Transferred use of a surname well established in South Carolina, an Anglicization of the Dutch surname de Raedt (from Middle Dutch raet ‘advice’). This was brought to North America in 1694 by William Rhett (1666–1723). Robert Barnwell Rhett (1800–76) was a South Carolina congressman and senator, a noted secessionist. The name was used by Margaret Mitchell in Gone with the Wind (1936) for the character of the black sheep and charmer Rhett Butler. Like some of the other unusual names in that novel, it has attained a modest currency.