Classic Girls’ Names: The Ann Clan

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.

Ann, Anne, Anna and Hannah have played hopscotch on the popularity lists in the US over the years.  The Ann spelling was much more common in the nineteenth century, then was surpassed by the four-letter version, especially after the birth of England’s Princess Anne in 1950. In 1900, Anna was the third most popular name in the country, Ann was Number 92, Anne was 108, and Hannah was 169.  In 1950, Ann was 45, Anne 84, Anna had dropped to 93 and Hannah was way down at 666.  By the year 2000, however, Ann was 493, Anne 298, Anna back up at 22, and Hannah had zoomed up to second place—accounting for 23,000+ births that year (and remains the most popular version). And of course Ann was also one of the prime go-to filler middle names for decades, while both Ann and Anne were hitched onto both the fronts and backs of several other names.

Nickname Annie has run its own parallel course—popular with several ethnic groups, from Irish to Jewish– it was a Top 10 name in the 1880’s, remained in the double digits until 1946, and is currently at 377.

Of late, the various forms of the name have been in the spotlight via Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway, the (inadvertent?) namesake of the wife of William Shakespeare, and young actors Anna Pacquin, Kendrick and Chlumsky.  Among the countless other notable bearers of the name in history are Anne Boleyn, Anne Brontë, Anne Frank (born Annelies), and numerous other actresses and writers.

Here are some of the many members of the Ann clan:

The Mother Lode

Ann

Anne

Anna

Hannah

Some International Variations

Ana, AnicaSpanish

Anais—French Provençal

Anca-Bohemian

Ane—Hawaiian, Lithuanian, Danish

Anika, AnnikaSwedish

Anina/Annina

Anita

Anja

Anka–Bulgarian

Annalie

AnnellaScottish

Annelore

Annetteoriginally a French pet form

AnnickBreton

Anouk–Dutch

AnuFinnish

Ayn

Chana, Channa–Yiddish

HanneGerman

HaniaPolish

Some diminutives and pet forms

Anezka—Czech

Anke

Anneke

Annie

Anninka, Anoushka—Russian

Anya

Nan

Nancy

Nanette, NanonFrench

Nettie

Smooshes

Annabel, Annabelle, Annabella (though this probably comes from Amabel rather than Ann)

Annabeth

Annamaria

Anneliese, Annalise

Annelore

Annemarie

Julianna

Marianne, Marianna

Pollyanna

Roseanne, Rosanna

Roxanne

Would  you use Ann or Anne or one of the other members of the clan? Does Ann still work as a middle name? What’s your favorite member of the Ann clan?

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35 Responses to “Classic Girls’ Names: The Ann Clan”

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NellieDellie Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 12:00 am

I can never decide between Anna, Annabel or Annaliese. I love all three and hate that I can’t use them all. Also love the nickname Annie, and the vintage Nancy has a certain spunk.

Ann names are amazing classics with some pretty cool namesakes.

dindlee Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 5:14 am

I love Anne, but there is something about the simple Anna that appeals to me. It’s soft and warm like a good blanket. My favorite by far.

maggiemary Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 5:36 am

Had to giggle that the first two lines of the blog contains the names Ann, Mary, Margaret and Elizabeth, the four names that make up my name and that of my twin.

Anyhow, that aside, I love Ann names. Ann is my twin’s middle name, she moans about it, says she prefers the Anne spelling. However my parents went with Ann, so both of us had 12 letters in our two given names, it was their subtle way of having our names share something.

My favorite Ann names are Ann/e, Annie, Annette, Hania, Nancy, Annabeth and Marianne. Marianne would be my top favorite.

LexieM Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 5:56 am

I love his blog post. Yay! Can we have more like these?

With the German/Dutch Hanne, there is also Hannelore (which I love for its softer and more romantic feel).
Both Hanne and Hannelore are more likely derived from the Johanna/e via Johannes (the German/Dutch John) instead of Hannah. Though really its six of one and a half-dozen of the other with Hannah = “grace” and John = “god is gracious”.

