fem. proper name, mid-12c., from Old French Agnes, from Greek Hagnē "pure, chaste," fem. of hagnos "holy, sacred" (of places); "chaste, pure; guiltless, morally upright" (of persons), from PIE *yag-no-, suffixed form of root *yag- "to worship, reverence" (see hagiology).
St. Agnes, martyred 303 C.E., is patron saint of young girls, hence the folk connection of St. Agnes' Eve (Jan. 20-21) with love divinations. In Middle English, the name was frequently written phonetically as Annis, Annys. In U.S., among the top 50 names for girls born between 1887 and 1919.
updated on September 15, 2022