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.

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Ava

Gender: Feminine
Origin: German/Persian
Eng (AY-vah); Germ/Per (AH-vah)

This vintagy, two syllable name has risen way up to the US top 10, coming in at # 5 most popular female name in the United States, (2010).

The name was relatively rare before 2000, and came out of nowhere, thanks, no doubt, to such Hollywood trendsetters as Heather Locklear and Reese Witherspoon, both of whom used the name for their daughters in the late 1990s. Both actresses named their daughters in honour of actress, Ava Gardner (1922-1990), whose full name was Ava Lavinia Gardner.

The name has several different origins and meanings, the beloved English counterpart is probably derived from a medieval Frankish name, which was borne in the 9th-century by a saint and the daughter of King Pepin II. In this case, it might be derived from the Germanic element avi meaning “desired.” Other sources have related it to the Frisian awa (water) or from the old Saxon, aval (power).

Another notable bearer is Ava of Melk (1060-1127), a Medieval poetess credited as being the first German language writer. Its recent popularity in German-speaking countries may in part be in tribute to her millennial anniversary and in part to Hollywood.

The name is also a popular Persian female name and is commonly used in Iran and throughout Central Asia. It can either be related to the Persian meaning, “sound, voice” or it may be connected with the Avestan word meaning “first.”

In Ireland and Scotland, it is sometimes used as an anglicized form of Aoife.

Its rankings in other countries are as follows:

  • # 3 (Scotland, 2010)
  • # 6 (Canada, B.C., 2010)
  • # 6 (Ireland, 2010)
  • # 11 (England/Wales, 2010)
  • # 14 (Australia, 2010)
  • # 20 (Northern Ireland, 2010)
  • # 188 (Germany, 2011)
  • # 246 (France, 2009)
  • # 444 (the Netherlands, 2010)

Stella

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Latin
Meaning: “star.”

This pretty, vintagy appellation with the stellar meaning was first introduced as a given name way back in the 16th-century. Sir Philip Sidney gave this name star-power when he used it for one of his sonnets Asphodel & Stella. To further boosts the name’s popularity, it has references to the Virgin Mary, derived from one of the many epithets to the mother of Christ, Stella Maris (Star of the Sea), is a sort of poetic reference to Mary as a guiding light for lost souls. Due to these connotations, the name caught on big time in places as far south as Spain and all the way east in Poland. Despite its literary references in England, the name never really caught on, in fact, in Great Britain today, Stella is the name of a ledger, which makes the name somewhat of a turn off for British parents. While in the United States, the name has had somewhat of a history since the turn of the century. Thanks to an influx of Polish immigrants, the name became very popular in the United States, Stella being a very popular Polish given name at that time, either being an anglicization for Stela or Stanislawa. Due to its enormous popularity among the Polish community, the name became a sort of stereotype name for Polish women from the 1920s-30s. Today, the name has lost those stereotypes, but for the granddaughters and great grandaughters of those very same immigrants, the name has held a lot of charm and appeal, holding fuzzy warm memories of old world grandmas for a whole new generation of parents. This might explain its sudden resurgence in popularity. In 1999, Stella sat at a mere # 725 of the Top 1000 names in the United States. Fast forward 9 years and it nows sits at # 186 of the top 1000 female names of 2008, and will probably rise. It has the same feel as other popular vintagy names such as Ava, Grace and Sophia. So don’t be surprised to see little Stellas coming to a school near you very soon. Though the name has Polish roots for many Americans, the name is considered rather old fashioned in Poland these days, meanwhile just further north in Sweden, the name has caught on quite a bit. It came in at # 33 in 2007 among the Top 100 female names of Sweden. Down under, in Australia, the name comes in at # 99. If you are concerned about the possible future over popularity of this name, then you might like the more unusual alternatives of Estelle, Estella and the Spanish Estrella (es-STRAY-yah). There is the Portuguese elaborate form of Stelina, and there is the Romanian Steliana, though that has a completely different etymology from Stella, it is derived from the Greek Styliani which is a feminine form of Stylianos meaning “piller.”

Other pop culture references are Stella Dubois Kowalski from Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Called Desire. It is also borne by the daughter of Paul and Linda Macartney.
Its designated name day is July 14.