What does the name John mean?



Origin of the name John

John comes from the Hebrew name, Yochanan, which means YAHWEH (God) is gracious. That name was then adopted by the Greeks, as Loannes. That name became what was later translated into Latin, and its English form is Lohannes.

The Hebrew form of the name John is first found in the Old Testament, which is spelled Johanan or Jehohanan in the English version of the Bible and Hebrew scriptures.

However it is two figures in the New Testament that are the reason the name John has become so popular. The first is John, The Baptist, who baptised Jesus. The second being John, one of the Apostles. He is thought to be the author of the fourth Gospel and Revelations. 

The name first gained popularity in the Byzantine Empire in Eastern Europe. After the First Crusade it gained popularity in Western Europe. During the middle ages, John became so popular in England that every fifth boy was given the name.

From there it spread to English speaking countries. John was the most popular Christian name from the time of the first crusade until the 1950s.

Rulers of almost every major Western civilization have bore the name. When John is translated into English it means the grace or mercy of the Lord.

Popular Countries

While John’s popularity may be at or near its lowest, it is still a very popular name around the world. It is most popular in Ireland, the United States, Germany, Scotland, New Zealand, Sweden, and England.

John in Other languages

In French John takes on the form Jean. In Scottish it is Sean, and Ian in Irish. In Welsh, John comes in the form of Ewan or Evan, and it’s Giovanni in Italian. In Spanish it’s Juan, and in German it is Johannes and Johann. In Slavic it takes the form of Jan, and in Russian it’s Ivan.   


Some popular nicknames for John are Jack, Johnny, and Jackie.

Jack is the most common Nickname. It dates back to the 1200s and it was used as a generic name for peasants. Because the name John was so popular it was used as a generic name for commoners in English (think John Doe). The two names mixing together is one theory as to where the nickname Jack comes from.

However there is also another theory, being the nickname came from a Norman tradition of adding “kin” to a name if they want to say “little” or “miniature”, so Jack would be little John. The Normans would say John. So little John would be Jenkin and that later turned into Jackin, and then was finally shortened to Jack.

Famous People Named John

Because of the popularity of the name John, many well known people have carried the name. Four US Presidents have been names John, as well as five British Prime Ministers. Seven Australian Prime Ministers have carried the name. There are five notable characters in the Bible with the name.

Twenty six Popes have been named John. Thirty nine winners of a Nobel Prize have been named John. Below are some notable people who have carried the name.

  • John F. Kennedy- (1917-1963) was the 35th President of the United States from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.
  • John Lennon (John WInston Ono Lennon)- (1940-1980) was an English singer and founding member of The Beatles, which is the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music.
  • John, King of England- (1166- 1216) was the King of England from 1199- 1216. The Magna Carta was signed towards the end of his reign.
  • John Wayne (Marion Mitchell Morrison)– (1907-1979) was an American actor, producer, and director. He won an Academy award for his role in True Grit.
  • John Travolta- (1954-) is an American actor, producer, and singer. He has starred in many blockbusters including; Pulp Fiction, Grease, Hairspray, and Saturday Night Fever.
  • John Mellencamp- (1951-) is an American singer, songwriter, and actor. He is known for songs, such as “Hurt So Good” and “ Jack and Diane”.
  • John Smith- (1580- 1631) was an English soldier and explorer. He established the first English settlement in North America.
  • John Adams- ( 1735- 1826) was the second President of the United States during 1797-1801.
  • John D Rockefeller- (1839- 1937) was an American oil industry magnate and philanthropist. He was the co-founder of the Standard Oil Company, the first great American business.

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