This month’s choice — Evan — features in both the American and English chart, ranked 36th in America, and 76th in England and Wales.
Superficially, it might seem an odd choice, for today it is generally regarded as the Welsh form of John.
Which it is. Sort of.
It is actually the now standard Anglicized form of Ifan, just one of the Welsh forms of John.
Others include Ieuan and Ioan, made familiar by the Welsh actor, Ioan Gruffudd. These were Anglicized in the early modern period as as Javan, Jevon and Jowan (now considered purely Cornish).
Evan itself evolved from the older form Yevan, from the Welsh Iefan, with Evan itself first appearing in around 1500.
Although its roots were in the Hebrew John, it became regarded, quite rightly, as thoroughly Welsh, and remained one of the few Welsh names to remain in popular and regular use until the Celtic Revival in the nineteenth century.
Hence why Evans is one of the commonest surnames, especially in Wales. It also lies behind Bevan (from ap Evan “son of Evan”), Avens and Heaven.
Another old variant was Even, which is also found as a variant of Euan in Scotland and parts of England. Indeed, it seems to have been the
most common form of EWAN still prevailing in “the Old North” in the early nineteenth century.
There are also (rarer) modern feminine forms: Evana, Evanna, Ifanna and Ifanwy. A well-known bearer being the Irish actress, Evanna Lynch, known for playing Luna Lovegood.
So far, so good. But you might be wondering what it is about Evan that gives it a Pagan edge, apart from a fairly flimsy connection to a fictional witch?
The answer lies in a more unexpected source — Classical Latin.
For Evan also happens to be one of the alternative names of the Roman God Bacchus — identified with the Greek Dionysus.
I bet you weren’t expecting that!
Of course, the Romans didn’t pronounce it the same as we do; they said it “eh-wan,” and it is also written Euan. Other forms include Euhan, Euius and Evius.
It probably arose from the ritual cry used at his festival by worshippers — euoe! or euhoe! — which even had a special adjective derived from it, which was used of worshippers, particularly Bacchantes: euans, meaning “shouting ‘Evan.’”
So if you’d like a mainstream name with a nice little Pagan twist, Evan might be just the one for you.