Spotlight on: Joan

One of you recently requested a spotlight on Joan and I’d been thinking about it and looking up bits and pieces here and there and then I read this on the DMNES blog:

Joan: Many people may not realize that this is in fact a Biblical name, the name of a woman healed by Jesus and who later accompanied him as a disciple. She was later venerated as a saint, but it was the use of this name by many medieval queens, in addition to the “Maid of Orleans”, Joan of Arc, that helped the name maintain its place as one of the most popular women’s names throughout history.” (emphasis mine)

And knew it was time for the spotlight. 🙂

So Joan is a feminine form of John, which is a great way to start — any of the Sts. John could be honored with a little Joan. But there are loads of amazing Joans (in various forms — I’ll get to that in a minute) that are great patrons for a little girl.

First off, the biblical Joan mentioned above is, I believe, the woman whose name is usually given as Joanna; she’s mentioned briefly in Luke 8:3 as one of the women who accompanied Jesus as He “went on through cities and villages, preaching bringing the good news of the kingdom of God” (Lk 8:1):

And the Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.” (Lk 8:1-3)

The footnote in my Bible (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Second Edition RSV) is particularly awesome regarding those verses (Lk 8:1-3):

Jesus’ urgent mission left no time for him and the disciples to settle into a trade. Several women thus accompanied them to offer provisions and financial assistance. This challenged Jewish custom, which discouraged men from associating with women in public (Jn 4:27).”

(That reference to Jn 4:27 is this: “Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman …”) (The woman was the Samaritan woman; interesting that they marveled that He was talking with a woman, rather than with a Samaritan.)

Then of course there’s St. Joan of Arc — a totally awesome warrior woman! She’s also known as Jean/Jeanne/Jehanne.  A personal favorite of mine is the mother of St. Dominic, known variously as Bl. Joan/Jane/Joanna/Juana of Aza. There are a whole bunch of others (lots of Sts. John included in that list as well).

Speaking of variants, these are all listed in the DMNES entry on Joan — they all had medieval use (I’m not listing all the variants — there are tons! But these were either my favorites or the ones I was most surprised by):

Genne, Genet
Jane, Jayn, Jayne, Jeyne, Jaen, Jaine
Jean, Jeanne, Geane
Jehanne, Jehenne, Jehanette
Joana, Joanna, Johanna
Joane, Jone
Juana, Juanita
Zoana, Zoanna

Awesome list, right? So many great ways to honor a Joan! Re: Ione, I’d recently come across this book, which lists several places in literature (like Shakespeare) where Ione was used interchangeably with Joan (read the bottom of p. 156 and top of p. 157 — the link takes you right to it).

As for Joan itself, I’ve always thought the nickname Joanie is sweet, and Jo/Joey could also work; I’ve also seen Nonie. In this case, of course, the nicknames would be more affectionate or spunky rather than true diminutives or need for something shorter — you can’t get much shorter than the one-syllable Joan! There are a million nicknames for its variants too (Jane et al.), but I won’t get into them here.

What do you all think of Joan? Would you consider it for your daughter, or have you? Do you prefer one of its variants? Do you know any Joans (big or little), and if so, what do they think of their name? Do they go by nicknames?


53 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Joan

  1. Yes!! I love Joan! I met a little Joan at my cousin’s wedding back in November. She was probably about 4 months and her mom would sometimes call her Joanie 🙂

    I think I would consider the name Joan honestly. I kind of like how serious it is. It provides a fun juxtaposition to a little kid. I also like how it’s dated. I think dated names are some of my favorites, because everybody knows them, but they’re not popular and they’re still surprising on a little kid. You meet a little on named like Joan or Roger and you’re like “wait, what?” but everyone still knows the name!

