Name of the Day: Rhett

He’s a Southern gentleman, and something of a romantic pick for a son.

Thanks to Christina for suggesting Rhett as Name of the Day.

Gone with the Wind might be pure fiction, but author Margaret Mitchell drew her hero’s name from two prominent Charleston families – the Rhetts and the Butlers. If you know your GwtW, you’ll recall that the dashing Rhett was introduced as the black sheep of a prominent Charleston family – making the name a logical choice. (Visit the city today and you can even tour the Aiken-Rhett House – no relation to the movie, but a part of the past maintained by the Historic Charleston Foundation. As a point of trivia, the first Rhett to live in the house – Major Andrew Burnet Rhett – gave one his sons the stunningly unusual name I’On.)

Rhett is traced back to the Dutch raet – advice – via a surname. While a handful of bearers turn up in US Census records outside of the South, nearly all of them lived out their days in South Carolina.

The rest of the US heard the name thanks to Margaret Mitchell’s spellbinding tale of a headstrong young woman and her life on the losing side of the Civil War. The novel was a smash hit in 1937. It even won a Pullitzer. Two years later, David O. Selznick’s big screen adaptation was just as successful – it won a record-setting ten Academy Awards.

While that’s often all a name needs to catapult it to widespread use, Rhett wasn’t quite as much of a hit. He didn’t chart in the US at all until 1955. And while he’s been in the Top 1000 most years since, he’s never climbed too far. In 2008, Rhett ranked #678 – respectable, but Cedric, Karter, Mohammed and Xzavier (really) all fared better.

Possibly the name is simply too dramatic for some parents’ taste. But that hasn’t hurt Romeo or Orlando. And Scarlett is positively fashion-forward, rising to #210 last year.

You’ll still meet some people wearing Rhett as a surname – Alicia Rhett played India Wilkes in the movie version of Gone with the Wind. And there are a few notable Rhetts in real life, including:

  • Country music’s Rhett Akins;
  • English record producer Rhett Davies, known for his work with Roxy Music, Talk Talk, Brian Ferry and more;
  • Rhett Lawrence worked with Mariah Carey and Kelly Clarkson – he wears Rhett as short for Everette;
  • Rhett Warrener plays in the NHL while Rhett Bomar is part of the NFL;
  • Rhett McLaughlin is one half of the comedy duo Rhett and Link.

With plenty of men wearing Rhett, it starts to sound a little more approachable than if it were solely reserved for one fictional hero. Rhett also blends in with all those little cowboys – Cade and Garrett, Wyatt and Luke.

So while this might be a bit much for a Charleston mama to choose, parents in, say, Wyoming, could make the case that Rhett fits their little guy just fine.

Parents hoping for something immune to fashion might also appreciate the fact that Rhett has never charted higher than #594. He’s not at all obscure, but you’d never call him popular. And even though he might fit some current trends, at the moment he is not gaining.

If you don’t mind the romantic, Old Hollywood vibe – or if you’re looking for a name for Ava’s little brother – Rhett might be one to consider.

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9 Comments

Hey! What about Rhett for a girl? I’m digging it but can’t find ANY examples anywhere — might be another reason to do it?

I like Rhett. I live in California, and I knew a boy named Rhett when I was in middle school — he’d be in his mid-twenties now. It’s a very handsome name.

I *love* Rhett! I don’t really know why; I’m from Atlanta originally and like GWTW – book and movie – but my love for Rhett has nothing to do with that or the South in general. I’ve known one Rhett IRL (his sister was Melanie – both named for GWTW) and I also like the singer/songwriter Rhett Miller. I just love his sound and like the spelling fine too. My fiance has agreed to this being the fn of our son down the road; my only concern is that he’ll rise in popularity but he’s not trending that way and that works for me. 🙂

Rhett is great! I really like Everette too, but for some reason using Rhett as a nickname bothers me. The sound works but adding the “h” to Rhett feels strange. And spelling Rhett as Rett looks wrong. If I used Rhett I’d go with Rhett. If I used Everette I’d keep the full Everette, I think..

I’ll echo Allison, Rhett’s a great choice! He’s got style, panache, a bit of drama, even. What’s not to love? All that in one little syllable! 🙂 He’s definitely the dashing gentleman, but he doesn’t feel too southern to me, having known a few NY Rhetts (2 to be exact). I do like one syllable names, for the most part. All my exisiting kids have a one syllable second middle. Rhett doesn’t work for me (he’s too snazzy); but he’d work easily up front, for anyone else! 😀

Great pick! I don’t generally admire one-syllable names for their lack of options, but I can’t help but love Rhett. He’ll always be a dashing southern gentleman in my mind. I also really love the idea of Rhett as a nickname for Everett.