Category: biblical names

French Baby Names Update


To check out the latest trends in French baby names—-and see what the future holds– we turn once again to our favorite French correspondent, Stéphanie Rapoport, creator of the popular site meilleurspré and author of L’Officiel des Prénoms 2011, the latest edition of which is available on French Amazon.

Here is my forecast for the Top 20 French baby names of  2011 based on statistical data from Insee, the national institute of statistics in France. The names displayed in italics are variant spellings which have been given to more than 500 babies this year.



1. Emma 1. Lucas, Luca, Luka(s)
2. Jade 2. Mathis, Mathys, Matis
3. Chloé, Cloé 3. Noah, Noa
4. Sarah, Sara 4. Nathan
5. Léa 5. Mathéo, Matteo, Mateo
6. Manon 6. Enzo
7. Louna, Luna 7. Louis
8. Inès, Ynès 8. Raphaël, Rafaël
9. Lilou, Lylou 9. Ethan
10. Camille 10. Gabriel
11. Clara 11. Jules
12. Maëlys 12. Maxime
13. Zoé 13. Yanis
14. Louise 14. Théo, Téo
15. Lola 15. Arthur
16. Lina, Lyna 16. Tom
17. Lily, Lilly, Lili 17. Hugo
18. Eva 18. Timéo
19. Louan(n)e, LouAnn(e) 19. Thomas
20. Lucie 20. Kylian, Killian


This year, Gabriel, Samuel and Louis have shown unexpected gains in the rankings. On the other hand, Marie has plunged to 37th place, down almost 20 spots in one year. Marie was the most common name from the 15th to the 20th century in France, but although more than 1.3 million French women are still named Marie, it has finally had to let new names take over.

The rise of Old Testament names like Nathan, Gabriel, Raphaël and Noah (Noé) comes in striking contrast to the decline of Marie. The fact that the country is largely Catholic has, for centuries, resulted in the choice of traditional names such as Paul, Pierre, Luc, Jean, Mathieu or Anne, Marie, Jeanne, Catherine.

But today, Old Testament names have become more prominent, after having disappeared for centuries– Aaron, Adam, Éden, Samuel, Ruben, Maya, Noa, Eden and Talia are the rising stars of 2010.

Americans might ask: What about our consistent champion Jacob ? Well, this name has never made it into the limelight here; over the 20th century, it has never been given to more than 50 French babies in any year. In 2010, Jacob has been given to only 25 boys, so that it doesn’t even register in the top 1000. Unlike Joshua, with its dual dimension as a Protestant and Jewish name, (Joshua appears in the top 200 this year), Jacob tends to be considered as a very religious Jewish name, a tag shunned by most other parents in this increasingly secular society. 

 Stephanie Rapoport created with her husband Stuart in 2000, frustrated because “it had been so hard to choose the names of our children and the web at that time did not provide great sites such as Nameberry and MeilleursPrenoms”  Her first book, “Officiel des prenomswas published in 2002 and she has been enriching it with new name statistics analysis every year since.

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Antiquarian Names: Colonial craftsmen names


For a number of years, when I wasn’t writing about names, I was writing about antiques and collectibles for a syndicated newspaper column.  But of course when I was thinking about antiques, I was still also thinking about names.

Looking at the field of antique furniture, for example, I found that when it came to early British cabinetmakers, the names were relatively unexciting.  George Hepplewhite. Robert Adams. Thomas Chippendale. Thomas Sheraton.  Nothing too juicy there.

But with the Early American cabinetmakers and clockmakers it was quite a different story.  Lots of antiquated Biblical names, more than one Chauncey, Ebenezer and Lemuel, a few virtue names rarely heard in modern times (Prudent, Noble), a couple of Latinate names and a Greek god—in other words a variegated picture of American Colonial and Federal era nomenclature:

Some prime examples:

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Most of us are familiar with the names of at least a few angels—after all, archangels Michael and Gabriel and to a lesser extent Raphael, have had widespread and long-lasting popularity over the years.

But there is a profusion of other angelic creatures whose names are not as well known.  Thought of as messengers of light, angels are seen as reflecting God’s radiance.  There are Biblical angels, seraphim and cherubs, and guardian angels who oversee various days, months, Zodiac signs, natural elements and virtues.  There are angels in Persian and other Eastern religions and mythologies, and angels in works of fiction.

Then of course there is the whole family of straightforward Angel names–Angela, Angelica, Angelo, et al, that mean ‘angel’ or ‘messenger’; Evangeline, whose meaning,  ‘good messenger’ relates to angel, and Seraphina, which is derived from the word seraphim.

