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?
Long boys' names ending in o spell romance and elegance: think Alessandro, Lorenzo and Valentino. But the same o ending on a shorter name takes on a different personality. It becomes more playful, full of energy and surprises.
The fun-loving o names are a rising style for American boys. The leader of the pack is Leo, a pint-size throwback that's as lively as a lion cub. It's joined by a rising group of old-time revivals with a similar sense of whimsy. The o energizes names like Milo and Cosmo, but unlike a -y or -ie ending it doesn't emphasize youth. The spirit of these names is ageless.
You can see the revivals' fashion momentum since the year 2000. Take a look at the U.S. popularity of...
Rising alongside these old-fashioned favorites is a new crop of -o names from farther afield. In some cases, the distance is literal. Names like Hiro from Japan and Enzo from Italy are finding a newly receptive American audience. Other lively choices like Ringo and Cairo take their cues from popular culture or place names. The styles vary, but all of them play off the punch of a short name with an -o.
SF & FANTASY
MEANING & PLACE NAMES
ATHLETES & ENTERTAINERS
Where are baby names headed in 2017? We've selected seven names that point the way.
The names below represent a variety of hot styles, from double-t surnames to bold word names. None of them currently rank among the top 500 names boys or girls. But based on search traffic, forum chatter and trend arrows, they're good bets to be part of the next baby name wave.
Elia (F): A smooth little raindrop name from Game of Thrones? That recipe has made Arya one of the fastest-rising names in America, and Elia – as in GoT's Dornish princess Elia Martell – seems to be next in line for the throne.
Prescott (M): Double-t names like Emmett and Wyatt are one of the hottest styles around. Prescott is a buttoned-down cousin to those names, with a new jolt of energy from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
Brontë (F): The surname of novelist sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne is catching on as a simple but unconventional choice for literary-minded parents.
Winston (M): Take your pick of Winstons: Legendary British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Winston cigarettes, longtime NASCAR sponsor. Buccaneers Quarterback Jameis Winston. Tank/hero Winston in the video game "Overwatch." That last Winston, believe it or not, may be the one that pushes this surname over the top.
Aviana/Avianna (F): With the names Ava, Arianna and Viviana all fresh hits, this name was just begging to happen. The word avian (the adjective related to birds) lends the name an extra element of fantasy.
Caoimhe (F): This Irish girl's name has the kind of sound that parents are looking for (pronounce it "Keeva"). So far, spelling has held it back. Americans are getting bolder about tackling Irish spelling, though, and Caoimhe may be hitting a turning point.