The Coming of Karenina

anna karenina, 1978, television, baby name
Nicola Pagett as Anna Karenina

The literary surname Karenina debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1978:

  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: unlisted
  • 1978: 7 baby girls named Karenina
  • 1977: unlisted
  • 1976: unlisted

But the Leo Tolstoy tome Anna Karenina was first published as a standalone book way back in 1878…so how did “Karenina” end up in the U.S. baby name data 100 years later?

Television. Specifically, the 10-episode mini-series Anna Karenina that originally aired on British television in 1977, then aired on American television (as part of PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre) in early 1978. The mini-series starred British actress Nicola Pagett as Countess Anna Karenina.

How did Tolstoy come up with the surname Karenin(a) in the first place? He based it on the ancient Greek word káranon, meaning “head.”

What are your thoughts on the baby name Karenina?


  • Anna Karenina (1978) – Masterpiece Theatre
  • Bartless, Rosamund. “Principal Characters and Guide to Pronunciation.” Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Rosamund Bartless. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

2 thoughts on “The Coming of Karenina

  1. This makes me so happy. Karenina as a baby name! I wonder if people have been given “Anna Karenina” as first and middle name combo.

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