Expecting a baby and looking for French girl names that are popular, pretty, and unique, and that also works in English? Easy Peasy. Until you put it into practice, that is.
You want to find a name that is not too common, love the meaning, but have something that is still beautiful and chic. A name that both parents like, and that all the grandparents can pronounce.
Expecting a baby in France may be somewhat different that what you might expect, but the worries of parents all over the world are the same. You are picking a name that is for life. Your kid may end up hating you, so the pressure is on! (Don’t worry, we cover French boy names as well, and I’ve also put together a list of gender-neutral French names to give even more ideas.)
It isn’t easy, so I’ve broken the names down into categories to provide some context as to popularity, uniqueness, vintage names and more, rather than just dump all the names together. And with that, here is my list of the top French girl names with their meanings. Allons-y!
I. Classic French Names
Now if you are looking for classic French names, you may be surprised by how many names you already know.
French and English are closely intertwined. Centuries of war and intermarriage between France and England will do that!
So there are a lot of classic girl names that have already infiltrated anglophone culture. Some classic French females names are:
- Adrienne, Adriene – from city of Hadria,
- Famous people with the name: Adrienne de La Fayette (wife of Marquis La Fayette).
- Audrey – noble,
- Famous people with the name: Audrey Tatou (French actress).
- Annette – gracious and merciful,
- Famous people with the name: Annette Poivre (French actress), Annette Funicello (actress).
- Antoinette – praiseworthy,
- Famous people with the name: Marie-Antoinette (Queen of France).
- Avril – the month of April in French,
- Famous people with the name: Avril Lavigne (French-Canadian singer).
- Béatrice – she who makes me happy,
- Famous people with the name: Princess Beatrice of the U.K., Béatrice Martin aka Coeur de Pirate (Quebecois singer).
- Brigitte – the high one, strength,
- Famous people with the name: Brigitte Bardot (French actress).
- Céline – heavenly,
- Famous people with the name: Céline Dion (French-Canadian singer), Céline (French fashion house).
- Chloé – blooming,
- Famous people with the name: Chloé (French fashion house).
- Chantal – old Occitane word cantal, meaning “stone.” Also from the French word “chanter” meaning “to sing”.
- Famous people with the name: Chantal Kreviazuk (French-Canadian singer).
- Charlotte – female version of Charles, French origin meaning “free man” or small.
- Famous people with the name: Charlotte Gainsbourg (French actress and singer), Princess Charlotte of the U.K.
- Danielle – God is my judge,
- Famous people with the name: Danielle Mitterrand (name of former French first lady).
- Denise – dedicated to the wine God Dionysius,
- Famous people with the name: Denise Pascale (French model)
- Gabrielle – able-bodied one of God,
- Famous Names: Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel (French fashion designer).
- Gisele – bright pledge,
- Famous people with the name: Gisèle Vienne (French artist), Gisèle Bündchen (model).
- Isabelle – my God,
- Famous people with the name: Isabelle Huppert (French actress).
- Jacqueline – the one who comes after,
- Famous people with the name: Jacqueline Kennedy (Former U.S. first lady).
- Jeanne – God Is Gracious,
- Famous people with the name: Jeanne d’Arc (French icon and saint).
- Joséphine – God Will Increase,
- Famous people with the name: Josephine Bonaparte (wife of Napoleon).
- Juliette – From the Latin name Julius, or “son of Jove”,
- Famous people with the name: Juliette Binoche (French actress).
- Léa – delicate,
- Famous people with the name: Léa Sedoux (French actress).
- Louise – from several French kings named Louis,
- Famous Names: Louise Bourgoin (French actress).
- Marion – diminutive of Marie, wished-for child,
- Famous people with the name: Marion Cotillard (French actress).
- Monique – alone,
- Famous people with the name: Monique Lhuillier (fashion house).
- Renée – renaissance,
- Famous people with the name: Renée Simonot (French actress), Renée Zellweger (actress).
- Simone – God has heard,
- Sylvie – spirit of the wood,
- Famous people with the name: Sylvie Vartan (French singer).
