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Updated May 4, 2023

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The Origin of France and French Names

If you take a trip to France, you will notice that there aren't a lot of differences when it comes to names compared to other countries such as the United States. Every person has a given name and a surname, which is pretty typical. However, middle names do not exist in France. Instead, you may see more than one given name, but they aren't usually used in day-to-day life. 

When meeting someone for the first time, it is impolite to address them by their given name. There are formal terms that you can use instead that are meant to show respect to people outside of your family. Monsieur for males and Madame for females are the most common. Sometimes you will hear Maitre, which is mostly left for lawyers and equivalent professions.

There is also Docteur for someone with a doctorate. Mostly it is used when addressing your dentist or primary care physician. 
Until recently, many children in France were given very traditional names. They are almost always gender-specific. You also wouldn't usually see combo names in France used as a first or given name. If someone has multiple given names, they go by one, and the others are only on leal documents.

French Naming Traditions

When choosing a French name for your child in France, there aren't any strict rules or regulations. This wasn't the case until 1993 before Napoleon Bonaparte created a law that consisted of a list of approved French names. Traditional first names were chosen usually came from the Roman Catholic calendar of Saints. A child's parents choose their little one's name. However, for girls, it has always been common for their names to be feminine forms of traditional masculine names. For example, Charlotte for Charles and Louise for Louis.

As for the surname, children used to be required by law to take the last name of their father. The only exception was if his identity was unknown, then the child would take on his mother's surname instead. This all changed in 2005, and instead, it may be hyphenated and both the mother and father's last names may be used.

Common French Boy Names (and Meanings)

  1. Alain - This name has Gaelic roots and it means "handsome."
  2. Alexandre - This is the French version of the Greek name Alexander, which means "protector of mankind."
  3. Andre - This is the French version of the name Andrew, which means "courageous" or "valiant" in Greek.
  4. Antoine - This is the French equivalent of Anthony, which is Latin for "priceless" and Greek for "flourishing."
  5. Baptiste - A derivative of St. John the Baptist, this is the French version of the Greek word "baptist."
  6. Benoit - This is the French form of the name Benedict, a derivative of the Latin word "Benedictus" which means "blessed."
  7. Charles - A French name that grew in popularity because of Emperor Charlemagne. It means "manly" in Old English.
  8. Claude - This is a French first name that is derived from the Latin name Claudius, which means "lame."
  9. Francois - French for "free."
  10. Gabriel - Made popular by many languages due to the New Testament in the Bible, this name means "God is my strength" in Hebrew.
  11. Gaston - A French name used to describe someone who resides in Gascony, a province in southwestern France.
  12. Georges - The French form of George means "farmer" in Greek.
  13. Henri - This name is of German origin, and it means "house ruler." It is also the French version of Henry.
  14. Laurent - A French name that means "martyred" and also "laurel crown" in Latin.
  15. Leo - Greek for "lion" and German for "lion-hearted."
  16. Louis - The French version of the Germanic personal name that means "famous warrior."
  17. Marc - A French family name that is derived from several other languages including Italian where it means "warring."

Common French Girl Names (and Meanings)

  1. Adele - German for "noble kind" and Old English for "noble."
  2. Aimee - Latin for "beloved."
  3. Anais - This name is of Hebrew origin and it means "gracious."
  4. Charlotte - This is the feminine form of Charles and it means "little and womanly" in French.
  5. Chloe - The Greek name for "blooming" or "lark."
  6. Delphine - This name was used for people who resided in Delphi, Greece. It also means "dolphin."
  7. Dominique - French name meaning "belonging to God."
  8. Elise - This is the French version of Elizabeth and it means "consecrated by God."
  9. Eloise - The French name for "intelligent" or "smart."
  10. Emma - The German name for "all-embracing."
  11. Louise - This is the feminine form of the French name Louis and it means "warrior maiden" in Old German.
  12. Margot - This name means "pearl" in French.
  13. Marie - Derived from the Latin name Maria, it means "bitter" in French.
  14. Olive - This name is of Latin origin and it means "olive tree." In Old French, it means "peace."
  15. Thea - The Greek name for "healer."


Cityscape of Paris

Common Unisex French Names (and Meanings)

  1. Blaise - This French name has Latin roots and it means "to stammer."
  2. Camille - French for "helper of the priest" or "young ceremonial attendant."
  3. Etienne - The French version of the name Stephen and it means "crowned."
  4. Jean - The French form of John, which is Scottish, means "God is gracious."
  5. Jules - This became a popular French name because of many patron saints. It means "youthful" in Latin.
  6. Michel - This French name is of Hebrew origin and means "one who is like God."
  7. Noel - French for "Christmas" and used as a name for a child who is born at Christmas.
  8. Oceane - Greek for "sea."
  9. Remi - French for "from Rhelms" or "oarsman."
  10. Rene - French for "born again."

Stefanie Miller

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Stefanie is an experienced parenting writer and has published works in other publications… Read more

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