by Linda Rosenkrantz
When you think of French boy names –and girl names–, words like sophisticated and stylish come to mind. And rightly so. The fifteen French names for boys below are all that and accessible too—Remy, for example, has already been successfully imported, as has Beau. But for some of the rest, pronunciations are given when they might be in doubt.
BLAISE—A French boy name that’s both modern-sounding, as in the fiery Blaze, and rich in history. Saint Blaise is the patron saint of wild animals, Blaise appears in Arthurian legend as Merlin the Magician’s secretary, and Blaise Pascal was an influential 17th century French mathematician, physicist, and inventor of an early digital calculator. Olympic athlete Amanda Beard named her son Blaise Ray.
DIDIER (dee=DYAY) Another early saint’s name, this one with a lot of panache and the appealing meaning of “beloved, desired.” It is sometimes given to an especially longed-for child.
EMILE—Familiar and easy to pronounce, with many distinguished bearers from novelist Emile Zola to actor Emile Hirsch. Well used in the US at the turn of the last century, Emile was recently seen in the TV show Heroes.
GASPARD (GAHS-par)—The French version of Casper and Jasper has long been popular there—it’s currently in the Top 50. It’s known here via the animated series Gaspard and Lisa. French actor Gaspard Ulliel played the young Hannibal Lecter and Yves Saint Laurent in a biopic.
LAZARE—If you’ve been to Paris, this may sound familiar via the train station Gare Saint–Lazare. The French form of Lazarus is almost as popular today as it was in 1900, its smooth sound energized by that middle Z.
LUCIEN—A name that would fit right in with the Luc-names trend, the sophisticated Lucien also shares the enlightened meaning of ‘light’. Lucien Carr was a key figure in Beat Generation lore and Lucien Dubenko was a character on ER.
MALO—An intriguing French possible alternative to Milo with the same up-ending O, Malo is au courant in France right now, ranking at #54. Malo is the name of an important sixth century Breton saint from Wales who founded St Malo, the charming port city in Brittany. More currently, Malo appears in the Legend of Zelda video games.
MAXIME—A Max name with a suave French accent, and sharing the meaning of ‘the greatest’. Maxime currently ranks at #38 in its native France and 44 in Belgium. Without the final E, it’s a Russian classic.
PASCAL—In addition to the surnamed notable referenced above, Pascal‘s meaning links it to the Easter holiday, and so can make a suitable choice born around then, particularly if he has Gallic roots. A chameleon is Disney’s Tangled, Pascal will also resonate with computer freaks for its technological use.
PROSPER—Whether it’s pronounced the French (PRO-spare) or the English word way, Prosper is an aspirational name suggesting success and prosperity. It has strong associations to the author of Carmen, the basis of the opera—Prosper Merimee.
REMY—The one name on this list that has resonated in the US, Remy has proven international charisma. It entered the SSA charts in 2009 and has been rising rapidly since. Some credit must go the delightful rat chef named Remy in Disney’s Ratatouille.
VALENTIN—For your little French valentine, this name is loved throughout Europe and beyond, though the pronunciation of its last syllable tan rather than tin–might not be obvious. Valentin is #838 in the US and 35 in France; it was the birth name of the novelist known as Marcel Proust, and was given to their son by Ali Landry and Alejandro Monteverde in 2013.
Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond Satran of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. In addition to contributing stories on trends and celebrity naming, she guides the editorial content and manages the Nameberry Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can follow her personally at Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.