‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: The Meaning Behind June’s Name as a Handmaid — Offred

June Osborne (portrayed by Elisabeth Moss) was a book editor, mother, and husband. Everything changed when the United States became the Republic of Gilead and this character was forced to become a handmaid, giving birth to the next generation by force. 

What did June’s handmaid name, “Offred,” mean? Here’s what we know about this character from Hulu’s original drama series, The Handmaid’s Tale. 

June Osborne wears a blue shirt and stares directly into the camera in 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Elisabeth Moss as June Osborne in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Sophie Giraud/Hulu

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ introduced viewers to characters like June Osborne

In this dystopian world, the birth rate across the globe drastically declined. Some turned to religion for some explanation and, to the “commanders” of Gilead, the solutions. Once the Republic of Gilead was formed, a new way of life was implemented. 

Loosely based on the stories from the bible, some women were selected to be handmaids to high-ranking officials. That included the main character of this series, June Osborne, who took up the position involuntarily. 

Additionally, this character involuntarily took up another name. That was Offred, which was used periodically throughout Hulu’s original series and the novel by Margaret Atwood. The meaning behind this world, however, was created by the Republic of Gilead. 

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June Osborne became ‘Offred’ and later, ‘Ofjoseph’

When she lived in the United States, her husband and friends called her June Osborne. In Gilead, however, this character became a handmaid with the name “Offred.” This name change further emphasized that June Osborne because the child-bearing property of her commander. 

However, this name was subject to change, as handmaids sometimes switched postings. Sometimes, handmaids referred to each other by their real names, but occasions for these women to talk were rare. 

For several episodes, June was referred to by her name as Fred and Serena Joy Waterford’s handmaid — Offred. It literally meant “of Fred,” indicating that she was Fred’s property. 

This character was later transferred to Commander Joseph Lawrence’s home, becoming “Ofjoseph” in the process. Other handmaids were referred to as “Ofglen” or “Ofwarren.” These name changes were not consentual, of course. Neither was the job of the handmaids in the Republic of Gilead. 

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Gilead changed more than the handmaid’s names and outfits

There were other ways that Gilead stripped the identities of its women. That was especially true for the handmaid, who faced numerous rules and restrictions. The most obvious was their outfits, which were specifically designed to impede their vision. 

To encourage conformity, some handmaids were physically mutilated. That includes Janine, who had an eye removed following a rebellious streak and using forbidden language. Emily, after it was revealed that she was a “gender traitor,” or part of the LGBTQ community, she was forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM).

After a miraculous escape to Canada, June Osborne restarted her life, this time using her real name. Episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale are available for streaming on Hulu.