pronounced AHNT-yə)
    Anje (pr. AHN-yə)
    Annche – all of these forms are Frisian diminutives of Anne and Anna.

    Antjen (AHNT-yən), Antjeline (AHNT-yə-LEE-nə) – Frisian diminutive forms of Antje

    Anke, Annke – Frisian diminutives of Anna and Anne.
    Anka – Low German form of Anke.

    Ankea – Frisian diminutive of Anke.

    Ance – Latvian form of Anke.

    Amrei, Amrai – pronounced AHM-rye. Technically, this a (Southern German and Austrian) short form of Annemarei and Annemarie. But with names like Amery, Emery and Avery becomin a tad more popular I thought this might be interesting as well.

    Armei – pronounced AHR-mye. Swiss German variant of Amrei.

    Amei – “AH-mye”. Another variant of Amrei.

  4. Thanks so much Capucine, I have edited and added some of these. I am going to save the Annemarie forms for when I write an article about Annemarie. As for Enna, I think that she is interesting enough that I might write a separate article for her.

    • You are welcome! 🙂
      I’m glad you consider writing an article about Enna. She is such an underused little gem (in my opinion, of course).

      Just a tiny “correction” on Analia: according to my Romansch sources and “The Book”, it’s pronounced ahn-nah-LEE-yah. (Which is probably a good thing with regard to the possible teasing potential :/ )

    • No, I was still not able to get it. I… uhm… I forced someone who has it to double check on Analia because I think it’s not a bad name – it’s just that the pronunciation ahn-NAHL-yah would be a tad unfortunate…. But it really is ahn-nah-LEE-yah.

  5. I agree that the latter pronunciation is far more pleasant. I knew Bosnian boy whose name was Anal (ah-NAHL) but everyone would mispronounce it the English way, which was not too fun for him.

  6. I love all the variations here! 😀
    I’d also like to point out that Capucine’s contributions of Annehe and Änne/Aenne are actually Low, not High German. Northern German and Dutch fall under the category of Low German, while Southern German/Swiss/Bavarian/Austrian are High German dialects.

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