I was lucky enough to go to Paris recently, and like most tourists, I ate croissants in sidewalk cafes, visited museums, and walked along the Seine. Unlike most tourists, I also investigated the chicest French baby names.
It’s hard to imagine Prune as a charming name for a child in any country, until you realize that in French it’s the equivalent of Plum. Now THAT makes sense.
For boys, this same friend offered the name Illan, another unlikely translation to English. In France, it’s pronounced Ee-lahn and sounds quite elegant.
Another friend, who volunteers at a Montessori preschool near the Louvre, said her class includes children named Capucine, the French for nasturtium; Frostine, best known to American children as the queen in Candyland; and Zingo — though Zingo (a boy) is Japanese.
CLARA — Definitely on the rise in the U.S. as well.
ELOISE — Another name also being rediscovered in the U.S.
ENNA — Pronounced Ay-na.
HELENE — English speakers would say Hel-een but the French prononce this Hell-EHN.
LOUISE — I mention this long form separately from Lou to make the point that the French version of names typically does not end with an “a” sound — Louise vs. Louisa, Diane instead of Diana, Marie not Maria.
MANUELA — Not a French name but a Latinate one stylish there.
SOLENE — Solange was fashionable a generation ago; this version, pronounced so-lehn, is the stylish one now.
THELMA — Prettier pronounced the French way — tel-ma — than with that thunk of a “thel.”
AUGUSTE – They would say oh-goost.
BASILE — Pronounced bah-ZEEL.
CESAR — The French version takes an accent over the “e.” This imperial name might be more fit for modern American babydom thanks to the bestselling dog trainer.
EMMANUEL — Biblical choice overdue for revival in other places as well.
FERDINAND — An old pan-European name — do you dare?
TANGUY — Very typically French, pronounced tangy with a very emphatic hard g.
THIBAUD — Another classic French choice, pronounced tee-bow.
A note on the illustration: I was hoping to photograph chic French babies, but they were all bundled up in down jackets and (mais oui) scarves, so I had to settle for a chic French baby shop window.
Plus, if you want to search beyond the recent trendies, here’s nameberry’s full complement of French baby names.