Gender: Female Origin of Vanessa: Literary invention; also a species of butterfly Vanessa's Popularity in 2019: #269

Vanessa Origin and Meaning

The name Vanessa is a girl's name of English origin.

Vanessa was invented by writer Jonathan Swift for a lover named Esther Vanhomrigh—he combined the first syllable of her last name with the initial syllable of her first. Swift used it in the poem Cadenus and Vanessa in 1713. A century later, Johan Christian Fabricius used Vanessa as the name of a genus of butterfly.

Vanessa was one of the ultra-feminine three-syllable hits of the eighties, but has proved to have had more staying power than others like Tiffany, Kimberly, and Melissa, due to its classic beauty.

Vanessa Redgrave is the doyenne of the renowned Redgrave family; Vanessa Hudgens, the young actor and singer from High School Musical is a more youthful bearer. On TV there have been Vanessas on The Cosby Show, Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries.

16 names similar to Vanessa

These 16 names were selected by our users that were looking for other names like Vanessa. If you didn't find an alternative name that you like better than Vanessa, try our name generator. It allows you to go beyond the similarities of a name, which can provide a lot of inspiration!

Find other names based on Vanessa using our baby name generator.


Rank in US: #269

- this week

Famous People Named Vanessa

Pop Culture References for the name Vanessa

Vanessa's International Variations

Vanesa, Venessa (Spanish)


ericakatherine Says:


Vanessa used to make me think of a mean girl. in tv shows I watched, a lot of 'mean' girls had names starting with V lol. But now I think about it, it sounds soft and lovely, but still strong. I love the 'Ness' part. I also love that it is the name of a butterfly, a beautiful association in my opinion.

Daiseymae Says:


You can't go wrong with this name. Beautiful and elegant.

indiefendi2 Says:


If Vanessa was never so common and it still is I would definitely use it. It's one of the prettiest names in the entire world!

paulapuddephatt Says:


Beautiful name

eveyalecia Says:


I don't speak Greek, but from what I can tell Vanessa is not Greek for butterfly. Vanessa was named as a genus of butterfly in 1808, long after Swift invented and first published the name in 1713. Some sources say the butterfly genus was meant to be Phanessa, named from the Greek phanes (which meant "a mystical divinity in the Orphic system"), but that is not substantiated very well.

Lourdes12 Says:


Vanessa actually means butterfly in Greek, even when the site says that it was invented it not true, it existed and it had its very own meaning long time ago.

Hardly_Known Says:


My family or close friends, or even some very friendly types, call me "Ness" or "Nessa" or even "Nessy"! I tend to think of it as a middle class, dependable sort of name

RoddyThlayli Says:


I like the name Vanessa. Don't like the nicknames Van, Vanny, Nessa or Nessie. I like Ves, though. Vanessa's also the name of a genus of butterfly, which is nice.

virgosmaze Says:


Haha same here

vaness1019 Says:


My name is Vanessa and I have never had any nicknames other than Vaness

Jinxgirl Says:


I think Vanessa is pretty, I only know a couple Vanessas. However I don't like Nessa or Nessie or Van as nicknames, I would go with V.

Bobcat108 Says:


I've only known one Vanessa & it's funny as she is a rather sharp & angled person, but I don't think she fits the sound of her name. Like you, I think it's pretty & soft, & I love the nn Van. The main character in one of Mary Stewart's novels, Airs Above the Ground, is Vanessa nn Van, which is probably why I have a very positive image of the name.

eveyalecia Says:


Wow, I actually disagree with every other comment? I think Vanessa is pretty and soft, and doesn't seem dated at all to me-- certainly not on par with Jennifer. I haven't known anyone with this name so it doesn't seem common to me, either. Also, I think it's neat that it's a completely invented name that's become so well-known. Altogether, I rather like it!

headintheclouds Says:


Vanessa has always sounded like a sharp and angled name, in my opinion. Also one of the more surprising unpredictable popular names, like Jennifer. It's rather ruined for me since I knew this very snotty mean girl named Vanessa, but objectively, I suppose it's pretty enough, if not still rather dated at the moment.

Andrea Black Says:


my sister has this name

clairelaliberte Says:


Sounds like "vain."

Caroline Says:


I never liked this name, makes me think of a stripper.

Alicia1 Says:


Pretty name seems a bit common.