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 compared to other countries when it comes to names. Individuals have a given name and surname; however, middle names typically do not exist in France. Instead, you may see more than one given name, but they aren't usually used daily.
French names may also be crossed gendered; for example, a boy may be Jacques-Marie in honor of a grandmother; however, he would simply go by Jacques in day-to-day life.
When meeting someone for the first time, addressing them by their given name is impolite. You should use formal terms 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, mostly left for lawyers and equivalent professions.
There is also Docteur for someone with a doctorate. Primarily it is used when addressing your dentist or primary care physician.
French Naming Traditions
When choosing a French name for your child in France, there aren't any strict rules or regulations; however, the government can disapprove a name if they deem it unsuitable. It has always been common for girls to use feminine forms of traditional masculine names— for example, Charlotte for Charles and Louise for Louis.
Traditionally boys were named after their father’s father and the second son after the mother’s father. Girls were usually named after their grandmothers.
As for the surname, children used to be required by law to take their father's last name. The only exception was if his identity was unknown, then the child would take on his mother's surname instead. However, this all changed in 2005, and instead, it may be hyphenated, and a person may use both the mother and father's last names.
If you are looking for the perfect moniker for your little one, browse this list of popular French baby names for something with a bit of European flair.
Old French Boy Names and Meanings
- Alain - This name has Gaelic roots, meaning handsome.
- Andre - This is the French version of Andrew, which means courageous or valiant in Greek.
- Antoine - This is the French equivalent of Anthony, which is Latin for priceless and Greek for flourishing.
- Baptiste - A derivative of St. John the Baptist, this is the French version of the Greek word baptist.
- Benoit - the French form of the name Benedict, a derivative of the Latin word Benedictus, which means blessed.
- Charles - A French name that grew in popularity because of Emperor Charlemagne. It means free man in Old English.
- Claude - This is a French first name derived from the Latin name Claudius, which means lame.
- Denis - Denis is the French form for a follower of Dionysius, the Greek god of wine.
- Francois - French for free.
- Gabriel - Made popular in many languages due to the New Testament in the Bible, this name means God is my strength in Hebrew.
- Gaston - A French name used to describe someone who resides in Gascony, a province in southwestern France.
- Georges - The French form of George means farmer in Greek.
- Henri - This name is of German origin, meaning house ruler. It is also the French version of Henry.
- Laurent - a French name that means martyred and laurel crown in Latin.
- Leo - Greek for lion and German for lion-hearted.
- Louis - The French version of the Germanic personal name means famous warrior.
- Marc - A French family name derived from several other languages, including Italian, where it means warring.
- Pierre - This male name is the French version of Peter and means rock.
- Simon - Simon is a name with Hebrew origins and means God has heard.
- Yves - The beautiful name comes from the French word for yew.
Common Old French Girl Names and Meanings
- Adele - German for noble and kind and Old English for noble.
- Aimee - Latin for beloved.
- Anais - This name is of Hebrew origin, meaning gracious.
- Antoinette - Latin for praiseworthy it is the feminine form of Antoine.
- Bernadette - This name has German roots and means brave as a bear.
- Charlotte - This is the feminine form of Charles, and it means little and womanly in French.
- Chloe - The Greek name for blooming or lark.
- Colette - A name with Greek roots, it means people of victory.
- Delphine - This name was used for people who resided in Delphi, Greece. It also means dolphin.
- Dominique - French name meaning belonging to God.
- Elise - This is the French version of Elizabeth, and it means consecrated by God.
- Eloise - The French name for intelligent or smart.
- Genevieve - Genevieve is the Roman Catholic patron saint of Paris.
- Jeanne - This name has Hebrew roots and means God is gracious.
- Josephine - The feminine form of Joseph.
- Louise - This is the feminine form of the French name Louis, and it means warrior maiden in Old German.
- Margot - This name means pearl in French.
- Marie - Derived from the Latin name Maria, it means bitter in French.
- Olive - This name is of Latin origin, meaning olive tree. In Old French, it means peace.
- Thea - The Greek name for healer.
Old French Names That Can Be Gender-Neutral
- Blaise - This French name has Latin roots, which means to stammer.
- Camille - French for the helper of the priest or young ceremonial attendant.
- Etienne - The French version of the name Stephen means crowned.
- Jean - The French form of John, which is Scottish, means God is gracious.
- Jules - This became a popular French name because of many patron saints. It means youthful in Latin.
- Michel - This French name is of Hebrew origin and means one who is like God.
- Morgan - An Irish gender-neutral name that means of the sea.
- Noel - French for Christmas and used as a name for a child born at Christmas.
- Remi - French for from Rhelms or oarsman.
- Rene - French for born again