Common French names include names familiar to most Americans, like Jacques and Marie, but may also include hyphenated names and other less familiar apellations. If you're a Francophile and would love to name your baby with a French name or perhaps a student assigned to choose a French name for class, there are many choices available.
Prénoms Français, or French names, follow some typical patterns.
Names Similar in French and English
Many French first names for both boys and girls have also become common names in English and in many French speaking countries around the world. Daniel and David, for examples, are favorite first names for French men, and are spelled the same way in English, although pronounced a bit differently in French. A few examples of men's names spelled the same way in English and French include:
Some examples of women's names that are spelled the same way in English and French include:
The French love to hyphenate two masculine or feminine names to create a new combination for a child's first name. It's very common in France to find names such as Jean-Pierre, Anne-Marie, Jean-Claude and others. While some people also link a boy and girl's name together to form a new name, this is still frowned upon by traditionalists.
Changing a Masculine First Name to a Feminine Name
Another interesting fact about common French names is that many names for girls and women are masculine first names with new endings added onto them. The name Michel, for example is a man's name-Michael. A woman with the same name adds an -le to the end, to become Michelle. Jean, a masculine first name meaning John, adds an "-ne" to the end to become Jeanne. Many women's names are masculine names with a consonant and the letter 'e' or just the letter 'e' added to the end to denote the feminine form.
Most Popular Common French Names
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it touches upon the most common French names one may find today for both men and women. Those interested in learning more about French names may visit the following resources both to select and learn more about the name:
- Behind the Name focus on name origins and provides a fascinating glimpse into popular name choices.
- Baby Name Origins provides many name choices along with word meanings.
- Think Baby Names offers 400 possible French names for both boys and girls.
French Boy's Names
The sample boy and girl names below include the French name first, followed by the English equivalent in parenthesis. Pronunciation is spelled out phonetically afterwards, followed by the meaning.
- Adrien (Adrian): pronounced ay-dree-EH(n). The name means 'dark haired one', and derives from a Middle English term given to people born with dark hair among blonde or light-haired people.
- Alexandre (Alexander): pronounced ahl-ex-AHN-DRUH. The name Alexandre or Alexander is a very old name, tracing back to ancient times. It connotes royalty and the image of great conquerors such as Alexander the Great. The name means 'helper or defender of mankind.'
- André: (Andrew): pronounced: ahn-DRAY. This name is popular worldwide in English-speaking countries as well as French-speaking countries. It derives from the Greek name, Andreas, which means 'strong and manly one'.
- Edouard: (Edward): pronounced Eeh-DWAR. The name means prosperous or fortunate one.
- Etienne: (Stephen): pronounced ay-TYEN. The name means crowned one, and honors Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian church.
- François (Francis): pronounced frahn-SWAH. This was a name given in ancient days to men who had been freed from servitude, and means free man.
- Georges (George): pronounced ZHORZH, it's the name for a farmer.
- Grégoire (Gregory): pronounced gray-GWAHR. A name which means a night watchman or someone set to watch or guard something.
- Jacques (James): pronounced ZHAHK. Some reference books believe Jacques to be a derivative of the ancient name Jacob. Both James and Jacob mean 'the supplanter,' or one who takes another's rightful place.
- Michel (Michael): prounced mee-SHEL.
- Pierre (Peter): pronounce PYAHR. A name meaning 'rock', honoring Peter, Jesus' first disciple.
French Girl's Names
- Aimée (Amy): pronounced ay-MAY. This is a beautiful name meaning 'loved' or 'one loved.'
- Brigitte (Bridget): pronounced bree-ZHEET. A name meaning strength, and connoting a woman filled with inner strength.
- Cécile (Cecilia): pronounced say-SEEL. While the name's meaning, 'dim-sighted one', isn't very nice, it can also honor Saint Cecilia, patroness of music and singing.
- Manon (no English equivalent): pronounced ma-NOH(n). The movie, Manon of the Spring, made this name famous.
- Thérèse (Theresa): pronounced tay-REZ. The name itself means 'the reaper' and honors men at harvest time. Many famous saints, including St. Theresa of Avilla and St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus bear this name.
French names are beautiful, and connote many wonderful qualities. Whether you're choosing a name to use during French class or a name for a newborn, this is only a short sample of French names, a brief taste of the beautiful abundance of first names available to you in the French language.