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Terms of Endearment in Jane Eyre

One of the more entertaining details of Jane Eyre is the number of pet names that Rochester has for Jane. Some of them are used in a teasing, insulting or derogatory way, and others are more demonstrative of his affection for her. What follows is a list of the names I have found, divided into three categories – Insults, Debatable, and Endearments. I’m going to take this list into the movie with me and give bonus points for their use, especially of my favorites.

Insults – used primarily when Rochester is vexed

  • Witch
  • Sorceress
  • Simpleton
  • Niggard
  • Little skeptic
  • Strange, almost unearthly thing
  • Little tyrant
  • Little bungler
  • Hard little thing
  • Malicious elf
  • Mocking changeling
  • And my personal favorite: Provoking Puppet!!!!!

Debatable – depending on the context, Rochester’s mood, and how Jane might feel about being compared to supernatural beings or mocked for her short stature

  • Changeling (is that by itself a bad thing to be? I wouldn’t mind in certain tales)
  • Elf (ditto)
  • Child
  • Pale little elf
  • Mustard-seed (referring to a Shakespearean fairy, I rather like this one)
  • Mere sprite
  • Fire spirit
  • Fairy
  • Bonny wee thing
  • Salamander – this one is actually rather interesting. At first I thought Rochester was calling Jane an amphibian, in the same way Abbot calls her a toad. However, when I looked up the definition of sylph (fairies of the air), it said “see also: salamander” and thus intrigued, I did (this is how the internet ssssssucks me in). A salamander can refer to a mythical creature with many properties including an affinity with fire or being fire-proof. Its legendary status may have arisen from its propensity to hide in rotting logs – when the log was put on the hearth and burned, the salamander would appear. The salamander became a symbol of enduring faith which triumphs over the fires of passion – which describes Jane perfectly!! I’d still rather be called “Mustard-seed” than “Salamander” personally, but this is an excellent example of Brontean word-magic.

Endearments – used when Rochester is feeling kind or romantic

  • My little friend
  • Ministrant spirit
  • My darling
  • My little wife (before they are married)
  • Young Mrs Rochester (ditto)
  • Fairfax Rochester’s girl-bride (ditto ditto)
  • Sylph
  • Very angel
  • Innocent flower
  • My good little girl
  • Little English girl
  • Beneficent spirit
  • And my personal favorite… My sky-lark

And how does Jane respond? Jane is fonder of describing her love’s piercing eyes and craggy brow than showering him with affectionate pet names. She does call him a Vulcan (the Roman blacksmith god of fire, NOT Spock) and a brownie (domestic hob-goblin). My only quarrel with this is, what could a true Janian reply be, if one’s significant other playfully calls one a provoking puppet? I have come up with:

  • Salacious sorcerer
  • Veritable villain
  • Asking whether the “old impetuosity is rising”

A short list but nonetheless effective.


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Nan

Hails from New York state but now lives in North Carolina, working as a consultant, designing education and training for public health nutritionists. A mum of two who can also play the piano. Has many favorite books, but number one is Jane Eyre.

12 thoughts on “Terms of Endearment in Jane Eyre

  1. You missed my favorite term of endearment, “Janet.”

    I always thought it amusing that Janet is a form of Jane, when it is longer than the original, and the first time I read this in Jane Eyre I assumed it was a typo.

    Great post, btw–particularly the bit about the salamander. Did not know that!

    Rochester can be loquacious despite his taciturn reputation. My favorite line in the book is when he wakes up in the fiery bed after Jane dumps water on him, he is “fulminating strange anathemas.” I always wished Charlotte Bronte had shared a few with the reader. 🙂

  2. One of the things I liked best about Jane was that she preferred the nasty nicknames, preferring to be called “Thing” than “darling” or “angel” and gets pissed with him when he gets soppy.

    1. I know, that’s what cracks me up about her. Almost any other girl would melt to a puddle in her lover’s arms after being called “My darling” or “My angel” by him, but not Jane Eyre. She doesn’t want any illusory beautiful portraits created by her love, she just wants her love to be real.

  3. I think this is a fab list! Thanks so much to Nan for writing and sharing it with us! 🙂

    @JaneGS: Like you, I too was wondering about the “Janet” to begin with, but then thought it must just be one of his quirks rather than a typo. Didn’t know about the salamander either, so that was really fascinating to read about! 🙂

    @ifbyyes: Oh yes, she sets him straight! Quite refreshing, really. Jane has a good head on her shoulders and doesn’t get too carried away. Strong lass, that, and a good role-model for modern girls! 🙂

    1. Actually, I looked up the meaning of the name Janet on behindthename.com, and apparently it’s a diminutive form of the name Jane meaning “Little Jane.” It’s a term of endearment. I never understood it when I read the book the first time either, but Brontë doesn’t write anything without a meaning behind it.

        1. She truly was! 🙂 I love all the hidden meanings in Jane Eyre. Great site, Traxy!

          @Nan: This is a great list by the way! Thought I would mention that Jane did call Mr Rochester King Ahasuerus! (c24)

          @Grace: I remember wondering years ago why Grace Poole was given that first name, because the meaning of ‘Grace’ didn’t give much clue as to what’s going on when she is so closely connected to the big secret. I soon realised that Grace is the only anagram of ‘cager’ – it is seldom recognised as a word in its own right, but I have seen it used with the definition of, ‘a guard of the cage’. Its official first use isn’t recorded until 1878. Am I too analytical, or is it just a coincidence? or was Charlotte pulling a Shakespeare and making up her own words to suit her story… 🙂

  4. Thanks to YOU, Traxy, for having such a great blog and for being willing to post my list. I had a lot of fun thinking about and writing it.

    @Jane – I had “Janet” written down on my original list, but somehow I forgot to type it in! I wonder whether he calls her Janet with a French accent, ala Adele?

    @ifbyyes – I agree: “no, don’t caress me now, I must talk undisturbed!” I like how Jane is passionate AND principled.

  5. I never viewed him calling her “you strange, almost unearthly thing” an insult. I thought that it meant that Rochester found Jane to be the woman of his dreams that he never would have considered falling in love with at first glance in the past. She’s everything in a woman that he’s always wanted, but never could find until her. Rochester had given up hope of ever finding a smart, imaginitive, sensible, and kind-hearted woman. He’s just surprised that the woman he’s always wanted exists, especially in such a small, simple, yet extraordinary slip of a girl.

  6. I came across this list of names doing some research for my book party. Loved it so much I linked this page to my website. I read all the names out loud to my book club while discussing Jane Eyre. We were all shocked on the insults and some of us split on Rochester’s endearments to Jane but we love Rochester, aka: Vulcan, and gave him a pass ;). Thank you for a terrific list!

  7. Nice list! I think that if Bronte had meant mustard-seed as absolutely a Shakespearean reference she’d have capitalized it. Rather, I’ve always thought that he was referring to the seed itself — tiny, but full of heat.

    My name is Janet, and my father’s dictionary had a section for the meanings of given names, so I knew mine was a diminutive of Jane, which is a variant of Joan, which is the feminine of John, which means “God is gracious” — a name that is highly ironic for much of Jane’s life, but is borne out in the end.

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