French Baby Names: Prune, Anyone?

I was lucky enough to go to Paris recently, and like most tourists, I ate croissants in sidewalk cafes, visited museums, and walked along the Seine.  Unlike most tourists, I also investigated the chicest French baby names.

Prune,” pronounced a very stylish and knowledgeable Parisian woman of my acquaintance.  “Prune is the newest, most charming name for little girls.”

It’s hard to imagine Prune as a charming name for a child in any country, until you realize that in French it’s the equivalent of Plum.  Now THAT makes sense.

For boys, this same friend offered the name Illan, another unlikely translation to English.  In France, it’s pronounced Ee-lahn and sounds quite elegant.

Another friend, who volunteers at a Montessori preschool near the Louvre, said her class includes children named Capucine, the French for nasturtium; Frostine, best known to American children as the queen in Candyland; and Zingo — though Zingo (a boy) is Japanese.

Further investigation turned up the following French baby names on the Paris most-chic list:

girls

ADELE — Asleep in the U.S. but sprightly in Paris.

ANNAELLE — Names that end with AEL or AELLE, which is pronounced ah-el, are typical of Brittany in the north of France.

CLARA — Definitely on the rise in the U.S. as well.

ELOISE — Another name also being rediscovered in the U.S.

ENNA — Pronounced Ay-na.

HELENE — English speakers would say Hel-een but the French prononce this Hell-EHN.

LOU — Many Lou-related names are stylish in France as well as throughout Europe.  Other versions chic now include Lilou (lee-loo) and Malou (mah-loo).

LOUISE — I mention this long form separately from Lou to make the point that the French version of names typically does not end with an “a” sound — Louise vs. Louisa, Diane instead of Diana, Marie not Maria.

LUCILLEMay be part of the Lu craze.

MANUELA — Not a French name but a Latinate one stylish there.

MARGUERITE — In France, more the equivalent of Daisy than of Margaret.

SOLENE — Solange was fashionable a generation ago; this version, pronounced so-lehn, is the stylish one now.

THEA — Pronounced Tay-a.

THELMA — Prettier pronounced the French way — tel-ma — than with that thunk of a “thel.”

VIOLETTE — As Violet is stylish in the U.S., the French version, pronounced vee-oh-let, is chic there.

boys

AMAURY — Bears some relationship to Amery or Amory, also stylish in the U.S.

AUGUSTE –They would say oh-goost.

BASILE — Pronounced bah-ZEEL.

CESAR — The French version takes an accent over the “e.”  This imperial name might be more fit for modern American babydom thanks to the bestselling dog trainer.

EMMANUEL — Biblical choice overdue for revival in other places as well.

FERDINAND — An old pan-European name — do you dare?

FLORENT — One of those boys’ names that can probably only make it in Paris.

JULES — With Julius, taking over from Julian.

LOUIS — The Lou thing.

TANGUY — Very typically French, pronounced tangy with a very emphatic hard g.

THIBAUD — Another classic French choice, pronounced tee-bow.

A note on the illustration: I was hoping to photograph chic French babies, but they were all bundled up in down jackets and (mais oui) scarves, so I had to settle for a chic French baby shop window.

Plus, if you want to search beyond the recent trendies, here’s nameberry’s full complement of French baby names.

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10 Responses to “French Baby Names: Prune, Anyone?”

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Abby Says:

February 25th, 2009 at 7:16 am

I love Marguerite! My husband’s aunt is Malgorzata – the Polish version of Margaret – but I’d happily chose the French version instead.

Basile is cool, too. Prune, though? I’m trying to say it with an accent, and I just can’t wrap my head around it.

Lola Says:

February 25th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

I’ll take Plum over Prune and I know they’re related, but even eating, I prefer plums to prunes. I too, find the Lou sound so appealling, Malou is one that makes me almost drol, I love it so much. Lilou is too movie oriented for me (Fifth Element) but is one of the reasons I have Lucy all over the place in my lists. I briefly considered Marguerite for what became Josephine, just so I could call her Daisy. 🙂 And if Capucine didn’t make most Yanks think of monkeys, I’d use that here in a heartbeat, I love saying Capucine!

On the boys, I could happily name a boy Louis or Cesar, even here. I would use Florent & Tanguy if I lived in France. I also like the somewhat related German Florian. Alas, too girly here in the States.

Melissa Says:

February 25th, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Lola, if you want to be completely smitten by Capucine, check out this darling:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miv-ZEmwtVg

Lola Says:

February 25th, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Oh, thanks Melissa! She was absolutely adorable, even got Josie ‘s attention!

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

February 25th, 2009 at 6:41 pm

I love so many of these: Adele, Clara, Eloise, Violette, Marguerite, Auguste, Basile, Thibaud. Paris can keep Prune and Thelma though! I’m not sure Anaelle translates very well into English either.

Thanks for this list. It’s easy to find numbers, but hard to see what’s hot on the Montessori playground near the Louvre.

Anna Augustin Paris Translation Says:

February 25th, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Hello,

Prune is French slang for a parking ticket so that one’s funny !!

Call +33 6 64 69 12 34 for translation/interpreting in European languages and/or English.

Thank you!!

Emmy Jo Says:

February 26th, 2009 at 3:04 am

I love the girls’ names, especially Clara, Adele, Marguerite, and Violette.

On the boys’ list, I love Jules, and I like Amaury and Auguste.

pam Says:

February 26th, 2009 at 10:32 am

My Montessori teacher friend just sent me this link to a blog with further thoughts on chic French names: http://www.linternaute.com/femmes/famille/bebe/

FRENCH BABY NAMES: The latest trends in French prenoms – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

February 5th, 2010 at 10:48 am

[…] And if you still want more information, check out our Parisian style report on French baby names. […]

eliz Says:

January 6th, 2016 at 2:44 pm

Actually, the French don’t pronounce Hs. Helene would be pronounced “ell-en”

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