She’s a rare find with a very current feel.
Thanks to Pauline for suggesting Avène as our Baby Name of the Day.
Writing about Avene was a no-brainer. We’ve discussed Aven, a nature name borrowed from a wildflower, and the ever-so-popular Ava, too. Factor in the fashion for French names, and Avene feels like one that we should be hearing.
Except that I can’t confirm that Avene has been ever worn by an actual child.
Avene is a French place name, a place that inspired the name of a global cosmetics company, and it is something of a magical story. The town in Southern France is tiny, but like many a medieval village, it has a spring sacred to a saint. In this case, it’s Saint Odile, a major figure in the Middle Ages. The daughter of the Duke of Alsace, Odile was born blind in the seventh century. There was no hope of a cure, so she was sent to live in a monastery, where she was baptized. On her baptism, Odile miraculously recovered her sight, and went on to do many more good things.
By medieval standards, Alsace is a lifetime away from Avene. Avene is located in the extreme southern part of the country, in the region traditionally called Languedoc, while Alsace is on the Rhine River, bordering Germany. But Saint Odile’s veneration was widespread, with biographies written in the eighth and tenth centuries, and her relics shared as far away as Prague. It isn’t inconceivable that a spring with healing powers would be associated with the saint.
The name is pronounced ah VEN, emphasis on the second syllable, something like Adele. The only place I could find the story of the spring is on the skincare company’s website. An ailing horse was turned loose, suffering from a skin disease. He wandered to a thermal spring located near Avene, drank the water and was cured. This was in the 1700s; the horse had belonged to a local nobleman who recognized the opportunity before him. The thermal springs have been visited ever since, and the water from the springs has led to a major skincare company based on the ideas of hydrotherapy. It’s said that Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan.
Not bad for a village with fewer than 500 residents.
Searching turned up a Miami socialite called Avene, but I couldn’t confirm if it is her birth name. Avene also occurs as a very rare surname, but its roots have proven impossible to track down. And avene sterilis is a variety of oat, generally considered the forerunner of the cultivated oats we rely on today.
Should you favor Avene for your daughter’s name, the easiest explanation is that you borrowed it from the French village. It’s a pretty, pleasing, and yet sophisticated sound for a child’s name.