Best French baby names (for better or worse!)

Best French baby names (for better or worse!)

by Audrey Sivadier

Updated December 29, 2022

Since 1993, in France, parents are completely free to name their children. Some have remained sober, and others have felt very inspired… a little too much… Here is the story of the best French first names, for better or for worse!

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Timeline of French baby names

Some names have marked an era:

In the ’40s and ’50s: Robert, Charles, Gérard, Jacqueline and Monique.

In the 60’s, we loved names composed with Catholic first names (Marie for women, and Jean for men): Marie-France, Marie–Amélie, Anne-Marie and Jean-Luc, Jean-Louis, Jean-Claude, Jean-Christophe…

In the 70’s, it was back to one-word names: Stéphanie / Stéphane, Christelle / Christophe, Frédérique/Frédéric, Valérie, Sébastien, Céline, Nicolas, Sophie…

In the 80’s, for girls, it was the ending in “-ie” that dominates: Aurélie, Élodie, Émilie, Julie. For the boys, it was a fierce fight between Nicolas, Julien and Sébastien.

If it makes you laugh, you can take a look at the ranking of the most given first names on the very serious website of Insee (the national polling institute in France).

In the ‘90s, thanks to or because of American shows, French names are more and more influenced by the global culture, and we see the appearance of Kelly, Brandon, Dylan…

That’s why even if you don’t know a person but you know his or her first name, chances are you can guess his or her age.

Current best French first names

Girls tend to have short first names (no more than two syllables) ending in “a”.

Here are the top 10 French first names for girls:

  1. Emma
  2. Jade
  3. Louise
  4. Alice
  5. Chloe
  6. Lina
  7. Rose
  8. Léa
  9. Anna
  10. Mila

For boys, there is also a tendency to use short first names, and more and more first names from the Old Testament are being used.

Here are the top 10 French first names for boys:

  1. Gabriel
  2. Raphaël
  3. Leo
  4. Louis
  5. Lucas
  6. Adam
  7. Arthur
  8. Hugo
  9. Jules
  10. Maël

Current favourite French names

The current general trend for both girls and boys is the return of old first names. That is to say, the first names of our grandparents or even great-grandparents, such as Jeanne, Louise, Alice or Marcel, Léon, Louis.

Another strong trend, on the side of girls and boys, is the presence of “chameleon” first names, which have a cultural or historical resonance in each of the three monotheistic religions and which, thanks to their sounds, can also have the advantage of appealing to non-religious people. The other significant advantage of this type of name is its “worldwide” character. The younger generations, but also the future generations, move a lot from country to country for their studies or work. Choosing a first name that can be used in all countries means avoiding the risk of your child being too culturally marked by the way he or she calls himself or herself. 

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French first names to avoid

Yes, the names that follow have really been chosen by parents. As I told you, since 1993, you can give any name to your child. You should know that today, one child in 10 in France is born with a first name that he or she has. The imagination of their parents is truly unique!

Asterix, Audi, Bento, Bond, Burger, Gabry-aile (Gabriel’s delirious spelling), Genou (knee in French) Google, Hashtag, Marie-Mercredi (= Mary-Wednesday! What about Marie-Jeudi? or Jean-Lundi?). This is a selection of the worst first names that have been accepted by the French civil registry. 

Celebrity names in France

And finally, the name that should not have been given before watching the end of the Game of Thrones series, because the character has turned into a bloodthirsty psychopath:

Daenerys: 81 girls have this name in France (including 18 born in 2017)

Khaleesi: 77 girls now have this famous name.

Well, some of them have been refused by the French justice in the interest of the child. The most recent one, “Griezmann-Mbappé“, is taken from the surnames of two of the goalscorers of the French football team, which won the World Cup in 2018.

Finally, I recommend the excellent film Le Prénom, which is based on a play: Vincent is going to be a father for the first time, and when asked if he has already chosen the first name for the unborn child, his answer plunges the family into chaos.

So, if you are a future parent, good luck finding a name for your child! And by the way, do you know the history of your own first name?

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Audrey has been a French teacher for more than ten years now, and a cheese-lover all her life. She comes from the west of France, and after living 2 years in Spain and 4 years in Oxford in England, she has just settled in the heart of France, in Auvergne, a land of cheese, rugby, Michelin tires and ancient volcanoes. Audrey definitely prefers the first one. She speaks French, Spanish and English, and just started German, nothing better to understand her students who tremble at the French grammar! When she is not teaching, she tries to find time to cook or sing in a choir. She loves to invite people to her house to feed them and trap them with musical blind tests designed and adapted to her guests! Find out more about her on her website and LinkedIn.

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