The qualification née is typically used to signify the name a woman previously had, most likely before her marriage. However, today I've seen it in a Spiegel article applied to a company name:

When German retailer Arcandor (née QuelleKarstadt) went bankrupt in 2009, it marked the end of a company rich in tradition.

Obviously, in this context it means the previous name the company had. I understand that it might be used humorously, but I wonder if this usage is actually correct.

  • 3
    Regardless, I wonder under what circumstances it should be né rather than née?
    – JAM
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 14:34
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    @JAM You use for a man, née for a woman — and my extension, matching genders of substantives the adjective is applied to.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 14:37
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    @tchrist Quite so; and Arcandor is actually Arcandor AG, so née is correct. Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 14:54
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    Just yesterday, I was installing CentOS and noticed that my video card was detected as "AMD (nee ATi) Rage XL" and thought "That doesn't seem like the right use of that word." And now today I see this in the "hot questions" list for SE. Amazing. Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 16:06
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    I once saw a programme looking at British steam locomotives, where it was decided that the Duke of Gloucester must be referred to as a 'she'. Be interesting if they ever changed its name... Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 19:58

4 Answers 4


It is correct usage.

Née can also mean orginally called which is the way it’s being used in your example.

From Oxford English Dictionary (OED) -


Etymology: < French née, feminine of past participle of naître (see naissant adj.).

  1. Placed before a married woman’s maiden name: originally called; born with the name.

  2. In extended use. Placed (often humorously or for effect) after the current name or title by which a person, place, etc., is known: formerly known as; originally called.

  • 2
    Then I would recommend at least removing the feminine -e. Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 14:36
  • Why is this downvoted? It reports a respected authority. Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 15:13
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    Unlike The Knights Who Say 'Ni!' Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 15:23
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    @StoneyB Just speculating, but there has been an edit to the answer. The downvote could well have come before the source was identified, i.e., correctly cited.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 15:23
  • @Cerberus that would be a really good question, actually. When using née/né in relation to anything other than a married woman's maiden name, what are the rules for which one you should use? I started writing a comment here and realised it was an answer to that question. Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 21:17

Outside humour, no, it would probably not be acceptable to style guides, as you suggest. It applies to a woman. But, as long as it's (somewhat) funny, I see no problem in using it inappropriately. But the feminine metaphor must be suitable too if you use née rather than .

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    I agree it's nonstandard, but since it's a straightforward extension of meaning, I hesitate to call it incorrect. Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 15:07
  • 1. It isn't exactly "outside of humour" in the context. 2. Even then it's permitted by usage per OED. Perhaps we need to spend time checking out before answering (I do it sometimes).
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 15:38
  • @Kris: 1. D'oh. 2. I require neither your nor the OED's permission... Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 19:01
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    @Mechanicalsnail: Very well, added linguisticese circumlocution. Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 19:02

I can't say what is "correct" or not, but to my mind, as the word means "born" (referring to the name given at birth as opposed to a more recent changed form) it would not refer to something which was not born. Could a company be said to have been "born"? Is "established" or "created" or "founded" an equivalent? That's above my pay grade. By strict etymology, the word refers to living things. By extended use, the gloves are off.

  • 1
    +1 for the argument: but the gloves are off?? Did you mean all bets are off? Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 18:19
  • @TimLymington -- you are, of course, correct. I had planned to pick a a fight with anyone who used the word outside of its etymologically original meaning but changed my mind and forgot to change the idiom.
    – rosends
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 21:26
  • google.com/search?q=%22company+was+born%22
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 4:08
  • The company was born out of a merger in the late 1990s books.google.com/books?isbn=0852929692 The Jewett Car Company was born in Akron, Ohio books.google.com/books?isbn=0253343690 The Company was born at a little private meeting of London merchants in the year 1599. books.google.com/books?id=iFgEAAAAMBAJ The Canada Company was born directly from these two seemingly unrelated colonial books.google.com/books?isbn=1896219942 ... ...
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 4:11

I had the same question when I read the December 18 Spiegel article.

OALED at hand defines née simply as ‘A word used after a married woman’s name to introduce the family name that she had when she was born. But Merriam Webster defines it as (1) used to identify a woman by her maiden family name. (2) Originally or formerly called as used in ‘the Brewers née Pilots who also are in their third year — Fred Ciampa. www.thefreedictionary.com likewise defines née as adj. (1) Born. Used to indicate the maiden name of a married woman. (2) Formerly known as. From definition (2) of the both of the above, I found the word, ‘née’ can be used both for person and other than person.

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