French baby names, or prénoms, range from traditional names, such as the ever-popular Marie (which means “bitter”) to trendy names such as Acel (or Aceline), which means “noble.” Often, the French combine two names together to make one name, such as in the case of Anne-Marie or Jean-Luc. This common practice accounts for some of the most popular names in the country.
Between the years of 1946 to 2003, the top names in the Auvergne province of France were Jean for boys and Marie for girls. Jean, the French equivalent of John, was almost twice as popular as Theo, which was the next popular name for baby boys. Almost 4 percent of girls were named Marie during that period, as opposed to only 1.8 percent of girls who were named Isabella — the second most popular girl’s name, which means “my God is a vow.” Interestingly, as the years progressed, Jean and Marie fell out of favor. By 2003, the top name for boys was Theo (meaning “gift of God”), and the top name for girls was Léa, which means “weary.”
Some French baby boy names are distinctly French, while others are quite popular even in the United States. Lucas, which has a literal meaning of “man from Lucania,” and Thomas, which means “twin, for example, are relatively common in both countries. Theo, Hugo and Nathan are also seen in both countries. Enzo, however, is popular in France but rare in the states, as is Maxine. While Maxine means “little Maximus,” the meaning of Enzo is obscure, but possibly “home ruler.” Other French baby-boy names include Antoine, Mathis, Alexis, Anthony, Yanis and Adrien.
Many French baby girl names, like their boy counterparts, are also popular in countries other than France. Emma, for example, is common in France but was also the second most popular name for girls in the United States in 2009, according to the Social Security Administration. Emma means “all-containing” or “universal.” Other French baby girl names include the unusual Manon, which like the popular name Marie means “bitter”. Chloe, Camille, Lucy, Sarah, Oceane, Coralie, Lisa, Anais and Eva, which means “life,” are other French baby girl names.