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Classic Girls’ Names: The Ann Clan

anne

By Linda Rosenkrantz

There are few names that have given birth to as many variations as Ann, the simplest and softest of the classic girls’ names.  But while others like Mary and Margaret and Elizabeth have spawned almost unrecognizable progeny—from Daisy to Bessie to Peggy to Polly—most of the Ann derivatives have stayed pretty close to their mother name.

Yet Ann herself is an offshoot, coming from Hannah, a Hebrew name meaning ‘grace,’  who in the Old Testament is the mother of the prophet Samuel. This version was taken up by the Puritans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and remained a commonly used name in the Jewish community for several generations.

Anna is the Latin form widely used in countries across the world, while Ann was originally the English spelling and Anne the French. St. Anne was the traditional, non-biblical name of the mother of the Virgin Mary, which explains its popularity among Christians—and is the name of several saints.  In more modern times, the affection felt for the character Anne Shirley in the childhood classic, Anne of Green Gables, also contributed to the spread of this spelling.

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