Tag Archives: history

What’s in a name?

I was born Rhea Louise Cook.

It’s changed a couple of times since then.


I’ve always loved my first name. Even all the horrible-bodily-function related nicknames couldn’t get me down (I would like to thank my brother and sister for completely desensitizing me towards them before I got to school).

But when I was about 4-5 years old I decided that I didn’t like my middle name at all and wanted to change it. With the help of my sister I settled on Renee. My whole family completely excepted it, to the point where my mother told a straight faced lie to a government official and my first Passport was issued to Rhea Renee Cook. With the help of that passport I got many other forms of ID in my adopted middle name, but that passport was eventually lost (like many others, but that’s another story, or 4….) and over time I had to revert back to Louise. Which I wasn’t particularly happy about. Until I found this coaster:

It says ‘From the Old German, meaning ‘famous, woman-warrior’. She is capable, charming and intelligent and works hard to reach her goals. A great reader of character’.

I like that.

I REALLY like that.

And it got me thinking, what do my other names mean?


I had some inner turmoil about changing my last name when I got married.

My father had instilled a lot of importance in being a Cook. We were different, we were Us, we were Cooks.

But I wanted to have the same name as my son and my husband. I wanted everyone to know that we were a unit. And I didn’t want to deal with the confusion of having separate names. So with a little trepidation I changed my name to Hepburn (now that I have met many of the Hepburn clan there is no longer any trepidation but, again, that is a story for another day).


That brings the total count up to 5 names: Rhea Louise (Renee) Cook (Hepburn).

Let’s start at the beginning.


Rhea: Flowing; stream; mother.

“Rhea has its origins in the Old Greek language, and it is used largely in English, German, and Greek. Rheia (Old Greek) is an old form of the name. The name is of obscure meaning, possibly from rheo (‘to flow’) or rheos (‘river, stream’). The name was borne in Greek mythology by the daughter of the Titans Uranus and Gaia. She became the mother of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter, and Hestia, and consequently appeared as a prominent figure in various folk tales. In Roman mythology, Rhea Silvia was the mother of the legendary founders of Rome, the twins Romulus and Remus. Another mythological Rhea was the priestess mother of Aventinus by Hercules.” (paraphrased from this site)

Basically they aren’t sure how it was put together but it was first used as the name for a great mother, and many great mothers since. When I first learned of the story of Rhea and Kronus I was captivated (if you’ve fallen behind on your Greek Mythology there’s a great summary here). She was such a strong, cunning, loving woman. I was so proud to share the same title. I have always wanted to be a mum (along with a whole bunch of other things) and now I understood that it was, literally, a part of my being.


Louise: Fame/loud, Fighter/warrior.

Louise is the female version of Louis, which is derived from Ludwig which is “From the Germanic name Chlodovech which meant “famous warrior”, composed of the elements hlud ‘fame’ and wig ‘warrior’.” (stolen from this site) (I got the ‘Loud’ reference from this site)

I know we’ve covered this, but I really like that. I am loud (I’m ok with that) and I sure know how to fight (my father used to say I could argue with a brick wall). I can get very passionate about my beliefs and opinions and have recently discovered, through a job as a travel consultant, that I am pretty good at convincing people of things (yes, I was once told that I could sell ice to Eskimos. I replied with “only if it was the best ice around”) I also used to dream of being famous (don’t we all?) but not in the ‘movie star’ sense. I didn’t want to be recognised on the street; I wanted to be know for something great.


Renee: Rebirth, born again.

Renee is the female form of Rene, the French version of Renatus which is a “Late Latin name meaning ‘born again’.” (acquired from this site)

You gotta be kidding me.

I wanted a new name and I picked one that meant rebirth, renewal, born again?! Couldn’t have written that in a script, would’ve been WAY to corny.


Now last names are a little different. They were usually used as a reference to the person’s profession or where they were from, so their ‘meanings’ can be a little more complicated, or very simple.


Cook: A Cook (duh!)

“Derived from Old English coc meaning “cook”. It was an occupational name for a cook, a man who sold cooked meats, or a keeper of an eating house.” (pinched from this site)

My brother got me my first job in a restaurant when I was 15. For the next 8 years Hospitality was my industry, always in the kitchen. I did dishes for a while but when the Chefs discovered I could handle a knife, and the pressure, it was hard to stay at the sink. I’ve never wanted to do it as a career. To be a chef you have to LOVE food and I just don’t. I’m a very plain eater and I just didn’t have the passion for it. So I was never a chef, only ever a Cook. Though I have often entertained dreams of owning my own bar/restaurant.


Hepburn: High burial mound; High place beside the water.

“The name is thought to have derived from either the town of Hebron or Hebburn, both of which are in Northumberland. The origins of the name are suggested to be the same as that of Hebborne from the Old English words heah (“high”) and byrgen (“burial mound”). Alternatively it could mean something along the lines of “high place beside the water”, as the word burn is a still widely used in Northumbrian and Scots for stream.” (transcribed from this site)

I don’t mind either interpretation. I have always lived close to water, whether high or low; always been a water baby. And the ‘High Burial Mound’ conveys importance. Throughout history only important people have been buried in burial mounds; the more important the person, the bigger the mound (summarized from this site).


So, in summary, my name is that of a flowing, loud, important, great mother and famous warrior, who cooks.

I am totally cool with that.


What does your name mean?

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