Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 31st column, he looks at the history of the name Lorraine.
Lorraine is a region in northeastern France. It’s the modern form of Lotharingia, a medieval kingdom named after its first ruler, Lothair II (835-869), a great-grandson of Charlemagne. France and England fought to control northern France for centuries. In the 1300s, prophecies claiming France would be saved by “a virgin from the borders of Lorraine” began to spread. Today in English, that virgin is called St. Joan of Arc (1412-31). Though in France, she’s most often “Jeanne d’Arc,” she’s sometimes called “Jeanne de Lorraine.”
A few American parents named daughters Lorraine, probably as a variation of Laura, in the early 19th century. The 1850 census found over 30, most in upstate New York. Publicity about the Franco-Prussian War helped the name rise. This accelerated after American novelist Robert W. Chambers published “Lorraine: A Romance” in 1897. There, Lorraine, daughter of the Marquis de Nesville, is saved by (and marries) American adventurer Jack Marche after her father is killed piloting a military balloon.
Though Lorraine stayed in the top 100 until 1949, it then swiftly receded except for a minor uptick in 1985, when Lea Thompson played Marty McFly’s mom, Lorraine, in “Back to the Future.”