Fanny Hall of Fame: Introduction

Fanny Price’s name used to be quite common. According to Grace Hamlin in her book The Penguin Classic Baby Name Book, the name “was a favorite name among the Victorians, and appears often enough in literature to suggest that it was a neutral, nondescript name for a well-educated woman. … Fanny is also the rare name that transferred to France without etymological roots there (ironic, considering its meaning).” 1

Fanny, or Fannie, is an English name, a pet form of Frances, but sometimes used as an independent name. It was very popular in the 19th century. Frances is the feminine form of Francis. Both spellings were used for both sexes in the 16th century, the distinction in spelling being established later, in the 17th century. The name Francis is an English form of the Italian name Francesco. It was introduced into England in the 16th century. The name Francesco was originally a vocabulary word that meant ‘French’ or ‘Frenchman’. The feminine form is Francesca. The French forms are François (m.) and Françoise (f.).2

Francesco was a nickname given to Giovanni di Bernardone, better known as Francis of Assisi, after his father’s return from France (where he was when Giovanni was born) to Assisi, Italy. In A Dictionary of First Names, Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges write, “In his [Giovanni’s] honour the various vernacular forms of Francesco came to be commonly used as given names from the 13th century onwards in France, Spain, and elsewhere as well as Italy.” 3

Jane Austen was related to several people with the name Fanny (and also Francis). It is a fairly common name in literature, and quite a few historical people have borne the name. For my own amusement (and inspired by this list on Enchanted Serenity), I have collected some information about various of these people here. Because there are so many of them, I have divided them into four sections. As I come across others, I will be adding to each section. So, without further ado, here is my Fanny Hall of Fame:

Part I: Relations of Jane Austen with the name Fanny

Part II: Fictional characters bearing the name Fanny

Part III: Historical persons bearing the name Fanny, or Frances

Part IV: Men with the name Francis, or Frank [not yet completed]

Footnotes:

1 Grace Hamlin, The Penguin Classic Baby Name Book: 2,000 Names from the World’s Great Literature (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 2001), pp. 312-13.

2 Information from A Dictionary of First Names by Patrick Hanks & Flavia Hodges (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 115, 122-23.

3 Hanks, p. 123.

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