c32 by Too Far North via Flickr

It’s one of those names that seems perfectly ordinary, expected even – but you probably don’t know more than one.

Thanks to Carey for suggesting her daughter’s name as our Baby Name of the Day: Corinne.

Corinne has appeared in the US Top 1000 every year since 1880. At #756 in 2009, she’s far from common. But she’s also not quite on the edge of obscurity.

The original Corinna was an Ancient Greek poet, probably in the sixth century BC. She may have taught the better-known Pindar, or been his rival, or both. Ovid dedicated his first work, Amores, to a fictional Corinna in 16 BC.

While the name was clearly in use, Corinna could also be little more than an elaboration of the Greek kore – maiden – and thus an appropriate name for Ovid’s beloved. Either way, it is through Ovid’s poem that Corinna came to the English-speaking world.

In the sixteenth century, Christopher Marlowe wrote his own compositions, and translated even more. His translation of Amores was successful, and would have brought Corinna to the attention of a wider audience. A few decades later, the poet Robert Herrick – you know him for “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” – penned Corinna going a-Maying.

Then came the wildly influential Madame de Staël’s 1807 novel Corinne, ou l’Italie. Based on her travels in Italy – and possibly on the Italian poetess Diodata Saluzzo Roero – the tale of the scandalously independent writer Corinne was quite a success.

Other notable Corinnes include:

  • Corinne Roosevelt was the little sister of President Theodore Roosevelt, and aunt to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The name was passed on in the Roosevelt family, too, for at least one generation;
  • Paris-born actress Corinne Calvet graduated from French radio and film to appear in a string of Hollywood classics in the 1940s and 50s;
  • In the 1970s, Corinne Tate was the daughter on the sitcom Soap – complete with plotlines about marrying a former priest, and having her demon-possessed son cured through exorcism;
  • Remember Swing Out Sister? Corinne Drewery was the lead singer the pop trio back when they scored their breakout hit “Breakout.” They’re still together, and Drewery remains at the mic;
  • 1994’s Corinna, Corinna cast Whoopi Goldberg as a housekeeper who helped a grieving family put their lives back together.

There’s some possible confusion about Corinne’s spelling and pronunciation. While kor IN seems obvious to me, apparently Corinne is just uncommon enough that you might also hear kor EEN or KOR in.

She might also feel the tiniest bit dated. Meilleurs Prenoms indicates that Corinne peaked in France 1963. In the US, the sense that Corinne is past her moment probably has more to do with her similar sound to Karen, which hit #3 in the 1960s.

Circa 2011, how would Corinne wear? Besides Karen, other similar sounding Boomer picks like Carol and Carla are in fashion limbo. But Corinne could also fit with classics like Caroline and French-inspired choices like Vivienne.

All of this leaves Corinne in the middle, but that’s not a bad thing. She’s neither trend-setting nor out-of-step. Instead, file Corinne in that most elusive of categories: perfectly familiar, yet uncommon names.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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  1. I am Corrine and pronounce my name Kor-reen, but family usually says Kreen. My mom named me after Corinne Calvet. I don’t know if she spelled it differently on purpose, or just didn’t realize how the actress spelled it. I’m glad, because I like the double R instead of the double N. Mom says she would sit in typing class in high school and type it over and over again, knowing that when she got married and had a daughter, that would be her name. Unfortunately, it’s Corrine Marie, which means “bitter maiden”, LOL. I did go as Corey for a short while as a kid, and Reeny in high school for a while. But nothing ever stuck.

    I only recently realized that most Corinnes are pronounced Kor-rin and most Corrines are pronounced Kor-reen. One thing all Corrines and Corinnes have in common is no one seems to pronounce our names correctly. I have a friend also named Corrine who just gave up and goes by Connie. I correct people when I’m feeling brave. I love having an unusual name!