You could say that the name Durelle debuted in the U.S. baby name data twice — first as a girl name in the ’30s, next as a boy name in the ’50s.
The name’s very first appearance in the data was in 1936:
- 1941: unlisted
- 1940: 5 baby girls named Durelle
- 1939: unlisted
- 1938: unlisted
- 1937: 6 baby girls named Durelle
- 1936: 12 baby girls named Durelle
- 1935: unlisted
This initial influence here was female entertainer Durelle Alexander, who was born in Texas in 1918.
She’d started out as a child actor, then re-emerged during her teen years as a vocalist associated primarily with bandleader Paul Whiteman. She sang on the radio, made recordings, and toured with Whiteman’s orchestra (and several others) before getting married in 1939 and retiring from the music business.
Around that time, the name Durelle dropped off the charts entirely…
…But, about two decades later, the name reemerged on the boys’ side of the list:
- 1959: unlisted
- 1958: 6 baby boys named Durelle
- 1957: unlisted
It was the year that French Canadian boxer Yvon Durelle, the “Fighting Fisherman,” challenged American boxer Archie Moore for the World Light Heavyweight title. By all accounts it was a sensational match, with each man knocking the other down multiple times before Moore finally prevailed in the 11th round.
The fight not only made Durelle a legend in Canada, but it “was one of the first to be broadcast coast-to-coast on American television.” This wide exposure of the surname Durelle — and the unmistakably masculine association — is what boosted the name back into the data, but as a boy name. The uncommon name Yvon also saw peak usage in 1958/1959.
I’m not sure about the origin (coining?) of Durelle Alexander’s first name, but Yvon Durelle’s surname can be traced back to the Old French word dur, meaning “hard(y).”
Do you like the name Durelle more as a girl name or as a boy name?
- Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
- Rayno, Don. Paul Whiteman: Pioneer in American Music, 1930-1967. Vol. 2. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009.
- Sares, Ted. “Back from the Brink of Defeat: Archie Moore v. Yvon Durelle.” Bad Left Hook 20 Oct. 2010.
P.S. Durelle saw peak usage (as a boy name) in 1985 thanks to Star Search contestant Durell Coleman.