Cover of "A Man and a Woman"

Anna is a classic, heard in plenty of smooshes, elaborations, and countless variant forms.  Here’s one of the most intriguing possibilities.

Thanks to Witchgreens for suggesting Anouk as our Baby Name of the Day.

The first Anouk to capture the attention of an American audience was a French actress.    Her work has mostly been in Europe, but some of her movies were so influential that her name likely sounds familiar to you: Anouk Aimée.

It was the year 1960, and the young actress was cast as Maddalena in La Dolce Vita, the legendary Federico Fellini movie.  She earned an Oscar nomination for 1966’s A Man and a Woman, and a Best Actress award at Cannes in 1980.

Her name was nearly unknown in the US before the 1960s.  But by 1969, there were seven girls given the name, and a handful in the years that followed.

And then Anouk faded, just as the actresses’ work in the US became less familiar.

Blame it on the pronunciation.

It’s ah NOOK, and I’ve heard the second syllable rhymed with book as well as Luke.  I suspect Luke is the correct pronunciation, but book the more wearable of the two.

How did Anouk become a nickname for Anne in French?  This part is a little curious.  The actress was born Françoise Dreyfus, and her first movie role was as Anouk in 1947’s La Maison sous la mer.  She kept the name.

La Maison sous la mer was based on a 1941 novel by Paul Vialar.  According to Meilleurs Prenoms, the name wasn’t bestowed in France until after the novel, after the movie, and really, after the career of the young actress took off.

Vialar might have been borrowing from the Dutch, where -ke is a common diminutive form: Mary becomes Marijke; Elke is a pet form of Adelaide; and Anneke is another affection form of Anne.

In fact, one of the most famous modern Anouks hails from the Netherlands: singer Anouk Teeuwe, known professionally by her first name alone.

But it wasn’t a total stretch for Vialar.  Earlier in the twentieth century and long before, you might have heard Annick.  Via the Celtic language Breton, spoken in Brittany and close cousins with Cornish, Annick was a traditional form of Anne with a longer history of use.

Others that might come to mind:

  • Among the many well-named characters in the novel and 2000 movie Chocolat was a child called Anouk.
  • Ewan McGregor gave this name to his daughter in 2011.

A mere 15 girls were given the name in 2013, making her a rarity.

Here’s a curious thing – there are a handful of suggestions that Anouk is also an Inuit name meaning snowflake.  While on sound alone it seems possible, I can’t find confirmation.  There is Qannik – the Q makes a K sound – which does mean snowflake in Iñupiaq, and made headlines as the name of a rescued polar bear cub a few years ago.  While I can’t disprove it, I suspect this one is false.

And yet it takes away none of Anouk’s charm.  The name still feels nicely pan-European, decidedly offbeat and unexpected, and more than a little dramatic.  As tailored as Ingrid or Sloane, Anouk could appeal to parents after a quirky, frills-free name with roots.

What do you think of Anouk?  Is she wearable in 2014?  Or do you prefer another form of Anne? 

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. Hello Anouk, My name is also Anouk. I was born in Manitoba, Canada in 1972. My mother’s roots are in Quebec, Canada, where I have lived most of my life. I have also been wishing to grasp the origins of our name. I had been told it could mean friend and friendship in Inuktitut dialetcs… Though my mom had other names for me before my birth, Anouk came with the wind (jan-05-1972).

  2. I am Inuk (singular form of Inuit) and I can confirm that Anouk is an Inuit name. We actually would spell it Anuk but with the same pronunciation. Anuk means dog harness in Inuktitut.

    Anuk in Nunavik
    and Anulik in Nunavut

    It’s a very pretty name and I don’t know why it’s not that common where I’m from.

    1. Thank you for confirming that Anouk / Anuk actually is an Inuit name and explaining its meaning! I’ve been googling to find out about that.

      I’m from the Netherlands and my name is Anouk. In the late 1960s my mum has been reading a book (in dutch) about an Inuit family with a little baby girl called Anouk. Unfortunately she can’t recall the author or title. I’m guessing the story was written in French and if Anuk is an Inuit name, the spelling is probably adjusted for the correct pronunciation. In Dutch the name is sometimes spelled Anoek, with the same pronunciation

      I would love to find out which story inspired my mum to name me Anouk. If anybody knows the title or author of the mentioned book, can you please share it?

  3. Anouk can also be heard on the streets of Tel Aviv as a shortening of Anna which is in turn derived from the biblical character Hannah, renowned for her ‘grace.’

    My own feeling is that names may originate from one country in a particular century and then the name in question can take on a life of its own.

    Take my own name Chantal. It is French and celebrates the medieval Roman Catholic Saint Jeanne de Cantal who founded a monastery and educational establishment for widowed women and young women left destitute near Dijon in Burgundy.

    My mother named me Chantal because I was born on August 12th – the French Roman Catholic Saint Day of St. Jeanne de Cantal.

    The name has morphed over time, first acquiring an ‘h’ and more recently a new ending, namely ‘elle’ hence the new twentieth century American names Chantelle and Chantel as opposed to the traditional French name ‘Cantal’ and ‘Chantal’…

    And so the story of names shall continue from generation to generation, across time and continents, forever evolving: just like us!

  4. I have a third cousin in the Netherlands named Annushka, and her nickname is Anouk. It also reminds me of Chocolat!