About Names: Like Redgrave, Vanessa has British roots

Vanessa Redgrave au festival de Cannes, 2016

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 30th column, he looks at the history of the name Vanessa.

British actress Vanessa Redgrave, title character in all three, turned 81 on January 30th. The origin of the name Vanessa is also British. It was created by Anglo-Irish author Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) in his poem “Cadenus and Vanessa.” Esther Vanhomrigh (1688-1723), daughter of a Lord Mayor of Dublin, fell in love with Swift while he was her tutor. He created Vanessa by linking the “Van” of her surname with “Essa,” a pet form of Esther. Swift gave the poem to Esther in 1713. She arranged for its publication after her death, perhaps as revenge on Swift for jilting her for another Esther, Esther Johnson (1681-1728).

 When Vanessa Williams (born 1963) became the first African-American Miss America in September 1983, she helped the name.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Vanessas in history!