About Names: “Sports, music, and works of fiction helped popularize Andre”

French author and poet André Breton (Attribution: public domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 2nd column, he looks at the history of the name Andre.

Andre starts the beginning of the end Tuesday.

“Black-ish,” the popular ABC sitcom about a wealthy African American family, premieres its final season Jan. 4. Anthony Anderson, starring as advertising executive Andre “Dre” Johnson, has been nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series all seven seasons.

André is the French form of Andreas, a Greek name derived from “andreios” (“manly”), known as Simon Peter’s brother, the first Apostle of Jesus. In English, he’s of course called St. Andrew.

Before the 19th century, it was normal to translate given names when moving from one culture to another. Men born André in France would naturally be called Andrew when visiting or immigrating to an English-speaking country. It’s only around 1800 that different forms of common saint’s names from other languages started being adopted into English.

The 1850 United States census, first listing all free residents by name, found 475 men called Andre. Eleven percent were born in France or Quebec, and 38% in French-influenced Louisiana.

The names of slaves weren’t listed in the census. The 1870 census included 670 Andres. Twenty-two percent of those were Black, mostly freed slaves and their sons. Forty-two percent of them were born in Louisiana.

Andre increased slowly over the next 70 years, though it didn’t maintain its popularity with Black parents. In the 1940 census, the latest with names available, only 5.4% of the 3,673 Andres were Black men, though Black men made up 9.8% of the population.

Meanwhile André had boomed back in France. Between 1910 and 1935, it was second only to Jean as a name for French boys.

Andre entered the top thousand baby names in the United States in 1924. Starting in the 1930s, it was helped by orchestra conductor Andre Kostelanetz (1901-1980). Born Abram Kostelyanetz in Russia, he’s credited with inventing “easy listening” light classical arrangements years before the term was created. Albums with him conducting the New York Philharmonic billed as “Andre Kostelanetz and his orchestra” sold millions.