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Gender: F Meaning of Irene: "peace" Origin of Irene: Greek Irene's Popularity in 2013: #640

Popularity: this week.

Serene Irene, the name of the Greek goddess of peace, was hugely popular in ancient Rome and again in the United States a hundred years ago.

One of the most popular names of the Roman Empire and the name of several early saints, this originally Greek name (then spelled Eirene) represented a daughter of Zeus who was the goddess of peace. Often pronounced with three syllables, it spread throughout Europe in a range of variations and is a royal name in Greece, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Much of Irene's popularity in England stemmed from the character Irene Forsyte in Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga, while Americans identified it with the sparkling Irene Dunne of Hollywood's Golden Age. Irene was a Top 20 name from 1915 to 1925, remaining in the Top 100 until 1945. It is currently high up at Number 13 in Spain.

Some other references include the eponymous early smash hit Broadway musical, famed ballroom dancer Irene Castle (portrayed on film by Ginger Rogers), the Hollywood costume designer known simply as Irene, the Uma Thurman character in Gattaca, Irene Denholm, a Harry Potter student at Hogwarts School, and the lullaby-ready song Goodnight, Irene.

Trivia tidbit: Carreen, the name of Scarlett O'Hara's younger sister in Gone With the Wind, was a smoosh of Caroline Irene.

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Famous People Named Irene

Irene Bordoni, Corsican French singer
Irene Cara (Escalera), American singer
Irene Marie Dunne, American actress
Irene Joliot-Curie, French scientist, daughter of Marie Curie
Irene Urdangaria­n y Bourbon, daughter of Infanta Cristina of Spain
Irene Vanbrugh, English actress
Irene Vernon, American actress
Irene of Athens, Empress of the Byzantine Empire
Irene Papas, Greek actress
Irene Handl, English actress
Irene Worth, American actress
Irene Ryan (born Jessie Irene Noblett), American actress
Irene Angelina, Queen consort of Sicily and Germany
Emily Irene VanCamp, American actress

Pop Culture References for the Name Irene

Goodnight Irene, American folk song
Irene Adler, "the Woman", the only one to ever beat Sherlock Holmes.
Irene, 1940s movie
Irene Lorenzo, character on All in the Family
Princess Irene from The Princess and the Goblin, an 1872 children's novel by George MacDonald (pronounced eye-ree-knee in its 1991 film adaptation)
Hurricane Irene (2012)
Irene Heron, character in The Forsyte Saga
Irene Lapham, in The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells
Irene, Queen of Attolia in The Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner
Irene Frederick from Syfy show Warehouse 13
Irene the Concierge, recurring character on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody

Irene's International Variations

Irka, Irenka (Czech) Eirini, Ereni, Rena, Eirene, Nitsa (Greek) Iren, Irenke (Hungarian) Eireen (Irish) Yaryna, Ira, Irisha, Jereni, Irya, Irena, Arina, Rina, Arinka, Yarina, Irina, Iryna, Irini (Russian) Irenea (Spanish)