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New Top French Baby Names

July 24, 2019 Clare Green

By Clare Green

French baby names are just one feature of this week’s news. It also includes new popularity lists from several other countries, alternative ways to pick a baby name, and the ups and downs of sharing your name with someone famous.

French Baby Names and Other International Name News

Name data lovers: we have a triple treat from Europe this week.

France doesn’t release its most popular baby names every year, so it’s extra special when it comes out: you can read the Top 100 names for 2018 here, or download all the statistics ever (well, from 1900 to 2018) here. The boys’ list looks especially angelic, with Gabriel at number 1 and Raphaël at number 2. For girls, international star Emma stays at numéro un. If you’re looking for a French baby name that’s rare to English speakers, there are lots of great options in the Top 100, including Zélie, Apolline, Maxence and Gabin.

Emma was also the top baby name in Belgium in 2018, along with Arthur for boys. Other names in the Top 10 include Victor and Elena.

If you love French names, you’ll enjoy this infographic of the most common French sibling names. The names closest together, and in the same color, are more often in the same family. So you’re likely to find siblings with classic names like Jeanne and Jules, or ancient names like Ulysse and Théophile – but less likely to find, say, Breton Nolwenn as a sister for Arabic Ibrahim.

Onwards to Northern Ireland! There was a tie for the top baby name for boys in 2018, between James and Noah. For girls, Northern Ireland joins the Isle of Man as liking Grace best. The region has also released some interesting statistics like the top middle names (James again, and Rose), and that 14% of boys and 2% of girls were given the name of a parent. More out-of-the-box names spotted on the list include Moana, Axl and Wolf.

Novel naming techniques

Did you use any unusual or fun methods to choose a baby name?

Some parents-to-be use a name bracket (like a sports bracket), pairing names off against each other until they narrow it down to the final favorite. Usually it’s just between themselves, but some open it wider, like this couple from The Bachelor. There’s still time to vote for your preferred name on their shortlist on Instagram stories

It’s a fun compromise between gauging popular opinion and avoiding a free-for-all Boaty McBoatface situation. While they’re under no obligation to use the winning name, it will be interesting to see if the people’s vote sways them.

How about a name generator to find your next (real or hypothetical) baby’s name? We of course recommend our very own Namehunter, but for if you’re looking for a small-batch artisanally crafted name, I’ve just discovered the Hipster Baby Name Generator. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but actually the suggestions are pretty good, and – combination lovers rejoice – give you two middle names. The first one I got was Orion Thorn Thyme.

Boutique baby names: Jasper and Juanita

Several names in the news feel like they might turn up in a list of hipster baby names: they have just the right amount of freshness, in different ways.

The high-profile baby of the week is Jasper Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky’s son. He has the same family middle name as his older siblings Charlotte and Aidan, but this time they’ve chosen a first name that’s still a crowd-pleaser but a little more adventurous. Jasper is in the US Top 200, but way up at number 2 for Nameberry readers, a sign that it will go far.

When it comes to surnames as first names, Smith is much less popular than other occupations like Parker and Cooper. This couple decided it would be perfect for their baby whether it was a boy or a girl, and announced it several months before the birth. Did they get negative reactions? Yes. Did they give it to their daughter anyway? Spoiler alert: also yes, and I must admit I was so relieved they did.

Sometimes names crop up in the most unlikely of places. Juanita had an unexpected wave of popularity in the late nineteenth century in Newfoundland. Although the Canadian island isn’t known for having a large Spanish population, the name traveled there through a popular song. Which shows that taking name inspiration from pop culture is nothing new. In the States, Juanita was at its most popular in the 1920s. Can you see it making a hundred-year comeback?

This essay by N’Jameh Camara is a welcome reminder of how people feel when others label their name as difficult or find ways to avoid saying it. So as she says, instead of calling an unfamiliar name “hard”, let’s call it “unpracticed” – and then practice it.

Notorious namesakes

No matter how hard we try to choose the best names we can for our children, there’s always a chance that somewhere in the future, those names will gain associations no one could have seen coming. Just ask people called Harry Potter and Alexa before Harry Potter and Alexa were things.

As this article discusses, it can be really difficult for people who share the same name as a dictator who falls into infamy. In Spain, for example, there’s a whole generation of men in their mid-forties and above with the same name as Francisco Franco. Many go by Frani, Francis or Cisco, and it’s polite not to mention it.

On the flipside, it can be great to share a name with a positive namesake, like the happy moment this week when Rose Lavelle of the US national soccer team met a young fan named…Rose Lavelle.

Clare Green writes Nameberry’s weekly round-up of the latest baby name news, including celebrity announcements, unusual naming stories, and new statistics from around the world. Clare, who has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, lives in England, where she has worked in libraries and studies linguistics. You can follow her personally on Instagram and Twitter.

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Clare Green


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