A Rose By Any Other Name


Female Characters In Hanfic

by: Bethany (website)

In case you didn’t know, I’m a name nerd. A huge name nerd. I have been even longer than I’ve been a Hanson fan. For whatever reason, I’ve found that Hanson fans, and hanfic writers in particular, tend to be pretty big name nerds.

A year or so ago, I was discussing the trope of unique girls names in hanfic with a few other readers and authors. We started compiling a list of the weirdest names we had seen. After noticing that names were one statistic Michelle attempted to gather, I decided I wanted to do the same. After quite a bit of research, the list is complete and I’m ready to share my research with the hanfic world. It just might surprise you.

Without further ado, the top twenty most popular names for female characters in hanfic…

1. Jennifer
2. Sarah
3. Catherine
4. Christina
5. Ashley
6. Elizabeth
7. Julia
8. Lauren
9. Rebecca
10. Ann
11. Nicole
12. Madeline
13. Amanda
14. Rachel
15. Amy
16. Lucy
17. Samantha
18. Jessica
19. Melissa
20. Allison

This list was created by surveying around one thousand stories written from 1997 to today. Common nicknames and variations were combined on my list, although only those that seem to be considered the same name. For example, Ann is a variation of Hannah, but those are not the same name in the way that Ann, Anne and Anna are. Likewise for Catherine/Kathleen, Elizabeth/Isabelle, and so on. US popularity statistics only include these most common variations as well, but all other variations, nicknames and international versions that appear in hanfic are listed at the end of each name’s entry.

With the boring methodology stuff out of the way, you can read on to learn a little more about these most popular twenty names.

Origin: Scottish; Norman French (diminutive of Alice)
Meaning: “noble”
Popularity in US: 50th in 1980s (107th as Alison), 41st in 1990s (158th as Alison) and 41st in the 2000s

This name appears in hanfics in many forms. Authors seem to really like names that provide a wide variety of nicknames. It probably also helps that Alley appears in the highly popular story Catapult. As its original form, Alice, it isn’t overly popular. Variations such as Alicia (and all of its spellings) are just a bit more popular than Alice, but still rank below Allison.

Oddly, Allison was a male name in the past, although it’s now much more popular for girls. It was made even more popular by the television show Ally McBeal.

Variations/Nicknames: Alecia, Aleigh, Alessia, Alleigh, Ali, Alice, Alicia, Alisha, Alison, Alisun, Alley, Alli, Allie, Ally, Allyson, Alyce

Origin: Latin
Meaning: “much-loved”
Popularity in US: 3rd in 1980s, 6th in 1990s, 63rd in 2000s

Amanda is one of those names that was everywhere in the 80s and 90s. It and its various nicknames are strongly associated with bleach blonde cheerleader types. Perfect if you want to write that sort of character as a villain, but also perfect for a peppy, bubbly character. It also has a girly, romantic sort of sound, which is no doubt just what some authors are looking for.

Although she’s notorious now, Amanda Bynes was a pretty big celebrity during the late 90s. And of course, we can’t forget Mandy Moore, one of the lesser poptarts of the same era.

Variations/Nicknames: Manda, Mandee, Mandi, Mandie, Mandy

Origin: Latin; French
Meaning: “beloved; friend”
Popularity in US: 15th in 1980s, 64th in 1990s, 115th in 2000s

I don’t know about you guys, but I can name at least a dozen Amys I’ve known in my life. It was hugely popular in the 80s and 90s, even moreso in my area than US statistics show, which no doubt accounts for its popularity in hanfic. Of course, we also can’t forget that it appeared in the song Yearbook.

Celebrities with name include Amy Adams, Amy Grant, Amy Poehler, and Amy Winehouse. In pop culture, it appears in Little Women, Sailor Moon (as Ami) and The Big Bang Theory, as well as in Doctor Who as a nickname for Amelia.

Variations/Nicknames: Aime, Aimee, Amalia, Amelie, Amie

Origin: English (variation of Hebrew Hannah)
Meaning: “grace”
Popularity in US: 176th in 1980s (52nd as Anna and 138th as Anne) and 24th in 2000s (as Anna)

This may be one of the strangest entries in this top twenty. It dropped entirely off the popular names chart in the 1990s and wasn’t extremely popular in the decade when most of us were born, either. So why is it so popular in hanfic? My only guess is its amount of nicknames and variations–some of which aren’t even that obvious.

