Jennifer (given name)

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Jennifer
William Morris 001.jpg
William Morris, Queen Guinevere, 1858: King Arthur's wife is known to English-speakers by a Norman French cognate of "Jennifer"
Pronunciation /ˈɛnɪfər/
Gender Feminine
Origin
Word/Name Cornish
Meaning possibly "white ghost"
Other names
Nickname(s) Jen, Jenny, Jenna
Related names Gaynor, Guanhumara, Guenevere, Guenièvre, Guinevere, Gwenhwyfar, Gwenore, Jenifer, Ginevra

Jennifer is a feminine given name, a Cornish form of Gwenhwyfar[1] adopted into English during the 20th century.

It may mean "white fairy" (from Proto-Celtic *Uindo-seibrā "white phantom"). Despite the name's similarity to the Old English words jenefer, genefer and jinifer, all of which were variants of Juniper used to describe the juniper tree,[2] there is no evidence that it comes from these.

It became a common first name for females in English-speaking countries during the 20th century. The name Jennifer has been in use since the 18th century.[1] Before 1906 the name was fairly uncommon, but it gained some recognition after George Bernard Shaw used it for the main female character in The Doctor's Dilemma.[3] However, UK government statistics (covering England and Wales) only show the name first entering the top 100 most commonly used names for baby girls in 1934—28 years after the play was first staged. It thereafter rose in popularity somewhat, peaking at #11 in 1984.

In the United States, the name Jennifer first entered the annual government-derived list of the 1000 most commonly used names for newborn baby girls in 1938, when it ranked at #987. Thereafter, the name steadily gained popularity, entering the top 100 most commonly given girls names in 1956, and breaking through into the top 10 in 1966.

It gained even more popularity in the 1970s—Jennifer was the single most popular name for newborn American girls every single year from 1970 to 1984, inclusive.[4] Though its popularity is often attributed to the use of the name in the novel and film Love Story, Jennifer was already the number three name given to baby girls in the United States in 1969, the year before the book and movie were released.

Since the early 1990s the name has remained common, but considerably less so than in previous years. In the US, usage of the name for newborn girls has been declining slowly but steadily since 1984, dropping out of the top 10 in 1992, and out of the top 100 in 2009. In the UK, the name has also experienced a consistent annual decline, slipping out of England and Wales' top 100 girls names as of 2005.[5]

In contrast, "Guinevere" itself is at present a rather rare first name, considered "old-fashioned". The protagonist in the 1938 novel Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is very self-conscious about being named "Guinevere", which goes along with her being depicted as an unworldly curate's daughter who wears old-fashioned clothing and is very confused and intimidated by the world of 1930s London.

Name variants[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Room, Adrian. Cassell's Dictionary of First Names. Sterling Publishing (2002), p. 332. ISBN 0-304-36226-3.
  2. ^ Richard Oliver Heslop, Northumberland Words, 1892–94: see Ginifer & Jinifer.
  3. ^ Evans, Cleveland Kent (November 1, 2011). "Jennifer went from 'strange' to popular". Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska). Retrieved January 15, 2013. 
  4. ^ Popular baby names
  5. ^ http://www.babynames.co.uk/popular-baby-names#name1=Jennifer
  6. ^ a b "The name of Guinevere in various medieval texts". Judith P. Shoaf. Retrieved 10 January 2013.