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

The graph will take a few seconds to load, thanks for your patience. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take nine months.) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.


Popularity of the Baby Name Jean


Posts that Mention the Name Jean

Babies named for Napoléon Bonaparte

Portrait of French Emperor Napoleon I (1769-1821)
Napoléon Bonaparte (circa 1812)

French military leader Napoléon Bonaparte may have spent his life trying to conquer a continent, but that life began and ended on islands.

He was born (as “Napoleone Buonaparte”) on the Mediterranean island of Corsica in 1769 — the same year that France took Corsica from the Republic of Genoa (now part of Italy). He died while in exile on the remote South Atlantic island of Saint Helena in 1821.

In between, Napoléon: attended military school on the mainland, began serving in the French Army, rose to prominence during the French Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars, became the de facto leader of France in 1799, declared himself Emperor in 1804, and proceeded to build a vast empire via the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).

Needless to say, a large number of babies all over the world have been named “Napoleon” since that time.

I don’t want this post to get too crazy, though, so I’ve decided to collect namesakes from just two locations — France and the U.S. — and to stick to the years during which Napoléon was active.

Portrait of First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821)
Napoléon Bonaparte (circa 1803)

Napoléon’s namesakes in France

Thousands of French babies were named in honor of Napoléon from the mid-1790s to the mid-1810s.

In contrast with namesakes in other countries (like the U.S. and England), most of his French namesakes were given only his first name — not both names — and it was typically combined with one or more traditional French names (e.g., “Louis Napoléon,” “Jean Baptiste Napoléon”).

With that in mind, I went out of my way to find combinations that were a bit more varied…

  • Napoléon Baillot, b. 1793 in France
  • Jacques Napoléon Desiré Campa, b. 1795 in France
  • Napoléon Stéphanie Joseph Therin, b. 1797 in France
  • Napoléon Joseph Buttin, b. 1799 in France
  • Napoléon-Jean Demeester, b. 1800 in France
  • Napoléon Nicolas Senelar, b. 1801 in France
  • Guillaume Napoléon Pelletier, b. 1802 in France
  • Willebrod Napoléon Désiré Degrave, b. 1803 in France
  • Charlemagne Napoléon Lambert, b. 1804 in France
  • Napoléon Louis François Richounne, b. 1805 in France
  • Napoléon Parfait Furpille, b. 1806 in France
    • parfait means “perfect” in French
  • Bienaimé Napoléon Le Cagneux, b. 1807 in France
    • bienaimé means “beloved” in French
  • François Desiré Prosper Napoléon Loiseau, b. 1808 in France
  • Napoléon La Paix Lemasson, b. 1809 in France
    • la paix means “peace” in French
  • Gustave Napoléon Fichet, b. 1810 in France
  • Esprit Napoléon Houdry, b. 1811 in France
    • esprit means “spirit” in French
  • Napoléon Bonaventure Dusautier, b. 1812 in France
  • Auguste César Napoléon Decoene, b. 1813 in France
  • Napoléon-Etienne Vernoni, b. 1814 in France
  • Fructueux Napoléon Artigue, b. 1815 in France
    • fructueux means “successful” in French

Almost all of the namesakes in this group were boys, but a handful were girls with feminized forms of the name (like Napoléonne, Napoléonide, and Napoléontine).

Several dozen more boys — most of them born early on — were given only the surname:

  • Jacques Dominique Bonaparte Venkirch, b. 1796 in France
  • Augustin Bonaparte Joseph Galle, b. 1797 in France
  • Jean Baptiste Bonaparte Mollard, b. 1798 in France
  • Séraphin Adolphe Bonaparte Decorne, b. 1799 in France
  • Alexis Sébastien Bonaparte Poirée, b. 1801 in France

Napoléon had usually been called “General Bonaparte” or “citizen Bonaparte” before mid-1802, when the people of France went to the polls to decide: “Should Napoléon Bonaparte be consul for life?” Millions voted yes, and, after that, “he was generally known as Napoléon rather than Bonaparte.”

Napoléon’s namesakes in the U.S.

