If you are expecting a baby, and are looking for French boy names that are unique and cute, you’ve come to the right place! (Even if you are not, who doesn’t love reading a list of stylish names and their meanings?) Popular male names in France that will also work in English, are not as easy to find as you might think.
If you’ve missed my post for girls and the issues we had to think about there, here is the link for French Baby Girl Names. I’ve also put together a list of gender-neutral French names to give even more ideas. I’ve gone for ones I love, that are a bit popular, a bit unusual, and most of all, pronounceable in English and in French.
As a parent in France, I sometimes wonder is it too late to change my own kids’ names? (Hint: it is. In France, you only have 5 days to decide. An administrative hell will descend upon you if you don’t register the birth within that time-frame.)
Besides the French bureaucracy that comes with giving birth, there are so many questions to think about when naming a kid. Especially across cultures. Does the name mean something to both parents? Will all the grandparents be able to pronounce it? Is it a bit unusual, but not too unusual? A popular name, but not too popular? Is the kid is going to blame you if he hates his given name? It’s a lot of pressure!
I don’t mean to stress you out but with that, here is my list of the top French boys names with their meanings. I’ve broken the names down into categories to provide some context as to popularity, uniqueness, etc., rather than just dump them all together. So allons-y!
☞ READ MORE: Giving birth in France: Oh Baby!
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I. Classic & Traditional Male French names
There are several French baby boy names that are tried and true classics. A lot of names originate from Latin and the Bible, and so are similar to the English versions of their name. There is no mistaking their parentage, however!
The list of classic baby names in France actually includes a lot of the same names as American lists, eg. Michael. The name, however, is pronounced completely differently in English, while the French version has two possible pronunciations that you could go with.
A classic French male name like Michael is pronounced completely differently:
- Michael – pronounced Mi-shel (like Michelle) or Mi-kaël –> meaning: Who is like God
Other names, like Ryan, took me a few minutes to figure out how it was spelt when I heard it in French, because it didn’t sound anything like the North American pronunciation of Ryan.
- Ryan – pronounced Ryy-a(n) – meaning: Little King
- Adam – pronounced Ad-a(n) – meaning: To Make
The name Adam is number 2 in Paris, but the French pronunciation is with the “m” turning into an “n”.
I haven’t included these types of names in my list, because while they may be popular in France, you would be hard-pressed to get people to pronounce them with a French accent! Some classic French boy names are:
- André – Manly and strong, French form of Andrew
- Famous Names: André Agassi (American tennis player)
- Antoine – Priceless one, French version of Anthony
- Famous Names: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (French author of “Le Petit Prince”)
- Claude – From the name Claudius, stuttering
- Famous Names: Claude Francois (French musician)
- Edouard – Wealthy guardian, French version of Edward
- Famous Names: Edouard Philippe (French politician)
- Harvey – Old Breton name meaning blazing
- Famous Names: Harvey Fierstein (American actor and writer)
- Jacques – French version of Jack or Jacob
- Famous Names: Jacques Cousteau (French ocean explorer)
- Julien – Youthful. Jove’s child.
- Famous Names: Julien Doré (French musician)
- Louis – Famous warrior
- Famous Names: King Louis of France, Prince Louis of England, Louis Armstrong (American musician)
- Maurice – Dark or swarthy
- Famous Names: Maurice Ravel (French composer), Maurice Gibb (British Musician from Beegees)
- Nicolas – Victory of the people
- Famous Names: Saint Nicolas (Santa Claus in French), Nicolas Sarkozy (French politician), Nicolas Anelka (French football player)
- Pascal – Relating to Easter, Passover
- Famous Names: Pascal Dupuis (Canadian hockey player)
- Serge – Durable woolen fabric
- Famous Names: Serge Gainsbourg (French musician)
- Thierry – Ruler of people
- Famous Names: Thierry Henry (French football player)
- Victor – Conquerer
- Famous Names: Victor Hugo (French writer)
- Yves – Yew wood
- Famous Names: Yves St. Laurent (French designer)
These French names ebb and flow in popularity, but they are all undeniably very French.