Here, from various sources are 25 angel names worth considering:

  1. Abraxos – ancient name attributed to an angel
  2. Arael – angel of birds
  3. Cael –an angel ruling over the Zodiac sign of Cancer
  4. Calliel — a throne angel invoked to bring prompt help over adversity
  5. Charoum – angel of silence
  6. Dabria – one of five angels who transcribed the books that the Hebrew prophet Ezra dictated
  7. Dara – angel of rains and rivers in Persian mythology
  8. Dina – guardian angel of learning and wisdom
  9. Ezriel—an angel’s name discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  10. Hariel —  the archangel who rules over December, the dawn and Capricorn; also the angel of tame animals and ruler of science and the arts
  11. Irin – the name of twin angels who constitute the supreme judgment of the heavenly court
  12. Janiel – angel ruling Tuesday and the east wind
  13. Javan – the guardian angel of Greece
  14.  Kemuel – chief of the seraphim who stands at the window of heaven
  15. Laila, Lailah, Layla –the angel of conception who oversees and protects childbirth
  16. Nabu – a recording angel in heaven
  17. Nitika – Native American name meaning angel of precious stones
  18. Rabia – one of the ten angels accompanying the sun on its daily course
  19. Rachiel – angel who rules Venus and governs sexuality
  20. Raziel – an archangel who guards the secrets of the universe, the angel of mysteries
  21. Sarea – another of the five angels who transcribed the books the prophet Ezra dictated
  22. Tariel—the angel of summer
  23. Uriel – angel of the month of September, of those born under the signs of Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn; an angel of creativity
  24. Yael/Jael – a cherub who attends the throne of God
  25. Zaniel – angel who rules Mondays and the sign of Libra

Do you have a favorite angel name of your own?

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Baby Name Mary

For the arrival of May, official month of the Virgin Mary, we revisit her name and some of its many variations.

May, as any Catholic schoolchild can tell you, is the official month of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God.  Which might make Mary an appropriate name for a girl born this month, except after a 400 year run, Mary is more than ready for semi-retirement.

The good news is that you can hold onto Mary’s symbolic value by choosing one of her fresh, appealing variations.  And there are literally dozens of them, formal and breezily nicknameish, ultrafemme and down-to-earth.  Some of the options:

MADONNA – There’s only one Madonna – and it’s not the plaster one in the blue alcove at church.  The pop star has all but taken over this formerly holy name and rebranded it with a modern in-your-face sexuality.  Do you dare use it for your child?  Do you want to?  Maybe not yet, but with names like Elvis and Scarlett gaining widespread popularity a generation or two after the fame of their original bearers, we all might end up having grandchildren named Madonna.

MAE and MAY – A mere handful of years ago, Mae was a quintessential old-lady name, barely baby-appropriate, but today it feels as sweetly simple as a warm day in the sun.  Can be a short form for any of the Mary variations and also makes a good middle name.

MAISIEMaisie takes Daisy and raises it one.  An insouciant, charming name, Maisie can be given on its own or can be used as a short form for any of the Mary variations – or even for Margaret.

MAMIEMamie is sassier than either Mae or Maisie, though definitely in the same family.  An old-fashioned nickname that’s enjoying another day in the sun, Mamie was the name of President Eisenhower’s wife and is also the nickname of Meryl Streep’s actress daughter – both mother and daughter are properly named Mary Louise.

MANON – This French diminutive of Marie is very popular in its own right there and would make a distinctive and unusual choice here, but one with some genuine underpinnings.  Parents considering Manon should see the French film, Manon of the Spring.

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Naming Your Easter Baby

Easter Baby Names

It’s time again for our annual Easter basketful of names—those that relate directly to the holiday and relevant biblical personages, Easter nature names and names that suggest rebirth.


EASTER – Less common than Christmas but definitely a holiday name that works in its plain English version.

PARASHA – A Russian girls’ name that means “born on Good Friday.”

PASCAL etc. – There are many attractive versions of this name. The French Pascal, for boys, and Pascale for girls is especially appealing. The Spanish versions are Pascual and Pascuala; Italian is Pasquale.

PASCOE – English twist (Cornish, technically) on the Easter name popular in medieval times. PASCO is another spelling.

SUNDAY – This day name somehow seems best related to the Easter holiday and season.


JAMES, JOHN and PETER – Prayed in the garden with Jesus (but fell asleep)

JOANNA – Lesser known Biblical personage who was one of the women at Jesus’ tomb.

JOSEPH of Arimathea – According to the Bible, wrapped the body of Jesus in a clean shroud and placed it in his own tomb.

Mary MAGDALENE – The prime female figure in the Easter story, she witnessed the crucifixion, accompanied the body to the tomb, and later with the other women discovered the Resurrection. A saint, she is a symbol of penitence. Her name means “from Magdala.”

MARY – Mother of James the Younger and Joseph, accompanied Mary Magdalene in her vigil at the crucifixion and with Jesus’ body.

NICODEMUSSecret follower of Jesus who placed myrrh and aloes in Jesus’ shroud so he could be buried according to Jewish custom.

SALOME – One of the women at the tomb.

SIMON of Cyrene – Helped Jesus carry the cross.

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