M2Mom Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 6:42 am

Great post! Anne is such a beautiful classic name. I almost picked it for my second daughter; my husband really liked it but wanted to stick with an M name like our first daughter. Anne is such an underused gem these days. My sister’s middle name is Ann, but I prefer the Anne spelling when it is a first name.

sweets12 Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 7:06 am

Anja, Anais, Anneliese, and Rosanna are ones I would use. I was never too fond of Hannah though.

alzora Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 7:22 am

Love a ton of these! I have Roxana on my list–have not yet run it past my husband–and one of my top contenders for a girl is the double-barrel first name Anna-Rosa.

paw Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 8:08 am

I have an Aunt and Great Aunt on my fathers side named Anne. My mother’s mother was Anna and both my mother and I have the middle name Anne. I also have a neice with the middle name Annette and a cousin who named her daughter Hannah.

I do love Anna and several of its variations. Joanna is another smooshed Anna name that I really like. I also like the double name Anna Marie.

Lo Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 8:12 am

I think my favorite is Anne. Hubby prefers Anna though I’m sure he’d call her Annie 100% of the time. Both would fit well with our other kids names. Since Andrew is our top boy pick, I’m keeping Anne/Anna of the list till we get to our last.

shieldsc Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 10:25 am

I absolutely adore the nickname Annie. I’d love to have a little girl named Annie, but I can’t fall in love with any of the longer forms or the originals (Anne, Anna). And I couldn’t really have Alexander, Madelyn, Genevieve, and Annie. I might keep Anna on the list, though. It’s a family name on my hubby’s side, and I do so love Annie!

shieldsc Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 10:26 am

Oh! I also like the Spanish Ana Lucia!

punkprincessphd Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 11:04 am

Great post, but includes a common misconception: Aine is not a “variation” of Anne. It has an entirely separate etymology and derivation – referencing an early celtic goddess of summer and prosperity, it is often given the meaning “splendor”. From the 1600s, when the British initiated a crackdown on Irish names, most Gaelic versions were “Anglicized” by “translating” them into their nearest phonetic equivalent. Hence Aine to Anne, Sorcha to Sarah, Aodh to Hugh, etc. This is the reverse of cases like Sile (Sheila), which is a Gaelic transliteration of Cecilia, or Siobhan, which is derived from Joan.

GoodHope Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 11:11 am

Yay, Ann! This has got to be one of my favorite “families” of names. I love so many of them, but my favorite is the gorgeous, gorgeous Anne, followed in no particular order by Anna, Annabeth, Rosanna, Hannah, Annemarie, Anya, Annika, Annie, Nancy, Nanon…I could go on and on, actually.

These days, I think Ann/Anne has to be up front in the first name position to really sparkle. It’s just been done to death as a filler middle name. I wouldn’t consider it as a middle name unless I had a strong family reason for doing so, and, in that situation, I’d rather push hard for its use as a first name.

lindsW Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 11:33 am

I love Anne or Anna in combination with another name. My niece is Anna Camille (all her first name; she has an additional middle). A good friend is Anne Marie. I know several little girls named Anna Grace, Anna Kate and Grace Ann. Yes, they all use their full names — this is the South!

lindsW Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 11:34 am

Oh, and my favorite nickname for my niece, Anna Camille, is Annamille, which I would sort of love to see used as a name.

Finuneby Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 11:41 am

Love love love Annelise. My husband has already approved of it because it has an Italian form of Annalisa that his relatives and friends can use. I definitely prefer Annelise to Annalise because if you remove one of those N’s it’s not a nice word and I would like to lessen the chances of teasing if possible. Also the reason why I can’t get behind Annalie and Anais as well. No pun intended. (and yes, I know how Anais is pronounced, but try explaining that to an 8 yr old on a playground…)

boyandgirl Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Anne is my all time favorite name!! My middle name is Ann and my favorite book is, of course, Anne of Greene Gables. I so very badly wanted my little girl to be Anne, but my husband vetoed that. She is Clara Ann, so I at least got to use it in the middle. Although I love her name, I always have a little twinge in my heart when I think about her not being Anne.

tarynkay Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Anna is actually a Biblical name in its own right. Anna is a prophetess who recognizes Jesus as the Messiah in Luke 2:36-38. She is a widow, very old, and never leaves the temple day or night. Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple to be presented, and Anna approaches them and give thanks for the coming redemption.