- Valérie – strong, valiant,
- Famous people with the name: Valérie Pécresse (French politician).
- Vivienne – from the French verb “vivre”, meaning “to live”.
- Famous people with the name: Vivienne Westwood.
One thing to keep in mind however is that a name might be French but is actually completely out-of-style in France.
For example, I loved the name “Simone”, but for my French husband, it was the name of someone over the age of 70. I thought it was just him until we checked a French popularity site (link in French) which said the average age of the name-bearer was 87 years old.
Equally out-of-style is “Gisèle”, which stopped being popular in France and flatlined around 1975, before the (Brazilian) supermodel Gisèle Bündchen was even born.
Everything old does become new again, so don’t let that stop you from giving the name you fall in love with!
II. Popular Girls Names in France
If you are looking for names that are a bit more au courant, here is my curated list of top popular baby girl names in France today, that French parents tend to lean towards.
Now, there are French names that just won’t be pronounced properly by English Speakers: eg. Manon. I love this name, but I can imagine it being said with an English accent: Man-on. As opposed to the French: Ma-no(n), with the last “n” being almost silent.
- Manon – wished for child
I’ve tried to leave these sorts of names off of my list. If you do manage to find a name that is pronounceable, you then have to check that it doesn’t actually mean something else. These names sound French, but there’s a problem:
- Madeline – a type of cake that all young kids eat in France after school
- Brie – a type of soft cheese from the French region of Seine-et-Marne
I’ve also left out the names of my own friends and family since I’m obviously biased! And with that, here are some of the most popular French girl names that are very au courant in France.
- Adeline – nobility
- Aliénor – light, torch
- Aline – beautiful, shining
- Alize – noble one
- Amandine – much-loved
- Amélie – hardworking
- Anaïs – grace
- Apolline – strength, named after the Greek God Apollo
- Astrid – Godly, strength
- Aurore – golden, Goddess of dawn
- Camille – serving at the alter
- Capucine – a cloak with deep collar
- Célestine – Heavenly
- Clarisse – shining and gentle
- Claudette – enclosure
- Clémence – Merciful
- Cléméntine – gentle
- Clothilde – famous in Battle
- Colette – people of victory
- Corinne – beautiful maiden
- Cosette – victorious, small and tiny
- Delphine – from the Greek Delphi or Dolphin
- Edwige – female warrior
- Éléonore – named after Aliénor of Aquitaine
- Élise – My God is abundance
- Elodie – might, strength
- Emeline – hardworking
- Esmée – beloved, esteemed
- Fabienne – bean grower
- Faustine – fortunate one
- Floriane – Flowering
- Frédérique – Peaceful Ruler
- Géraldine – One who rules with a spear
- Héloïse – healthy
- Huguette – Bright In Mind And Spirit
- Inès – Pure or Holy
- Joelle – God be willing
- Josette – God will increase
- Laetitia – joy, happiness
- Laure – victorious
- Léna – she that allures
- Léonie – lion, force and courage
- Lilou – lily
- Lisette – God Is My Oath, diminutive of Elisabeth
- Lucie – light, illumination
- Maëlle – Chief, Leader
- Maëlys – chief
- Margaux – pearl
- Margot – pearl
- Marlène – combination of Mary And Magdalene
- Marguerite – Daisy or Pearl
- Mathilde – might, strength
- Muriel – sea
- Nadège – hope
- Ninette – grace, diminutive of Anne
- Noémie – pleasant and lovely
- Odette – rich and wealthy
- Ocèane – ocean
- Pauline – little or younger
- Rochelle – like a rock
- Romane – a Roman
- Salomé – peace, tranquil
- Sidonie – from ancient Phoenician city of Sidon
- Sybille – seer, oracle
- Théa – Goddess
☞ READ MORE: Top French Nursery Rhymes for your little one
Now, if you are not French, but live in France, there are certain popular Anglosaxon-American names that you should stay away from.
For example, you should stay away from names that begin with an “H”. Names like Hailey or Heather don’t quite work, since French people have trouble pronouncing the “H”. You will end up with Ea-ley or Ea-zther, and not what you were actually intending.
