French names for girls have long fascinated American parents.

Want proof? Every generation claims at least a few favorites. Some, like Genevieve and Josephine, feel like they’re imported directly from Paris. Others, like Julie and Elaine, seem less distinctively French – but their roots are undeniable.

One more piece of evidence? This post has long been among the five most popular lists at Appellation Mountain!

Read on for a discussion of past French names for girls in favor in the US, and some très chic, très français ideas for a nom de fille today.

And if you’re looking for even more French names, be sure to visit Méilleurs Prenoms, my go-to site for French baby names.

A few notes: I’ve omitted diacritical marks throughout most of this list. It’s a difficult call. They’re misspelled without them. And yet, if you use these names in the US, it’s likely many official forms will omit them. My suggestion? If you’re comfortable with the idea that sometimes Anaïs will be just plain Anais, don’t worry about it. But if it bothers you? It might be better to choose a different name.

Secondly, for rare names, I’ve tried to provide some guidance about how to pronounce them. This isn’t necessarily the way you’d hear them in France; I’m aiming for a reasonable approximation of what non-French speakers in the US would probably say.

French Names for Girls: 1880 to 1939

Between 1880 and 1939, these names all appeared in the US Girls’ Top 100 for at least a few years:

  • Blanche
  • Charlotte
  • Elaine
  • Genevieve
  • Jacqueline
  • Josephine
  • Louise
  • Lucille
  • Marguerite
  • Pauline

French Names for Girls: Baby Boom

Most of those names remained in use, and many climbed the charts during the Baby Boom. They were joined by:

  • Diane
  • Joanne
  • Michelle
  • Renee
  • Suzanne
  • Valerie

French Names for Girls: 1960s to 1990s

Today’s parents are likely to answer to French names like:

  • Danielle
  • Denise
  • Nicole
  • Stephanie

French Names for Girls: 21st Century Favorites

Current classrooms are filled with girls named:

  • Charlotte
  • Claire
  • Gabrielle, the given name of Coco Chanel
  • Genevieve
  • Josephine
  • Madeline, or even the more specifically French Madeleine – though the most popular spelling at the moment is the streamlined – and more American – Madelyn

French Names for Girls: Neglected Possibilities A to L

These names all feel nicely French and mostly undiscovered. For even more fanciful options, see the Find Your Fanciful French name graphic above.

Anaïs – Thanks to writer Anais Nin this name feels slightly familiar in the US.  A form of Anna, it’s pronounced ah nah EES.

Capucine – You wouldn’t name your daughter Nasturtium, but translate it to French, and Capucine has potential. It’s the name of a famous French model and actress from the 1960s. In the US, it might be confused for cappuccino, but it’s pronounced kap uh SEEN.

Celeste – Celeste might be the most accessible name on this list.

Chantal – A place name and saint’s surname, Chantal also resembles chant, the French word for song. It saw some use in the US in the 1980s and 90s, but quickly faded.

Élodie – A long time favorite on the site, Elodie is the French form of Alodia. It’s never recently entered the US Top 1000, and with sound-alike Melody in use, it could wear well.

Eulalie – The French version of the Greek Eulalia feels spirited and unexpected. It could shorten to Lally.

Françoise – I’ve heard that Francoise is quite dated in France today. And yet, Francis names all feel like they’re on the upswing in the US. It sounds something like frahn SWAHZ, but it’s a challenging name for non-French speakers.

Lilou – Lily names are white hot in the US, so how about Lilou? It might be cousin to Lily, but it owes its popularity to 1997 sci fi movie The Fifth Element.

French Names for Girls: Neglected Possibilities M to Z

Mireille – The heroine of Pierre Capretz’ French in Action series, Mireille taught countless American students to parlez français. The spelling is tricky, but the sound – mee RAY – works.

Maëlys – This is one of several feminine forms of Mael, a Breton saint from the fifth century. It’s pronounced something like MAH eh liss. Maēlle is another option.

Noémie – Naomi and the Italian Noemi rank in the current US Top 1000, but the French spelling does not.

Océane – River is big in the US, but in French-speaking countries, it was the word for ocean that made waves.

Salomé – A Biblical girls’ name, Salome is heard in many languages. But it’s been in the French girls’ Top 100 recently, so it feels like a fit for this list.

Severine – Severus belongs to Harry Potter. But maybe Severine fits with names like Genevieve?

Sidonie – At peak Sidney, Sidonie might have confused. But maybe it works today? It’s not related to Sidney. Instead, it comes from an old Latin name from the city of Sidon, in Phoenicia.

Solange – Another saint’s name, Solange looks like a smoosh of sol – sun – and ange – angel. But it actually comes from a Latin word meaning religious.