    Side note on the Shakespeare point: He probably didn’t actually use Ione and Joan interchangeably, at least to what I know about Shakespeare and the printing press back during that time period. What happened with printing presses during Shakespeare’s time is that a lot of letters looked similar, mainly Ss and Fs and Js and Is, which is very interesting and leads to some interesting misprints of names and words. What I would suspect happened with Ione vs Joan in this case, was during a printing session someone saw Joan, but mistook it as Ioan, and thought something along the lines of “That’s not a name!” and changed it to Ione, which is a name. There a few very famous examples of that happening, where a printer will think a different printer made a mistake and change it, and then you go back to the original first folio of Shakespeare and see it was actually someone misreading something.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. We named our daughter Joan! We love that it honored my grandma and St Joan of Arc. We call her Joanie often. A few things we didn’t expect is that many people remember her name very well because they have a mother/grandmother with that name. Pretty humorous when that occurs- I think the name peaked in the ’30s?Also, I thought it would be a simple name with no confusion, but some people have asked how to spell it and others called her Joanne.

    Thanks for the spotlight!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Very fun spotlight. Can’t say that I have meet any young Joans. Not seeing any bump in naming, unlike Jane which is seeing some. The Joans that I know are all in their 50s or 60s which definitely coincides with the mid-century peak. I will have to ask some how they like their names. I do like it and think it is very classic. And would be very unique if people are looking for unused names currently. I like what Grace said about it being very recognizable yet unusual to current ears for little ones.

    I love that there are SO many variations. There are many in my family – Jeanne, Jeanette (2), Jeanine, Juana. Joni (think Joni Eareckson) or Joanie (think Happy Days) was on my “baby naming list” when I was in junior high (late 70s) as was Johanna but it did not survive into actual naming days.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Love this spotlight! My favorite variations are Jane and Joanna. I don’t know why, but Joan looks incomplete to me. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone simply named Joan, so maybe that’s why I have trouble with it? I know this isn’t a variation, but Josephine is our girl name if we are ever blessed with a girl, so I don’t think we’d ever use Joan or any variations since the names are so close.

    I’ve been wondering whether the name Joanna would see a spike with the rising popularity of the show “Fixer Upper” on HGTV (starring Chip and Joanna Gaines).

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is interesting to look at trends. Jane was more popular than Joan at turn of the century. Then they both peaked mid-century, but Joan was twice as popular. Joanne and Jane were pretty much on the same trajectory with Joanne being always just under Jane. When Joan/Jane/Joanne decreased that is when Joanna started upward and had her peak in the late 70s/early 80s though never as high as Joanne, Jane, or Joan.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I went to college with both a Joan and a Jeanne d’Arc nn Jano 🙂

    I’d do Jane and that’s about it — it was on the name list for #7 as a double name Jane Frances and Jane Louise!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. My favorite variant of the name Joan is Joanna… It just feels more feminine to me…

    But the most beautiful thing about this name is its meaning: “God is gracious”. Definitely a good reason to choose this name for a daughter!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Joan having a single syllable makes it too short for my tastes as a whole name.

    I’m with Colleen on liking Josephine better for a first name, but like both Jane and Johanna as middle names.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m a Joanna who has always loved my name. I read Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc biography while pregnant with my youngest daughter and seriously considered Joan. In the end, as much as I love the patroness, it just looks unfinished to me after years of writing Joanna (and seeing it cut off as Joan on my baggage claim tickets). I would be thrilled to meet a baby Joan though!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m not in love with Joan, but I am so happy to find that Jana is a variant who could use a St. Joan as a patron! I’ve considered Jana for a girl (after my mom Janis/Jan), but so far I’ve had all boys!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Well, Kate knows how I feel about ❤ Ione ❤ but I also had Joan on my middle name list since… I was 10. (Namer alert!) I liked Joanna for a long time, too.

    My Grandma Joan (80-ish) sometimes went by Joanie or Jo-ANNE, like turning her name into two syllables.

    I feel like Joan is always in style for Catholics, like Theresa, no matter what the charts say. The ones I know are quite old or quite young, however.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oops, meant to add that in my Joan research last year I found a source that said Joan was originally spelled Jhone when imported to England. Which makes the Joan-Jhone-Ione link more credible. Any thoughts on that?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The earliest English examples we have are all from Latin documents, so it’s tough to know exactly what the vernacular was like, but in the late 14th-mid 15th C, you can find the Middle English spellings , , , , and , and Jh- forms show up all over the 16th C.

