Juniper (given name)

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Other names
Related namesGuinevere, Geneva, Genevieve, Ginevra, Jennifer

The given name Juniper is either in reference to the English common name for the juniper tree or berry, or in reference to a derivation of the Welsh name Guinevere. Juniper has historically been used as both a boys' name and a girls' name.

In 2011, Juniper entered the top 1000 list of given names in the United States for the first time and is quickly becoming a popular girls name likely due to the popularity of a wide assortment of well-known fictional works, including the cartoon series The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, the movie Benny & Joon (where the Joon character was short for Juniper), Pamela Dean's novel Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, and the Donovan song, "Jennifer Juniper".

The Juniper tree's name is derived from the Latin word juniperus. In Latin, juniperus is combination of the word junio, which means young, and parere, to produce, hence youth producing, or evergreen.[1] Ginepro (Italian for Juniper), Ginevra (Italian variant form of Juniper), and Ginny are other names that also refer to the Juniper tree.

Juniper is used to flavour the alcoholic spirit gin. The traditional drink jenever and its French name genièvre are names for juniper. The French name was shortened to geneva, sounding the same as the place name, and further abbreviated to 'gin'.

In some French dialects, the plant is known as geneviève[citation needed]. This is also a French given name, notably that of Sainte Genevieve, patron saint of Paris. However, this name was derived from Latin Genovefa for Germanic Kenowefa[citation needed] (like English kin and wife) and originally had no link with genièvre (French for "juniper"), which is not a female first name. Another name which was originally unrelated is the British name Guinevere (Guenièvre in French), a variant Old French spelling[citation needed] of Gwenhwyfar, which in Welsh is a combination of the word gwen (mod. gwyn) which means "white" or "fair" and hwyfar which means a "spirit" or "fairy". This is also the origin of Jennifer, another name that sounds similar to Juniper. Because the Latin Juniperus family of names are the same or very similar-sounding to the Welsh Guinevere family of names, it is very difficult to determine, for names that begin with gin-, jen-, or jun-, which family they ultimately originated with.

Common nicknames of Juniper[edit]

  • Pepper or other diminutives based on the last syllable
  • June or other diminutives based on the initial syllable
  • Ginny: The name for the spirit gin is an English derivation of the Dutch word for Juniper: genever. This nickname is either in reference to gin, or similarly, when something is said to taste like Juniper berries, it is said to be "ginny" tasting.
  • Jenny: More so in England, where in some places it is pronounced "jenny-per"
  • Nip or Nipper: While the origin of the usage of "nip" to refer to a drink or a glass of an alcoholic beverage actually comes from the rare term nipperkin [small measure],[2] a folk etymology has that it originally referred to a nip of gin, with the "nip" being a shortening of Juniper.[3]

Symbolism of the name Juniper[edit]

Ginevra de' Benci
Leonardo da Vinci - Ginevra de' Benci - Google Art Project.jpg
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
Yearcirca 1476
Typeoil on wood
Dimensions38.8 cm × 36.7 cm (15.3 in × 14.4 in)
LocationNational Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
  • Succor: In the Bible's Old Testament, a juniper tree with an angelic presence sheltered the prophet Elijah from Queen Jezebel's pursuit. Similarly, a later 6th century non-canonical apocryphal account tells of how the infant Jesus and his parents were hidden from King Herod's soldiers by a juniper during their flight into Egypt.[4]
  • During the Renaissance, Juniper was frequently used in art to represent chastity. For example, in Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Ginevra de' Benci, a juniper tree is seen directly behind her (a visual pun, as the Italian word for juniper is ginepro, which is similar to Ginevra's name while alluding to her chastity). The reverse of the portrait is decorated with a juniper sprig encircled by a wreath of laurel and palm and is memorialized by the phrase VIRTUTEM FORMA DECORAT ("Beauty adorns Virtue").
  • Saint Juniper, "the jester of the Lord" is sometimes called the Saint of comedy. He was also known for his patience—it is said that St. Francis once described the perfect friar by citing "the patience of Brother Juniper, who attained the state of perfect patience because he kept the truth of his low estate constantly in mind, whose supreme desire was to follow Christ on the way of the cross." St. Frances held Juniper in such high regard he once said, "Would to God, my brothers, I had a whole forest of such Junipers."
  • In many parts of Europe, juniper branches were smoldered and carried around fields to protect livestock and a female spirit of the Juniper tree, called Frau Wachholder was invoked to make thieves return the goods they had stolen.
  • In ancient Wales, the Juniper tree was sacred and it was believed that cutting down a Juniper tree would result in the woodcutter's death the following year.
  • The Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) is used to make wooden pencils and is the "cedar" used in moth-repelling cedar chests and drawers.
  • The Juniper Berry is used as a distinct flavoring for a wide variety of dishes and beverages.
  • One of the most famous Grimm Fairy Tales is "The Juniper Tree." In the story a mother is buried under a Juniper tree, magically becomes part of the tree and a bird that was hatched in the tree, and avenges the death of her son when the bird drops a millstone and kills her son's stepmother.

Notable persons with given name Juniper[edit]

Fictional characters with given name Juniper[edit]

Notable persons with the given name Geneva[edit]

Notable persons with the given name Genevieve[edit]

Notable persons with the given name Ginevra[edit]

Fictional characters with the given name Ginevra[edit]

  • Ginevra di Scozia, title character of the opera by Simon Mayr
  • Princess Ginevra of Scotland, one of the main characters of Handel's opera, Ariodante
  • Ginevra or Ginny Weasley in Harry Potter books
  • Ginevra Fanshawe in Charlotte Brontë's Villette


  1. ^ University of Vermont: Derivation of Scientific Names The names Genefer, Jenefer and Jinifer (all old English variants for juniper),Richard Oliver Heslop, Northumberland Words, 1892–94: see Ginifer & Jinifer.Ernest Weekley, Words and Names, Page 24.
  2. ^ New Oxford American Dictionary, 2e, ISBN 0-19-517077-6
  3. ^ Meliora: Quarterly Review of Social Science, 1868, Page 47
  4. ^
  5. ^ The Brother Juniper Collection Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine at St. Bonaventure University
  6. ^ Brother Juniper Pocket Books
  • Folk-Etymology: A Dictionary of Verbal Corruptions or Words Perverted in Form by A. Smythe Palmer, 1969