Brigid16 Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Anna and Anne are near the top of my list. Rosanna, Susanna, and Hanna are too. If I had German heritage, I’d be sorely tempted by Hannelore.

yw2 Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I’ve recently considered using Anne as a possible middle name for a daughter. I LOVE the Anne of Green Gables connection. My grandmother is Lola Ann and my husband’s grandmother is Barbara Ann, so continuing the Ann tradition by making it Anne might be nice. Anne instead of Ann just looks prettier to me.

Because Sawyer is sudden lit-popular for boys, I’m surprised people aren’t turning to Anne as much for girls. She’s so much more fun than Laura Ingalls, Mary Lennox, or Pollyanna, lol.

Amy_Boyd Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

My Aunt, cousin and Great Grandmother are all named Annie. Annie is their full name but most of them go by Anne.

One of my favourite names is Susannah and I love Annie for a nickname.

KateMP91 Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Ann, Annika, and Anouk are my favorites!

jame1881 Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I love Annamaria, despite its length and overloaded “a” sound. It’s a fresher Ann-Marie; seeming younger and yet more mature at the same time. Pollyanna used to be a favorite as well (before I saw the movie) and I think I still like its sing-song feel. I also like Anwen and Andorra – even though they don’t derive from Ann, they still arrive at Annie.

Kat987 Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Anna is gorgeous, to me it doesn’t even sound dated comapred to Elizabeth or Rosanna – love both of those too but I don’t want to use a name that my child will be embarrassed by. I knew a Julie in her 20’s and she was embarrased to introduce herself to anyone and I don’t blame her. Kids need to feel accepted and normal at school that’s really important.
Anna double-barralled I could deal with – Anna-Lucia – Anna- Louise – Anna-Leigh. Ann to me is boring and a customary middle name.
Hannah is lush too, just very common, too common!

inkonherfingers Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 5:16 pm

My mom’s name is Marianne and mine is Anne (nicknamed Annie), so I would love to continue the tradition with a little Anneliese (my favourite of the Anne variations). I love Anneliese’s elegance and grace, qualities that I always felt were lacking in my short name.
Anna, pronounced ah-na, is lovely as well, especially as a double-barreled name like Anna-Sophia or Anna-Margaret.

flamingo Says:

May 30th, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Channah is on our list. I love Anneliese too!

HannieKitt Says:

May 31st, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I may be biased but Hannah is obviously awesome 🙂 I also have a cousin called Anna who is named after our grandmother (it’s her middle).

My favourite ‘Ann’ names apart from these are Georgiana, Marianne and Annabelle.

miriannco Says:

May 31st, 2013 at 10:56 pm

My middle name is Anna and I quite like it (mostly because I am not too fond of my first name!). What is kind of funny is that my sisters name is Hannah and my mums middle name is Ann. It’s kind of cool that our name are all connected like that (unintentionally though).

My favourites from the list would probably be: Anna, Annaliese & Anna Maria

Jamie_Stanford_16 Says:

June 1st, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Anna, Annabeth, Annamarie & Julianna are my personal favorites! Hannah is my middle name; I was never too fond of it,though.

OceaneBreeze Says:

June 2nd, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Annika is definetly my favorite on the list.

OceaneBreeze Says:

June 2nd, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Annika is definetly my favorite on the list.

anna.bliss Says:

June 8th, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I love Annika. It doesn’t quite fit with my childrens’ name though. My name is Anna, and I have always liked it. I think I may consider Annie for a future possibility! It seems sweet, fun, and spunky all at once to me 🙂

Saffron_Rice Says:

November 11th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I know a lovely German lady called Hannelore – it is very beautiful – sounds like Hannah Laura.
I’ve never liked Hannah though.
I like Anne rather than Ann and have considered using Anna or Lucy Anne.
I know Annora is more a form of Honor but I like that too.
Another non-relation to Ann is the strange Anona – looks like a form of anon – weird name!

racheltheworm15 Says:

July 24th, 2015 at 8:37 pm

My favorite is Annalee. I see the Finnish Annalie on here- I love the meaning associated with that one, but I much prefer the look of Annalee.

Impwood Says:

November 28th, 2015 at 1:11 pm

I love Anne. I would love to have a little Anne someday, with the nn of Annie, but sadly there are at least five girls names I like even more, and it is quite unlikely that I will have six daughters!

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