How popular is the baby name Vanna in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Use the popularity graph and data table below to find out! Plus, see all the blog posts that mention the name Vanna.
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The name Jana saw a sudden increase in usage in 1979, according to the U.S. baby name data:
1981: 939 baby girls named Jana [rank: 267th]
1980: 1,046 baby girls named Jana [rank: 247th]
1979: 1,161 baby girls named Jana [rank: 226th]
1978: 959 baby girls named Jana [rank: 248th]
1977: 949 baby girls named Jana [rank: 261st]
Because of the short-lived cartoon Jana of the Jungle, which consisted of 13 episodes that aired during the last months of 1978 (September to December).
The Tarzan-inspired main character Jana (pronounced JA-nuh; rhymes with Hannah and Vanna) lived in the rain forest of South America along with her animal friends and several other humans. She defended the jungle with the help of her necklace, which doubled as a throwing weapon (similar to a chakram).
Interestingly, the name topped out at 226th (rankings-wise) in both 1961 and 1979 — despite the fact that about 300 fewer babies were named Jana in 1979 than in 1961.
The word-name Savanna refers to a grassland with few trees. It comes (via Spanish) from the Arawakan word zabana.
The name Savannah can be considered a form of Savanna. It could also refer to any of the various places called Savannah, including the city in Georgia.
The Irish surname Sullivan is derived from the given name Súileabhán, which was based on the Old Irish elements súil, meaning “eye,” and dubh, meaning “dark” or “black.”
The name Van is simply a short form of any first name or family name containing van. (In the case of Dutch surnames like Van Buren, the prefix Van means “of” or “from.”)
The name Vance comes from the English surname that originally referred to someone who lived near a wetland, such as a fen or a marsh. It’s ultimately based on the Middle English word fen(ne), meaning “fen.”
The name Vanessa was coined by Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift as a nickname for one of his ladyfriends, Esther Vanhomrigh. (It’s a combination of “Van,” the first three letters of Vanhomrigh, and “Essa,” a diminutive of Esther.) Swift featured the name in his poem Cadenus and Vanessa (written in 1713, published in 1726).
More names with VAN
So, what other names have VAN in them? Here are some less-common choices. (Most of these come directly from the SSA’s baby name data.)
The baby name Vanna only saw a smattering of usage every year until the early 1980s, when it suddenly became trendy:
1988: 58 baby girls named Vanna
1987: 87 baby girls named Vanna
1986: 111 baby girls named Vanna [peak]
1985: 71 baby girls named Vanna
1984: 39 baby girls named Vanna
1983: 21 baby girls named Vanna
1982: 7 baby girls named Vanna
1981: 8 baby girls named Vanna
The like-sounding names Savannah and Savanna also got a boost during that time period, and the spelling variant Vannah debuted the year Vanna hit peak usage.
What spurred all this interest in the name Vanna?
If you owned a TV set during the ’80s, you already know the answer: Vanna White, hostess of the popular game show Wheel of Fortune.
Vanna White was chosen out of a field of 200 hopefuls to join host Pat Sajak on the show in December of 1982. (The original hostess, Susan Stafford, quit in October.)
Her job essentially consisted of walking in front of a puzzle board — sometimes right to left, sometimes left to right — and turning tiles to reveal letters as contestants made their guesses. (Today she still walks back and forth, but the puzzle board letters are touch-activated.)
Wheel of Fortune became the highest-rated syndicated show on television in the mid-1980s. As a result, Vanna White became “TV’s most improbable cult heroine.” She became so popular, in fact, that the press dubbed the phenomenon Vanna-mania.
(Several years after peak Vanna-mania, one reporter noted that it “was one of the oddest phenomenons of our time, bestowing superstar status on a woman whose only obvious skill was turning letters on cue.”)
By early 1986, Vanna White knew she had multiple namesakes:
“I’ve gotten tons of fan mail,” she marvels. “Love letters, marriage proposals, children being named after me, which is quite an honor. Every year on Sept. 4, I get a picture of this adorable little Vanna.”
So, where did the original Vanna get her unusual first name?
[T]he name Vanna came from my grandmother’s next-door neighbor. Her name was Vana Woorell … and she spelled her name with one n … my mother liked the name so much, she said, Well, I’m gonna name my daughter Vanna with two n‘s.
What are your thoughts on the name Vanna? Would you use it?