Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Anna

Anna is the Latinate form of Anne which is an English equivalent of Hannah (losing the original “h”s on both ends). Hannah comes from the Hebrew Channah (חַנָּה) which literally translates to “grace, graciousness” from the root “hanan” meaning “he was gracious, showed favor”. This etymology makes perfect sense if you are familiar with Hannah’s story in the Bible (1 Samuel 1-2). Unable to bear children “because the Lord closed her womb,” Hannah prayed mightily to the Lord for a son promising to “give him to the Lord all the days of his life.” God hears Hannah’s prayers and “favors” her with a son (Samuel), hence the meaning of the name. After the child is weaned (about the age of four or five in Biblical times), Hannah does as promised and turns her son over to the priest Eli to raise Samuel in the service of God. It’s a good thing that God listened to the prayers of Hannah because Samuel would go on to become one of Israel’s greatest leaders and usher in the Israel monarchy by anointing its first kings, Saul and then David. Aside from Anna’s etymological connection to Hannah, it is also a name that appears briefly in the New Testament (Gospel of Luke) belonging to a devoutly religious prophetess who recognized the baby Jesus as the Messiah. However, Anna’s key importance lies in Christian tradition not officially contained in the Bible, but in the apocrypha – the Gospel of James –believed to have been written around the middle of the 2nd century. James’s gospel deals with the birth and childhood of the Virgin Mary and we are introduced to Mary’s parents, Anna and Joachim (which would make Anna Jesus’ grandmother). Anna’s story closely mimics Hannah’s from the Old Testament in that she is barren, prays to God for a child, and promises to dedicate said child to the Lord in return for His “grace, favor”. Because the Gospel of James is not supported by factual, historic hard evidence, the legend of Anna and Joachim has become more of a Christian tradition rather than the official Biblical “word of God”. As the ostensible parents of the Virgin Mary, Anna and Joachim have been held on the proverbial pedestal as a model for all parents. In other words, Anna and Joachim must certainly have built a loving family structure through their devotion to God and their foundation of faith. Such an upbringing would have allowed Mary to give herself over to God and then to bravely stand by her son at His crucifixion. Not surprisingly, Saint Anne (as she is now known) is the Patron Saint to all Christian mothers and to women in labor. Catholics parents pray to Saint Anne for the strength to be good, faithful parents. Now you can see fully why Hannah/Anna are names that spread in popularity within Judeo-Christian tradition in Western Culture. Hebrew Hannah –> Latin Anna –> English Anne, and so on in other languages. A favorite name among medieval French nuns, the Normans brought Anne to England in the 13th century; although the English dropped the “e” in favor of Ann at first. The two-syllable Latinized Anna is still gigantically popular throughout the Western World. It’s a Top 10 choice in Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway. It is also a favorite in Italy, Northern Ireland, Ireland and Poland. Not to mention Catalonia, Canada, Scotland, the United States, Belgium and France. A true international gem.

All About the Baby Name – Anna



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In the English-speaking world, Anna came into general use in the 18th century, joining Ann and Anne. Today Anna is a common female name in most European languages. At the turn of the 20th century in America, Anna averaged at position #3. Its lowest point of popularity was during the 1950’s and 1960’s (and even still she was quite common). Today, the name Anna sits high on the list of most popular female baby names and it surpasses the one-syllable versions of Ann and Anne. The elegant simplicity of the name is what probably appeals to most parents (similar to Emma, Ava or Leah). These are names we expect to see around for another 100 years.

Quick Facts











AN-a; AHN-a


Grace, graciousness










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Anna

Literary Characters


Anna Christie is a main character in a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Eugene O'Neill of the same name (1921). Anna is a girl in her twenties and the daughter of a barge captain who has not seen her in almost twenty years. He had left her on a farm in Minnesota when she was five to be raised by cousins so that “she don’t know dat ole devil, sea, she don’t know fa’der like me.” Their relationship becomes complicated by her romantic involvement with another sailor and her unveiling of her troubled past (prostitution). It is a story of a young woman’s decline and subsequent salvation. It is likewise the story of the power of love and forgiveness.