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II. Popular Boys names in France
Names that are classic may not always be the most popular today in France, so I put together a list of names that au courant today in Paris and the hexagon. The top popular names for baby boys in France have been chosen based on anecdotes as well as local French birth statistics.
So I have to at this point, add a caveat. I’m not trying to discourage you but French names for boys can be more difficult to pronounce for English speakers, compared to that of girls. In general, boys’ names end in a consonant, while girl names end in a vowel. If you look at my list of French girl names, almost every single one ends with an “e”. (This is not on purpose, those are just the names I picked!)
But because the girls’ names end with a vowel, the last syllable is pronounced in both English and French. For boys’ names, we pronounce the last letter in English, but in French, it is very subtle.
- Adrien – pronounced Ad-ri-e(n) – meaning: Wealthy
For example, in Adrien, the “n” at the end is barely audible. This is the case with a lot of French boy names, so you will have to go through the list and decide for yourself.
As with the girls’ list, I have left out the names of family and friends, to avoid being biased! And with that, here are some of the most popular male French names that are very au courant in France.
- Alric – wise ruler
- Armand – soldier
- Arnaud – eagle power
- Arsène – male, virile
- Augustin – majestic
- Aurélin – golden
- Basile – royal, kingly
- Bastien – venerable, revered.
- Benoît – blessed
- Cédric – bounty
- Cesar – head of hair, Julius Caesar
- Clément – merciful
- Corentin – tempest, hurricane
- Cyril – lordly, masterful
- Didier – desire or longing
- Édouard – guardian, protector
- Emmanuel – God with us
- Étienne – crown (French form of Stephan)
- Eugène – wellborn, noble
- Fabrice – works with his hands
- Florent – flowering
- Gabriel – devoted to God
- Gaspard – guest, man from Gascony
- Gaston – guest, man from Gascony
- Gilles – shield bearer
- Guillaume – resolute protector (French version of William)
- Gustave – God’s staff
- Hadrien – dark
- Hugo – heart, mind, spirit
- Jerome – of Sacred name
- Johan – God is gracious
- Jules – youthful
- Leon – lion
- Loïc – famed warrior
- Loris – laurel, winner
- Luc – light, illumination
- Lucien – light
- Marin – of the sea
- Marius – male (name from Provence, in the South of France)
- Mathieu – Gift from God
- Mathis – Gift of God
- Maxence – greatest
- Noah – rest, repose
- Olivier – olive tree
- Patrice – noble or patrician; French version of Patrick
- Quentin – the fifth
- Rafael – God has healed
- Régis – ruler, kingly
- Rémi – oarsman
- René – born again
- Sebastien – Revered
- Théodore – God given
- Thibault – bold, brave
- Timothée – honoring God
- Valentin – strong, healthy
- Yanis – Gift of God
- Yoann – YAHWEH is gracious
Read more about French Parenting:
III. Unique, Unusual, & Rare names
Beyond the classic and popular names are the French male names that are a bit rarer, but still easily recognized in France.
It should be noted that in France, all names have to be approved by the local town hall of the city that the parents live in. Creativity in naming your baby is not encouraged.
In fact, it wasn’t until 1966 that French names could be something other than religious biblical names, and not until 1993 that baby names could be a bit more “unique”. As long as they were not considered offensive that is.
