Thanks to Virginia for suggesting Lorraine as our Baby Name of the Day.
Many sources suggest that Lorraine first caught on post-World War I, when Germany and France were squabbling over the territory.
But Lorraine was already in use and gaining by the end of the nineteenth century – more proof that parents have borrowed from the map for ages.
Today Lorraine is an administrative region, but she traces her roots to the medieval kingdom of Lotharingia, named after Lothair I in the ninth century, grandson of Charlemagne himself.
After Lotharingia ceased to exist there was a Duchy of Lorraine. The borders have shifted – and shrunk – over the years. Today Lorraine borders Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and has quite a bit in common with its neighbors culturally and linguistically.
She has some history of use as a given name in France – though the French name site Meilleurs Prenoms gives her the same meaning as Laura, with no reference to the region. This hints at a likely cause of Lorraine’s popularity: she’s so close to the lovely, evergreen Laura. Still, her use spikes around both World Wars, so perhaps patriotism likely played some part.
In the US, she ranks in the Top 1000 as early as 1882. In 1899, she’s the 344th most popular name in the US. By 1911, she’s up to 193.
One theory for her early use involves Joan of Arc. The Maid of Lorraine prophecy was an ages old prediction that a young woman would save France, and she’d be from the border of Lorraine. Some speculate that the prophecy helped Joan rally support.
In the nineteenth century, the future Saint Therese of Lisieux wrote and performed two pieces about Saint Joan. Mark Twain penned a series of pieces about the saint under a penname for Harper’s Magazine in 1895. Joan was named a saint by the Catholic Church in 1920, and popular culture was big on Joan into the 1940s, when Ingrid Bergman earned a Best Actress nomination for the role.
The end of World War I boosted Lorraine into the US Top 100. She reached #69 in 1918 and stayed in the Top 100 through 1948. Credit the conflict, but we were fond of Laur- and -ora names at the time. Loretta, Lorene, and Lora were also in use, along with Laur- spellings of each of those names.
There are plenty of reasons you might recognize her:
- Nat King Cole recorded the standard “Sweet Lorraine” in 1940, though others had released it as early as 1928.
- Actress Lorraine Bracco is known for her work on The Sopranos and Rizzoli & Isles.
- In Back to the Future, Marty McFly’s mother was Lorraine.
- Lorraine Hansberry penned the play A Raisin in the Sun.
- Jack Nicholson gave the name to his daughter in 1990.
Lorraine has tons of possible short forms: Lo, Lola, Ray, Rain, Rainie, Lori, Lainie, though she truly doesn’t need one.
There’s something dated about Lorraine – she’s solidly in grandma name territory. Except that, as a place name and a French name, she has the potentially to be incredibly stylish. Can’t you imagine sisters named Vivienne and Lorraine?
If you’re brave about bringing back names, or if you’re just plain in love with Lorraine, then she’s certainly one that could work in 2013.