The biggest cultural reference for Ann for children of the 1990s is Ann M. Martin of Babysitters Club fame.

Variations/Nicknames: Ana, Anabella, Ania, Anna, Annabel, Annabella, Annabeth, Annabelle, Annah, Annalee, Annamarie, Anne, Anette, Anjette, Annick, Annika, Annie, Annissa, Anona, Anny, Hannah, Hanna, Nancy, Nanette, Nanny, Nina, Nita, Noni

Origin: English
Meaning: “dweller near the ash tree meadow”
Popularity in US: 4th in 1980s (177th as Ashlee), 2nd in 1990s (186th as Ashlee), 10th in 2000s

This name is the fourth most popular girls name on Michelle’s list, and only lost a little popularity between then and now. Initially a male name (such as the Gone With The Wind character), it’s now far more common for girls. More modern variations such as Ashlyn are popular and varied enough to stand on their own right (and may be derivative of Aisling, not Ashley), but the original is still more popular in hanfic.

Some celebrities who bear this name – Ashley Benson, Ashley Greene, Ashlee Simpson, Ashley Olsen, and Ashley Judd.

Variations/Nicknames: Ash, Ashlea, Ashlee, Ashleigh, Ashli, Ashly

Origin: Greek
Meaning: “pure”
Popularity in US: 67th in the 1980s (32nd as Katherine, 41st as Katie and 49th as Kathryn), 86th in the 1990s (27th as Katherine, 69th as Katie 73rd as Kathryn), 111th in the 2000s (37th as Katherine, 109th as Katie, 129th as Kathryn and 168th as Kate)

Long before there was a Kathryn in Zac’s life, there was a Katie in one of his songs, and girls bearing every possible variation on the name in hanfic. Like some of the others on this list, it has numerous variations, which no doubt helps its popularity. According to Nameberry, the C variations feel more old fashioned and feminine, which seem to actually be two features favorited by hanfic authors in a name.

Celebs bearing all variations of the name: Kate Middleton, Cate Blanchett, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Katie Couric, Katherine Heigl, Katharine McPhee.

Variations/Nicknames: Caff, Caitlin, Caitlyn, Cat, Catalina, Catarina, Cate, Catie, Catlyn, Catorina, Catrina, Ekaterina, Kaitlyn, Kat, Katarina, Kate, Katelyn, Katelynn, Kath, Kathleen, Kathlena, Kathy, Katlynn, Katie, Katiya, Kattie, Katrina, Katy, Katya, Kaytlin, Kitty, Trina, Trinette

Origin: Greek
Meaning: “anointed, Christian”
Popularity in US: 18th in 1980s (38th as Kristen, 43rd as Kristin, 45th as Christine, 60th as Kristina, 127th as Krista, 132nd as Kristy, 149th as Christy, 162nd as Kristi), 40th in 1990s (61st as Kristen, 102nd as Christine, 116th as Kristin and 119th as Kristina), 125th in 2000s

I have a feeling the primary association for this name for many of us is Christina Aguilera. Never the less, it’s a popular choice for characters in hanfic, and provides several variations and nicknames. It’s also a more classic name than it seems, and Nameberry suggests that the full version is the best choice when compared to variations that are more cutesy or dated. As always, hanfic writers prefer the classic version, too.

Besides Xtina, other celebs bearing the name are Christina Applegate, Christina Ricci and Christina Perri.

Variations/Nicknames: Chris, Chrissy, Christa, Christen, Christin, Christine, Christinne, Christy, Cristalia, Chrys, Chrystal, Chrystle, Kirsten, Kearsten, Kiersten, Kit, Krislyn, Krissa, Krista, Kristal, Kristen, Kristin, Kristie, Kristine, Kristy, Kristyn, Kry, Stina, Tina

Origin: Hebrew
Meaning: “pledged to God”
Popularity in US: 9th in 1980s, 8th in 1990s, 9th in 2000s

I have no clue why this name is so popular, but it makes me happy. I’ll admit, I’ve always prefered it to my name, Bethany, which also appears in a fair few hanfics. It’s a name that lends itself well to a lot of nicknames, and I think that makes it a good one for authors to use. Natalie herself featured it as one of her Moniker Crush Monday picks, pointing out its versatility. While one of the most common foreign variations is Isabelle, that name has an entirely different reason for its popularity–namely, one Bella Swan.

