Baby Name AnaisAnais makes a sophisticated French spin on an evergreen choice for girls.

Thanks to Sophie for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.

Pronunciation Problems

Strictly speaking, this name should be spelled Anaïs. The diaresis matters. Otherwise, how would you know to pronounce the name ahn na EES?

Except umlauts, cedillas, and the like are not typically used in American English. Practically speaking, they’re often omitted from databases. And, of course, not every English speaker will understand why Anaïs is different from Anais.

The sliver lining? Americans are used to pronouncing names (and words) all sorts of ways, and there’s nothing inherently difficult about saying ahn na EES – even if it’s not phonetically transparent.

Inevitably, the name might sound a little different depending on where you live. But if you don’t mind a certain amount of variation, and you’re patient enough to correct and explain a few (dozen) times, most people will probably get this name just fine.

Anne Elaboration

Anais claims deep roots. It’s an elaboration of the classic and enduring Ann. It shares Ann’s meaning, too – grace.

The name feels French today, though I’ve heard that it evolved in the Provençal and Catalan dialects, spoken in the Pyrenees, the mountainous region in the south of France, bordering Spain. (Fun fact: in Catalan, hello sounds like the Spanish hola while good-bye is closer to the French adieu.)

French diminutives for Anne also include Annette, Annick, Anouk, Ninon, and, of course, Annette. The Catalan and Provençal roots help explain why nothing else sounds quite like Anais.


The first famous figure to bear the name was writer Anais Nin. Born in France to Cuban parents, she grew up in Spain and Cuba, moved to Paris, and then eventually to the United States.

Her writing is not for children – it’s a mix of journals and erotica, fiction and non. But her bold and creative spirit might inspire modern parents, especially as she recedes farther into the past. (Nin died in 1977, though much of her writing has been published posthumously.)

She lends the names some literary cachet, though it’s very different from, say, Beatrix (Potter) or Louisa (May Alcott).


Back in the 1980s, this name spiked in use in France. That almost tracks with Nin’s literary success, but not quite.

Instead, it’s thanks to a fragrance.

Jean Bousquet established fashion house Cacharel in the 1960s. A decade later, the brand collaborated on its first fragrance: Anaïs Anaïs. The scent debuted in 1978 and became an international sensation. In just a few years, it became a Top Ten favorite girl name in France, too.


So where did Cacharel find inspiration? Maybe it was the writer, but they tell a very different story.

The Persian goddess of love and fertility and water was called Anaïtis. She’s also called Anahita.

People worshiped the goddess hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Sometimes she’s listed as the equivalent of Aphrodite or Venus.

It’s said this goddess inspired the name of the fragrance, but it seems equally likely that the designers chose the name, then worked backwards to find the right story.


Thanks to roots in French, Spanish, and Persian, Anais surfaces all across the world. There’s a former Swedish pop singer and a 2007 Miss Iraq. British singer-songwriter Noel Gallagher gave the name to his daughter in 2000. So that carries the name all around the world.

Fiction gives us a few notables, too. There’s a minor character in the X-Men comics by the name. Cartoon Network’s The Amazing World of Gumball premiered in 2011, complete with Gumball’s lil sis, Anais. (She’s a pink rabbit-like creature; her brother is more of a blue cat.)

By the Numbers

All of this – the perfume, the animated character, the author – have pushed the name into the Top 1000 a handful of times since the late 1980s. As of the May 2019 data release, Anais is back in the US Top 1000 once more. But there’s no telling if the name will stay.

Overall, there’s something beguiling about this choice. It’s sophisticated, even glamorous, but not in a way that feels burdensome. With our love for liquid, vowel-heavy names, it’s easy to imagine Anais fitting right in with Sienna and Eliana and Aurora.

It might make a great stands-out/fits-in choice … though maybe it’s more stands out than not.

Would you consider this name for a daughter? Does pronunciation give you pause?

First published on May 28, 2009, this post was revised and re-published on May 22, 2019.

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 loved this name and the idea of Anais Nin, until I read her diaries and several biographies ten years ago. She was a selfish, narcissistic woman who gave new meaning to the term “self-absorption”. Absolutely not a role model I want to give my daughter, regardless of how poetic and evocative her poetry and short fiction may be, or how progressive she may have been at the time.

    The name itself, however, is interesting and would make a great alternative to the norm if you can get past the bitter taste in your mouth after reading in depth about her life (or maybe don’t read about her at all!)

  2. Thanks for the history – wow! It’s my middle name and I’ve never thought to look her up in so much detail! Anais (I have the diaresis officially, but am too lazy to type it) is the only reason my parents named me Sophie instead of Alice – really – Alice Anais? ugh!

    Anyway I’ve always loved having it as my mn, especially now, to balance out the uber popularity of Sophie. It never felt *too* strange to me either, as my sister’s mn is Aleydis. I’ve always pronounced her AH-nah-ees, and I agree with others – people butcher the pronunciation way too much, it makes me cringe, though I do appreciate that it’s a little hard to get your tongure around! Down here, a lot of people are tempted to prononce it ah-NAY, which grates me really.

    Thanks again!

  3. No doubt Anais is gorgeous and evocative, one of the prettiest names I can think of. There’s also no doubt you’ll be fighting a lifelong pronunciation battle on this side of the pond. There is a charming little Anais in my daughter’s Daisy Scout troop, and her name is virtually unrecognized and almost always mispronounced.

  4. It’s funny – I love the idea of the name, but I have never been able to get around the pronunciation. Thank you so much for that link, it was definitely helpful but I’m still not sure if I’m on board. It seems like such a romantic name but I feel like it would be somewhat of a pain to have to say for people all the time…

  5. I’d use this as middle name because of the pronunciation issues – I cringe at the thought of hearing “annezz? annaiz?” in some flat Australian accent. But yeah, lovely name, and I think the nickname Annie makes it more appropriate for a little girl. Very chic.

  6. I like Anais. It’s not one that gets considered in our house because of my husband’s “too exotic” complaint. I would not have realized that the pronunciation was such a stumbling block – it’s one of those things that is good to know before saddling a little one with the name. I think if someone was looking for a similar sounding name with less burden of explanation, Anneliese would perhaps fit the bill. It has the addition “l” in the middle, which helps with pronunciation and the stress on syllables is similar to Anais. It also lacks any funky punctuation (although that is not really something that bugs me, personally). This is one that I’d love to hear more.

  7. I like most names that are derived from Anne and Anais is no exception. I like that stressed final syllable and umlauts are cute although I wouldn’t expect anyone in the U.S. to use them.

    I find international names and the evolution of languages quite interesting. As for its popularity in Chile and some Spanish-speaking communities, the pronunciation is instinctive in Spanish.

    Goddess name with simple nickname – she’s a charmer.

  8. Anais is just to hard to say to be potential choice. I couldn’t get comfortable with her in my mouth until the reference to Anais Nin gave me context. I say, for a name somewhat similar but much easier on an American audience, how about Annice? (although trying to spell that gave me a nasty feeling too. Any name I can’t decide on a “right” spelling is a name I won’t give my children)