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The Case of the Phantom Classic Baby Name

What do you think of naming our baby boy Hans? We like the classic feel of it and it reflects our heritage, but we're wondering why it is pretty much never used anymore. Unlike other old traditional names, Hans hasn't seemed to make its way back to popularity. While this is something we like (a unique name), we can't help but wonder..."why?" - Wondering Woman

With so many old-fashioned names making a comeback today, style can seem mysteriously choosy. Why has Emma risen from the ashes but Ida stayed idle? Why hasn't an old favorite like Hans come roaring back to the top the way other old-time names like Caleb and Lucas have?

Every name has its own story. In the case of Hans, the answer may surprise you. Hans can't "make its way back" because it was never really here to begin with.

Yes, Hans is a classic. But it's not an American classic. Even during the 1880s, when German immigration to the U.S. was at its peak, Hans didn't make much of an impact. Forget Emma-- even names like Omer, Floy, General and Green were more popular than Hans.

What sets Hans apart from other uncommon names is history. You hear Hans and you hear the likes of Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, German artist Hans Holbein and Dutch storybook character Hans Brinker. So it's completely familiar, even though most of us have never met a real-life Hans. (The name isn't even common in Germany these days.)

From a style perspective, this can be a fine thing indeed. You've stumbled on a name that's traditional, familiar and easy to spell, yet nobody's using it. Better yet, it doesn't sound dowdy because there wasn't a generation of Grandpas Hanses to weigh it down. Those are some of the same ingredients that propelled Caleb and Lucas to the top. Because -- shh, don't tell -- those two "old timers" weren't really big in the old days either.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

January 12, 2010 5:52 PM
By British American (not verified)

I'd guess that it's not more popular because it sounds so German / Danish and so most people won't use it unless they are have a family heritage that they want to honor. Other old fashioned names that have risen in popularity probably don't have such an 'international feel'.

Perhaps also because Hannah is such a popular girl's name and they share the first syllable.

Our son is Henry and we call him "Hens" a lot, so I do like the sound of "Hans". I totally think you should go with Hans. :)

January 12, 2010 6:59 PM
By Asta (not verified)

There's also the fact that Han is a Star Wars name, and to some Hans might sound too much like Han. Maybe not everyone thinks that way, but it's something that comes up in my mind, though I like the name Hans (and Han, too, actually). I think Hans is a good name and worth using.

January 12, 2010 9:52 PM
By hillary (not verified)

I love the name Ida and it has been on my list for a long time. However, my husband pointed out that the inevitable teasing will center around the too-convenient "Ida-ho." Since that is so derogatory (and inescapable as it is tied up with femaleness), I am guessing that is why Ida has been slow to rise in popularity. It certainly has made me hesitate to use the name, and I'm a pretty adventurous namer.

As for Hans, I like it. But then again, I like Ida. :)

January 15, 2010 1:24 AM
By NAR (not verified)

I hear "Hans" and in addition to Hans Christian Andersen, I think of Clever Hans, the horse hoax!

It also sounds a lot like "Hands," but otherwise seems like a solid choice.

January 18, 2010 4:20 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Hans actually is originally hebrew and means God is gracious. A lot of Jews ended up in northern European countries, and that is why Hans is considered German.
I love the meaning, and it will be easy to spell, and pronounce for a little one.
I chose all my daughter's names for their meanings though.

January 28, 2010 3:00 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Two words: Star Wars. Although Luke and Lea weren't affected because they have been popular off and on for a long time, I really think Hans is a sure fire connection to Harrison Ford's character.

January 28, 2010 3:57 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

One my friends has a baby Hans and the name totally fits him. I think it's wonderful to pick a name that is classic and yet still very unique. Love it!

January 28, 2010 6:12 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

When I was in high school I had a friend named Hans. I thought it was cool. He would be about 30 now. He is the only person I have ever met with the name, but at the same time it is familiar to everyone and easy to spell. A good choice I think, especially if it is part of your heritage.

January 28, 2010 6:40 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I love the name Hans - of course, I have German heritage, so that appeals to me. But I also like the -s ending, and the snappy sound. Hans, Nils, Niels - I wish there was a similar one that sounded good with my last name!

January 28, 2010 7:49 PM
By Camille (not verified)

Hans? I like that name! For one thing it does not at all remind me of Star Wars as it does some others. It sounds like a good, solid name. (:

Personally I like classic names, I guess..
some of my favourite names include Vivian, Rosemary, Alice, Linnaea, Amnee, Christine, Claire, and a number of old names like Proserpine (I do not think I would name a child this, but I still like it), Fauna, Aeliana, Céleste/Célestine, Clochette (means little bell in French), and any number of Finnish or American Aboriginal names, such as Tellervo or Aylen.

Oh, wait, those were all girl names! ^^;
I also very much like the boy name Matteo, or the name Matthias or Mattimeo (yes, from the book by Brian Jacques...but it is a darling name)

January 31, 2010 11:54 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

how about Lars instead of Hans?
has the same feel, and heritage, but i know a few Lars.

February 2, 2010 1:54 PM
By Barbara C. (not verified)

I always thought Hans was a nickname for Hansel....

February 4, 2010 12:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Actually, I think "Hansel" is a nickname for "Hans".

February 4, 2010 6:37 PM
By Carole (not verified)

Hans and Hansel are both short for Johannes - John.
I think Hans is a great name! It's unusual enough that there won't be a bazillion kids with the name in his class, but well enough known that most people will be able to spell it. We named our son Conrad for the same reasons.

February 11, 2010 10:31 PM
By kc_hardt (not verified)

Love the name Hans. But like other posts I come from German heritage & an area that is akin to little Germany. I had a friend when I was in high school (that would make him 30ish) named Hans, he was blond, blue eyed, tall, and a genuinely nice person (did I mention oh so handsome), so I guess I think of good things when I hear the name. On the impartial side, it does carry a great traditional sound without being scary like Archibald (no offense to anybody named Archibald!) or to trendy like the name Caleb. Although, based on the positive feed back you're getting here, you might just have started something.

February 23, 2010 12:06 PM
By Marie (not verified)

We have a friend Hans who attended high school with my husband and me in the Midwest. He was named for someone who saved his father's life when the father was overseas. I'm now in my thirties. While he was definitely the only Hans in our town, he is also charismatic and intelligent, and he lives up to the distinction of the name. Just an aside, he had many friends and was not rejected for his moniker. Good choice for a name!

March 31, 2013 1:47 AM
By Virgen Delao (not verified)

Not many blogs that deliver such consistently readable and interesting content as is on offer on yours, you have earned the short time it will take to jot down my appreciation at your work. Bless you.

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