Adrienne is the French form of Adriana. Adriana, in turn, is derivative of the masculine Adrian, a name which dates back to Antiquity. Adrian comes from the Latin word “hadrianus” meaning “man from Hadria”, an ancient city in northern Italy on the Adriatic Sea. The name was most notably borne by a 2nd century Roman Emperor, Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrianus). Hadrian is best known for erecting Hadrian’s Wall in England, then the most northern point of the ever-expanding empire. The intent was to protect the new Roman provinces from attacks by the Scottish tribes. The 75-mile long wall took 10 years to build, parts of which are still very visible today across the rolling hills of northern England. Many Roman Catholic Popes used the name Adrian in the Middle Ages, most notably, Pope Adrian IV (12th century), who has the distinction of being the only English-born Pope to this day. As a French female name Adrienne has been around since the Middle Ages and beyond. We are told by some of our French friends that it’s considered an “old-fashioned” or outdated name in France today. Sort of like Barbara in America.
Adrienne came into use in America in the late 19th century but didn’t start to show promise until the 1930s. In fact, the name shot up over 200 positions in one year alone (1932) after a movie called “The Death Kiss” was released starring an actress named Adrienne Ames. This was in the early days of “talkies” and Ames was popular enough to move the needle on the usage of her pretty name. Adrienne remained a moderate name choice in America through the 1960s and then saw another slight push up the charts in the mid-1970s, this time owing to another contemporary actress (Adrienne Barbeau). Barbeau played the daughter of Bea Arthur on the highly popular sitcom “Maude” (1972-1978) which was a spin-off from the iconic “All in the Family” series. Adrienne’s peak usage as a female name in America came in 1983 at position #140 on the charts. The 21st century has been less kind to this old French beauty, however; today the name is much less common. Adrienne has been forced to step aside for the frillier four-syllable Adriana (which is a Top 150 name). However, the French Adrienne sounds more sophisticated and less flowery or flashy. It also has a more gender-neutral sensibility which adds to her appeal.