20 Chic French Names You Should Know About
You know when you see a child (or a picture of one) and think, “Dang, that kid is cooler than I’ll ever be”? That’s how we feel when we hear a lot of the most popular names in France.
I mean, imagine having a playdate with little Capucine or Timéo. You just know they’ll turn up with strong style choices, creative game ideas, and snacks that make you drool (but that your kid probably won't eat).
If you want a head-turningly cool name with international appeal, looking at what’s hot with French parents is a great place to start. Many of the most popular French names are barely known in the States, or else they’re in style limbo. Imagining them on all those chic bébés might just make you see them in a new light.
Top Baby Names in France
The most popular names in France include lyrical vintage gems and sleek modern favorites. Louise, Alice, Louis and Jules are classics that were popular in the early twentieth century, slipped out of style and have now been revived. Meanwhile, short multinational names like Mia, Anna, Léo and Lucas have only taken off in the last thirty years, in France and many other European countries.
Other stand-outs in the Top 10 are angelic Gabriel and Raphaël for boys, and jewel names Jade and Ambre for girls.
20 Cool French Names
As well as the national name statistics, many cities and regions in France publish local name rankings too. My favorite is the most popular baby names in Paris — which includes every name given to 5 or more children in the capital.
It's a treat of a list, blending international favorites, modern French trends, names from francophone Africa, medieval Europe, and more.
It's hard to narrow down to just a few, but here are 20 baby names hand-picked from the Paris data for 2022. They stood out because they were new to me (maybe to you too), or made me curious, or would be perfect for English-speakers to borrow, or are sadly unusable.
Parents are reviving this name from medieval times, the original, and mysterious, form of Eleanor. It was the 86th most popular name in Paris, given to 40 girls.
Ranking at number 50 in Paris, this is a diminutive of the Arabic name Amina, used especially in West Africa. It strikes a perfect balance between simple and elaborate.
Number 54 in Paris, Brune is the French form of Bruna, so a feminine form of Bruno. It’s one of those names — like Prune — that sounds impossibly chic on a French girl, but would sadly be hard to pull off for English-speakers.
A lovely flower name that just doesn’t get enough attention in its English version, Camellia. Given to 14 girls in Paris last year.
Celeste (or technically Celestine) is one of those names that doesn’t have a well-known male counterpart in English. Happily it does in French, and it’s lovely to see it used for 16 boys in Paris. Other names in this group include Émile and Aimé.
This saintly name has had a big revival in France recently, and ranks 32nd in Paris. Its English equivalent, Cosmo, is rare, but is one we’re watching keenly. We’d bet quite a lot it’ll be making a big leap up soon.
Not just a drink, but another name showing the influence of West African communities in Paris, where it is number 92. Fanta is a form of Fatima in the Mandé languages.
Just one of those names that’s well-known in France, but has no English equivalent. It’s a botanical name, meaning the madder plant and its red dye, and ranks 58th in Paris.
We often say that if you really want your child to stand out, name them John or Mary. Well, the same is true in Paris, where the centuries-old classic Guillaume was given to only 6 boys last year. The English equivalent, William, was used 34 times! Other surprisingly rare classics include Julien (8 boys), Vincent (7 boys), and Benoît (6 boys).
Some Parisian parents are using the name of the Greek sun god in its French forms, Hélios (given to 6 boys) and Hélie (8 boys). But Elio is by for the most popular international version, ranking at number 55.
16 Parisian babies boys last year were named Lino, which is both the Italian form of Linus and short for names like Angelino. It has such a cool sound, and is the male equivalent of lovely Lina… if only it weren’t for linoleum.
The name Wolf is on the rise for English speakers, and so is its French equivalent — it was given to 18 boys in Paris last year. It has the added perk that names with a “Lou” sound are popular, so it fits right in.
This intriguing name, also spelled Mahault, is a medieval French form of Matilda, rather like Maud was in English. 26 girls in Paris got this name in 2022.
Milo meets Marlow in this boy name, which ranks at number 63 in Paris, and number 25 in France. It’s a Breton name, supposedly belonging to a medieval Welsh saint, and best known to outsiders from the port town Saint-Malo.
Given to 7 baby girls in Paris, this name came to French parents’ attention via Mazarine Pingeot, the illegitimate daughter of former president François Mitterrand. She is said to have been named after the Bibliothèque Mazarine, the oldest public library in France. Mazarine is also a deep blue color: both derive from the same cardinal’s name. If you like the sound of on-trend Mazikeen but aren’t a raging Lucifer fan, it could be an alternative.
Names with a N_LA pattern are popular in Paris: Nelya sits just outside the Top 100, and Naïla, Nayla, Nélia, and Neyla also rank. It seems to be either from the Helen/Eleanor group of names, or a diminutive of Cornelia… or both.
I’m a sucker for diminutives ending in -on, and Ninon is one of the most interesting as it comes, via a roundabout route, from Anne. It was given to 22 girls in Paris last year. Others in this style include Manon, from Marie, and Lison, from Élisabeth.
Mystery name (also spelled Soan) possibly related to the John family of names. If Soren is already too basic for you ('#namenerdproblems), may I recommend this as a worthy successor. It was used 43 times in 2022.
A classic French literary surname, from Proust’s magnum opus In Search of Lost Time. It lives on as a unisex name (given to 9 girls and 13 boys) over a century after the books were first published.
Given to 17 Parisian boys last year and pronounced “tee-djan”, this name comes from Tijaniyyah, an order of Sufi mysticism from North Africa. It’s probably too specific for most people, but it intrigued me as I’d never heard it before.
This article is adapted from a post in the Nameberry Newsletter.