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 Dec 18 '12 at 14:34
  • 3
    @JAM You use for a man, née for a woman — and my extension, matching genders of substantives the adjective is applied to. – tchrist Dec 18 '12 at 14:37
  • 2
    @tchrist Quite so; and Arcandor is actually Arcandor AG, so née is correct. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 18 '12 at 14:54
  • 3
    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. – Justin ᚅᚔᚈᚄᚒᚔ Dec 18 '12 at 16:06
  • 1
    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... – Edwin Ashworth Dec 18 '12 at 19:58

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    Then I would recommend at least removing the feminine -e. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Dec 18 '12 at 14:36
  • Why is this downvoted? It reports a respected authority. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 18 '12 at 15:13
  • 2
    Unlike The Knights Who Say 'Ni!' – Edwin Ashworth Dec 18 '12 at 15:23
  • 2
    @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 Dec 18 '12 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. – Richard Gadsden Apr 25 '14 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 .

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I agree it's nonstandard, but since it's a straightforward extension of meaning, I hesitate to call it incorrect. – Mechanical snail Dec 18 '12 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 Dec 18 '12 at 15:38
  • @Kris: 1. D'oh. 2. I require neither your nor the OED's permission... – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Dec 18 '12 at 19:01
  • 1
    @Mechanicalsnail: Very well, added linguisticese circumlocution. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Dec 18 '12 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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    +1 for the argument: but the gloves are off?? Did you mean all bets are off? – Tim Lymington Dec 18 '12 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 Dec 18 '12 at 21:26
  • 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 Dec 19 '12 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.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.