There are plenty of celebrities with this name — Elizabeth Taylor and Elizabeth Hurley, to name a few, and of course, Queen Elizabeth I and II. In pop culture, you also have Elizabeth Swan, Elizabeth (or Lizzie) Bennet, Liz Lemon and Lizzie McGuire.

Variations/Nicknames: Bella, Belle, Bess, Bessie, Betsy, Betty, Beth, Buffy, Elisa, Elise, Elisabeth, Eliza, Elizabella, Ellie, Elsie, Elyse, Elzy, Isabel, Isabelle, Isobel, Isobelle, Izzy, Libby, Liesl, Liesel, Lisa, Lisbeth, Lisette, Lissa, Lissie, Liz, Liza, Lizabet, Lizette, Lizz, Lizzy, Lyssa

Origin: Cornish variation of Welsh Guinevere
Meaning: “white shadow, white wave”
Popularity in US: 2nd in 1980s (150th as Jenny), 16th in 1990s, 39th in 2000s

According to Michelle’s survey, in the early 2000s, this was the most common name in hanfic, and it has remained such to this day. It was pretty ubiqutious in the ’90s, so it’s no surprise it pops up a lot in hanfic. Like Elizabeth, there are plenty of options for nicknames.

Tons of celebs bear this name: Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jennifer Lopez, and Jennifer Morrison, just to name a few. Not surprisingly, most of those were at their peak of popularity in the late ’90s.

Variations/Nicknames: Gen, Genna, Gin, Ginnie, Ginnifer, Ginny, Gwen, Gwenevere, Gwenivere, Gwyn, Gyn, Gynifer, Janessa, Jen, Jenifer, Jenise, Jenn, Jenna, Jennifer, Jennipher, Jenni, Jennie, Jenny

Origin: Hebrew
Meaning: “wealthy”
Popularity in US: 1st in the 1980s, 1st in the 1990s, 23rd in the 2000s

I have to admit, despite the fact that this is the name of the 80s and 90s, it’s very odd to me that it appears on this list. Why would you give any Hanson a love interest with the same name as their sister? Not only would that have to feel weird for them, it would be confusing to your readers. Nevertheless, the name is pretty popular in hanfic.

Celebrities who bear the name: Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jessica Simpson and Sarah Jessica Parker. In pop culture, Jessica Rabbit is probably the reference most known to those of us born in the 1980s.

Variations/Nicknames: Jess, Jessi, Jessie, Jesika, Jessika

Origin: Latin
Meaning: “youthful”
Popularity in US: 88th in 1980s (51st as Julie), 55th in 1990s (125th as Julie), 30th in 2000s (173rd at Juliana)

This name ranked fifth out of all girls names on Michelle’s list. Although popular in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s fallen out of favor since then — but apparently not in hanfic! Other similar names, such as Julie, Julianne and Juliet appear quite often as well. It’s well worth noting that Juliet was popular in hanfic long before the song of the same name.

Julia Stiles was a staple of the late 1990s, so she could account for some of the popularity of this name. As for Julie, Julie Andrews is by far the most famous woman with this name. Perhaps the American Girl or the O.C. character of the same name inspired some of these hanfic Julies?

Variations: Juliana, Julianna, Julianne, Jule, Jules, Julie, Juliet, Juliette, Juls, Julye

Origin: Latin
Meaning: “bay laurel”
Popularity in US: 23rd in 1980s (18th as Lauren), 49th in 1990s (13th as Lauren), 135th in 2000s (19th as Lauren)

Yet another name from Michelle’s survey, coming in at sixth out of all girls names. Moderately common as an American baby name, but very common in hanfic. As seems to be a trend, the variation that was most popular in the US for babies was the less popular one in hanfic.

