How popular is the baby name Nan in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Nan and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Nan.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Nan

Number of Babies Named Nan

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Nan

Should We Redefine the Name “Nancy”?

Most baby name books and websites define Nancy as “grace” or “favor.” Why? Because they call Nancy a form of Anne, and Anne is defined as “grace” or “favor.”

The more I learn about my own name, though, the more I question this assumption.

It’s true that Nancy has long been used as form of Anne. But it wasn’t originally used in this way.

Here’s the story.

In the Middle Ages, Annis was a common female name. It was a vernacular form of Agnes (which can be traced back to the ancient Greek word hagnos, meaning “pure, chaste”).

Phrases like “mine Annis” and “thine Annis” eventually gave rise to names like Nanse and Nansie.

Mine Annis, thine Annis, became my Nannis, my Nanse (Nance), thy Nannis, thy Nanse (Nance); and Nanse, Nance, Nanze, with the usual diminutiv, became Nansie, and speld Nancie, and now usually Nancy.

Then two things happened.

First, the name Annis fell into disuse. “With the disappearance of the form Annis, the connection of Nancy with Agnes was forgotten.”

Second, in the late 1600s, the names Nan and Nanny — very common diminutives of Anne — became slang for “prostitute.” In their place, parents began using Nancy.

[Interesting coincidence: Nan and Nanny were derived from phrases like “mine Anne” and “thine Anne,” much like the way Nancy was derived from Annis.]

So, as Nancy’s link to Agnes faded, it’s link with Anne grew stronger. As a result, people saw Nancy as a diminutive of Anne and defined it accordingly.

But is the definition correct? (Is there a such thing as a “correct” definition in cases like this?)

How would you define Nancy?

Sources:

  • American Philological Assocation. Transactions of the American Philological Association. Boston: Ginn & Company, 1892.
  • Hanks, Patrick, Kate Hardcastle and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of First Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

The Fall of Nan & Nanny

Nancy was first used during the medieval era as a form of Agnes, but became popular during the 18th century as a form of Anne.

But it was used as a form of Anne only because the other forms of Anne — Nan and Nanny — had fallen into disuse.

Why were the once-common names Nan and Nanny shunned in the late 17th century? Because they, like several other once-common female names (e.g. Jill, Parnel), had become synonyms for “jade.” Nanny was even used in terms like nanny-house and nanny-shop, synonyms for “brothel.”

So babies stopped getting the names Nan and Nanny. But “[r]espectable people, still liking the name, changed it to Nancy, and in that form it still lives.”

Interesting, no?

Makes me wonder if Parnel (a short form of Petronilla) could have been resurrected with a nifty new ending. Parnelcy? Parncy? Hm.

Sources:

  • Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell. Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. London: Chatto & Windus, 1897.
  • Green, Jonathon. Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang. 2nd ed. London: Cassell, 2006.

Huge List of Anagram Baby Names

anagram baby names

Looking for baby names with something in common? Perhaps for a set of twins or triplets? I’ve collected hundreds of anagram baby names for you.

2-Letter Anagram Baby Names

3-Letter Anagram Baby Names

4-Letter Anagram Baby Names

5-Letter Anagram Baby Names

6-Letter Anagram Baby Names

7-Letter Anagram Baby Names

8-Letter Anagram Baby Names

9-Letter Anagram Baby Names

10-Letter Anagram Baby Names

If you like the idea of anagrams but want to avoid sound-alike sets, I recommend anagrams with different numbers of syllables. Pairs like “Etta and Tate” and “Clay and Lacy” are a far more subtle than pairs like “Enzo and Zeno” and “Mary and Myra.”

(Here are some palindromic names from last month.)

Like Symmetry? Try Palindromic Baby Names

Did you know that a handful of baby names happen to be palindromes? Here are some names that can be read the same way in either direction (i.e. both forwards and backwards):

Two of these, Hannah and Ava, happen to be very popular for baby girls at the moment.

Need two names? You could consider a pair of names that become a palindrome when written side-by-side:

Aidan & Nadia
Aileen & Neelia
Alan & Nala
Allan & Nalla
Allen & Nella
Amin & Nima
Ariel & Leira
Arik & Kira
Aron & Nora
Axel & Lexa
Aydan & Nadya
Ari & Ira
Ellen & Nelle
Flor & Rolf
Iris & Siri
Leon & Noel
Linus & Sunil
Miles & Selim

It’s also possible to come up with your own palindromic pairs by flipping traditional names to create brand new names. For instance, I’ve seem James, Kevin, Manuel and Ramon flipped to become Semaj, Nivek, Leunam and Nomar.