Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Frances

Frances is the female form of Francis. Francis comes from the Late Latinate “Franciscus” which was a vocabulary word defining the “French” or “Frenchman”. It was given as a nickname to St. Francis of Assisi (whose Italian baptismal name was actually Giovanni) because of his wealthy father’s business connections in France and his general admiration of the French people. St. Francis had a pleasant, happy childhood, but as a young man, a couple of bad experiences caused him to turn away from the material world and devote himself to the poor and sick. After he was joined by a few disciples, these so-called Franciscans dedicated themselves to humility, poverty and the love for all living creatures. St. Francis is often depicted surrounded by animals, particularly birds, so it’s no surprise that he is the patron saint of animals and the environment, but he is also the patron saint of Italy. Thanks to the cult that grew up around St. Francis, the name spread in the 14th century and became even more popular during the Italian Renaissance of the 16th century. This medieval classic has given way to several forms in various languages including François (French), Franz (German), Francisco (Spanish), and Francesco or Franco (Italian). The feminine versions of this name are Frances, Francesca or Françoise and the many pet forms include Franny, Frank, Fran, Fanny, Frankie, Francie and Sissy.

All About the Baby Name – Frances



The Three energy is powerful and enthusiastic. These personalities are cheerful, full of self-expression, and often quite emotional. They have an artistic flair and "gift-of-gab" that makes them natural entertainers. Their joyfulness bubbles over, and their infectious exuberance draws a crowd. The Three personality is like a child - forever young and full of delight. They are charming, witty, and generally happy people. The Three personality lives in the "now" and has a spontaneous nature. Threes seem to live with a bright and seemingly unbreakable aura that attracts others to them. In turn, they are deeply loyal and loving to their friends and family. Luck also has a tendency to favor number Threes.



Frances is another example of a female that was all the rage 100+ years ago but is sadly forgotten today. The name entered last century in the Top 50 position, and by 1911, Frances hit the Top 10 list (a spot she held until 1926). In fact, Frances maintained Top 50 status until 1950. It really wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century that the name would begin her long and steady decline on the charts. Today the name is considered out-dated and old-fashioned. Even “anti-celebrity” alternative musicians of the 1990s Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love did nothing to impact the usage of Frances when they named their daughter Frances Bean in 1992. Her name was selected in honor of two Franceses whom Kurt Cobain greatly admired and related to. One is musician Frances McKee from the alternative Scottish rock band The Vaselines and the other was Seattle-born Hollywood actress of the 1930s and early 40s Frances Farmer. Another interesting factoid: Frances Gumm was the real name of multi-talented entertainer Judy Garland. No longer a stylish choice today, Frances is hanging on to the charts for dear life. We still love this name, either as a first or middle name, especially for Francophile parents. And there are so many nicknames and potential pet forms that Frances is a name that keeps on giving.

Quick Facts























Cultural References to the Baby Name – Frances

Literary Characters


Frances “Franny” Glass is the sister half of J. D. Salinger’s short novel, Franny and Zooey, published in 1961 from two earlier appearances in The New Yorker in 1955 and 1957. Franny is a 20-year old college student who is having an existential breakdown and receives spiritual assistance from her brother, Zooey. Franny feels, as do so many young people, that life is meaningless and purposeless, and she has an egocentric, materialistic boyfriend who only serves to solidify such beliefs. She is also afraid that she is in danger of succumbing to a soul-less existence herself. Franny is the youngest in an eccentric family of seven siblings, who have been raised on an odd mixture of religious traditions by two retired vaudevillians, who also promote their children as radio “quiz kids”. Franny is at the point of almost catatonic immobility, whispering her “Jesus prayer” over and over as a mantra of salvation and mercy. It is her brother, Zooey, who ultimately comes to her rescue, reminding her of their older brothers’ teachings, which were imposed upon both of them at an early age. He points out that Franny has returned to the bosom of her family in her moment of crisis, and that her idea of Jesus is too exalted to be realistic. The holiness she seeks is all around her; it is in the chicken soup her mother offers her, it is to be found in the simple act of shining one’s shoes. And finally, Franny “…just lay quiet, smiling at the ceiling.” There is, after all, no real need for a Jesus prayer. The prayer is all around her, and all around everyone.

Mary Frances or “Francie” as she’s called is the sensitive and imaginative young protagonist in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the 1943 novel by Betty Smith, which was also made into a movie in 1945. The book traces her coming of age as the daughter of an Irish-American family living in near poverty in Brooklyn in the early 20th century. Their life is hardscrabble, tenuously held together by the mother’s fierce determination to make life better for her children and the father’s dreamy, alcohol-fueled, well-meaning benevolence. Mother is a janitress; Father is an occasional singing waiter. Their daughter, like the tenacious tree that grows and thrives in the cement of the squalid street, is able to rise above all of the obstructions life sets before her. She never becomes bitter or cynical about her plight, rather, she chooses to see the wonder of common, everyday delights, and she perseveres on her path with calm and proud certainty. She observes, she learns, and most importantly, she loves.

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Frances

Popular Songs


Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle
a song by Nirvana

Famous People


Frances Ethel Gumm (birth name of renowned entertainer Judy Garland)
Frances McDormand (actress)
Frances Farmer (actress)
Frances Hayes (U.S. First Lady)
Frances Folsom Cleveland (U.S. First Lady)
Frances Burney (English novelist)
Frances Hodgson Burnett (children's book author)
Frances Shand Kydd (mother of Princess Diana of Wales)
Frances Bean Cobain (daughter of Kurt Cobain)
Frances of Rome (Catholic saint)
Frances Osborne (English author)

Children of Famous People


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

Historic Figures


Frances Farmer was an American stage and screen actress, but she is best known for the various accounts of her often horrific life story, including a 1982 movie, Frances, starring Jessica Lange. Hailing from a solid middle class background in Seattle, Frances made an early sensation in Hollywood in the 1930s in such films as Rhythm on the Range and Come and Get It, but she never cottoned to the way of life in the movie industry. She went to New York and starred in Clifford Odets’ play, Golden Boy, for The Group Theater in 1937. She conducted a love affair with the married Odets, which ended disastrously for her. Returning to Hollywood, she intended to carve out time for stage work as well as film, but her increasing alcoholism and erratic behavior stymied her career in all directions. She embarked on a downward spiral of arrests, breakdowns, psychiatric hospitalizations (some involuntary) and received diagnoses of schizophrenia and resultant electroshock therapy (that much-vaunted lobotomy never happened). After being released to her mother’s care in 1950, Frances went on to petition for and was granted her civil independence in 1953. She went on to relative success in television and summer stock and wrote her autobiography, but soon re-experienced some of her earlier mental problems. Frances died of cancer in 1970, leaving no children after three marriages, and only sparse evidence on film of the truly luminescent being she once was.