The Mysterious Djuna (and Djuana)

So far I’ve only posted about two mystery names, Laquita and Nerine. But there are plenty of others.

One of those others is Djuna. It was the highest-hitting newbie name for girls in 1964, and the jump was impressive:

  • 1966: 24 baby girls named Djuna
  • 1965: 32 baby girls named Djuna
  • 1964: 198 baby girls named Djuna [rank: 738th] [debut]
  • 1963: unlisted

In fact, 198 was the highest debut number up to that point, and it remained the record-holder until Kizzy (inspired by Roots) came along with a whopping 1,115 baby girls in 1977.

And that’s not all. A bunch of similar names became more popular in 1964 as well:

Name 1963 1964 1965 1966
Djuna 198* 32 24
Djuana 190 77 35
Dwana 17 82 39 37
Duana 7 29 18 11
Dejuana 24 11 13
Dewanna 13 24 22 30
Dwanna 10 24 10 12
Duanna 10 6 6
Dujuana 10* 5
Djana 9*
Duuna 9*
Duwana 9*
Djuan 7*
Dejuna 6*
Duuana 6*
Duwanna 6*
Dywana 6*
Djuanna 5*
Dajuana 9*

*Debuts. (Djana, Duuna, Djuan, Dejuna and Duuana were one-hit wonders.)

Where did these names come from?

I haven’t a clue. The very first Djuna seems to be writer Djuna Barnes (1892-1982), but I don’t think she made any headlines in the 1960s.

The name was also used in a bunch Ellery Queen novels, but that Djuna was a boy. (And the books were published in the ’40s and ’50s, mostly.)

Olympian Wilma Rudolph named her baby girl Djuana in mid-1964. This may have contributed to the surge in usage. But many (most?) of the Djunas and Djuanas I’ve seen so far were born during the first half of the year, so it can’t be the main cause.

So…I’m stumped.

Do you guys have any ideas?


32 thoughts on “The Mysterious Djuna (and Djuana)

  1. Could it be a feminization of Django? or some other jazz reference? The timing seems right.

    I’ve met several women named Tawanna (or similiar), but not a Djuana. Could they be connected?

  2. Perhaps Joan Hackett as Djuna Phrayne? Channing – `A rich, famous, glamorous, folk singer like me’ aired the 8th of January 1964.

  3. @C in DC & Anne – Good ideas! Thank you.

    Django theory:
    The numbers don’t seem to back it up. Django doesn’t start popping up on the list until the ’70s, and even then it’s just a handful of kids (boys).

    Tawana theory:
    There could certainly be a connection, as the numbers for Tawana (and related) did increase slightly from ’63 to ’64:

    Tawana – 98 to 115
    Tawanna – 56 to 72
    Twana – 66 to 73
    Twanna – 37 to 44
    Towana – 30 to 41
    Towanna – 21 to 23
    (etc.)

    But, if there is a connection, I’d guess the influence went the other way around — that the Djuana-names influenced the Tawana-names — because these jumps just aren’t as impressive.

    Djuna Phrayne theory:
    Interesting! Though I don’t know…the character was featured in a single episode of a show that may not have been too popular (if it only lasted one season). Still, I think this is the best explanation we’ve got so far.

  4. Well, I suspect a connection to Djuna Barnes: Her major work Antiphon debuted in 1962 (in Sweden!) and therefore she must have had her headlines in the early 60ies.

  5. @elbowin – She was mentioned in a few articles here and there in the mid-1960s, but that’s all I can find. No huge headlines anywhere. (If someone can prove me wrong, please do! That would solve this mystery.)

  6. Hello I am kind of interested in this subject since my mother’s name is Djuana and she was born in 1964. I am currently quizzing my grandparents to see if they can remember what influenced them, but so far they say they got it from Native Americans. Also interesting to note, my grandmother is Louisiana Cajun and I have heard of at least one cajun Djuna from earlier in the 1900’s.

  7. Interesting clues, Caleb! Please let us know if you get any more information form your grandparents.

    There might be something to the Louisiana thing. More Djunas were born there in 1964 than anywhere else, including CA and TX:

    • LA – 19
    • IL – 18
    • CA – 17
    • OH – 17
    • NC – 12
    • TX – 12
  8. I wonder if there were headlines about Djuna Barnes in 1963. She lived in Patchin Place in Greenwich Village, one apartment over from e.e. cummings, who died in 1962. 1963 was the year that a developer tried to acquire Patchin Place and an adjacent property for demolition to put up high rises. Djuna protested the demolition. It was a big thing … Patchin Place was saved, and the Greenwich Village Historic District was created a few years later.

    I don’t know if that is enough to translate into 198 girls called Djuna, but it is one possible explanation for why the name might’ve attracted attention.

  9. My name is Djana I have been told it comes from across seas I have also been told it is chek I am not sure and can never seem to find anything on it but I do know only one person ever said it the way it is pronounced and she was from across seas my family is from the US so I am not sure where it even came from.

  10. My name is Djuna Marlene Holiday and I was born in Phoenix , Arizona in 1964. My mom said she got my name from some movie she saw with a girl named Djuna and she thought it was a pretty name.
    My friends call me D.J. for short.
    My name is pronounced Dwana.

