Collection of Fred and Sherry Ross (Private)We’re wild about French names, and virtue choices, too.

Thanks to Kiri for suggesting one that fits both categories.  Our Baby Name of the Day is Clemence.

Clemence is quite rare in the US.  She was given to just seven girls in 2012.  Most of the time, fewer than five girls received the name.

Her slight uptick in popularity can be chalked up to a few things.

First, clement means mild or gentle, from the Latin clemens.  It’s not as obvious a virtue name as Hope or Grace, but she’s undeniably meaningful.

Second, Clementine has become a fast favorite with high profile parents, and is bounding up the popularity charts in recent years.

And, of course, she’s a stylish cousin to names like Genevieve and Vivienne.

Clementius or Clement was the name of several popes.  Various forms of the name have been used throughout Europe.  But Clemence is overwhelmingly français.

Let’s start with the legendary Clemence Isaure, pictured above.  It isn’t clear if Mademoiselle Isaure ever lived, but she’s credited with using her personal fortune to found Toulouse’s Academy of Floral Games in the early 1300s.  The games are poetry contests for troubadours, with various flowers for prizes.  The literary society is among the oldest on record, and her statue stands in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.  It lends Clemence a lot of creative oomph.

Other Clemences can be found.  The Duke of Aquitaine gave the name to a daughter in twelfth century.

King Louis X married Clemence of Hungary in 1315.  The French queen shared her name with her mother, a German princess.  Despite her Hungarian title, the future queen grew up in Naples.

Clement, Clemence and plenty of variations were in use in medieval England, too.

Then there’s nineteenth century French anarchist Louise Michel, who adopted Clemence as her pseudonym.  She was part of the Paris commune, imprisoned and deported after the uprising was ended.  Michel and her fellow Communards were eventually pardoned and allowed to return to France, where Michel went right back to fomenting revolution until her death.

You might also think of:

  • French composer Clemence de Grandval, a nineteenth century female composer of various works, including operas.
  • Clemence Dane – the first Englishwoman on this list!  Born Winifred Ashton, Dane was a successful novelist and playwright in the first half of the twentieth century.  Some of her works were adopted for the big screen.  Dane also wrote screenplays, and even won an Academy Award for her 1945 Vacation from Marriage.
  • Singer Clemence Saint-Preux is better known by only her first name.
  • If you’ve seen the Harry Potter films, you might recall Clemence Poesy, the actress who plays the ethereal Fleur Delcaour.

Clemence is sometimes masculine in English, and occasionally a surname, too.  And while the name is rare in the US, Clemence is having a good run in France right now, ranking in the Top 50 in recent years.

If there’s any barrier to her use, it might be her slightly challenging pronunciation.  You can hear it said in French here.  I suspect many people might say it more like the surname Clemens at first glance.

And yet, she’s truly lovely – an unexpected choice that could be graceful in the middle spot, or stylish in the first.

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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 absolutely LOVE this name! Although I will admit that I cringe when I hear “Clem-ents” as opposed to “Clem-ahns” (that’s as close as I can get to a proper phonetic spelling.) 🙂

    1. Clemence [klemens] is an actual English name, though, in usage since the Middle Ages. Clémence is the French variant — both pronunciations are perfectly valid.

      1. Rita, I had no idea! Thanks for sharing! I always thought that “Clement” (male) was the only “English” version and that “Clemence” was strictly French. You learn something new every day . . . 🙂

        1. My beautiful youngest daughter (just turned 50 this year) is named (for two dear family friends) Clemence Chappell ____, pronounced the simple English way, nickname Clemmie. I think the French pronunciation for an English or American girl sounds ridiculously affected. When she was dating the boy she’s been married to for 27 years (they started dating as HS sophomores, married after graduating college) he said to her one night, “If we don’t get married would you mind if I named a daughter Clemmie?” Beautiful, classic, name with a sweet nickname, as fitting on a 50 year old as a 15 year old. I am happy to see it coming back into fashion. (Hope it never gets TOO faddish.)

  2. I actually prefer Clemence to Clementine, which I find too cutesy. Clemence is soft and understated, and still a rarity by the sounds of it! Very pretty name 🙂

  3. What a lovely article! Thanks so much- this was very interesting. I was completely unaware of the story of Clemence Isaure. How wonderful!