Monday, December 19

let's talk about: Frances/Francis

the Francis B-Foods: Frances Bean and Francis Bacon
Francis is the English form of Franciscus, a Late Latin name referring to a Frenchman. It gained popularity in the middle ages, perhaps due to the influence of Saint Francis of Assisi, who was christened Giovanni, but nicknamed Francesco by his father. However, the name wasn't regularly used until the 16th century, in Britain. Interestingly, the Francis spelling was used for both genders until the 17th century, when the "-es" spelling became more common for girls.
In the US, Francis was at its most popular in 1915, when it cracked the top 30. It stayed consistently around the 30-50 range from the 1880s until the 1940s, when it began to lose ground. Steadily falling since 1949, it had fallen to the 200s by 1970, and today it rests at #669. The days are not long for Francis in the top 1,000, I fear. Some hope rests in Spanish and Portuguese form Francisco, currently at #196, though it's falling, too.

Frances is even less popular (it's #782), though it was once a top 10 name — from 1912 to 1921, it held the #9 spot. Its downfall began a decade earlier than Francis', in 1937, so perhaps we can look to Frances to see where Francis might be headed.

Some other forms of Francis that appeal are Basque Paxti, Croatian and Serbian Franjo, Italian Franco, Hungarian Ferenc, Aragonese Francho, Asturian Xicu, and Limburgish Frens. Some more female forms are Czech Františka, Francisca (I prefer it with a "K," as Franciska), Franca, FrancieleFrancine and, of course, popular Francesca. I like nickname Fran for a girl or a boy, and lots of the feminine diminutives are sweet — I can never choose between Franny, Sissy or Frankie.


  1. Francis Bean! Still love it, and I often wonder if it sort of informed my own naming style with my kids, sort of subconsciously. Yes, Francis needs a perfectly whimsical middle name or two behind it!

    Franny or Fanny are great nicknames, as is Sissy!

    I think it can't be far behind all the other slightly old lady-ish names on the rise.

  2. Oh I love Frances. I come across it a lot when I'm doing eighteenth century research and it's always a pleasure. It is such a sweet name with a lot going for it.

  3. And I prefer Franca with a K, as well! I agree with Kristen that Frances looks great with a whimsical nickname-y middle name, and I wonder if Francesca will replace Frances near the top some day...Frannie is by far my favourite nickname!

    I've never liked Francine, or Francis on a boy.


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