        Liked by 1 person

      • [[trying again with proper HTML]]]

        The earliest English examples we have are all from Latin documents, so it’s tough to know exactly what the vernacular was like, but in the late 14th-mid 15th C, you can find the Middle English spellings Iohane, Iohan, Iane, Ione, and Iohn, and Jh- forms show up all over the 16th C.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. “the biblical Joan mentioned above is, I believe, the woman whose name is usually given as Joanna;”

    Yup, she’s the one. I’m not sure when the Latinate form was adopted as the preferable form in Biblical vernaculars; she’s Joone in the Wycliffite Bible of 1395 (a non-standard spelling!)

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I personally don’t know anyone named Joan, but I have always loved this name, as well as Jane. After I named my first son James, though, I realized Jane was out for us because it rhymes. 😕
    And then we named our second son John, and Joan is way too similar. Alas!

    I have known lots of Joannes, JoAnns, Joannas, and a few Johannas. As a teenager, Johanna was one of my top 5 faves! Along with Emma, Charlotte, Anne (notice a theme in these? Lol!), and Marigold. I still like most of these, except Emma, which I became tired of. 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I feel like I have to comment on this. : ) I’m Joan but go by Joannie — yes, with 2 ns, which few people get right, but I’ve gotten okay with that. I love my name because it’s unique but not too unique.
    Two observations — 1) When someone meets me, they almost always tell me about another Joan they know. “My mom’s name is joan!” “My favorite great aunt was Joan!” “I had a neighbor named Joan once!” I don’t know if that just points to the fact that there are few of us in the world? I’m 32 and I’m the only Joan my age that I know.
    2) By and large NO ONE pronounces it right when you tell people at coffee shops, restaurants, etc. It’s gotten so bad that I tell people my name is Lucy if they’re going to write it down and call my name later. I get “John?” or “Jane?” or “Joanne?” And I can usually tell they’re talking about me — although once some guy named John stole my coffee.. My favorite was when the guy at Starbucks actually wrote Jone on my coffecup.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I forgot to mention that I have a friend from France whose younger sister is named Jehanne. I thought this so surprising because I would expect to see the French using Jeanne to honor St. Jeanne d’Arc, but I guess not always!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I am Joanna. I have always loved my name and thought I was the only one ever! (lol) until I was 13 or 14 and met two others who are within a ten year span older and younger than I am. In one of the Joanna’s families, she has sisters named Jane and Jean! They both have fancy, Latin middle names that are actually male saints names. I used to know their names by heart because I loved them, but am totally drawing a blank at the moment (I think Jean is Jean Marie Baptiste [bap-tee-st]). One of my sisters-in-law is Jane Marie Pius. Just adore it!

    I was going to be named Joan after my paternal grandmother, but my mom stumbled upon Joanna in a baby name book shortly before I was born and saw Joanna as a variant she liked so much more. My grandmother went by Joie which I completely love! I go by Jo most commonly when someone uses a nickname when talking to me, but I also go by Joney in a small circle of friends and a few of my brothers.

    The only draw back with my name is the laziness in people reading it. I detest being called Joanne at the doctors office or when I get an “official” phone call. My name is clearly typed with a nice A at the end! haha 😉 I also don’t like being called Jo Hannah. The mom of the Joanna with Jean and Jane for sisters always has called me JoHanna or Joanne. Who does that? I just met a Joanne last year who I think the world of, and I do love the name…. But my name is Joanna. haha 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha I loved this whole post so much!! I love your name. ❤ You're the only Joanna I know, isn't that weird? So to me, it's all you! I also LOVE that Jane has Pius in her middle name! And I'm dying over sisters Joanna, Jane, and Jean! If you remember the others' middle names, please tell me!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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