Baby Name of the Day: Jules


Jules Verne lights

Jules Verne lights in Amiens, France by ninasaurusrex via Flickr

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.

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13 Comments

I associate Jules with Joel’s dreamt twin brother on “Northern Exposure” — he was slimy, with his greased-back hair, and I immediately disliked him for besmirching the image of my beloved Dr. Fleischman. Ever since then I’ve viewed the name Jules to be smarmy and unpleasant. This is the reason we took the name Julian off of our list — even though I adore it above most other names — as I wouldn’t be able to bear hearing my son called Jules.

Thank you for featuring my son’s name! We live in Montreal so Jules is pretty unremarkable here, and it’s always interesting to get reaction from people living elsewhere.

I like both Julius and Julian as well, but I prefer the simplicity of Jules, particularly since we have a long surname. My parents were (and I suppose still are) fans of the American cartoonist Jules Feiffer, as am I, so that was a plus. In line with your recent nickname posts, he goes by Juju for now, but he’s only 2. 😉 We pronounce it both the English way and the French way, depending on which language we’re speaking.

There’s also Jules Bass of Rankin/Bass. The company created all the great Christmas specials – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer & The Island of Misfit Toys, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Frosty the Snowman, and The Year Without a Santa Claus. So with all these specials on TV now, I’ve been thinking about Jules a lot. I like it in theory, but I just can’t picture it in practice.

I like Jules, but would prefer Julian or Julius…. then you can always shorten.

I have to say, the first thought I had was “Jules Verne” – my mind usually automatically completes a name with the most associated second name (in my mind, in fairness, not from an objective point of view)…. but yeah, Jules Verne… that’s what Jules says to me.

I’m a Jules or more accurately according to my friends from High School I’m Juels. Since yesterday’s post was Lulu, if Dewey is the NOTD on Monday you’ll have hit all of my childhood nicknames. 😉

Jude is my favorite nickname for Julian, but Jules is a natural nickname for any of the Juli- names. Jules as a stand-alone name feels somewhat incomplete.

I really like Jules for a boy, I think I prefer it over Julian and Julius, not a huge fan of those. Jules may have been m.i.a for a long time, but I seem to recall Juelz charting even last year, so maybe parents tried to go with a different spelling?

The USA show “Psych” always seems to be on – love you, Shawn! – and it has a Jules, short for Juliet. I remember that on the last installment of the “Back to the Future” trilogy Doc has one son named Jules and the other named Verne. It seems all-girl to me, but that’s because all the Jules I’ve know have been, well, girls!

Jules is pretty unisex in the UK as a short form of Julia/Julian (and Jools isn’t limited to Jools Oliver, another well-known Brit is the male musician and presenter Jools Holland). I guess if people were keen to ensure people knew it was definitely male, they could pronounce it the French way, rather than the English.

I think Jules makes a great nickname for either gender. But I would prefer Julian/Julianne on the birth certificate. Julian still has a sophisticated yet modern/unisex sound without being too feminine. Where Julianne (emphasis on the ANN) is sophisticated spunky with a country feel that fits in well here in the south-eastern US.