It’s not so bad, really, if you pronounce it the British way. – Quote from the morning of the princess’ birth.

Thanks to JNE for suggesting the royal Eugenie for today’s Name of the Day.

Princess names fall into a few categories:

  • Evergreen classics like Elizabeth and Mary;
  • Fictional choices like Disney’s Jasmine and Aurora;
  • Frilly, feminine picks like Arianna or Gabriella.

But there’s one more category, and it is an undiscovered trove of appealing options – the names worn by real-life princesses and aristocrats, a quirky and historic bunch.

When Prince Andrew, Duke of York and his wife Sarah welcomed their second daughter, this name caused quite a lot of comment. One of my favorite royal watchers uttered the quote above and then attempted to pronounce Eugenie in an upper-crust English accent.

Hilarity ensued.

28 years later, I’m still not certain whether it is yoo jzay NEE, yoo JZAY nay, yoo jzeh nee or something slightly different.

What is certain is that Eugenie is thoroughly royal. The three famous bearers, in reverse order, are:

  • Princess Eugenie Victoria Helena of York, granddaughter of the reigning Queen of England and presently sixth in line to the throne;
  • Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena of Battenberg. She later married King Alfonso XIII of Spain, becoming a queen herself. Mom was the baby of Victoria and Albert’s brood, Princess Beatrice; dad was Prince Henry of Battenberg. The exiled Empress Eugénie was her godmother. Like her godmother, she’d spend much of her adult life in exile. While she was formally referred to as Victoria Eugenie, it isn’t quite accurate to think of her wearing either name. Her mother had included the Gaelic name Eua on the original birth certificate; when the officiant at the princess’ christening mangled Eua as Ena, the nickname stuck;
  • But the original royal Eugenie was María Eugénia Igancia Augustina de Palafox de Guzmán Portocarrero y Kirkpatrick, wife of Napoleon III and thus, the last French Empress. Dad was a Spanish Duke and passed on titles aplenty to his daughter, though big sis Francisca became the Duchess. Eugénie was dispatched to France for a proper – and fashionable – education, where she caught the eye of Prince Louis Napoleon. He’d been the market for a bride. Eugénie stepped into the role, becoming quite the nineteenth century fashionista – and an empress, too. She’s been portrayed on film from the 1930s right up through 2007’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Appropriately enough, the name derives from the Latin Eugenius, from the Greek eugenes – well born.

While the masculine Eugene is more geek than chic, he continues to rank in the US Top 1000, coming in at #691 last year. But never say never to a revival – in the Roaring 20s, he reached as high as #20.

Feminine version Eugenia is more common in English, though she last appeared in the US Top 1000 back in 1984. Boosted by the stylish empress, Eugenie also appeared in the rankings from 1880 through 1920. Her fortunes fell along with the French empire.

Today, if Vivienne and Genevieve are too common, Eugenie might provide an appealing choice for your petite mademoiselle – assuming, of course, you can decide how to pronounce it! And if it leaves your little one tongue-tied, there’s always Genie or the français Gigi for a nickname.



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 think Eugenie is a quirky choice, but being the friend of two Eugenies, I am slightly biased. Both pronounce their name as uu-gene-NEE.

    Would I ever use the name myself? I’m tempted, so watch this space.

    1. Eugenia is my given name and I’ve always hated it. Though I grew up using the Spanish pronunciation, English speakers in the U.S. have always butchered or even insulted my name. Not a fun name to have!

  2. My name is Eugenie, as is my grandmother’s. I have Arab heritage but a bit of knowledge of history will tell you how the name travelled to the middle east. The only issue I have with it is it’s hard to pronounce for most people, especially in North America. I therefore have about 15 versions on my name, depending on who you speak to, as I just got tired of correcting people. So unless you live in Europe, I advise against naming your kid after British royalty 🙂

  3. I love this name. It was my grandma’s name. She went by Jean most of the time which I didn’t like as much, or the dreaded Genia (GAY-nyah). Its the common Polish nickname for this and I always thought the sound was horrid, even if people called my grandma that. Eugenie makes a great middle name choice. Its sophisticated, sweet and regal.

  4. I went to undergrad with a young lady named Eugenie – she was of French heritage, from Baton Rouge, and she pronounced it “yoo jzeh nee”. I always thought it was a beautiful name (with that pronunciation), but would shy away from using it because I would be afraid of it being mispronounced – as in “yew-GENE-ee” or something.

    1. Kat, I bet that is the same Eugenie that I met at summer camp, Camp Marymount. I loved her name… she was precious.

  5. I am the daughter of a fanatic royal watcher. Seriously – my dear mother can tell you who is related to who, how the laws of succession work, how to properly refer to this or that rank, whether margrave is used in a particular system and so on.

    So Eugenie is, for me, a quirky cool princess name. In my next life, I want to come back as a well-born English woman and have seven daughters, plucking some fantastic name from history for each of them. Eugenie just might be one … And actually, make that a series of intriguing names. Octavia Francisca Harriet Alix Pomeline … you’d have to be a blue-blooded, riding-to-the-hounds type to pull that off, wouldn’t you? Make that Lady Octavia Francisca Harriet Alix Pomeline …

    Back to reality now.

  6. I’m in agreeance with Allison & Photoquilty here! All I see in Eugenie is Eugene, which I find entirely unattractive; it’s clunky, but without charisma to me!

    1. Did you see I answered your question the other day? You guessed one of the kids’ names right!!

      1. I did notice that. I think Spencer is a good choice, too. Much better than Dillard!

  7. Since I think Eugene is quite possibly the most lackluster male name ever, Eugenie has zero appeal. I just don’t like it, and I think there are several more attractive ways to get to Gigi or Genie.

    1. my name is eugenie and i always get complimented on it. i think u need to hear the name pronounced. its not eugene with just and eey end on it. its yoo jzehn ee

  8. Thanks, Verity! Hmm…. I’ve most heard it pronounced yoo-zhehn-ee, although I don’t really mind any of the pronunciations. I think that’s likely to be the most difficult part of the name – how to say it. I quite like the option to call her Gigi, though. It’s interesting to me that the history is so, well, dull really. It’s pretty much royal all the way without anything else to spice it up. Still, I like the sound of the name. My husband recently said he ‘absolutely hates it’ so the name will stay on my long list and not make it to our (combined) short list, it would seem… but who knows for sure.

  9. I adore Eugenie (which I pronounce “yoo-JEE-nee,” though “yoo-ZHAY-nee” also appeals to me)! I’m also substantially fond of Eugene and Eugenia.