Jan

August 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

ORIGIN:
For girls, a variant of “Jane” or diminitive of “Janet“, “Janice”, “Janelle”, etc. For boys, a medieval version of “John“, or a variation on “Johannes”.

VARIATIONS and NICKNAMES:
For girls: Jana, Janae, Janelle, Janetta, Janet, Janette, Janey, Janie, Janice, Janis, Janith, Janna, Jannah, Jannetta, Jannette, Jayna, Jayne, Jaynie, Jean, Jeanette, Jeanne, Jenae, Jenna, Jennet, Jenni, Jenny, Joan, Joanie, Joanne, Joanna, etc.
For boys: Janek, Jani, Janne, Jannick, Jean, Jens, Jo, Johan, Johannes, John, Johnnie, Johnny, Jon, Jonas, Joni, Jono, Jovan, etc.

REFERENCES IN LITERATURE:
Jan Foot, the first of Lily’s high school friends to have “done it”, in Sleeping Arrangements, by Laura Cunningham (published 1989, set in the 1950s).

Berta

August 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

ORIGIN:
Variation of “Bertha“; or a diminutive form of names like “Alberta”, “Roberta“, etc.

VARIATIONS and NICKNAMES:
Alberta, Albertina, Albertine, Auberta, Berchta, Berdi, Berdie, Berdy, Berdina, Berhta, Berit, Bert, Bertha, Berthe, Berti, Bertie, Bertille, Bertina, Berty, Birdi, Birdie, Birdy, Burti, Burtie, Burty, Elberta, Elberte, Elbertina, Elbertine, Elbertyna, Hrothbeorhta, Hrothberta, Hrothbertina, Hrothnerta, Perda, Perde, Perdi, Perdie, Perdy, Pirda, Pirde, Pirdi, Pirdie, Pirdy, Purda, Purde, Purdi, Purdie, Purdy, Perchta, Perta, Perte, Perti, Pertie, Perty, Pirta, Pirte, Pirti, Pirtie, Pirty, Purta, Purte, Purti, Purtie, Purty, Roberta, Robertia, Robertina, etc.

REFERENCES IN LITERATURE:
Great Aunt Berta, Lily’s elderly relative and Becky’s sister, who is aware their nephew died of heart failure months ago, but has kept the news from her sister, in Sleeping Arrangements, by Laura Cunningham (published 1989, set in the 1950s).

WRITERS:
Berta Behrens (1850-1912), German novelist who published under the pen name “Wilhelmine (W.) Heimburg”.
Berta Bojetu Boeta (1946-1997), Slovene actress, poet, and writer.
Berta Golob (b. 1932), Slovene librarian, poet, teacher, and writer.
Berta Hader (1890-1976), American children’s book author and illustrator.
Berta Ruck (1878-1978), British memoirist and novelist.
Berta Zuckerkandl (1864-1935), Austrian critic, journalist, and writer.

August

May 24, 2015 § 1 Comment

ORIGIN:
Variation of “Augustus”, meaning “great” or “venerable”, or possibly referring to the month of August.

VARIATIONS and NICKNAMES:
Aku, Avgust, Augie, Auggie, Augustas, Auguste, Augusto, Augustus, Aukusti, Gus, Gussie, Gussy, Kusti, Og, Oggi, Oggie, Oggy, etc.

REFERENCES IN LITERATURE:
Mr. August Viele, owner of the New York property which houses the bar Hurstwood regretfully invests in, in Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (published in 1900; set 1889-1890s).

Fortuna

December 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

ORIGIN:
Latin, meaning “fortunate” or “lucky”, after the Roman goddess of Fortune (obviously).

VARIATIONS and NICKNAMES:
Fortune? Maybe Lucky, in a roundabout sort of way?

REFERENCES IN LITERATURE:
– Mommy Fortuna, the witch who captures the unicorn for her Midnight Carnival, in the fantasy novel The Last Unicorn (1968) by Peter S. Beagle.

