Like Jane and Joan , a medieval variant of Old French Je(h)anne. Towards the end of the Middle Ages this form became largely confined to Scotland. In the 20th century it became more widely used in the English-speaking world and enjoyed a period of great popularity, but it is now out of fashion. Among numerous well-known and influential bearers are the British novelists Jean Plaidy ( Eleanor Hibbert , 1910–93 ) and Jean Rhys ( Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams , 1894–1979 ), British actress Jean Simmons ( 1929–2010 ), and American-born actress Jean Seberg ( 1938–79 ). It is also found as a variant spelling of the masculine name Gene .
Dictionary of First Names © Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges 1990, 2003, 2006.