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By Pamela Redmond Satran

There’s a new generation of names popular in Paris, all fresh and chic-sounding beyond the French borders.  Will they translate to the English-speaking world?  The Francophiles among us might like to try.

These names are widely used in contemporary France and might make exotic choices for a baby in Los Angeles or London.

girls

Amandine – The French Amanda, John Malkovich introduced this lovely name to the wider world when he used this for his now-grown daughter.

Apolline – The Apollo relative was used by J.K. Rowling for a Frenchified character.

Capucine – Once associated with a hypersexy French actress, this ancient name is newly chic.

Clemence – Actress Clemence Poesy has popularized this French version of our Clementine, pronounced clay-mahns.

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French Baby Names Update

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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 meilleursprénoms.com 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.

Filles

Garçons

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, Lou-Ann(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 MeilleursPrenoms.com 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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Most Popular Names: Quebec 2009

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The official lists of most popular names of 2009 are starting to come in, and one of the most intriguing is from Quebec, the Canadian province where French is an official language and baby names have a distinct style.

The most popular names in Quebec are very different from those in the U.S. and other primarily English-speaking places, but different too from France.

While some choices on the Top 50 most popular names for each gender are familiar, others are wildly divergent. Emma, number 1 in the US, is number 3 in Quebec, for instance, with Chloe, Sarah, and Emilie (as opposed to Emily) also in the Top 25. The international William is Number 1 for boys, with U.S. most popular Jacob in 11th place and Zachary, Benjamin, Noah, Anthony, and Justin in the Top 25.

But then you have other names near the top of the list that are unusual or virtually unknown in the U.S. and the U.K. Lea, usually with an accent as Léa, is the Number 1 girls’ name, with such exotic choices as Maika, Noemie, Coralie, Laurence, Maelie, and Oceane in the girls’ Top 25. For boys, the Top 25 includes Olivier, Alexis, Felix, Antoine, Emile, Loic, and Mathis, pronounced Mat-TEES.

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To check out the latest trends in French baby names, we turned to a true expert, Stéphanie Rapoport, creator of the popular site meilleursprénoms.com and author of L’Officiel des Prénoms 2010.  For anyone conversant in French, the site is filled with interesting lists, charts and analysis on French baby names.

And for those whose high school French is as shaky as mine, we asked Stéphanie to give us a recap, which she’s been kind enough to do:

Baby names in France have never been shorter: exit Sébastien, Alexandre, Frédéric, Caroline, Nathalie, Angélique—the popular names of the 1980’s.  Emma, Léa, Clara now take the limelight as the most popular feminine names, while Lucas, Enzo and Nathan dominate the masculine ranking tables.

As a result, diminutives such as Lou, Tom, Théo and Alex are doing wonders.  Few analysts would have predicted such a phenomenon in a culture which used to disdain diminutives as merely “half names.

Ending sounds are also shaping to a large extent what becomes trendy and what does not.  Fashionable feminine names tend to end in the vowel ‘a’ (Emma, Sara, Léa, Clara, Lola, Éva, Louna and Lina being in the forefront).  Then there’s the explosion caused by Lilou, a new name which has led to the discovery of Louane and renewed interest in hyphenated names such as Lou-Anne.  For boys, names with ‘eo’ vowel juxtapositions abound, as in Léo, Théo, Mathéo, also o-endings (Hugo, Enzo) and names ending in ‘an’—Nathan, Ethan, Kylian, Evan, Esteban.

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Exotic Lite: Girls’ Edition

exotic baby names

There are some names that are not quite English, or American, but not quite not English either.  These include international variations of classic English names – such as Katarina for Katherine – and names that are widely heard around the world but remain unusual in English-speaking countries.

The list below – we’re just doing the girls today – is taken from the most popular names rosters throughout Europe and South America and, in a few cases, further afield.  If you want an exotic name for your daughter that sill feels familiar, this list is a good place to start.

ADI – Israeli favorite meaning jewel, pronounced ah-DEE and used for boys as well as girls.

ALBA—Pronounced AHL-bah, this means dawn and is popular in Spain.

ANNIAnne diminutive used as a full name in Finland.

ANNIKA – Golfer Sorenson has made this one more familiar in the U.S., but it’s most popular in Denmark.

AURORA—This lovely name meaning dawn is growing in popularity in the U.S., but is most widely used in (odd pair) Finland and Italy.

BEATRIZ – Form of nameberry favorite popular in Portugal and Brazil.

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