Springtime in Paris: A New Generation of French Names

By Pamela Redmond Satran

There’s a new generation of names popular in Paris, all fresh and chic-sounding beyond the French borders.  Will they translate to the English-speaking world?  The Francophiles among us might like to try.

These names are widely used in contemporary France and might make exotic choices for a baby in Los Angeles or London.


Amandine – The French Amanda, John Malkovich introduced this lovely name to the wider world when he used this for his now-grown daughter.

Apolline – The Apollo relative was used by J.K. Rowling for a Frenchified character.

Capucine – Once associated with a hypersexy French actress, this ancient name is newly chic.

Clemence – Actress Clemence Poesy has popularized this French version of our Clementine, pronounced clay-mahns.

Faustine – Most English-speakers would pronounce the first syllable with an “ow” sound, as in house, but in France they pronounce it to rhyme with frost or cost: much prettier.

Lilou – This pet form of the Lilian family of names stems from Occitan, a language spoken in Provence, and is pronounce lee-loo.

Maelys – The feminine form of the Breton saint’s name Mael, Maelys usually takes a dipthong over the e – which can be challenging to enforce.  The first syllable may be pronounced like mail or can be forced into two syllables – mah-el – and the dominant second syllable may end with either an s or a z sound: mayl-EESE, mah-el-EEZ, or something in between.

Manon – A diminutive of Marie, Manon can be a fresh way to honor Grandma Mary.  Homeland actor Damian Lewis has a daughter named Manon.

Romane – Part of the Roman family, pronunciation is row-men, with equal emphasis on each syllable.

Solene – This relative of Solange is pronounced so-LEHN.

Victoire – Another name used in Harry Potter, this French twist freshens up Victoria – though the veek-twahr pronunciation may be challenging.


Baptiste – Stylish in Paris though may feel a bit old-school religious for many outside of France.

Bastien – Sebastian has been in the Top 100 in the U.S. for over a decade, but Bastien both simplifies it and makes it newer.

Corentin – Corentin is an ancient saint’s name very popular in France but virtually unknown beyond.  Pronunciation is cor-en-TAN.

JulesOne of the simplest of the fashionable French names, Jules might be a newer way to say Julian.

Marius – Marius is one of those names that feels familiar and exotic at the same time.  Much chicer than Italian cousin Mario.

Mathis — Very popular in France and pronounced mah-TEES like the painter, this name may update or honor Matthew.

Maxime and Maxence – Looking for a fresh route to Max?  Consider one of these French long forms.

Thibault – Cool but pronunciation challenged: It’s tee-bo.


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14 Responses to “Springtime in Paris: A New Generation of French Names”

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makeupbyjanine Says:

May 28th, 2013 at 2:11 am

Bastien/an will always be Neverending Story to me. It is a sweet name, though.

Tiggerian Says:

May 28th, 2013 at 3:14 am

I love Lilou! – but as a nick name. I like Bastien as well, but yes, I’m of the Neverending Story generation too!

Tuitree Says:

May 28th, 2013 at 4:34 am

Maelys is beautiful. Adding it to the list!

maggiemary Says:

May 28th, 2013 at 4:37 am

I love Clemence and Maelys for the girls. I think is Clemence is usable in English tongues but I’m not sure if us English-speakers could get away with Maelys.

Corentin and Mathis are stunning for the boys. I feel two new additions to my list coming on!

sapphires Says:

May 28th, 2013 at 6:01 am

I’ve loved Maxence for so long now, nice to see it get some recognition!

imogeneve Says:

May 28th, 2013 at 7:18 am

Lilou is so cute.

Ysaline Says:

May 28th, 2013 at 7:39 am

This is a nice list, but I must note that your pronunciations are a bit off. Faustine would be pronounced by a French person with the same sound as the word faux, not like foster. I actually think an American might be more inclined to pronounce it like foster, because the first few letters might recall the word faucet. You got it right with Thibault –
there’s that ‘au’ vowel combination again.

Romane is pronounced ro-MANN, not ro-men. The A sound might be a bit different spoken by a European vs. an American, but basically it rhymes with Anne or Suzanne, however you pronounce those names.

I think many of these could (and should!) become more popular in the English-speaking world, although I think Capucine would be a tough sell. Glad to see my son’s name on the list!

LyndsayJenness Says:

May 28th, 2013 at 7:47 am

I’ve been in love with Apolline for years. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to use it, but I think it’s so lovely.

karateleshi80 Says:

May 28th, 2013 at 11:45 am

I actually prefer most of these names to their usual counterparts (much more sophisticated) but I think non-French speaking people would struggle to pull off pronouncing these names. An English, American or Australian person for example would pronounce the names differently. Having more than one way of pronouncing the names would be frustrating to the parents and child too. People pronounce my name three different ways even though mine is pronounced and spelt the most common way.

mge28 Says:

May 28th, 2013 at 11:46 am

Oooh! I love Amandine, Apolline, Capucine, Solene, Victoire, Lilou, Corentin, Mathis, and Maxime/Maxence.

beeba Says:

May 28th, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I’ve been in love with the name Apolline since I have joined the site.

Taz Says:

May 28th, 2013 at 8:53 pm

I think I like the ghastly unfashionable -ette names more than most of this girl list.

keagan Says:

May 29th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I had a little girl named Faustine in my nursery not too long ago, very different!

shelly68 Says:

September 14th, 2014 at 3:57 pm

I love Capucine! In my opinion, she was the most beautiful actress ever! She was more of an Italian beauty then Sophia Loren, in my opinion.

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