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?) But I should warn you, 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. And 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.)
Does the name mean something to both parents? Will all the grandparents be able to pronounce it? 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, rather than just dump them all together. Allons-y!
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 in the U.S. and U.K. such as the name “Michael”. The name, however, is pronounced completely differently in English as the French version has two possible pronunciations that you could go with.
- 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 Rye-a(n),
- Meaning: little king.
The name Adam is number 2 in Paris, but the French pronunciation is with the “m” turning into an “n”.
- Adam – pronounced Ad-a(n),
- Meaning: to make.
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 that are much better suited for English-speakers are:
- André – manly and strong, French form of Andrew,
- Famous people with the name: André Malraux (French writer and politician).
- Antoine – priceless one, French version of Anthony,
- Famous people with the name: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (French author of “Le Petit Prince”).
- Claude – stuttering, from the name Claudius,
- Famous people with the name: Claude Francois (French musician).
- Edouard – wealthy guardian, French version of Edward
- Famous people with the name: Edouard Philippe (French politician).
- Harvey – old Breton name meaning blazing
- Famous people with the name: Harvey Fierstein (American actor and writer).
- Jacques – French version of Jack or Jacob
- Famous people with the name: Jacques Cousteau (French ocean explorer and inventor).
- Julien – youthful or Jove’s child,
- Famous people with the name: Julien Doré (French musician).
- Louis – famous warrior,
- Famous people with the name: Sun King Louis XIV of France.
- Maurice – dark or swarthy,
- Famous people with the name: Maurice Ravel (French composer).
- Nicolas – victory of the people,
- Famous people with the name: Saint Nicolas (Santa Claus in French), Nicolas Sarkozy (French politician), Nicolas Anelka (French football player).
- Pascal – relating to Easter, Passover,
- Famous people with the name: Pascal Dupuis (Canadian hockey player).
- Serge – durable woollen fabric,
- Famous people with the name: Serge Gainsbourg (French musician).
- Thierry – ruler of people,
- Famous people with the name: Thierry Henry (French football player).
- Victor – conquerer,
- Famous people with the name: Victor Hugo (French writer).
- Yves – yew wood,
- Famous people with the name: 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 another 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.
- Aimon – House or home
- Alexandre – Defender of the people
- Alric – wise ruler
- Armand – soldier
- Arnaud – eagle power
- Arsène – male, virile
- Augustin – majestic
- Aurélin – golden
- Basile – royal, kingly
- Bastien – venerable, revered.
- Bellamy – Good friend
- Benoît – blessed
- Cédric – bounty
- Cesar – head of hair, Julius Caesar
- Charles – Free man
- Clément – merciful
- Corentin – tempest, hurricane
- Coty – riverbank
- Croix – Cross
- Cyril – lordly, masterful
- Dabney – From Aubigny
- Damond – The world
- Danon – God is my judge
- Darrell – Open
- Daumier – French artist name
- Dax – water
- Decartes – Dweller at the outskirts of town, after French philosopher Réné Descartes
- Delano – From the sea
- Delroy – Servant of the king
- Deveraux – Riverbank
- Didier – desire or longing
- Dumas – On the little farm
- Duvall – Of the valley
- Édouard – guardian, protector
- Elroy – The king
- Emmanuel – God with us
- Étienne – crown (French form of Stephan)
- Eugène – wellborn, noble
- Fabrice – works with his hands
- Favre – Ironworker
- Florentin – growing
- Florin/Florian – flowering
- 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
- Lanier – Wool worker
- Leon – lion
- Leroy – The king
- Lowell – Young wolf
- Loïc – famed warrior
- Loris – laurel, winner
- Luc – light, illumination
- Lucien – light
- Mael – Chief or prince
- Marcellus – Young warrior
- Marquette – Land owner
- Marin – of the sea
- Marius – male (name from Provence, in the South of France)
- Mathieu – Gift from God
- Mathis – Gift of God
- Maxence – greatest
- Nathanael/Nathaniel – Gift of God
- 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
- Thayer – of army of the nation
- Théodore – God given
- Thibault – bold, brave
- Thoreau – from the name Thor
- Timothée – honoring God
- Valentin – strong, healthy
- Vardon – Green knoll
- Villiers – Town-dweller
- Vitus – Life
- 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
- Barbeau – Fisherman
- Bayard – deforested land
- Beauchamp – The beautiful field
- Beaumont – Beautiful mountain
- Beauregard – Beautiful gaze
- Berne – Bold as a bear
- Bouvier – Herdsman
- Chandler – Candle maker
- 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
- Mercer – merchant
- Montagne – mountain
- Morand – the sea
- Nestor – one who returns from travels
- Neville – New town
- Noel – Christmas
- Perceval – pierce or valley
- Philibert – Much brightness; much fame
- Pierrick – stone
- Picard – From department of Picardy in northern France
- Proust – after French writer Marcel Proust
- Reynard – Counsel or brave
- Roch – bounteous (Canadian singer Roch Voisin)
- Rousseau – Red-haired
- Sylvestre – woodsy
- Tanguy – name of character in famous French movie
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
- Ambroise – Immortal
- Ames – Friend
- Armel – Bear prince
- Beau – handsome
- Bernard – strong as a bear
- Blaize – torch
- Carl – strong
- Chasse – hunter
- Durant – steadfast
- Duron – Strong and freedom
- Ethan – strong
- Gabin – force
- Gaetan – from gaieté
- Garnet – Pomegranate
- Garson – To protect
- Gaubert – Bright ruler
- Gervais – Spearman or skilled with a spear
- Gerhard – strong as a spear
- Gilen – vow or oath
- Godard – Strong God
- Iker – Visitor
- Izod – Hardy or strong
- Jarret – mighty spearman
- Lamont – From the mountain
- Leo – like a lion
- Malin -smart
- Marc – warlike
- Obert – Noble or bright
- 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)
- Rupert – Bright fame (t is silent)
- Sacha – defender of men
- Talon – Large claw of a bird of prey
- Urbain – From the city
- Valère – strong and healthy
- Vilem – resolute protector
- Virgil – Intrepid
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:
- Àbelard – after famous French philosopher Peter Abelard
- Alain – Little rock
- Alberic – powerful
- Algernon – mustached man
- Albin – innocence of the heart
- Alphonse – noble, rapid
- Aramis – French literary name from The Three Musketeers
- Audric – royal
- Auguste, Augustave – majestic
- Balthazar – God protect the King
- Barthélemy – son of Tolomé
- Benjamin – son of fortune
- Bertrand – brilliant
- Clovis – Renowned fighter, after King Clovis
- 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
- Dartagnan – name from The Three Musketeers
- 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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If you enjoyed that article, you may want read more about what having a baby in France is like. And for some fun, you can download some baby-related French-English flashcards below. A bientôt!