The City of Lights boasts a reputation that rivals every other on the planet – its beautiful architecture, cutting-edge style, and rich history make it a source of inspiration for countless artists and writers. Another, less-popular Parisian export? Sophisticated, feminine baby names!
The following names made the top 200 in Paris in 2015, but are relatively obscure on American shores. They’re melodic and multisyllabic, familiar but not faddish. If you like classic, elegant French names, check out this list for uncommon finds.
Louise. Refined and unassuming, Louise has long been a favorite in English-speaking countries. It’s been more fashionable than retro Louisa in the past, but hasn’t ranked in the US since 1991. Nickname Lulu provides another attractive feature. Could this pretty choice ride Louis’ coattails into greater use?
Romane. Reminiscent of handsome Roman and polished Simone, Romane still has its own unique personality. Though it can shorten to adorable Romy, its length and sonority allow it to grow along with the wearer. One drawback: to many English speakers, it will sound like a variety of lettuce. On the other hand, Kale is on the rise!
Valentine. Pronounced in French as “Val-on-TEEN,” it will be said more like “Val-en-TYNE” in a majority of the United States. Either way, this romantic choice has a friendly attitude about it. Valentin and Valentino rank in the top 1000 for boys, but the feminine Valentine has yet to reach the same popularity.
Clemence. Now that Southern belle Clementine has begun to multiply, might its French cousin Clemence attain notice? Both names come from the Latin root clemens meaning “gentle;” fitting, since Clemence’s soft sound is another positive trait. Nickname Clem is clunky-but-cool as well.
Apolline. Though the name comes from the Greek god of the sun, Apolline has also been worn in Christian circles via its connection to an historic saint. Its melody is similar to Adeline or Caroline, but it’s more poetic and sophisticated. If the long form is too much for daily use, try Polly or Lina.
Mathilde. While Matilda has become mainstream in much of the United Kingdom and Australia, it has not amassed such a following in the United States. However, refreshingly different Mathilde, with a harder tone and headstrong vibe, could appeal to parents who like confident imported names like Ingrid or Adelaide.
Victoire. Could any variant of beloved Victoria ever reach its same popularity rank? Bright and beautiful Victoire is one such contender. It’s been growing in Paris over the past decade, and shows every sign of continuing the climb. Victoire has a winning sound and graceful aura without its sister’s trendy associations.
Margaux. While the established Margot has blossomed in the United States, Parisians prefer this chic, geographic spelling – the village of Margaux has become famous for its wines. Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter also chose this spelling for her name. Margaux is both glamorous and affectionate all in one.
Suzanne. A lovely honorific for a familial Susan, Suzanne is still associated with mid-century fashions for many. Paris, however, has reclaimed it wholeheartedly! It comes from the Hebrew for “lily,” and boasts dozens of namesakes across the globe. Modern nickname Zanne or Zanna will help it relate to today’s name trends, too.
Leonie. Though six masculine Leo names rank in the top 1000, only one feminine form is represented – Leona. Why not try Leonie instead, a vintage option for a leonine little girl? It’s been recorded in the states continually since 1880, but has never become a mainstream choice.
Leonore. This French form of Eleanor is another Leo name for girls; unlike Leonie, it prefers maturity to whimsy and high culture to quirkiness. Still, they work well together in tandem as a full first name and a nickname. Leonore is a royal name in Europe, and a main character in a Beethoven opera.
Constance. Both a Puritan virtue name and a French classic, Constance holds its steadfast connotation regardless of context. It has a plethora of namesakes, from royals to artists to activists, but it’s familiar enough to be recognized without a singular connection. With its inclusion in recent video games and television shows, Constance may achieve more credibility with twentieth-century namers.
Raphaelle. Lyrical and impassioned, Raphaelle calls to mind artistic creations and fashionable individuals. It’s a rarely-used route to nicknames Ella or Ellie; if you’re looking for something different, Rafi and Rae work as well. Raphaelle also has a religious aspect via the eponymous, healing archangel.
Berenice. When The Artist hit American theaters in 2011, audiences were struck by the talented and beautiful actress Berenice Bejo. The name is derived from the same root as Veronica, and pronounced “Beh-reh-NIECE.” While Berenice may be confused with dated Bernice, the extra e adds a lot more oomph to this appealing name.
Celestine. Ethereal and exciting, Celestine adds an extra syllable to delightful Celeste. While it offers a few short form options – Celia, Celie, Tina – the full three syllables connote a more heavenly sound. Though it remained in the top 1000 for about eighty years, it hasn’t ranked since 1963 – could it make a comeback?
Open Data Paris – Girls’ Names 2015