Zélie – St. Zelie Martin was the mother of St. Therese of Lisieux. She and her husband, Louis, were canonized in 2015. That’s raised the name’s profile considerably. Combined with that zippy Z, it’s one of the most wearable rarities on this list.

French Names for Girls: Now Find Yours!

I’ve taken some of the rarest of the rare names and put them together. Find your fanciful French name above!

What are your favorite French names for girls?

This post was published originally on July 17, 2008. It was revised substantially and re-posted on July 12, 2018.

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. We named our daughter Delphine because we loved the French vibe and ethereal sound of the name. We get lots of compliments about what a pretty and uncommon name it is.
    She has big beautiful blue eyes and this lovely rare name to go with, I just love it. 🙂

    1. We’re thinking Delphine for our wee girl due in January too. Last name Donovan. Think its so beautiful!

  2. I’ve always loved Nadine for a girl although some would say it falls into the Janine/Pauline category and therefore sounds dated 🙁 I love its meaning though and think it’s underused enough to feel fresh. I also love the French spelling of Nathalie but I’m afraid it would always be mispronunced

    My middle name is Lucille (passed down from my grandma) and I think it is beautiful and sounds good as a middle name with almost any first name. I will consider passing it down to a future daughter. Louise is another French name used in my family as well (even though we aren’t a lick of French!)

  3. We named our firstborn daughter Emmanuelle. Hebrew origins but French spelling/pronunciation. I still love it after 5 yrs and she’s Emma to her friends and teachers, which I also like.
    Emma was too common a name for us even though hubs and I both liked it, so we’re happy that her official documentation says “Emmanuelle” — thens he can chose when she’s older to go with the longer name if she wants!

  4. I’m trying to find a good name for our second daughter, due Dec 31. Our first daughter (now 14 months) is named Cilou. (It’s actually Claire, but we’ve called her Cilou since her first week – C from Claire, Lou from her middle name, Louisette.) The name at the top of my husband’s list is Delphine (he is from Paris,) but I’m not 100% sold, yet. I do like it, but I’m still taking through good names. Any ideas that would sound good next to Cilou? We will likely call her Cilou until she decides she wants a more adult name and reverts to Claire.

  5. To avoid this problem, I would just pick a French name with some representation in colonial North America. The British expelled the French from Acadia (Eastern Canada) and they migrated down to the southern United States to become known as ‘Cajuns’. The name Evangeline is prominent from that era–just one example–and well known in Canada, but probably not so culturally significant in France.

    I also dislike people who mine other cultures for “exotic” names without much knowledge for what would pass for a name in the original culture in the first place. So this could be a way of side-stepping those issues–by drawing on North American history itself.

  6. My husband suggested Espérance recently. I’m an Anglophone and can’t see myself getting my mouth around such a French name consistently. We’re in a partly Anglo, partly Franco area, and I think it would throw people off; they would expect her to speak French. French names that have been Anglicized for a long time (like Josephine or Sebastian) would be fine, but I don’t think I would do a purely French name justice.

    1. It’s a lovely name, but I think I know what you mean. My husband’s family is from Poland, so we considered using Polish given names at one point, but then I heard them said in Polish – and realized they weren’t really the same names. And I would never really get it right – which is tolerable with the names of cousins, etc., but not so much with your own child’s name.

  7. Seventeen years ago (this June!), I named my darling daughter Arielle Jacqueline.
    Unfortunately, both my husband and I were working very hard on our respective careers: 55-60 hour weeks! We also were not around any little children- I was having the first grand child in my family and his two nieces and nephews lived across the country. So, we were unaware of “The Little Mermaid” movie by Disney.
    So many people ask us if we named our daughter after this. It astonished us that anyone would think we named her after a cartoon ! Plus, most people pronounce it “AIR-e-el”, where as it is pronounced “R-E-L”. They also mispronounce Jacqueline as “Jack-O-Lynn” as it is ” Zhak-Leen” (as in ‘queen’!).
    As opposed to naming her after a cartoon, we chose both names because we find them feminine and elegant- and, French as I am Basque! Important to our decision, Arielle (or sometimes, Ariel) is one of the four archangels along with Gabriel. They are the highest level angels. So basically we chose it for it’s femininity, uniqueness and biblical meaning. Arielle is also a character in Shakespeare’s last comedy, “The Tempest”.
    It’s just so annoying that people assume we chose the name for such a ridiculous reason, rather than for all the careful thought and consideration we put into it!

  8. We would have used the nickname Theo but it ended up being a little girl. So now we have a lovely Mirabelle to complement Eloise. Thanks for the feedback 🙂

  9. I think that the idea that you can’t use a French name with no connection to France is kind of silly. We Americans have a really large connection to France, she’s called Lady Liberty 😉 So, there ya go.