French Baby Names: Prune, Anyone?

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:


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.


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.

About the Author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry and Baby Name DNA. The coauthor of ten groundbreaking books on names, Redmond is an internationally-recognized baby name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show, CNN, and the BBC. She has written about baby names for The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and People.

Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its sequel, Older. She has three new books in the works.