Researching the names I’d encountered while away in France inevitably got me browsing the most popular French names of the last few years over at the wonderful Behind The Name‘s Most Popular Names in France 2009.
I can’t resist looking at some of the more intriguing and noteworthy names currently dancing in the French charts.
Today it’s the girls:
Anaë. One of many elaborations of Anne currently far more popular than Anne itself (491st). Anae is 152nd. Also occurs as Anaé and Annaë.
Capucine. In 70th place in 2009, Capucine immediately brings to mind “cappuccino” — with justification, as the ultimate derivation is the same: the Latin caput “head”. It is, in fact, the French for “nasturtium” and Capucine was the stage-name of French actress Germaine Lefebvre (1928-90), as well as featurine in Québécois children’s show Pépino et Capucine.
Fanta. Ranked 486th in 2009, this is not an adoption of the drink, which is little known in France (they prefer Orangina). The name seems to be a short form of Fantine, the name of one of the principal characters in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables (1862), thought to derive from French enfant “child.”
Garance. Although it looks to an English eye like a diabolic coupling of Gary and Clarence, garance is actually the French for “madder” — the plant, and the colour it produces: a rich, pinkish red. It was 134th (up 36 places) in 2009. It featured in the classic French film Les Enfants du Paradis (1945).
Jade. Yes, Jade. In 2nd place. Demonstrates the French love-affair with names which have enjoyed recent vogues abroad. Other very “English” names include Emma in 1st place, Sarah in 8th, Lola in 10th and Lisa in 25th, as well as French forms of others which have been popular such as Léa, Chloé and Zoé, which were all in the top 10.
Elsewhere in the top 50, you’ll also find Alicia, Anna, Laura, Lily and Melissa, and other ESW names working their way up or down the French charts include Alexandra, Alexia, Aleyna, Alyssa, Amelia, Amy, Anastasia, Angie, Annabelle, Ashley, Audrey, Ava, Candice, Carla, Cassandra, Cassie, Charlie, Charline, Eden, Ella, Emily, Emmie/Emmy, Enola, Erin, Fanny, Farah, Fiona, Flora, Gwendoline, Hannah, Helena, Jenna, Jessica, Kayla, Kelly, Kim, Kimberley, Lana, Lara, Linda, Lindsay, Lorena, Lucy, Madison, Maia/Maya, Marion, Marylou, Maureen, Melinda, Melody, Mia/Mya, Mina, Mona, Nell, Nelly, Nora/Norah, Olivia, Sabrina, Sacha/Sasha, Savannah, Serena, Sophia, Stacy, Stella, Tessa, Thea, Tiffany, Tina, Vanessa, Victoria and Wendy.
Kessy. A curious name which has made an appearance in recent years and was 459th in 2009. It may be an adoption of the surname, a French take on Kizzie (the usual English pet-form of Keziah), a variant of Cassie, or perhaps the French form of a name of African or Arabic origin. No-one in France seems to know either.
Lamia. Probaby the Arabic name, from lammā’ “shining,” as there are many Arabic and other Ethnic names in use in France by people of all heritages. It is also, however, the name of the Libyan queen turned child/man-eating monster of Greek mythology, responsible for giving Latin the word lamia meaning “vampire” and “witch.”
Louison. Not “son of Louis,” but a pet form of Louise, using the old diminutive ending -on which occurs in other French names such as Manon. In 233rd, place — 58 up on the year before. Also used for boys, as a diminutive of Louis.
Luna. In 43rd place — ranking considerably higher than any ESW country. What’s more, the variant Louna ranks even higher, in 21st place. Meanwhile, the consonant cluster “-l-n-” is clearly in vogue generally. Others are: Lena (16th), Lina (19th), Lana (52nd), Leane (60th), Leana (78th), Leona (252nd) Line (line 269th), Leanne (303rd), Leyna (339th), Leina (385th). A great many others end in -line or -lina, etc.
The cluster “-l-l-” is also popular; as well as yesterday’s Lilou, English Lily (plus Lilly, Lili, Lilie) and Lola, there’s Laly (132nd), Lalie (183rd) — from Eulalie — Leila (143rd), Lila (105th), Lilia (120th), Lilya (314th) and Lilas (318st).
Maeva. At first glance, seems to be a French take on the Irish Maeve. In fact, it is the adoption of the Tahitian maeva “welcome,” and is found in 54th place — in 2008, it was 16 places higher.
Pauline. A traditional French name, to be sure, but one thoroughly in “vintage” class now in the ESW. Currently bobbing along nicely still in France in 35th place. Other classic French names which are now considered dated in the ESW but are still top 100 in France (and therefore deserve to be considered “au courant”) include Louise (13th), Juliette (22nd), Marie (28th), Julie (38th), Justine (46th), Gabrielle (63rd) and Adèle (92nd).
Prune. The French for “plum” ranked 444th in 2009.
Shana (130th), with its variants Shaina (226th), Shayna (294th) and Shanna 277th, would appear to be a French feminine on Shane, the phonetic spelling of Irish Sean, or an elaboration of Welsh Sîan (Jane).
Tea. Superficially yet another drink to the English eye, Tea (also Téa — which makes the pronunciation clear), is actually a variant of Thea. 468th in 2009.