III. Unique, Unusual, and Rare names
In France, all names have to be approved by the local town hall of the city that the parents live in, so it should be noted French people cannot get too creative. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1966 that French names could stray from being religious, and not until 1993 that baby names could be a bit more “unique”, as long as they were not offensive.
For names that are a bit more unique and avant-garde, but still classically French, I have put together the following list. These names don’t make the top 100 lists in France (as in they are not over-used), but are still much loved.
Some of the loveliest unique French girl names with meaning are:
- Abrielle – diminutive of Gabrielle
- Adélie – noble
- Aelis – of noble line
- Aeryn – after “aire” meaning air
- Aimée – beloved
- Alexine – from Alexandra, meaning to protect
- Armeline – bear
- Astrée – daughter of Zéus
- Audette – a bird
- Aveline – hazelnut
- Belle – beautiful
- Bijou – jewel
- Blanche – white
- Cerise – cherry
- Césarine – female version of César
- Clarette – clear and bright
- Cypriélle – origin of Cyprus
- Elayne – light (variation of Elaine or Elena)
- Elvie – a variation of Sainte Elvire
- Emeraude – from Esmerelda, meaning courageous
- Eolia – masters the wind
- Eulalie – sweet-spoken
- Fae – from the french word “fée” meaning fairy
- Félia – female version of Felix, meaning cat or happy
- Fleurine – little flower
- Gaella – from the Old French tribes the Gauls
- Garcelle – little spear
- Imaé – actual
- Linaëlle – Breton name (from Brittany), after Saint Lin
- Livie – name of a famous Roman family; jealous
- Louve – female wolf
- Lune – Moon
- Merveille – marvellous
- Nadeleine – ray of hope
- Nausica – from the french word “navire” meaning a ship
- Neige – snow
- Neva – radiance
- Odile – wealthy, fortunate
- Olympe – olympian
- Paulette – humble, diminutive of Pauline
- Perla – Pearl
- Pomme – apple
- Samuelle – from Samuel meaning “name of God”
- Solange – solemn or religious
- Teodora – gift from God
- Thara – abundance and fortune
- Theoline – one who sings
- Yolanthe – strong
- Zélie – solemn
IV. Chic and Pretty Names
In browsing baby girl names lists published in France, I noted that there are several names that are quite chic and pretty which have been gaining in popularity, but are not as common:
- Aida – noble
- Anaëlle – grace
- Anouk – gracious
- Auriane – golden
- Automne – autumn or fall
- Axelle – of peace
- Délia – honest
- Désirée – desired one
- Dominique – mistress
- Elaine – bright light
- Eléa – God is of light
- Elena – heat
- Elie – God is great
- Eliette – God is great
- Emie – God is with us
- Enora – honored
- Esther – name of Jewish saint
- Ève – source of life
- Fayette – After French soldier Lafayette who played a large role in the American and French Revolutions
- Fossette – dimple
- Francine – from France
- Garance – a type of flower
- Harmonie – harmony
- Imène – Believer
- Janelle – God gives grace
- Karine – loved
- Kenza – warmth
- Louann – light
- Lylou – structured and efficient
- Mae – head, chief
- Maeva – welcome
- Maïa – drop of sea
- Morgana – brilliant
- Maïwenn – loved
- Manel – God is with us
- Michelle – who is like God
- Naëlle – God has given
- Nélia – stroke of sun
- Noëlie – day of birth (from Noel, meaning Christmas in French)
- Raphaëlle – fighter
- Rosette – small rose
- Satine – satin
- Sirine – content
- Solène – solemn
- Violette – from the Latin word “viola”
V. Vintage and Old-fashioned Names
As I mentioned above, until 1966, French baby names for boys and girls, had to be religious. Typically, the baby was named according to the Saints’ day calendar, which had the name of whichever saint was associated with the particular name that the baby was born.
Since the laws around baby-naming have loosened up, some of these vintage names fell out of style, before finding popularity again.