Famos

November 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

ORIGIN:
From Catalan, meaning “famous”.

VARIATIONS and NICKNAMES:
. . . I . . . don’t . . . know?

REFERENCES IN LITERATURE:
– Famos Serreños, Spanish Johnny’s cousin, who moves to Moonstone to work in the brickyard, in The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (written in 1915 and set in the 1890s).

Diana

August 26, 2014 § 2 Comments

ORIGIN:
Latin, meaning “divine”, from the Roman goddess of the moon, hunting, forests, and childbirth.

VARIATIONS and NICKNAMES:
Dajana, Dede, Dee, Di, Diahann, Dian, Diane, Dianna, Dianne, Dijana, Kiana, etc.

REFERENCES IN LITERATURE:
Diana, a girl at school Lily befriends, one of the other “irregular” children in her grade, in Sleeping Arrangements, by Laura Cunningham (published 1989, set in the 1950s).
Diana Duval, one of Lily’s first friends, “a dirty blonde in every sense”, in Sleeping Arrangements.
Diana Rivers (later Fitzjames), one of St. John’s sisters, who befriend Jane after she leaves Thornfield, in Jane Eyre, 1847, by Charlotte Bronte.

WRITERS:
– Diana Athill (b. 1917), English editor, novelist, and memoirist.
– Diana Gabaldon (b. 1952), American author.
– Diana Gould (b. 1944), American author and screenwriter.
– Diana Hendry (b. 1941), English author and poet.
– Diana Wynne Jones (1934-2011), English writer.
– Diana Mitford, the Hon. Lady Mosley (1910-2003), English socialite and writer.
– Diana Morgan (b. 1913), English novelist.

Clara

August 6, 2014 § 7 Comments

ORIGIN:
Alternate version of “Clare”, from the Latin name “Clarus”, meaning “clear” or “bright”.

VARIATIONS and NICKNAMES:
Chiara, Claire, Clare, Claretta, Claribel, Clarice, Clarinda, Clarissa, Clarette, Kiara, Kiera, Klare, Klara, Klarissa, etc.

REFERENCES IN LITERATURE:
– Clara, the “honest and quiet; but heavy, mindless, and unimpressible” German woman Mr. Rochester took as a mistress following Céline Varens’ betrayal, in Jane Eyre, 1847, by Charlotte Bronte.
– Clara, Rosamond Carey’s mother, who sends her to stay with three maiden cousins, in “Little Button-Rose”, from A Garland for Girls, by Louisa May Alcott, 1887.
– Clara Carey, wife of Dr. Carey, David Langston’s dearest friend, in The Harvester (1911) by Gene Stratton Porter.
– Clara, Ella Carver’s cousin, for whose baby she buys pretty little things made by Almira Miller, in “May Flowers”, from A Garland for Girls.
Clara Harrington, a girl who unknowingly assisted in the trick on Tilly Drake, in “An April Fool”, from Nora Perry’s A Flock of Girls and Boys (1895).
– 
Clara Jeffreys (née Partridge), one of Augusta Elton’s friends from Bath that she cites as an example of how married women always give up their pursuit of music, in Jane Austen’s Emma (1815).

Anna

August 6, 2014 § 9 Comments

ORIGIN:
From “Hannah” (as used in the Greek and Latin Old Testament), a version of the Hebrew name “Channah”, meaning “favor” or “grace”.

VARIATIONS and NICKNAMES:
Ana, Anabel, Anais, Andie, Andy, Aneke, Aneta, Ani, Ania, Anica, Anika, Anissa, Anita, Anitra, Anka, Anke, Ann, Annabel, Annabella, Annabelle, Anne, Anneke, Annetta, Annette, Annick, Annicka, Annie, Annika, Anniken, Annis, Anny, Anouk, Antje, Anushka, Anya, Channah, Hana, Hanna, Hannah, Hanne, Nainsi, Nan, Nancie, Nancy, Nanette, Nannie, Nanny, Nina, Ninon, Ona, Onna, etc.

