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PronouncedPron.və-NES-ə English
va-NE-sa German

Meaning & History

Invented by author Jonathan Swift for his poem 'Cadenus and Vanessa' (1726). He arrived at it by rearranging the initial syllables of the first name and surname of Esther Vanhomrigh, his close friend. Vanessa was later used as the name of a genus of butterfly. It was a rare given name until the mid-20th century, at which point it became fairly popular.
DiminutivesNess, Nessa English
Other Languages & CulturesVanesa Czech Vanesa Slovak


Depiction of Esther Vanhomrigh by John Everett Millais (1868)Depiction of Esther Vanhomrigh by John Everett Millais (1868)


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Entry updated July 2, 2017   Contribute