Napoléon didn’t wage any wars on North American soil (though he did sell a lot of that soil in 1803, when he let go of the Louisiana Territory for $15 million). Nonetheless, U.S. newspapers paid close attention to him:

French plebiscite mentioned in U.S. newspaper (July, 1802)
The “consul for life” vote mentioned in a Virginia newspaper, 1802

Americans were clearly impressed by Napoléon’s achievements, judging by the hundreds of U.S. namesakes born in the late 1790s and first decades of the 1800s. Many of these babies received both his first name and his surname:

Others were given only his first name:

And a good number simply got his surname:

  • Buonapart Manly Towler, b. 1796 in New York
  • Buonaparte Bennett, b. 1797 in Maryland
  • Buonaparte Mann, b. 1798 in Rhode Island
  • William Bonaparte Wood, b. 1799 in Massachusetts
  • Charles Bonapart Hunt, b. 1800 in Maine
  • George Washington Bonaparte Towns, b. 1801 in Georgia
  • Louis Bonaparte Chamberlain, b. 1802, probably in Mississippi
  • Lucion Bonaparte Keith, b. 1803 in Massachusetts
  • Consul Bonaparte Cutter, b. 1804 in Massachusetts
    • Napoléon Bonaparte served as Premier consul from 1799 to 1804
  • John Bonaparte Dixon, b. 1805 in North Carolina
  • Erastus Bonaparte White, b. circa 1806 in Rhode Island
  • Socrates Bonaparte Bacon, b. 1807 in Massachusetts
  • Bonaparte Crabb, b. 1808 in Tennessee
  • Madison Bonaparte Miller, b. 1809 in Vermont
    • James Madison served as 4th U.S. president from 1809 to 1817
  • Bonaparte Hopping, b. 1810 in New Jersey
  • Israel Bonaparte Bigelow, b. 1811 in Connecticut
  • Joseph Bonaparte Earhart, b. 1812 in Pennsylvania
  • Ampter Bonaparte Otto, b. 1813 in New York
  • William Bonaparte Steen, b. 1814 in South Carolina
  • Leonard Bonaparte Williams, b. 1815 in Virginia

A few of the people named Bonaparte (but not Napoléon) did have other given names — like Lucien, and Jerome — that could have been inspired by other members of the Bonaparte family. I found a Josephine Bonaparte Evans (b. 1815), for instance, who was probably named after Napoléon’s first wife.

Another of the relatively few females in this group was Federal Anne Buonapart Gist (b. 1799), the daughter of Joshua Gist, who served in the Maryland Militia during the Revolutionary War.

Defining “Napoléon” and “Bonaparte”

Other famous men named Napoléon Bonaparte (including Napoleon III) also had namesakes, but it was the original Napoléon Bonaparte who put these two unusual names on the map.

So…what do they mean?

The Italian forename Napoleone has obscure origins, so the meaning isn’t known for certain. One popular theory is that it’s made up of the elements Neapolis, the original name of Naples, and leone, meaning “lion.” When Bonaparte was born in 1769, the name was “relatively common around Genoa and Tuscany,” though it was spelled a variety of ways (e.g., Nabulio, Nabulione, Napulione, Napolionne, Lapulion). The name had been used in his family before; his father’s uncle, for instance, was also named Napoleone.

The Italian surname Buonaparte, on the other hand, is much more straightforward: it’s made up of the elements buona, meaning “good,” and parte, meaning “part, share, portion.”

Was anyone in your family tree named after Napoléon?

Sources:

Where did the baby name Bocephus come from in 1986?

Hank Williams, Jr., presenting "Bocephus" on a chalkboard in the "My Name is Bocephus" music video (1987).
From the “My Name is Bocephus” music video

The unusual name Bocephus first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1986:

  • 1988: unlisted
  • 1987: unlisted
  • 1986: 7 baby boys named Bocephus [debut]
  • 1985: unlisted
  • 1984: unlisted

Where did it come from?

The 1986 song “My Name Is Bocephus” (pronounced boh-SEE-fuss) by Hank Williams, Jr.

Billboard described the song as “Muddy Waters-style blues” in its review of Hank’s album Montana Cafe, which reached #1 on the Top Country Albums chart in September. The song was also released as the B-side to the single “Mind Your Own Business,” which hit #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart later the same year.

“My Name Is Bocephus” apparently became popular enough on its own, though, to warrant the making of a music video. That video, which came out in early 1987, ended up winning the CMA’s Music Video of the Year award.