REFERENCES IN LITERATURE:
Anna Kronborg, Thea’s jealous and priggish older sister, in The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (written in 1915 and set in the 1890s).
Anna Page, Sidney’s mother, who takes in boarders to help pay the bills after her sister, Harriet, leaves to start a dressmaking business, in K. by Mary Roberts Rinehart (1914).
Anna Raymond, the girl Dolly Lorton is gossiping about when her friend Sally Ware calls her on it, in “The Youngest Miss Lorton”, from The Youngest Miss Lorton, and Other Stories by Nora Perry (1889).
Anna Richards, Mary Marcy’s friend and seat-mate, in “An April Fool”, from Nora Perry’s A Flock of Girls and Boys (1895).
Anna Snezak, co-owner (with her husband, Morris) of AnaMor Towers apartments, in Sleeping Arrangements, by Laura Cunningham (published 1989, set in the 1950s).
Anna Weston, the baby girl possibly named for her mother, who signs her name “A. Weston” (née Taylor), in Jane Austen’s Emma (1815).
Anna Winslow, president of the Mayflower Club in “May Flowers”, from A Garland for Girls, by Louisa May Alcott, 1887.

WRITERS:
– Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966), pen name of Russian poet Anna Andreyevna Gorenko.
– Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825), English critic, editor, essayist, poet, and children’s book writer.
– Anna Maria Bennett (c. 1750-1808), English novelist (sometimes credited as “Agnes Maria Hall”)
– Anna Maria Bunn (1808-1889), Australian author.
– Anna Maria Falconbridge (1769-c. 1816), English writer.
– Anna Katherine Green (1846-1935), American poet and novelist.
– Anna Maria Hall (1800-1881), Irish novelist (sometimes credited as “Mrs. S.C. Hall”)
– Anna Maria Hussey (1805-1853), English scientist, writer, and illustrator.
– Anna Kavan (1901-1968), English novelist, short story writer, and painter.
– Anna Maria Lenngren (1754-1817), Swedish poet, translator, and writer.
– Anna Maria Ortese (1914-1998), Italian poet and short story writer.
– Anna Maria Porter (1780-1832), English poet and novelist.
– Anna Quindlen (b. 1953), American author, columnist, and journalist.
– Anna Maria Rückerschöld (1725-1805), Swedish author.
– Anna Seghers (1900-1983), pen name of German writer Anna Reiling.
– Anna Sewell (1820-1878), English novelist.
– Anna Maria van Schurman (1607-1678), German-Dutch engraver, painter, poet, and scholar.
– Anna Marie Wilhelmina (A.M.W.) Stirling (1865-1965), English author who published under the pen name “Percival Pickering”.
– Anna Maria Wells (c. 1794-1868), American poet and children’s book writer.
– Anna Wheeler (c. 1780-1848), Irish activist and writer.

Joan

August 4, 2014 § 1 Comment

ORIGIN:
Usually used as the English form of “Johanne”, the Old French feminine version of “John“, meaning “Jehovah has been gracious”. Sometimes used as a masculine variant of “John“.

VARIATIONS and NICKNAMES:
For girls: Chevonne, Gia, Gianna, Giannina, Giovanna, Giovannetta, Hanna, Hanne, Ioanna, Ivana, Jana, Janina, Janine, Janne, Jannicke, Jean, Jeanne, Jenna, Jo, Joanie, Joann, Joanna, Joanne, Joetta, Johanna, Jojo, Jolene, Joleen, Jonelle, Jonette, Joni, Jonna, Juana, Juanita, Nana, Sheena, Shevaun, Shona, Siobhan, Sinaid, Vanna, Yoana, etc.
For boys: Eoin, Evan, Ewan, Gianni, Giannino, Giovanni, Hankin, Hans, Ian, Iain, Ioannes, Ivan, Jack, Jackie, Jackin, Jacky, Jan, Janko, Jannick, Jean, Jeannot, Jenkin, Jens, Jo, Joan, Jock, Johan, Johannes, Johnnie, Johnny, Jon, Jonas, Jonel, Jonny, Joop, Jovan, Juan, Juanito, Nino, Sean, Shane, Shawn, Yan, Yannick, Yochanon, Yon, Yvan, Vanya, etc.

