Name of the Day: Renata

by appellationmountain on January 4, 2010

Renée had her heyday back in the 1960s, but this variant could sound just right in 2009.

Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Renata as Name of the Day.

In the nineteenth century, you’d be hard pressed to find any American child wearing any form of the Latin Renatus, despite widespread use throughout Europe.

The français Renée caught on for American girls during the twentieth century. She was already in the Top 100 when The Left Banke scored a hit with “Walk Away Renée” in 1966. The name peaked at #62 the year after the single’s release.

Elsewhere Renata is the common feminine form. In Latin, the name means born again – think renaissance. Adherents of the first century Cult of Mithra used renatus to describe initiated members.

Mithraism faded, but early Christians embraced the meaning and adopted variations of Renatus as a personal name.

Famous bearers include:

  • A pair of saints, the fifth century Renato of Sorrento and René of Angers. Both names were Latinized as Renatus;
  • A handful of royals wear the name, including a sixteenth century Prince of Orange and the seventeenth century Archduchess Cecilia Renata of Austria, who became Queen of Poland;
  • Journalist and writer Renata Adler;
  • Two legendary opera singers, both Italian-born sopranos. Renata Tebaldi in the post-World War II era and Renata Scotto from the 1960s and 70s.

The second operatic Renata might even deserve credit for the name’s brief appearance in the US Top 1000 during the late 1970s. A character in Gabriel García Márquez’ 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude also wore the name.

For a touch of silver screen glamor, variant Renate was worn by German actress Renate Müller. Ms. Müller is remembered as the star of the original Viktor und Viktoria, back in 1933. When the Nazis came calling, she refused to star in their propoganda films. Some say she died of natural causes; others claim her nein led to murder by the Gestapo.

Renate is also the middle name of Heidelberg-born Queen Silvia of Sweden.

Then there’s Renita, usually listed as a variant, despite her slightly different pronunciation. (She’s re NEE tah instead of reh NAH tah.) From 1954 into the early 1980s, she charted in the US Top 1000. My best guess is that Renita is a Spanish diminutive form of Renée, first used in I Love Lucy. She’s one of Ricky’s friends from Cuba, a fellow dancer he knows as Little Renita. But when she arrives for a visit, Little Renita is all grown up.

Renata and Renita also benefit from their similarity to the French reine – queen. File Renata with Regina and Leroy – even if an etymologic connection is lacking.

Renata is also a minor character in the Twilight series. She’s among the Volturi, the mega-powerful Vampires Without Apology. While her character doesn’t command much screen time, Renata might just be reborn through the undead.

Call Renata that rare choice that can appeal to Frasier Crane and Roseanne Barr alike. The sopranos lend her a sophisticated air, while the fictional vampire keeps her current. She could even fly as a sister – or substitution – for Nevaeh.

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