I suppose the two most commonly recognized figures with this name are Laura Ingalls Wilder and Laura Bush. There’s also a very popular character from General Hospital named Laura. Celebs with Lauren instead as their name include Lauren Bacall, Lauren Conrad, and Lauren Graham.

Variations/Nicknames: Lara, Larie, Lauralynn, Laurel, Lauren, Laurie, Lauryn, Loren, Loretta, Lorna, Lori, Lorri, Lorribeth

Origin: English, feminine variation of Lucius
Meaning: “light”
Popularity in US: 179th in 2000s

Is it any surprise at all that a name from a Hanson song makes the list? Lucy, itself named for the Peanuts character, is a great song with a great story. Whether authors expand on that story or create their own story for the character, it’s definitely one that has inspired a lot of characters. It’s interesting to note that one of the common variations of Lucy–Lula–is half of another girl’s name that features in a Hanson song.

Aside from the Hanson song and the Peanuts character, the name was definitely made most popular by Lucille Ball and her television show I Love Lucy. And, of course, The Beatles’ song Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

Variations: Cindy, Luca, Lucille, Lucinda, Luka, Lula, Lulla

Origin: English variation of Magdalen
Meaning: “high tower or woman from Magdala”
Popularity in US: 92nd in 1990s, 57th in 2000s (102nd as Madelyn)

Like Lucy, this one has obviously gained popularity thanks to the Hanson song of the same name. She may not have as great of a “story” to her song, but Madeline is still a great song and a great name with a lot of potential nicknames.

Aside from the Hanson song, the biggest pop culture usage of the name is definitely the Madeline series of childrens books, later made into a television show and movie.

Variations/Nicknames: Maddie, Maddy, Madelyn, Madelynn, Madi, Madilyn, Marlaine, Marlene, Merlaina

Origin: Greek
Meaning: “bee”
Popularity in US: 7th in the 1980s, 31st in the 1990s, 103rd in the 2000s

Another name that screams 1980s to me. Perhaps that’s because I have an older cousin who bears the name; however, the statistics clearly show a big drop in popularity of this name over time. It’s more likely to be borne by girls writing hanfic than their children, that’s for sure.

Singers Missy Higgins, Missy Elliot and Melissa Etheridge, and actresses Melissa Joan Hart (favorite of 1990s girls everywhere) and Melissa McCarthy have kept the name in our collective consciousness. There is also a character named Melissa on the show Pretty Little Liars, and a fantastic Allman Brothers song that bears the name.

Variations/Nicknames: Lissa, Mel, Melissah, Millie, Milly, Missy, Mollie, Molly

Origin: Greek; French feminine form of Nicholas
Meaning: “people of victory”
Popularity in US: 8th in the 1980s (106th as Nichole), 17th in the 1990s, 48th in the 2000s

This is the second Hanson wife name to appear on this list, and given how popular it was in the 1980s and 1990s, I’m not surprised. It isn’t quite as ripe for variations and nicknames as Catherine, but it gets the job done.

Nicole Kidman is probably the most famous bearer of this name, but there’s also Nicole Richie, Nicole Scherzinger, Nikki Reed (a fellow Hanson fan), and of course, Snooki.

Variations/Nicknames: Colette, Nic, Nica, Nichola, Nichole, Nicki, Nickie, Nicola, Nicolet, Nicolette, Nicoli, Niki, Nikita, Nikki, Nikolett

Origin: Hebrew
Meaning: “ewe”
Popularity in US: 16th in 1980s (113th as Rachael), 15th in 1990s, (130th as Rachael), 33rd in 2000s

It may be a biblical name, but I have a feeling most twenty and thirty-somethings are more familiar with Rachel thanks to the TV show Friends. It’s no wonder, then, that it’s a popular choice for hanfic characters.

The name is also sported by actresses Rachel Bilson, Rachel McAdams and Rachael Leigh Cook. More recently, it has appeared on the show Glee.

Variations/Nicknames: Raca, Rach, Rachal, Rachael, Rae, Ray, Raquel, Shelley, Shelly

Origin: Hebrew
Meaning: “servant of God”
Popularity in US: 22nd in 1980s (157th as Rebekah), 23rd in 1990s (151st as Rebekah), 71st in 2000s

Another name with lots of different spellings and variations, Rebecca obviously has a lot to offer writers. Possibly interesting (or just amusing) to note that the biblical Rebecca was the wife of Isaac. It ranks third on Michelle’s list, but is a bit farther down on mine.

