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French-Accented Baby Names: Jeanette, Cosette, Colette

May 4, 2014 Pamela Redmond

by Jeanette Soto

The name Jeanette was given to me by my young, hip parents during the infamous Chicago heat wave of 1987. The name had been out of fashion for over four decades and not coming back in style any time soon. The minute I learned how to spell it, I was frustrated by all the other people who couldn’t. One girl in grammar school insisted that it should be spelled with a ‘G’ because it sounded “too hard” to be spelled with a ‘J. Most often, people spell my name with one too many N’s or one to few T’s; misspellings include Jeannette, Janet, Jennet, Jenette, Jenet, Ginette and Ginet, but practically nobody gets it right.

Why did my parents give me a name that wasn’t just dated, but came with a slew of spellings? My mother’s excuse: Pregnancy amnesia, or brain fog caused by pregnancy hormones. It came over my mother at the time she was trying to remember the name she wanted to give me, so Colette Madeleine morphed into Jeanette Ashley.

What other names have Jeanette’s retro -ette ending and unusual style? Here, some choices:

Alouette. Alouette is a beautiful, rarely used bird name. You may remember the old childhood song ‘Alouette, Gentile Alouette‘, which is about –ew! plucking apart a bird. Not quite the image you want to conjure up with your child’s name, but Alouette still has a very pleasant sound.

Claudette: For a long time associated with Golden Age Hollywood actress Claudette Colbert, it peaked in 1938 at Number 238, but is uncommon nowadays and may pose a comeback for all those retro name-lovers out there.

ColetteThe name I was almost given is the French short-form of Nicole. Its meaning is ‘Victory of the people’ and is still quite stylish. There is a very trendy store of the same name in France. Related to the writer whose last name was actually Colette, it was used by Dylan McDermott for his daughter.

CosetteThis name is the French variation of Nicholas and means ‘Little Thing’. I love the elegance of  the name is and Coco would make a darling nickname.

Lizette: Also spelled Lisette, this name has cute nickname potential in Liz and Lizzy. This is a very pretty, delicate name from yesteryear; on the US popularity list from 1965 to 2005, could be a Liza substitute..

Mignonette. Pronounced Mih-nyon-ETTE, this mellifluous version of the French name Mignon is charming and underused, especially in the States.

Ninette. Not as common as Nanette, the name sounds fresh and has great nickname potential in Nina and Nettie.

Odette is a hauntingly beautiful French name meaning ‘Wealthy’ and has several positive associations from the world of literature, most notably Proust‘s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, and the good swan in Swan Lake. Mark Ruffalo chose it for his daughter.

There are some other Ette/et names that have grown in popularity that are worth mentioning too for their beauty, like Juliet; cool factor, like Scarlet; or for being underused classics, like Harriet.

Now that I am a little older, I appreciate my name. Not only do I have fun nickname options like Jenna, my nickname at college; Netta, the nickname given to me by my parents, and Gemma, a trendy name gaining popularity around England and the U.S., but I also have a name I share with only a handful of women of my generation. I think it is a Rite de Passage for everyone to feel a disconnection from their names at one point in their life. When you’re a child, you want to fit in. When you’re a teenager, you want to stand out. And when you’re an adult, you want to embrace your true nature.

Jeanette Soto is a Chicago native and college student who studies Journalism. She is known as Netta5187 on Nameberry and enjoys making lists of names, especially unusual ones, from around the world.  In her free time, she works on her style blog What I Wore Last Night and keeps up with new name trends. 

About the author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show,, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its new sequel, Older.

View all of Pamela Redmond's articles

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