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Me at approximately five years old

Me at approximately
five years old

The Meaning of The Name Nancy

My name is Nancy ~ What does it mean?

And how did I get that name? Therein lies this tale…

I was born in 1939, the youngest of seven children, only four of which survived infancy. When my mother realized she was pregnant with me and told the family, my 11-year-old sister Becky asked Mom if she could name the new baby. Mother had a name in mind, but my sister begged so hard she finally agreed. Becky named me Nancy Carroll after a movie star of the time.

If Mom had named me I would have been named Laura for my maternal grandmother, Anna Laura, which I always thought was such a beautiful name. I wished for many years I had not been named Nancy, because so many people always put the word “fancy” with it when they teased me. I didn’t feel very fancy and kind of resented being tagged that way. It was only after I grew up that I no longer had a problem with it and now I have fun with it. I also shortened my middle name to Carol when I was in my teens.

Nancy With The Laughing Face – Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra married Nancy Barbato in 1939 and he and his wife named their daughter Nancy. The marriage lasted until 1951 whe it ended in divorce. He was married three more times, but never to another Nancy. To my knowledge, there was never another song he sang about a specific woman’s name. I like to think that Nancy must have been kind of special to him, even though their marriage didn’t last. Contrary to popular opinion, Frank did not write the song. It was originally written in 1942 for lyricist Johnny Burke’s  wife Bessie, by composer Jimmy Van Heusen’s, with lyrics by Phil Silvers (yes the one who played Sgt. Bilko later on TV.)  When they were at Frank’s celebration for the birth of his daughter, Nancy, they sang it with her name in place of the word Bessie. Frank was overwhelmed with emotion, thinking they’d written it especially for her. They wisely kept their mouths shut about it’s origin, and then they assigned all royalties to Nancy after Frank recorded the tune for Columbia in 1944.

Namby Pamby Name!

I wanted to be named something exciting, glamorous, maybe even dangerous sounding. Anything but “nice Nancy,” certainly not an name to get excited about. Maybe my sister had the right idea in naming me after an actress, but couldn’t she have picked something like Pola Negri, or Mae West, or even Jean Harlow? Oh well, I learned to live with it and now  find it suits me very well. People expect me to be a “sweet old thing,” and then are surprised to find I don’t always fit that stereotype. I enjoy that very much.

Nancy Carroll ~ the Actress, 1903-1965

American Actress Nancy Carroll 1903-1965

American Actress
Nancy Carroll

This is the actress I was named for: Nancy Carroll. Born Ann Veronica LaHiff on November 19th 1903, she became an actress, changed her name and performed her first role in Ladies Must Dress in 1927. She certainly wasn’t meek and mild like my idea of a Nancy. This Nancy Carroll has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was nominated in 1930 for an Academy Award for her performance as Hallie Hobart in The Devil’s Holiday. Nancy Carroll was found dead August 6, 1965 in her apartment, dead from a ruptured aneurysm.

More on Nancy Carroll, the Actress
Nancy Carroll, 1940s, Biography on Wikipedia

Another Nancy who wasn’t namby pamby!

Nancy Reagan, United States of Americ, First Lady, 1981-1989

Nancy Reagan, United States of America, First Lady, 1981-1989


“I am a big believer that eventually everything comes back to you. You get back what you give out.” ~ Nancy Reagan, Former First Lady of the United States of America


Nancy In Other Languages

  • CHANA: Hebrew, meaning “full of grace.”
  • NAN: Short form of English Nancy, meaning “favor; grace.”
  • NANCY: English diminutive form of French Anne, meaning “favor; grace.”
  • NANDAG: Pet form of Scottish Gaelic Annag, meaning “favor; grace.”
  • NANÃ: Egyptian name meaning “nice.”
  • NANETTE: Diminutive form of English Nan (“favor; grace”), hence “little favorable one” or “little graceful one.”
  • NANI: Hawaiian name meaning “beauty; splendor.” Also, Naneki or Naki
  • NAINSI: Irish Gaelic variant on the name Nancy, the meaning of it is unclear.
  • NANNIE: Variant spelling of English Nanny, meaning “favor; grace.”
  • NANNY: English pet form of French Anne, meaning “favor; grace.”
  • NANSHE: Sumerian name meaning “enclosure of fish.” In Babylonian mythology, this is the name of a goddess of the watery deep, the daughter of Ea and sister of Inanna.
  • NAVA: Pet form in Greek, meaning “God is gracious.”
Nancy, little sourpuss, about five years old

Nancy, little sourpuss,
about five years old

The good, the bad and the ugly about the word “Nancy”

  1. Nancy was first used as a nickname but became a proper name during the 18th Century.
  2. United States census statistics show that one in every 407 Americans is named NANCY.
  3. California is the state with the most people (86,428) named NANCY at this writing.
  4. There are now 943, 114 people in the United States named NANCY at the time of this writing.
  5. Usage of the name NANCY as a first name is over 96%, it is rarely used as a middle name.
  6. Published under a collective pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, the series of Nancy Drew books have kept many a young girl fascinated following her adventures as an amateur detective. Nancy Drew was created by Edward Stratemeyer, founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate book packaging firm and first appeared in print in 1930. I grew up reading these books and admired Nancy Drew for being able to stand on her own two feet. Today, the books are still being printed and are updated to include modern-day technology, such as cell phones and the internet.
  7. In the UK, you don’t want to be called a “Nancy boy” because it’s used as we would use the word “Sissy” in the United States. It is also a derogatory term for a gay man in the UK.
  8. There’s a very famous glass company known as Daum Nancy, located in Nancy, France. In the French language it is pronounced “no si,” but it’s still Nancy in any language. Early pieces of this art glass can be worth a small fortune to collectors. It’s a shame that I don’t own part of the company!
  9. The Ashanti people in Ghana use the word Anansi , which is an Akan word that means “spider.” He is one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore. Through years of usage the word has come to be known as “Aunt Nancy” in common every-day language. Ewwww! shiver, shiver! and I’m arachnophobic to make it even worse!

I had fun researching my name and finding facts about it. I bet if you tried yours, you’d be amazed at what you’d find. Give it a try and see what you come up with! You might even want to write about it!

If you’d like to know the meanings of names for a child you’re expecting, you might like some of these publications.