Celebs with this name include Rebecca Romijn, Rebecca Gayheart and Rebecca Black. It also belongs to one of the newer American Girl characters.

Variations/Nicknames: Bec, Becca, Beck, Becki, Becs, Bekah, Reba, Rebekah, Riva

Origin: Hebrew (feminization of Samuel)
Meaning: “told by God”
Popularity in US: 26th in the 1980s, 5th in the 1990s, 8th in the 2000s

This has always been one of my favorite names. It had the same rhythm as my name, but was in my opinion much prettier. It has a nice, romantic feel to it and is more than a little old fashioned sounding. It holds the distinction of having the least variations (at least those used in hanfic) on this list.

Samantha’s popularity skyrocketed thanks to Bewitched, but I suspect that the Sex in The City character, Days Of Our Lives character and the American Girl have more to do with its popularity in hanfic.

Variations/Nicknames: Mantha, Sam, Samy

Origin: Hebrew
Meaning: “princess”
Popularity in US: 5th in 1980s (30th as Sara), 4th in 1990s (43rd as Sara), 12th in 2000s (70th as Sara)

Yet another name from Michelle’s survey (it ranks second on both my list and hers), and one that was hugely popular during my childhood. Everyone I knew who wasn’t named Amy was named Sarah. It’s no surprise that that popularity carried over into hanfic.

Sarah Jessica Parker is no doubt to blame in large part for its popularity in hanfic, too. Other celebs with this name: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sarah Silverman, and Sarah McLachlan.

Variations: Sadie, Salli, Sally, Sara, Sarena, Sari, Sarika, Shara, Zara


So, what conclusions can I draw from all of that? The names are much more common than I think anyone would have expected. Why is that? I can think of a few reasons.

First of all, many characters (especially in the early days) are self inserts, meaning they are likely to share the author’s real name. Statistically, the likelihood of these authors having names that were popular and common in the US during the 1980s and 1990s is pretty high.

In a similar vein, authors are likely to use names that they are familiar with. While they might put more thought into a unique name for their main character, they might simply pick a few of their friends’ names for minor characters. Once again, statistically speaking, those friends are likely to have common names. Authors are also likely to use whatever names and variations of those names are popular in general; as names like Isabella, Emma and Olivia become massively popular for babies, so to they become popular for fanfic characters.

But I think there’s one big thing that a lot of these twenty names have in common. They are nearly all long, classic and ripe for varying and giving different nicknames and spellings to. The plot of so many early hanfics centers around a girl who stands out from the crowd and manages to, in spite of being a ‘normal’ girl, catch the eye of a Hanson. What better way to signify that this girl is secretly special than by giving her a common name, but with a unique spelling or nickname?

Of course, there are a few names on this list that don’t quite fit that mold, and those are mostly the ones that feature in Hanson songs — Amy, Madeline and Lucy, just to name a few. Every girls name to appear in a Hanson song (even Lulla Belle and Sonny) appears at least once in hanfic, although the ones that provide more nickname possibilities are far more popular.

Likewise, it’s a little odd to note how many names that appear in Hansons real life are also popular in hanfic. Catherine, which appears as Katie in Yearbook, reigns, while Nicole isn’t too far behind. Natalie isn’t unpopular, but doesn’t quite rank in the top twenty. Both Natalie and Kate’s middle names — Anne and Rebecca — rank pretty high, too. Of their siblings names, Jessica and a variation of Avery’s middle name rank high. None of their childrens names are especially popular. Penny’s middle name ranks higher than her first, which ranks just below Jane (Wilhelmina’s middle name), but I think we can thank the song Penny and Me for rocketing that one to popularity.

And there you have it. While odd names may draw the most attention, hanfic authors’ favorite choices actually tend to be more common than Hanson’s own choices. Still, there are some beautiful names on this list that make my inner (and outer) name nerd swoon, and I hope they do the same for you.


*Some statistics come from Michelle’s Hanfic Stats
*Name origins, meanings and some information about usage from Nameberry.com.
*Statistics about names from the Social Security Administration.