REFERENCES IN LITERATURE:
– Joan Gobble, an arthritic old woman Lady Margaret goes on a charitable visit to, in “A Brother to Dragons” (written in 1886, set in 1586), from A Brother to Dragons, and Other Old Time Tales (1888), by Amélie Rives.
– Hon. Joan Johnes, who marries Lord Steyne’s son, George, in Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray (published in 1847-48, but set in the 1810s-20s).

WRITERS:
– Joan Didion (b. 1934), American essayist, memoirist, and novelist.
– Joan Austral Fraser (1918-2001), Australian novelist and poet who wrote under the pen name “Amy Witting”.

Maria

July 28, 2014 § 11 Comments

ORIGIN:
Pronounced either “ma REE’ a” or “ma RYE’ a”, this is the Latin form of Mary.

VARIATIONS and NICKNAMES:
Maia, Maike, Maja, Malia, Mara, Mairen, Mari, Mariah, Marie, Mariele, Mariella, Marietta, Marijeke, Marika, Mariska, Marita, Mary, Maureen, Maya, Mia, Mimi, Mirele, Moira, Reena, Reeta, Ria, Riele, Riella, Rina, Rita, etc.

REFERENCES IN LITERATURE:
– Maria, maid-of-all-work for Maggie Bradford’s family in “May Flowers”, from A Garland for Girls, by Louisa May Alcott, 1887.
– Maria Johnson, the farmer’s wife in The Song of the Cardinal, by Gene Stratton Porter (1903).
– Maria Lucas, the younger sister of Lizzie Bennet’s best friend Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (written in 1797, published in 1813).
– Maria Mirvan (called “Molly” or “Moll” by her father), Evelina’s dearest friend, with whom she enters into London society, in Evelina, or, The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World (1778), by Fanny Burney.
– Maria Frances Osborne, the younger of George Osborne’s sisters in Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray (published in 1847-48, but set in the 1810s-20s).
– Maria Porter (called “Ria“), a shopgirl Anna Winslow helps in “May Flowers”, from A Garland for Girls.
– Miss Maria Temple, head teacher and superintendent of Lowood Institute, whose kindness to Jane encourages and consoles her, in Jane Eyre, 1847, by Charlotte Bronte. 
– Maria Todd, Miss Osborne’s goddaughter and sister to Osborne Todd, Georgy Osborne’s friend, in Vanity Fair.

QUOTATIONS:
– “They Call The Wind Maria” is a song from the 1951 musical Paint Your Wagon by Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe: “Away out here they got a name / For rain and wind and fire / The rain is Tess, the fire Joe / And they call the wind Maria”. (Obviously, you have to go with the “ma RYE’ a” pronunciation for this song, or it doesn’t really rhyme. Also, I have serious doubts about anyone actually calling fire “Joe”.)
– “Maria” is a song from the 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim: “The most beautiful sound I ever heard. / Maria! . . . Say it loud and there’s music playing, / Say it soft and it’s almost like praying.”
– “(How Do You Solve a Problem Like) Maria” is a song from the 1959 musical The Sound of Music by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II: “How do you solve a problem like Maria? / How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? / How do you find a word that means Maria? / A flibbertigibbet! A will-o’-the-wisp! A clown! / Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her / Many a thing she ought to understand / But how do you make her stay / And listen to all you say / How do you keep a wave upon the sand? / How do you solve a problem like Maria? / How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”

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