Jennifer (given name)

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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
Word/name Cornish
Meaning “Fair One”, “White Wave”
Region of origin Cornwall
Other names
Nickname(s) Jen, Jenn, Jenna, Jenny Jena (also a city in Germany)
Related names Guenevere, Guenièvre, Guinevere, Gwenhwyfar, Gwenore, Jenifer, Ginevra
Popularity see popular names

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


"Jennifer" may mean "the fair one" (from Proto-Celtic *Windo-seibrā).[2] A Cornish form, it is cognate with the Welsh form Gwenhwyfar and with the Old Irish Findabair.[3] 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,[4] there is no evidence that it comes from these.[citation needed]

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.[5] However, United Kingdom 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, but it thereafter rose in popularity somewhat, peaking at No. 11 in 1984.[6] Jennifer remained in the top 100 in England and Wales until 2005.[7] It was ranked No. 166 in 2009.[6]

In the United States, the name Jennifer first entered the annual government-derived list of the 1,000 most commonly used names for newborn baby girls in 1938, when it ranked at No. 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 (until 1985 in Delaware, Illinois and Massachusetts), inclusive.[8] It dropped out of the top 10 in the United States in 1992 and out of the top 100 in 2009.



  • Jennefer (rare)
  • Jenifer (rare)
  • Jeniffer (rare)
  • Jenipher (very rare)
  • Jennifer
  • Jhennifer (very rare)


  • Jen (common)
  • Jenn
  • Jenna
  • Jeni (rare)
  • Jenie (rare)
  • Jeny (rare)
  • Jenni
  • Jennie
  • Jenny (common)

Related names[edit]

  • Janessa, Jenessa (Jennifer + Vanessa)
  • Jenibeth (Jennifer + Elizabeth)
  • Jenilee (Jennifer + Lee)
  • Jenilyn (Jennifer + Lynn)
  • Jenine (Jeanine, influenced by Jennifer)
  • Jennette (Jeanette, influenced by Jennifer)
  • Jennelle (Jeanelle, influenced by Jennifer)

In other languages[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Room, Adrian. Cassell's Dictionary of First Names. Sterling Publishing (2002), p. 332. ISBN 0-304-36226-3.
  2. ^ Schrijver, Peter (1995). Studies in British Celtic Historical Phonology. Rodopi. pp. 249–50. ISBN 9789051838206.
  3. ^ Monaghan, Patricia (2009). The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Infobase. p. 188. ISBN 9781438110370.
  4. ^ Richard Oliver Heslop, Northumberland Words, 1892–1894: see Ginifer and Jinifer.
  5. ^ Evans, Cleveland Kent (November 1, 2011). "Jennifer went from 'strange' to popular". Omaha World Herald. Omaha, Nebraska. Archived from the original on September 7, 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "THE TOP 100 NAMES IN ENGLAND AND WALES 1984". British Baby Names. 14 December 2016.
  7. ^ "Home - Baby Names".
  8. ^ SueKunkel. "Popular Baby Names". Social Security Administration.
  9. ^ "The name of Guinevere in various medieval texts". Judith P. Shoaf. Retrieved 10 January 2013.