Even today, you will find most traditionally French names on the saint’s calendar, where parents and family members will remember to wish the person “bonne fête du prénom” meaning “happy name day”.
Some vintage and old-fashioned female French names that you will hear around Paris are:
- Abigaïl – my joy is with God
- Adélaide – noble
- Agathe – good, brave
- Albertine – celebrated, brilliant
- Alida – noble, old
- Annonciade – announcing
- Bérénice – one who brings victory
- Bernadette – brave like a bear
- Bernadine – brave like a bear
- Berthe – brilliant, illustrious
- Bettine – variation of Elisabeth
- Blandine – mild
- Blondine – fair-haired
- Brunella – brown-haired
- Candide – white
- Cécile – blind
- Céleste – heavenly
- Charlène – petit, feminine
- Christelle – follower of Christ
- Coraline – coral
- Dolorés – from french word douleur meaning pain
- Eglantine – from the flower, a type of wild rose
- Elénore – light
- Eliane – sun, God
- Estelle – meaning “star”. A variation is the Provence name “Estérelle”. (A Provençal legend tells that the mountainous massif Estérel, between the towns of Fréjus and Cannes, was once the home of a fairy called Estérelle, who gave it its name.)
- Fanny – version of Frances, Françoise, meaning “freeman”
- Félice – corsican name meaning “great happiness”
- Françoise – female version of François meaning “freeman”
- Geneviève – young woman (named after Saint Genevieve of Paris)
- Georgette – agricultor
- Gertrude – loyal
- Hélène – warmth
- Honorine – honor
- Hortense – one who comes from the garden
- Ingrid – the beauty
- Jacinthe – hyacinthe flower
- Justyne – true, just
- Laurence – from the masculine “Laurent”, meaning winner
- Liliane – from the royal flower, the lys
- Lorraine – warrior maiden, place in France
- Lourdes – the pilgrim town of Lourdes in France
- Lucile – light
- Lyonnette – little lion
- Mabel – lovely
- Manon – bitter
- Marceline – God of war
- Marthe – the mistress of the home
- Martine – small mars, warrior
- Maxine – the biggest
- Maud, Maude – strong in war
- Mélanie – dark, the color black
- Mélisande – named after the mermaid Mélusine
- Mirabelle – a great beauty
- Mireille – miracle
- Modeste – modest
- Nicolette – people’s victory
- Ninon – grace
- Octavie – of eight
- Olive – olive
- Ombeline – bright spirit
- Philomène – loved one
- Pierrette – female version of Pierre, meaning stone
- Sophie – wisdom
- Thérèse – summer
- Tiphane – appearance of the Lord on earth
- Véronique – who brings victory, variation of the name Bérénice
- Yvonne – celtic and breton name, meaning shrub
VI. Hyphenated and Compound Names
Hyphenated or compound names (prénoms composé) are quite popular in France, going back generations. The names are usually Christian, where most common one is “Marie” added to the baby name after the Virgin Mary, or Anne after the Virgin Mary’s mother Saint Anne.
Even boys in France may have Marie added to it, such as Jean-Marie. Common French compound and hyphenated girl names that you will hear around France are:
- Anne-Sophie – Anne-Sophie Lapix (French journalist)
- Anne-Laure – Anne-Laure Bondoux (French writer)
- Lily-Rose – Daughter of French musician Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Depp
- Marie-Antoinette – Former Queen of France
- Marie-Claire – Marie Claire magazine
- Marie-Claude – Marie-Claude Pietragalla (French dancer and choreographer)
- Marie-France – Marie-France Pisier (actress and director)
- Marie-Joelle – Marie-Joëlle Guillaume (French journalist and writer)
- Marie-Lou – Marie Lou (Marilu) Henner (American actress)
- Marie-Thérèse -Daughter of Marie-Antoinette, Princess of France
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!
Shop Favorites for a French-style nursery:
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So have you figured out the perfect name for your baby? For some more fun, you can download a free printable of baby-related French-English flashcards below.
If you enjoyed that article you may like to read more about what having a baby in France is like. A bientôt!