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.
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.
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.
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.
MANUELA — Not a French name but a Latinate one stylish there.
SOLENE — Solange was fashionable a generation ago; this version, pronounced so-lehn, is the stylish one now.
THELMA — Prettier pronounced the French way — tel-ma — than with that thunk of a “thel.”
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?
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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on 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.
on 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.
on February 25th, 2009 at 1:30 pm
Lola, if you want to be completely smitten by Capucine, check out this darling:
on February 25th, 2009 at 2:23 pm
Oh, thanks Melissa! She was absolutely adorable, even got Josie ‘s attention!
on 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 Said
on February 25th, 2009 at 7:13 pm
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.
Emmy Jo Said
on 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.
on 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 Said
on February 5th, 2010 at 10:48 am
[…] And if you still want more information, check out our Parisian style report on French baby names. […]
on January 6th, 2016 at 2:44 pm
Actually, the French don’t pronounce Hs. Helene would be pronounced “ell-en”
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