For everyone who doesn’t like to be pigeon-holed, that moment when you are expecting a baby comes with a question: should you go with a unisex baby name? And a French unisex name? Ooh là là!
Unisex, gender-neutral and non-binary names are rising in popularity as more and more parents look for unique and interesting names for (what they hope will be) unique and independent children.
Living in France, I find that French baby names are actually quite well suited to this. There are many gender-neutral French names (prénoms mixte) that are quite popular here in France, when expecting a baby.
Which is not to say that the lists of top French girl names and top French boys names are falling by the wayside, but if you are looking for something special that is non-binary, perhaps one of these names is the answer..?
And with that, here is my list of the top French unisex names with their meanings. I’ve broken the names down into categories to provide some context as to popularity, uniqueness, etc., rather than just putting them all together. So allons-y!
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Many popular French unisex names like “Claude” or “Jean” actually go back generations. Claude François is a famous male French musician from the 1950s, while former President Jacques Chirac also used the name for his daughter.
Here are the top popular gender-neutral names in France, and their meanings:
- Adraste – name from Basque region
- Agathon – good
- Alex/Alexis – helper, defender
- Anaël – Grace of God
- Andréa – force, courage
- Ange – angel
- Arte – art (also the name of a documentary channel in France)
- Aurèle – morning
- Blaise – one who stutters (was considered divine in Roman times)
- Camille – serving at the alter
- Candide – white
- Chandler – candlemaker
- Charés – name from Basque region
- Cheney – growing from oak
- Ciel – Sky
- Clarence – bright and clear
- Claude – from the name Claudius, stuttering
- Dominique – who comes from God
- Eden – Biblical Garden of Eden, meaning delight
- Elaloïs – desirable
- Elie – The Lord Is My God
- Émile – to strive or excel
- Etienne – meaning “crowned”; traditionally Provençal male name also used for females. Variation of “Stéphane”.
- Félice – a Corsican/Provencal name meaning great happiness
- Fleury – flower
- Florian – flower (eg. male football player Florian Thauvin)
- Fortunatus – happy
- Gène – wellborn
- Gurvan – just, name from Brittany region
- Hilaire – joyous
- Ilian – superiority
- Jordane – River Jordan, meaning down flowing
- Jules – youthful
- Keziah – optimist
- Leone – lion
- Lilian – My God is a vow (eg. male football player Lilian Thuram)
- Lior – the light is in me
- Loann – light, a traditionally Celtic name from Brittany
- Loïs – more desirable
- Lou – famed warrior
- Louison – illustrious at combat
- Lyonel – lion
- Maé – short form Mary and Maelle, meaning a wished-for child
- Mahé – chief
- Mantel – makes garments
- Marley – from the land of lakes
- Marquette – landowner
- Matiese – one who is the gift of God
- Maxence – greatest
- Michon – gift from God
- Morgan – Of the sea
- Milan – dear
- Nikola – Basque name, victory of the people
- Noa – movement
- Sasha – shortform of Alexandre
- Silouane – forest
- Sofiane – who walks fast
- Thaïs – link
- Yaél – savage goat
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Certain names like Camille or Sofiane may strike you as being female names, but in France, these are actually quite common for boys as well as girls. Camille Lacourt (male) is a famous French swimmer, while Camille Claudel (female) is a French sculptor.
The name Jules is traditionally male in France, such as Jules Verne (French writer) and Jules Ferry (French politician). But is starting to gain in popularity as a female name as with American journalist and model Jules Asner.
Félice and Candide, on the other hand, were historically male names, but are now more frequently given to baby girls today in France.
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Unisex Names which change spelling
Unlike in English, the French language gender-izes nouns into male and female. For example, the chair is feminine (“la chaise“), while the world is masculine (“le monde“).
There is no rhyme or reason to this masculine-feminine allocation, much to the frustration of French-language learners. Professions also change gender like a teacher (“maître/maîtresse“) and a writer (“écrivain/écrivaine“).
So you can imagine that, in French, we also change the spelling of the name to match gender. The pronunciation however remains the same, with these top non-binary names.
- Adel / Adele – noble or elite
- Aimé / Aimée – loved one
- Axel / Axelle – my Father Is Peace
- Bérenger / Bérengère – bear
- Cyril / Cyrille – masterful
- Emmanuel / Emanuelle – God with us
- Esmé / Esmée – beloved, esteemed
- Faustin / Faustine – lucky
- Frédéric / Frédérique – peaceful ruler
- Gaël / Gaëlle – joyful
- Gervais / Gervaise – spearman
- Gwénaël / Gwénaëlle – blessed and generous
- Isidore / Isadore – gift
- Jean / Jeanne – God Is Gracious
- Lawrence / Laurence – winner
- Maël / Maëlle – Chief, Leader
- Maxime / Maxine – the biggest
- Morgan / Morgane – sea protector
- Noël / Noëlle – Christmas
- Océan / Océane – meaning the ocean, sea
- Pascal / Pascale – relating to Easter, Passover
- Raphaël / Raphaëlle – he has healed
- Rémy / Rémi – oarsman
- Romain / Romaine – from Rome
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You will notice that a lot of names come from the Bible and so names like “Marie” are often given to boys and girls as compound names. Jean-Marie is a rather common French compound name for boys, as is Marie-Lou for girls.
So feel free to play around with the combinations to pick a name that is truly unique for your special little one!
Shop Favorites for a French-style nursery:
You can find more of our favorites for the new French-style nursery here.
And for some fun, you can download some baby-related French-English flashcards below. A bientôt!