By Meredith Testa
American parents have always seemed more attracted to French names for their daughters than their sons: from Julie in the 60s to Stephanie and Nicole and Danielle in the 80s to Charlotte today, it’s never difficult to find a French name near the top of the girls’ popularity chart.
But there remains a host of undiscovered possibilities from the French popularity list:
Anais–Like Maelys, Anais is a bit of a pronunciation challenge. It’s ah-nah-yees, as in Cuban-American writer Anais Nin (who was born Angela). Musician Noel Gallagher has a daughter named Anais. Its French popularity is sometimes linked back to the popular perfume, Anais Anais.
Salome– Pronounced either sa-LOH-mee or SAL-oh-may, this name has been held back in America by its association with a biblical villain. But there’s also a lot to love about Salome– there’s another biblical character who bears the name, one of the women who discovered Jesus‘ empty tomb. It comes from the Hebrew word “shalom,” meaning “peace.” And the sound is lovely, unusual, and lends itself to nicknames like May, Mia, Sally, or even Lola. I think these factors mean Salome could be resurrected- and it already has been in France, among other European countries.
Kenza– Kenza, an Arabic name meaning treasure, could follow on the heels of Mackenzie in America. There was an 8th century queen of Morocco called Kenza, and now several contemporary celebrities bear the name, which was as high as #61 in France in 2000.
Thais– This Greek name, pronounced TAH-ees, is popular in both France and Latin America. It’s unusual and appealing, a winning combination for parents who want a name off the beaten path. Thais is the title character in an opera by Massenet.
Oceane– The name Oceanus is famous for having been worn by the baby born on the Mayflower, and Oceane is the French feminine form. It’s a great option for daring, seafaring parents and has been wildly popular in France for several years.