  11. So what I can find is that Anais Nin wrote and published “Cities of the Interior” series (erotic fiction) with a character named Djuna (after Djuna Barnes who also lived in Patchin Place also at the time). It was published in 1959. Djuna Barnes was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1961, and the Patchin Place fight was in 1963 (along with a fight with Anais about Djuna Books being named such) along with the re-release of Nightwood (set in Paris–LA connection?) by Djuna in a time of the feminist movement. To me, it all adds up to a surge of baby girls named Djuna.

    I can’t find anything with a movie character named Djuna, and the pronunciation of Dwana makes me think Spanish pronunciation (especially in Arizona). Of course Anais Nin was Spanish-Cuban…

  12. Thanks for doing all that research, sharims!

    I think anything that happened pre-1963 would have to be ignored, unfortunately, as the spike was in 1964.

    Books and current events might have something to do with it. Certainly can’t rule it out.

    Typically, though, spikes this big are caused by things like TV, film and music.

    That’s why I like Anne’s Djuna Phrayne explanation so far. Might seem like a long shot, but a number of names (e.g., Azure, Kizzy, Toosdhi) have come from minor/short-term TV characters, so I think it’s very plausible.

  13. My wife was born in April of 1964 and her name is Djuna. She was told by her mother that she got the name from a movie she was watching while she was pregnant with her. Funny thing is that her name has always been pronounced
    (da wanna) instead of (joona). I might add that she’s a rare one too hehe. I dated a lot but waited until I was 40 to marry Djuna :)

  14. Thanks Jason. That makes two people so far who say the name came from a movie. I feel like we’re getting closer!

    I just did some more searching, but still can’t find any 1964 movies with characters named Djuna, Djuana, etc. Can anyone can offer a few more details about this mysterious mid-’60s movie?

  15. Theory: Could it have been the 1964 movie The 7th Dawn?

    The film featured French model/actress Capucine as a character named Dhana. Not sure how the character’s name is pronounced.

    Does that movie title sound familiar to any of the Djunas, Djuanas, etc., out there?

  16. Hello,

    Thank you for the interesting article. My name is Djuna. I was born in September, 1964, in Los Angeles, CA. My mother, as mentioned by another Djuna above, informed me that she came across my name while watching a movie while she was pregnant with me – and that she thought that it was a very pretty and unique name. It is pronounced Dwana. My nickname is DJ. While I see the name more and more – especially as of late – I have yet to meet another one of “me” in person… :)

    Thanks again for the article….

  17. My name is D’Juanna and I was born in Louisiana in 1951… Way before the 60’s spike. I was named after a girl in my brother’s dance class. He was 10 yrs older than me so the name was around in the 1950s. Wish I knew more.

  18. Hi, i was born in 1966 in Australia. Mum told me she got it from an American tv show called Mr Novack. One of the professors in the show had a daughter called Djuana. I found out it means “little dark one” in Gaelic.

  19. Thank you for those details, Djuana!

    I’ve gone through all the character names in all the episodes of Mr. Novak, but I didn’t spot a Djuana, or any other Dj-name.

    Does this show ring a bell for any other Djunas/Djuanas out there? If so, does anyone remember any other details?

  20. I was researching something else the other day and found Duana listed as a feminine form of Duane, which is an anglicised form of the Irish Dubhán, which is a diminutive form of ‘dubh’ meaning “dark, black”.

  21. HI, my name is Djuna Bourland. I was born in June 1964. When I asked my mom how she found my name, she too, said from a tv show!
    I’m called DJ for short, and my name is pronounced Dwana too.

    Any idea of this movie? I’d love to see it.

  22. My name is Djuana and my mother told she got the name from a TV movie character, born in MI in March 1964

  23. Djuana Morrison’s comment above would seem to support the Djuna Phrayne theory. This page: http://ctva.biz/US/Drama/Channing.htm describes “Channing” as “a sort of Mr. Novak with college kids” and the episode summary Djuna appears in is “A folk singer tries to persuade her father to give up teaching—and his new family.”

  24. Thank you, Becca, for connecting the dots!

    I think you’re right — I think signs are pointing us toward Djuna Phrayne.

    And if that’s the answer, then that character was uniquely successful in terms of influence on baby names. None of the other single-episode TV characters I can think of achieved numbers that high. (Azure/Azure Dee from Kojak in 1975 would probably be 2nd place.)

  25. This is so funny. My husband wanted to name our child djuana (unsure of the spelling)
    if a girl. I can’t remember which child it was but the years would be 1967 1968 or 1970.
    He got the name from a movie we saw…..from the best of my memory, I think it starred Jane Fonda…but not absolutely sure. He’s not here or I’d ask him.

    I told him absolutely not…..you know how kids make fun of names. I told him she would be called do you want a…..lmbo

    Hmm, it could have been 1964 or 1965 the years our two oldest were born.

  26. My mother named me Djuana , after a well known Spanish Folk singer. And, yes i am also born in 1964,lol. Friends in Europe are familiar with this singer. ..but none can tell me her last name in order to find more information. .. it is my understanding that the name is Black Spanish in origin… perhaps from the time of Moors,… ??

  27. I would love to hear from someone whose name is pronounced “joona” no matter the spelling.

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