He’s a literary French spin on an ancient appellation.
Thanks to Maia for suggesting her son’s name as our Baby Name of the Day: Jules.
Julius Caesar was an emperor; Julio Iglesias, a legendary Latin crooner. The first reads hyper-masculine; the second, almost meltingly romantic. The first is ancient but familiar – Julius ranked #335 in 2010. Julio came in at #339 last year – equally common, and no less well known.
Julio is simply the Spanish form of Julius, while Jules is the French variant. But he has a very different vibe than the first two versions of the name.
The best known Jules suggests that this name would split the difference between the emperor and the recording artist. Jules Verne was a writer, credited with creating the sci fi genre. It is the kind of literary reference many parents embrace for their children.
Jules’ sound should appeal, too, putting him in the company of all those preppy ends-ins options: Keats, Ames, Yates, Gates, Brooks.
Instead, parents likely hesitate thanks to another trendlet: girls named Julia (or any version of that evergreen appellation) answering to Jules. There was Demi Moore’s character in St. Elmo’s Fire. Now there’s Courtney Cox’s Jules on Cougar Town, model-turned-journalist-turned-author Jules Asner and celeb chef Jamie Oliver’s wife (and partner in extreme baby-naming), Jools. It has put a certain feminine stamp on Jules, one that probably gives parents pause.
Jules hasn’t charted in the Top 1000 in the US since 1961, but he’s gaining rapidly in France, and Meilleurs Prenoms ranks him as quite stylish.
Notable Jules are almost exclusively French:
- First, there’s Jules Verne, the towering nineteenth literary figure who imagined forms of travel not yet invented with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days. Adaptations abound, and even if you’ve never read his books, you almost certainly recognize their titles – and his name.
- At about the same time, Jules Breton was painting the French countryside.
- And Jules Massenet was composing operas like Werther.
- French explorer Jules d’Urville made it all the way to Antarctica in the 1830s.
- Jules Maigret is a fictional police detective created by Belgian author Georges Simenon. Between the 1930s and 70s, he penned dozens and dozens of novels and short stories, many of which have been adapted for television.
- The current generation of parents met Jules when Samuel L. Jackson donned the name for Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 blockbuster Pulp Fiction. Jackson was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.
Add an o, and joules becomes a scientific term – a unit of energy named in honor of nineteenth century physicist James Prescott Joule.
Overall, Jules has a certain vibrant, modern sound that works well for a 21st century child without sacrificing all of that lovely history and depth. If you don’t mind the possibility that this will be viewed as a unisex name, Jules has an awful lot to offer – uncommon and distinctive, but definitely on the right side of familiar, too.