Jean Louis Henri Bousquet has a knack for names. “But,” you may ask, “Who is Jean Louis Henri Bousquet?” Good question. Jean Bousquet is the founder of one of France’s best-known fashion houses, Cacharel.

A native of Nîmes in the Provence region of France, Bousquet moved to Paris in the mid-1950s and officially adopted the name, Cacharel, which he took from the local word for the garganey, a small migratory duck (Anas querquedula) of the Camargue river delta. In 1962, he founded his fashion house and gave it his new name, Cacharel, a name that precisely captured the spirit of his terre natale.

In 1978, Cacharel, in partnership with L’Oréal, launched its first fragrance, Anaïs Anaïs. A distinctly provençal name, Anaïs provided a brilliant choice for Cacharel’s first fragrance and a perfect nod to his beloved Provence. Both Cacharel and Anaïs infuse his brand with his Provençal heritage.

“The delicate and ultra-feminine Anaïs Anaïs,” with its blend of “sweet rose, voluptuous lily, creamy amber and powerful sandalwood,” and “trace of frankincense [that] seals the accord for a sensation of pleasure and intrigue”[i] resonated well with modern young women, and within two years of its launch, Anaïs Anaïs became the leading perfume in Europe.[ii]

The perfume’s success and the enduring cachet of its name contribute much to current familiarity with the name, Anaïs, around the world.  Perhaps Cacharel’s greatest intuition was that the name, Anaïs, is itself a sort of fragrance. Anaïs acts as a metonymy for perfume, taking the positions of both signifier and signified. Cacharel underscores this insight by doubling the name, Anaïs Anaïs, like two spritzes from its porcelain-esque bottle.

Like a fragrance, Anaïs resists definitive interpretations, guarding an air of mystery and intrigue, and hinting at different geographies, languages, names, myths, and histories. An exact etymology is virtually impossible, but certain notes can be discerned.

Top notes or first impressions of the name, Anaïs, are its Provençal and Catalan resonances. Anaïs is often cited as a Provençal and Catalan name for Anne. The particular sound of the name evokes the histories, cultures, languages, dialects, and geographies of Provence, Catalonia and Andorra, whose Mediterranean regions give Anaïs its sweet floral notes.

Top notes also include the various first impressions evoked by the name that, nevertheless, lead to false etymologies. They are mere suggestions, hints, and impressions, and dissipate quickly. Nonetheless, they constitute part of the experience of the name and deserve a brief mention. The impressions could include the Greek water nymph, Danaïs (Naïs, an opera by Jean-Philippe Rameau, was performed in Paris in 1749); the Persian goddess of love, Anahita; and the ancient Irish word for joy and goddess of love, Ainè. Anise, the flowering plant, shares sonorous qualities with the name, Anaïs, and lends to it a certain spicy texture.

The top notes of Anaïs, therefore, are Provence and Catalonia and their respective languages, cultures, and histories; Greek water nymphs; ancient Persian and Irish goddesses of love; joy; anise; femininity; sweetness; spice; mystery; intrigue; softness; and virtually all other individual first impressions evoked by the name.

The middle or heart notes of a fragrance emerge just prior to the dissipation of the top notes. In the case of an etymology of Anaïs, these notes prove more credible.

The first heart note of Anaïs is Anne of which it is certainly a variant form. All Annes can be traced back to Byzantine devotion to Saint Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which began in the Byzantine Empire from very early times. Emperor Justinian built a church to Saint Anne in 550, in which her relics were enshrined in 710. From that time forward, Greek girls and those of adjoining nations who looked to Constantinople as their head, were apt to be christened Anna, and the name spread westward.[iii] Saint Anne is the patron saint of many occupations and places, notably grandmothers, mothers, women in labor, Brittany, and Quebec. Her feast day is celebrated on July 26. Anne carries regal resonances as many queens were named Anne or a variant thereof.

A second heart note of Anaïs may be the name, Isabel, as Anaïs may be the shortened form of the composite name, Ana-Isabel, or Anne-Isabelle in French. Isabel is derived from the Old Spanish name, Elisabet, whose initial syllable, El-, taken for a definite article (“the”), was dropped, and the final syllable, -bet, was replaced by the more common ending, -el. During the Middle Ages, the name, Isabel, spread from Spain to France, England, Italy, Portugal, and Germany.[iv] Saint Elizabeth, the first saint of this name, was the mother of John the Baptist and the cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The feast of Saint Elizabeth is celebrated on November 5. As in the case of Anne, many queens were named a variant form of Elizabeth or Isabel, lending the name a regal quality.

The middle or heart notes of Anaïs are Anne and Isabelle (Ana and Isabel), Saints Anne and Elizabeth, motherhood, and royalty.

The base notes of Anaïs are the ancient words that bring depth and solidity to the name. Anne comes from the Hebrew word, Chaanach, which has the aspirate at each end, signifying favor, mercy, or grace.[v] From Chaanach we get Hannah, and from Hannah, Anna, by way of Greek and Latin. The name, Hannah, is first made known to us in the Old Testament in the name of the mother of the prophet Samuel.

Elizabeth comes from the Hebrew name Elischeba. Elischeba was the wife of Aaron, Moses’ brother. At the period of the Exodus, it had become common to include a dedication to the Deity in the name by beginning or ending the name with a word of divine signification. The Hebrew word, El, a shortened form of Elohim, was the divine title known even before the special revelation to Moses in the burning bush. The Hebrew name, Elischeba, means, “God hath sworn.”[vi]

The base notes of Anaïs are God’s favor, mercy, grace, and promise.

True harmony exists among the notes of the floral-oriental Anaïs, and a trace of grace seals the accord.


[i] <http://www.cacharel.com/_en/_int/home.aspx?lg=en&exo=&&gt;

[ii] Nicholas Rowell, Pierre Chandon, and Klaus Wertenbroch. “Parfums Cacharel de L’Oréal 1997-2007: Decoding and Revitalizing a Classic Brand.” INSEAD Case Studies.  INSEAD, 2007. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.

[iii] Charlotte M. Yonge, History of Christian Names (London: MacMillan and Co., 1884) 41.

[iv] Chantal Tanet and Tristan Hordé, Dictionnaire des prénoms (Paris: Larousse, 2000) 241.

[v] Yonge, 39.

[vi] Yonge, 33.

© Anaïs Saint-Jude, 2017.

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