So…why would a guy named Hank write a song declaring that his name is “Bocephus”?

Because Bocephus was his childhood nickname. And a rather public one at that.

Hank, Jr., was born Randall Hank Williams in 1949 to country music legend Hiram “Hank” Williams and his first wife Audrey. Hank, Sr., nicknamed his son Bocephus after Grand Ole Opry comedian Rod Brasfield’s ventriloquist dummy.

Hank, Sr., died on the first day of 1953, when his son was three-and-a-half. During the short time they had together, though, he would end his radio performances with a message to his son — something like “Don’t worry, Bocephus, I’m coming home.” In this Feb. 1951 “Mother’s Best” radio show, for instance, you can hear Hank say “Bocephus, see you directly son” at 27:09.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Bocephus?

Sources:

P.S. Hank, Sr.’s second wife was Billie Jean Horton.

Baby born in France, named Canard (“Duck”)

duck

In 2021, the most popular baby names in the French commune of Périgueux were Anna/Iris (tied) and Jules.

The name Canard, on the other hand — the French word for “duck” — was only given to one of the 1,513 babies born in Périgueux last year. That baby was Dyklan Canard, born in August of 2021.

What’s the story behind Dyklan’s unusual middle name?

The baby’s grandfather, tattoo artist Jean-Christophe Bret-Canard, said that his own mother, Georgette, had been a war orphan during WWII. Originally born into a family travellers, she was abandoned in 1943 in front of a church in the town of Châtellerault. She was cared for in an orphanage until, several months later, she was was adopted by a man named Georges Canard, “a French soldier who later worked on the railways and was engaged in the resistance.”

Jean-Christophe has always seen his mother’s surname as a source of pride. He sports a number of duck tattoos — his tattoo parlor is even called Duck — and he gave all four of his sons the middle name Canard.

And one of those sons, Mike, continued the tradition last year by passing the name down to his own son, Dyklan Canard.

(I discovered this story via Appellation Mountain — thank you Abby!)

Sources: French baby named ‘Canard’ is heir to tragic but proud family history, Une famille de Dordogne explique pourquoi elle a appelé son fils “Canard”, Périgord: pourquoi cette famille a choisi de donner “Canard” comme deuxième prénom à son enfant, En Périgord, “Canard” peut aussi être un prénom

Image by matthiaskost from Pixabay

Name Quotes #104: Che, Shanaya, Bluzette

quotation marks

Time for the latest batch of name quotes!

From an interview with Saturday Night Live comedian Michael Che:

I was named after Che Guevara. My name is Michael Che Campbell. My dad is a huge history buff, and he named me after Che Guevara cause he loved Che Guevera for whatever reason. Which is a very polarizing figure, because when I tell people I was named after Che, they’re either like, “Oh, wow that’s cool,” or they’re like, “You know, Che killed people.” I’m like, I didn’t pick my name.

From Sanjana Ramachandran’s recent essay “The Namesakes“:

Shanaya Patel’s story, in more ways than one, encapsulated an India opening up to the world. In March 2000, Shanaya’s parents were at a café in Vadodara, Gujarat, when some Shania Twain tunes came on: she was also the artist who had been playing when her father saw her mother for the first time, “during their whole arranged-marriage-thing.” Finally, after eight months of “baby” and “munna,” Shanaya’s parents had found a name for her.

But “to make it different,” Shanaya’s parents changed the spelling of her name slightly. “Before me, all my cousins were named from this or that religious book,” she said. “When my parents didn’t want to go down that road, the elders were all ‘How can you do this!’—but my parents fought for it. There was a small controversy in the family.”

(Her essay also inspired me to write this post about the name Sanjana!)

About the “naming” of a Native American man who was discovered in California in 1911, from a 1996 UC Berkeley news release:

Under pressure from reporters who wanted to know the stranger’s name, [anthropologist] Alfred Kroeber called him “Ishi,” which means “man” in Yana. Ishi never uttered his real name.

“A California Indian almost never speaks his own name,” wrote Kroeber’s wife, “using it but rarely with those who already know it, and he would never tell it in reply to a direct question.”