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So while male French names can now be a bit more creative, the names still have a history behind them. Some of the most attractive and unique French boy names with meaning are:
- Achille – Greek warrior and leader in the Trojan War (the famous Achilles heel)
- Agathon – man
- Alderic – old ruler
- Arman – sounds indian, but is quite popular in France. Meaning of the army
- Baudouin – brave friend
- Egon – form of the German name Eginhard
- Emeric – work and ruler
- Eustache – fruitful
- Fénélon – named after François Fénélon, a famous 17th-century priest and writer
- Fleury – flower
- Gontran – fighter
- Imbert – immense
- Javier – born in january
- Lievin – form of the Dutch name Leobwin
- Lothaire – famous warrior, army
- Morand – the sea
- Nestor – one who returns from travels
- Perceval – pierce or valley
- Philibert – Much brightness; much fame
- Pierrick – stone
- Roch – bounteous (Canadian singer Roch Voisin)
- Sylvestre – woodsy
- Tanguy – name of character in famous French movie
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IV. Attractive and Strong Names
In browsing baby boy names lists published in France, I noted that there are several attractive names that are people gravitate to because of the strength in their meaning:
- Ademar – strong and famous
- Beau – handsome
- Bernard – strong as a bear
- Blaize – torch
- Carl – strong
- Chasse – hunter
- Durant – steadfast
- Duron – Strong and freedom
- Ethan – strong
- Gerhard – strong as a spear
- Gilen – vow or oath
- Godard – Strong God
- Jarret – mighty spearman
- Leo – like a lion
- Malin -smart
- Marc – warlike
- Philippe – lover of horses (a name common among French royalty)
- Rainier – strong counselor (name of royalty from French-speaking Monaco)
- Renard – fox, brave
- Ricard – powerful ruler
- Richard – strong and powerful leader (pronounced Ri-shard)
- Sacha – defender of men
- Valère – strong and healthy
- Vilem – resolute protector
V. Old-Fashioned & Vintage Baby Boy Names
In the past, French babies used to be named after saints. The simplest way to do that, was to name the child after the Saints’ day when the baby was born.
You might think that this is ancient history, but even today, French calendars will track the Saint’s day, and parents and family members will wish the person “bonne fête du prénom”!
Laws around baby-naming may have loosened, but vintage names are making a comeback. Everything old does become new again! Some vintage and old-fashioned French boy names that you will hear are:
- Albin – innocence of the heart
- Alphonse – noble, rapid
- Auguste, Augustave – majestic
- Balthazar – God protect the King
- Barthélemy – son of Tolomé
- Benjamin – son of fortune
- Bertrand – brilliant
- Constantin – farm
- Crispin – named after Saint Crispin
- Dagobert – an old-fashioned name that has fallen slightly out of style because of the french kids’ song “le bon roi dagobert“
- Damien – from the Latin name Damia
- Dimitri – who appeared to Déméter, the sister of Zeus
- Fantin – child
- Félix – happiness
- Frédéric – the power of peace
- Gauthier – commander, governor
- Gérald – lance
- Gérard – fort
- Gilbert – a descendant of a “high race”
- Grégoire – awake
- Guy – forest
- Hebert – army
- Hervé – strong, named after Saint Hervé
- Hubert – intelligent
- Isaac – to laugh
- Jérémie – God
- Laurent – winner
- Marcel – green of the sea
- Martial – Mars
- Martin – Mars
- Octavien – of eight
- Sylvain – forest
- Thaddée – courageous
- Vincent – winner
VI. Hyphenated and Compound Names
Hyphenated or compound names (prénoms composé) are also quite popular in France, going back generations. They often combine the names of grandparents and/or Biblical characters.
Common French compound and hyphenated boys names that you will hear around France are:
- Félix-Antoine – Felix meaning happiness, and Antoine meaning priceless one
- François-Xavier – François meaning free, and Xavier meaning new house. Nickname is FX
- Jean-Luc – From the Bible, John the Baptist, and Luke. Also Jean-Luc Picard, the fictional captain on Star Trek Enterprise.
- Jean-Marie – From the Bible, John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary. Famous name: Jean Marie Le Pen (ultra-right-wing French politician)
- Jean-Paul – From the Bible, John the Baptist and Paul.
- Léo-Paul – Paul meaning little, and Léo meaning lion
- Louis-Thomas – Louis meaning famous warrior and Thomas meaning twin
- Pierre-Louis – Pierre meaning Peter from the Bible or stone and Louis meaning famous warrior.
- Pierre-Olivier – Pierre meaning Peter from the Bible or stone and Olivier meaning olive tree.
A lot of people use double-names in France, though you do have to be very precise as to whether there is a hyphen in the middle or not. One French man named Jean-Marie got into trouble when applying for a marriage license, when his town’s officiant rejected his paperwork because of hyphens applied or not-applied indiscriminately!
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