Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his April 25th column, he looks at the history of the name Renée.
Renée is the feminine of René, French form of Renatus, Latin “born again.” The name was created by early Christians to commemorate their symbolic rebirth in baptism. By 1300, French girls were being named Renée. In 1510, King Louis XII gave his second daughter the name.
Despite Renée of France’s fame as a Protestant heroine, before 1864, Renée was nearly nonexistent as a baby name in the United States. Then French brothers Edmond and Jules de Goncourt (for whom the Prix Goncourt, France’s most important fiction prize, is named) published “Renée Mauperin,” the tragic tale of a young woman who wastes away from heart disease after her beloved brother is murdered by a French nobleman. It went through several English-language editions the next 30 years.
Renee first became a Top 1,000 baby name in 1905. It got a big boost from French-born silent film star Renée Adorée (1898-1933). Adorée moved to Hollywood in 1920. She became a star in 1925’s “The Big Parade” as Melisande, a French girl loved by American soldier Jim (John Gilbert). The film, rated by critics as one of the best silents, was a box-office smash.
Renee left the Top 1,000 list of first names in 2018. As the typical Renee turns 53 this year, that’s to be expected. In another 40 years, Renée can be reborn again for babies.