Today’s sneak peek is Jack — which was the most popular boy’s name in the UK for over fifteen years, until yesterday’s Oliver knocked it off the top spot in 2009.
Pet-form of JOHN, used since the Middle Ages. It developed from the earlier medieval pet-form Jankin (which gave rise to the surnames Jenkin, Jenkins, Jenkinson, Jenks and Jinks, etc). It was very common in the late medieval period, and came into use as a generic name for a man or male creature, such as Jack Tar. Some uses have become so engrained the fact that the name Jack is involved almost goes unnoticed, such as steeplejack, jackass and JACKDAW. The name features particularly highly in folklore. Jack Frost is frost personified; a spirit of Winter who draws fern-patterns on icy glass-panes. Jack-in-the-green is a name of the Green Man, and jack-o’lantern is another name for the will-o’-the-wisp. Several surnames derive from it, including Jack, Jacks, Jaggs, Jakes, Jeeks, Jacket, Jacklin, Jackman and JACKSON. Before the 20th Century, most Jacks were baptized John, even if they only ever used Jack all of their lives. Dim: Jackie, Jacky. Bearers: Jack Parsons (1914-52) – whose birth name was Marvel – was a notable American Thelemite, who is also known for the work he did at Caltech in rocket propulsion.
The English form of Hebrew Johanan ‘Yahweh has favored’; John developed from the Latin form Iohannes, later Johannes, from the Greek Iôannês. Johanan was an extremely common name amongst Jews in the 1st Century CE, and, as the name of the John the Baptist and the Evangelist responsible for one of the Gospels and the Book of Revelation, it was always going to become a popular name among the Christians. St John the Baptist was regarded as second only to Jesus — so it should come as no surprise that when Jesus got the festival of the Winter Solstice for his feast day, John was apportioned the summer one. The name wasn’t used much in Western Europe until the 1st Crusade (1095-99), after which hundreds of churches were dedicated to St John, and the name was bestowed upon countless baby boys. Variants: Jon (modern). Diminutives: JACK, JAKE, JOCK, Johnny, Johnnie, Jonny, HANK; Hankin, Hancock, Jankin, Jenkin (historical). Manx: Ean, Irish Gaelic: EOIN, SEÁN, Italian: Giovanni, Gianni, Gino (diminutive), Albanian: Gjon, German: Hans, Johann, Johannes, Finnish: Hannu, Jani, Joni, Jukka, Maori: Hoani, Armenian: Hovhannes, Scots Gaelic: IAIN, Seon; Seonaidh (diminutive), Bulgarian, Welsh: IOAN, Greek: Ioannis, Giannis, Yannis, YANIS, Welsh: IEUAN, IFAN, Iwan, SÎON, Basque, Romanian: Ion Russian, Czech, Serbian, Croatian: Ivan, Dutch, Polish: JAN, Estonian: Jaan, Slovenian: Janez, Latvian: JANIS, Hungarian: János, French: JEAN, Danish: Jens, Portuguese: João, Catalan: Joan, Dutch, Danish, German, Swedish: JOHAN, Macedonian: JOVAN, Cornish: Jowan, Icelandic: Jón, Dutch: Joop (diminutive), Spanish: Juan, Hawaian: Keoni, Galician: Xoán, Arabic, Turkish: Yahya, Breton: Yann; YANNICK (diminutive). Bearers: King John of England (1167-1216); John Dee (1527-1608), the astrologer and ceremonial magician – among many other things; John Aubrey (1629-97), the English antiquarian, was one of the first people to study Stonehenge; John Toland (1670-1722), the Irish philosopher, founded the Ancient Druid Order in 1717; John Keats (1795-1821), the English poet; John Galsworthy (1867-1933), the English novelist; John Adams (1735-1826) and John F. Kennedy (1917-63), US Presidents Numerous men tried and executed for Witchcraft have borne the name John, including John Proctor (c.1632-92) and John Willard (bef. 1672-92) at Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, and John Lindsay (c.1688-97), who was one of those convicted and executed at Paisley, Scotland, in 1697, aged just 11 years old.