Anna is the sister of Dido (Queen of Carthage) in Roman mythology, the legends about whom are related by Virgil (in the Aeneid). Dido falls in love with Aeneas, but the love is not returned. In despair, Dido kills herself. After her death, Anna flees from Carthage to Italy, where she is kindly received by Aeneas. Here her jealousy of Lavinia (Aeneas’ wife) was roused, and being warned in a dream by the spirit of Dido, she throws herself into the river Numicius. Henceforth she was worshipped as the nymph of that river. Anna was originally an Italian divinity, who was regarded as the giver of life, health, and plenty. She is the goddess whose powers were most manifest at the return of spring when her festival was celebrated.

One of the greatest and most memorable literary characters of all time, Anna Karenina was created by Leo Tolstoy in 1873. Anna is a ravishingly beautiful, intelligent, educated high-society woman from St. Petersburg in Russia. She is married to Karenin who embodies the upper classes of shallow and emotionless conventionality that she will soon grow to despise. The central conflict in the novel is Anna’s adulterous affair which catapults her into social exile, misery, and finally suicide. But Anna believes in love—and she does not hold back the honesty and truth of her feelings despite her restrictive society. She is the ultimate tragic heroine.

Anna is a central character in Margaret Landan’s semi-fictionalized biographical novel, “Anna and the King of Siam” (1944). In the early 1860s, Anna Leonowens was a widow with two young children who was invited to Siam by King Mongkut. As royal governess, The king wanted Anna to teach his children the English language and British customs. Her experiences during the five years she spent in Siam were detailed in memoirs which Landan took and embellished with more details about the Siamese people and culture. Her novel was the inspiration behind the extremely successful stage musical “The King and I.”

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Anna

Popular Songs


Anna Molly
a song by Incubus

Anna's Song
a song by Marvin Gaye

a song by Bad Company

Anna (Go to Him)
a song by The Beatles

Anna Begins
a song by Counting Crows

Famous People


Anna Pavlova (ballerina)
Anna Kournikova (tennis player)
Anna Nicole Smith (model)
Anna Paquin (actress)
Anna Harrison (U.S. First Lady)
Anna Roosevelt (U.S. First Lady)
Anna Pavlova (ballerina)
Anna Kournikova (tennis player)
Anna Nicole Smith (model)
Anna Paquin (actress)
Anna Harrison (U.S. First Lady)
Anna Roosevelt (U.S. First Lady)
Anna Pavlova (ballerina)
Anna Kournikova (tennis player)
Anna Nicole Smith (model)
Anna Paquin (actress)
Anna Harrison (U.S. First Lady)
Anna Roosevelt (U.S. First Lady)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Anna

Historic Figures


Santa Anna (Latin) or Saint Anne (English) was the mother of the Virgin Mary, and grandmother of Jesus. She and her husband, Joachim, were unable to have a child for many years and then Anna was visited in the night by an angel who let her know that she would soon conceive a child. The couple was so happy with this news that they promised their child, once born, would be in the service of God. In addition to bearing the child who would become the mother of Jesus, Saint Anne is also the patron saint of good parents and women in labor.

Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the most beloved women of modern times, both as First Lady during her husband’s four terms in office, and as a public figure in her own right. In her long and varied life, she was a humanitarian, a civil rights activist, a teacher, a diplomat, a columnist, a radio spokeswoman, a speechmaker, an advocate for women’s rights and, incidentally, a wife and mother. Coming from a privileged but lonely background, wherein she suffered the deaths of both parents and siblings at an early age, she was subject to lifelong bouts of depression. She married her cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when she was twenty-one, and was immediately swept into the press of public life that surrounded and supported him. She was also swept into a world that was fraught with personal harm for her. Her formidable mother-in-law opposed her and her gregarious husband was unfaithful to her. A turning point came in 1921, when Franklin contracted polio, and Eleanor supported his decision to stay in politics against the wishes of his mother. She began making public appearances on his behalf, and by the time he was president, she was a seasoned politico. It is highly likely that she had a romantic relationship with the journalist, Lorena Hickok. She and Franklin, who sustained several long term extramarital relationships himself, seem to have agreed to go their separate ways together, in a very modern and civilized solution to the problems of their public personae. After Franklin’s death, Eleanor continued with her far reaching humanitarian work, and died a revered figure at the age of seventy-eight. She set a high standard for all women, one that is eminently worthy of pursuing.