About street names in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, from the book Names of New York (2021) by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro:

Clymer, Ellery, Hart; Harrison, Hooper, Heyward, Hewes; Ross, Rush, Rutledge, Penn — they’re all names belonging to one or another of those fifty-six men who scrawled their letters at the Declaration [of Independence]’s base. So are Taylor and Thornton, Wythe and Whipple.

[…]

[Keap Street’s] name does not match that of one of the Declaration’s signers, but it tries to: “Keap” is apparently a misrendering of the surname of the last man to leave his mark on it: Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania, whose name’s illegibility was perhaps due to his having rather less space to scrawl it by the time the document reached him than John Hancock did.

From a 2008 CNN article about the pros and cons of unusual names:

“At times, for the sake of avoiding an uncomfortable conversation or throwing someone off guard, I answer to the names of ‘Mary’ or ‘Kelly’,” says Bluzette Martin of West Allis, Wisconsin. At restaurants, “the thought of putting an employee through the pain of guessing how to spell and pronounce ‘Bluzette’ just isn’t worth it to me.”

Martin was named after “Bluzette,” an up-tempo jazz waltz written by Jean “Toots” Thielemans. Despite her daily problems with this name, it certainly has its perks, like when she met Thielemans in 1987 at a club in Los Angeles. “When I met [him], he thanked my mother,” she says.

(Here’s “Bluesette” (vid) by Thielemans, who was Belgian.)

From a 1942 item in Time magazine about ‘Roberto’ being used as a fascist greeting:

Last week the authorities ordered 18 Italian-Americans excluded from the San Francisco military area as dangerous to security — the first such action against white citizens. The wonder was that it was not done earlier: everybody heard about the goings on in the North Beach Italian colony. Fascists there used to say RoBerTo as a greeting — Ro for Rome, Ber for Berlin, To for Tokyo. Italy sent teachers, books and medals for the Italian schools. Mussolini won a popularity contest hands down over Franklin Roosevelt.

From a news release about the 2021 baby names at St. Luke’s in Duluth, Minnesota:

Parents also got creative with their children’s names, naming tiny new Apollos, Elfriedas, Tillmans and Winnifreds. Other great names included everything from Atlas to Ziibi and some precious little gems like Amethyst and Ruby.

From a 2014 article in Vogue about 1950s fashion model Dovima:

Dovima, born Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba, would have been 87 today. She hailed from Jackson Heights, Queens, and was purportedly discovered in 1949 when she strolled out of an Automat near the Vogue offices. The name Dovima wasn’t thought up by a canny publicist, if was concocted by Dorothy herself, invented for an imaginary playmate during a lonely childhood when she was bedridden with rheumatic fever.

(Dovima was the first single-name fashion model. She did legally change her name from Dorothy to Dovima at some point, according to the records, and a handful of baby girls born in the late ’50s were named after her, e.g., Dovima Marie Ayers, b. 1959, VT.)

P.S. “Louvima” is another three-in-one name I’ve blogged about…

Where did the baby name Kerensa come from?

The Legend of the Seventh Virgin, a historical romance novel set in Cornwall, came out in 1964. It was written by “Victoria Holt,” one of the pen names of prolific English author Eleanor Hibbert.

The next year, not only did the book appear on the New York Times bestseller list, but two character names appeared in the U.S. baby name data.

The one that saw the most usage was Kerensa, from the name of the main character, Kerensa Carlee.

  • 1967: 15 baby girls named Kerensa
  • 1966: 12 baby girls named Kerensa
  • 1965: 8 baby girls named Kerensa [debut]
  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: unlisted

Then there’s Mellyora, inspired by the character Mellyora Martin It appeared in the data for the first and only time in 1965:

  • 1967: unlisted
  • 1966: unlisted
  • 1965: 5 baby girls named Mellyora [debut]
  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: unlisted

Kerensa (pronounced keh-REHN-zah) comes from the Cornish word kerensa, which means “love” or “charity.”

Mellyora may be based on the Latin word meliora, meaning “better.”

Which “Seventh Virgin” name do you prefer, Kerensa or Mellyora?

P.S. The author’s other pen names? Anna Percival, Elbur Ford, Eleanor Burford, Ellalice Tate, Jean Plaidy, Kathleen Kellow, and Philippa Carr.

Sources: Kerensa – Cornish Dictionary, Eleanor Hibbert – Wikipedia