Reims or Rheims?

The correct spelling is Reims.

The City’s Name

French Origin

Reims is a city in the Grand Est region of northeastern France. Its name originated from the Gaulish language spoken by the Celtic tribes that inhabited the area before the Roman conquest. The name is derived from the Gaulish word “Remis” meaning “promontory” or “fort” likely referring to the city’s strategic defensive position on higher ground.

Traditional French Spelling

Throughout French history, the city’s name has maintained the traditional spelling of Reims, without an “h” after the initial “R”. This is the accepted spelling that has been used consistently in the French language over many centuries. French speakers have always pronounced the name more like the English “Ranse” rather than stressing the “R” sound.

English Spelling Variation

When the name for the French city was borrowed into English in earlier centuries, some English speakers began inserting an “h” after the leading “R” to spell it as “Rheims”. This variation likely arose due to pronunciation influences from other languages, attempting to create a spelling that matches stressing the hard “R” sound more typical in English.

Modern Standard

However, in modern standard English usage, the preferred spelling has reverted back to the traditional French form of simply “Reims” without the additional “h”. This matches the original French spelling as well as the standard Romanized rendering used in most authoritative texts and publications.

Why It Matters

Cultural Importance

Getting the city’s name spelling correct is important because Reims holds immense historical and cultural significance in France. Dating back to the 5th century, Reims has been one of the nation’s most crucial cities. It was the traditional coronation site for French royalty, hosting the coronations of nearly all French kings from 1027 to 1825.

Famous Landmarks

Reims is world-famous for its breathtaking Gothic cathedral, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims, where those coronations took place. Using the proper spelling prevents confusion when discussing and writing about this iconic cathedral and other key landmarks like the Basilique Saint-Remi.

Clarity in Writing

Overall, using the standard modern English spelling of “Reims” provides clarity and accuracy in all writing that references this vital French city. It shows respect for the cultural heritage by maintaining the original French spelling. While some very old English texts used the “Rheims” variation, the “Reims” spelling is now strongly preferred by all mainstream sources.

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