Baby name story: Nannerl

American professor Nannerl Keohane
Nannerl Keohane (in 1995)

I spotted the name of former Duke University president Nannerl “Nan” Keohane in an article recently, and (of course) was intrigued by her first name. Where does it come from?

According to Nannerl’s biography, her “parents, who were great music lovers, named her after Mozart’s musically talented sister, Nannerl.”

Wolfgang Mozart’s sister wasn’t technically named Nannerl — she was named Maria Anna (apparently after her mother, Anna Maria). Maria Anna was born in Salzburg in 1751, five years before her famous brother. Out of seven siblings, they were the only two to survive infancy.

To family members, though, Maria Anna was known as “Nannerl.” The nickname is an Austrian-German diminutive of Anna. (Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud had a similar nickname — Annerl — for his youngest daughter, Anna.)

The Austrian-German suffix –erl is much like the German suffix –chen, so Annerl and Nannerl are more or less equivalent to the German diminutives Annchen and Nannchen.

What are your thoughts on the name Nannerl?

Source: Nannerl O. Keohane – Duke University Libraries
Image: Adapted from President Nannerl O. Keohane at Computer, 1995 by Duke University Archives under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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