Anna – the most common name in Sweden

When I was growing up, we always celebrated our name days with a cake and a little gift. Today, the 9th of December,[1] Anna’s Day is celebrated in Sweden, and I wanted to find out a little bit more about my name and my fellow Swedish Annas.

My dad used to tell me I was named after a ship. When he was young, he once saw a very beautiful blue ship with the name Anna written in golden letters on the bow. At this moment, he decided that if he ever had a daughter he would give her the name Anna.

It wasn’t an unusual decision. In fact, it couldn’t be any less unusual. In 2020, Anna was by far the most common first name in Sweden and there were 100,259 nationally registered persons with the first name Anna.

Anna is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Hannah, meaning "favor" or "grace," and one famous Anna was Jesus' grandmother. The name was introduced to Sweden along with Christianity in Middle Ages, and became more common after the recognition of St. Anna as a saint in the 1400s.

Looking at the last hundred years we can see that Anna had a small peak in the 1940s and reached its all-time high in 1974, when there were 3404 newborn Annas. For the whole period between 1970 and 1987, it was the single most popular name for baby girls in Sweden. The second most common name, Eva, has a similar curve but reached its peak in the 1950s. The relatively big gap between first and second place on the overall ranking of most common names can be explained by Eva's earlier peak (the average age of Evas in Sweden is 63.8, compared to 47 for Annas) as well as Anna's low, but steady popularity throughout the '30s to the '60s.

I grew up in the county of Västra Götaland and I always had the feeling that there were Annas everywhere in kindergarten and at school. But this map shows that the highest density of Annas can actually be found in the north. In Jämtland particularly, where 2.3% of women share my name, the probability of running into an Anna is the highest. In Kalmar and Kronoberg in the south, Anna is still the most common name, but only 1.7% of women carry it.

In the past 20 years, parents have started to give their kids a wider variety of names. Because of the more diverse range of names in use, even the most popular name in 2020, Alice, was only given to 794 newborns, compared to 2159 Annas in 1984, the year I was born.

Maybe people from my generation did not appreciate having a very common name growing up, and therefore tend to give their own children more unique names? When I was little, I sometimes wished I had a more special name. But now, I can’t even imagine having another name than Anna. There is also a beauty in sharing something so personal as your name with so many other people.

That's it from me this time and I'm gonna celebrate Anna Day with a little cake today! Next week, Marten from the development team will write the Weekly Chart. Until next time!

  1. In Germany, St. Anna's Day is celebrated on the 26th of July. ↩︎