The garden of girls contains no bloom more favored than Lily. Add in the growing interest in appellations française, and what do you get?

Thanks to Kristine for suggesting Liliane as Baby Name of the Day.

Make no mistake, there are a lot of little Lilys growing up out there. In 2009, Lily ranked #18, followed by:

  • Lillian, #27
  • Lilly, #117 – also common as a surname, and place name with non-floral origins
  • Liliana, #120
  • Lilliana, #376
  • Lillie, #426
  • Lilian, #436
  • Lilyana, #522
  • Lilianna, #739
  • Lillianna, #864
  • Lilyanna, #999

And that’s without counting a handful of similar-sounding choices like Lila.

Liliane has yet to make the list, and she is just a little bit different. The pronunciation shifts from LIL ee ehn or lil EE ehn to lil ee AHN.

With more parents considering Vivienne instead of Vivian, Liliane seems like an equally logical choice.

There are two possible origins for Lily and company:

  • The first, and obvious, is that she’s related to the Latin lilium – a floral name found throughout much of the world;
  • Lily may also have evolved as a pet form of Elizabeth – which makes the longer names elaborations of the diminutive.

The truth is probably somewhere in between. Not only are lilies lovely, but they’ve long between symbolic of purity and religious significance. You can still buy Easter lilies, and go back farther and you’ll find them associated with ancient goddesses, like Hera.

There are just a handful of notable Lilianes:

  • Leelee Sobieski was born Liliane, and named after a grandmother;
  • The heiress who inherited the L’Oréal fortune is Liliane Bettencourt. She’s excessively wealthy and incredibly controversial, from her politics to her personal life.

In French-speaking countries Liliane is on the outs – akin to Gertrude in the US. But the French are madly in love with Lilou. You’ll find Lilou listed as a pet form of Liliane (or other given names with a lee sound, like Amelie) but that’s not the whole story.

Remember The Fifth Element? The 1997 sci fi smash cast Bruce Willis as a taxi driver who has to save the world by protecting the mysterious creature Leeloo, played by Milla Jovovich. Director Luc Besson is French; he nabbed a César Award for Best Director for the film.

While -ou is a genuine nickname construction in parts of France, and you can find references to Lilou (and Catou and Madou) the first year it was bestowed independently? 1997, along with Leeloo and Leelou.

If you love the idea of a daughter called Lilou, then Liliane is a logical option for a formal name. And if you’re looking for a slightly different way to get to Lily, Liliane might satisfy.

But if you just find Lillian frumpy, you’ll have to think about whether Liliane is different enough to satisfy your concerns. Like many just-a-little-bit-different names, it can be difficult to insist on a precise pronunciation. Other intriguing getting-to-Lily options include the Scottish Lilias or the Slavic Lilia.

Then again, if you’re going to call your little bloom Lily, Liliane seems like a fresh option for the birth certificate – formal, enduring, but still on trend.

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. I really like Liliane. Had I known about it 14 years ago when I named my daughter Lilia I might have used it.

    1. You have a Lilia! How did I miss that? I have a brand new cousin named Lilia. A very pretty name, and even if it gets shortened to Lily, I think it remains just a little different …

  2. My church baptized a Lil-Leigh Anne a few weeks ago… That child’s name sort of the killed any love I had for the name Lillie.

    I can appreciate Liliane, but when the child is 1 of 30,000 children with a “Lily name”, does it really matter what the formal name is?

    1. Whoa! Lil-Leigh Anne? I’ll give you that the pronunciation is straightforward, but it’s a bit much. Even Lilleigh Anne seems almost restrained. That hyphen does it in!

        1. LOL! Here’s hoping it does just represent a grandmother and two aunts, and not The Notorious K.I.M.

    2. wow. Just wow. It just looks so awkward and makes it awkward to say, as if I’m forced to pause at the hyphen.

  3. My favorite Lil- name is Lilia, but as a life long Francofile, I find Liliane pretty and sweet. I’m not so fond of Lilou, which is odd because I like Louisa and other Lou-names. I will have to add Liliane to my growing list of girls names!

  4. I love Lily names… but I’m glad we demoted it to the middle name position for my daughter (and went with Lily, which is really what I love because of the flower). Lillian was our fn option, but we quickly decided we didn’t want to have a name that might require our daughter to go by her fn plus surname initial (ironically, my daughter often goes by Immy and has a little girl called the very similar Emmie in her preschool classroom – not a single Lily to be heard.). Lilou is absolutely adorable as well! Liliane – meh. I’d rather Lillian, Liliana or Lilya – and the lack of French-ness wouldn’t stop me using Lilou as a nn for those others. Still, I love the name Lily, regardless of how popular it is or which iteration is chosen.

  5. I find the Lily names gorgeous, but wouldn’t use them in the first position due to their popularity. Liliane is a nice spin on a familiar choice.

  6. I think Lilou is adorable. Liliane does not do much for me. I am just kind of tired of many of the Lily names.

  7. The French have gone completely gaga for the “lou” sound it seems: in addition to Lilou, you will find Louise, Lou, Louane and Louna among the most frequently used current names for girls. L