Jennifer (given name)

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For other uses, see Jennifer (disambiguation).
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 "white one"
Other names
Nickname(s) Jen, Jenny
Related names Gaynor, Guanhumara, Guenevere, Guenièvre, Guinevere, Gwenhwyfar, Gwenore, Jenifer, Ginevra

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

It may mean "white enchantress" or "the fair one"[2] (from Proto-Celtic *Windo-seibrā "white phantom"). 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.

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]

Name variants[edit]

  • Arabic: جنيفر
  • Belarusian: Джэніфер (Dženifier)
  • Bengali: জেনিফার (Jēniphāra)
  • Chinese Simplified and Chinese Traditional: 珍妮弗 (Zhēnnī fú), 珍妮花
  • Cornish: Jennifer, Jenniver
  • English: Gaynor, Gaynour,[8] Geneva, Gwenevere, Guenevere, Guenore,[8] Guinevere, Gwenovier, Jenny, Jenneigh, Jennie, Jen, Jeni, Jenni, Jenn, Jenifer, Jenniffer, Jennipher
  • French: Guenièvre, Jennifair, Geneviève
  • Gujarati: જેનિફર (Jēniphara)
  • Hindi: जेनिफर
  • Italian: Ginevra, Genoveffa
  • Polish: Genowefa, Genia, Gena, Ginewra, Żinewra
  • Portuguese: Ginevra or Genebra
  • Spanish: Ginebra or Genebra, Genoveva
  • Welsh: Gaenor, Geinwr, Gwenhwyfar

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, 1892–94: see Ginifer & Jinifer.
  5. ^ Evans, Cleveland Kent (November 1, 2011). "Jennifer went from 'strange' to popular". Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska). Retrieved January 15, 2013. 
  6. ^ Popular baby names
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b "The name of Guinevere in various medieval texts". Judith P. Shoaf. Retrieved 10 January 2013.