Girls' names in France - when people say that these names are old fashioned.....

(34 Posts)
laughorcry Mon 30-Aug-10 18:03:42

We're expecting a baby fairly soon and it looks to be a girl. We are a British family settled in France - the older kids are currently at French schools but the plan is for them all to be at a bilingual school by the age of 7ish.

Our plan for a name for the baby had been Madeleine - Eleanor and Rebecca also possibles.

When we have discussed these possible names with French friends they have all said that all three name choices are a bit old fashioned. No-one seems to have heard of Eleanor (as opposed to Eleonore), although other foreign names (William, Enzo and - bizarrely - Kevin) are quite popular.

What I can't get to the bottom of is the nuance of the suggestion that the names are old fashioned. Does it mean old fashioned like Gladys, or old fashioned like Florence in UK terms?

Does anyone have any thoughts? Particularly interested to hear from native French/bilingual folk.

OP’s posts: |
Earlybird Mon 30-Aug-10 18:15:34

Can you google for a list of the most popular names in France (know you can do that for UK and US).

You might not want to name your dd a common/popular name, but might give you more of an idea of current 'fashionable names'.

Portofino Mon 30-Aug-10 18:20:11

My dd's Belgian school friends are Manel, Elodie, Megane, Chloe, Sarah, Morgane, Isabelle....

natation Mon 30-Aug-10 19:47:00

Girls´s names in the last 2 years in Belgian school, 3 to 12 years old :


Eléanore would be a better choice for French speakers to understand, gets shortened to Léa which is quite popular.

Madeleine is more like Florence than Gladys in French culture, but make sure to spell it the French way!

Perhaps it would be worth going through UK and France top 100 names in the last few years, if you want a popular name, choose from the top, a less popular but perennial name, choose from the bottom.

Madeleine is simply beautiful. In Belgium it comes with a bit of history - Jacques Brel, the most important Belgian French singer of the 20th century had a very famous song called Madeleine. Plus more recently the most famous French children´s songs singer Henri Dès also recorded a French version of the Beachboys "Barbara Ann" so don´t be surprised if you get a nice reaction to the name.

laughorcry Mon 30-Aug-10 19:58:39

Ooh, that's interesting about Madeleine, natation - thank you!

Also thanks to portofino and earlybird - those are a slightly different type to the names of the girls in our older kids' classes. Popular round here are: Lilou, Maelis, Amy, Emily, Marie-Lou.

I have looked at the popular names in France but am not really grabbed by any of them. We would ideally like a name for which the spelling is identical in both languages, and which we like with both pronunciations. We thought we had it with Madeleine but were a bit put off by reactions. Natation - you have restored some of my confidence!

OP’s posts: |
Earlybird Mon 30-Aug-10 20:05:15




No idea if this are perceived as old-fashioned, trendy, dreadful etc.

natation Mon 30-Aug-10 20:14:46

Will ask my 2 best friends what they think of the name Madeleine, from th epoint of view as to old fashioned. Their reactions should be quite similar to a French person´s.

Know 2 Lilous, plenty of ... -Lous, a Mae, a few Emilys. I do think though that the Belgian French community go for far more traditional names than the Flemish and French - I see hundreds of children´s names go through my hands each week in my job, literally, yes very rare to see a Madeleine in a French or Belgian document.


Weta Tue 31-Aug-10 08:50:38

We have French friends (though now living in NZ) who called their daughter Madeleine. I think it's lovely - will ask some other French friends what they think of it.

Earlybird - Valérie and Nathalie sound old-fashioned to me (very popular in the 70s) but my children have had a few girls called Mathilde in their classes.

Bonsoir Tue 31-Aug-10 09:19:52

It is quite hard to "get" the register of names in other languages. Best to check the data.

Of the names you mention, OP, William is lovely and acceptable in modern French and not just an import from English - it's quite chic though; Eléonore is the French equivalent of Eleanor and very socially OK and perfectly modern too. Enzo and Kevin are much, much less socially OK though quite commonly given.

Madeleine is indeed old fashioned - a bit like Gladys, in that it is old fashioned and not currently used much. -11696.html here for proof!

Bonsoir Tue 31-Aug-10 09:20:46

Bad link, sorry. Try again, Here

natation Tue 31-Aug-10 09:45:48

Just did a bit of research on Belgian stats. Madeleine is 88th name in the population but in 2007 (last published year) Madeleine had dropped to 550, pretty much mirroring the French stats. But the advantage of a well-known name which is now more rare is that your daughter will not be likely to have any classmates with the same name, probably no-one else in school with that name, but at the same time the name is familiar and people know how to spell it.

And the answer back from my 2 bet friends is that the name is eaxtremely beautiful and they do not think there is a "negative" view of the name like Gladys would be in English, yes more like Florence - which I do rather like as a name too.

Bonsoir Tue 31-Aug-10 09:53:30

This booklet gives you the most popular names in the birth announcement in Le Figaro in 2006. If you choose one of those names, you can be sure you aren't in chav-land (Enzo, Kevin etc).

peasandbeans Tue 31-Aug-10 10:06:56

If you look on you can see the statistics for pretty much any name given in France. It will show you a graph with the popularity since 1900 so you can get an idea of names which are coming in, or very old fashioned, along with rankings for 2006, and over the last century.

I love Beatrice, for instance (we are a French/English family), but whilst it is relatively acceptable in Britain it is totally out in France!

FWIW I know a French 10 yr old called Madeleine, and a French/German 6 month old called Rebecca.

Bonsoir Tue 31-Aug-10 10:07:47

In Paris people would assume you were Jewish if you were called Rebecca.

Weta Tue 31-Aug-10 10:30:47

I just asked my friend and she thinks Madeleine does sound old-fashioned and not in a good way. She suggested the following as old-fashioned names that are coming back in: Louise, Jeanne, Mathilde, Marie, Juliette, Rose, Amélie, élise...

Weta Tue 31-Aug-10 10:32:44

Oh and I agree with Bonsoir that Eléonore is very socially acceptable... my SIL was considering it (but eventually decided it didn't go with Icelandic middle name!) and everyone thought it was lovely.

laughorcry Tue 31-Aug-10 10:55:27

Hmm - thanks to all. So some conflicting thoughts on Madeleine. Great link to the Figaro site, by the way - Madeleine seems to have been popularish in 2007.

I like Eleonore a lot, but am not sure how that would go down in the UK?

I'm fine with the Jewish aspect of Rebecca - my main problem with the name is that I don't like any of the diminutives (not a problem in France, but would be in the UK).

All further thoughts welcome!

OP’s posts: |
Bonsoir Tue 31-Aug-10 10:58:46

No - that doesn't mean Madeleine was given to babies in 2007 - it's the ranking of the name for the whole population of France ie there are lots and lots of old ladies called Madeleine!

laughorcry Tue 31-Aug-10 11:13:49

Ahh - thanks for that.

On the topic of the Jewishness of the name, do you think that a name which was considered Jewish would be a disadvantage in any particular way?

OP’s posts: |
Bonsoir Tue 31-Aug-10 11:19:47

In Paris, where there is a large Jewish population, non-Jews and highly assimilated Jews don't tend to give their children Jewish names. So names like Rachel, Rebecca, Sarah, Deborah, Simon, David, Benjamin etc are a strong social signal of being Jewish and wanting to advertise that fact.

There are also hyper-Jewish names like Ariel, Tsiporah...

laughorcry Tue 31-Aug-10 11:35:51

Interesting as a number of those are quite common where we are - certainly well beyond the Jewish community.

Any thoughts on Penelope?

OP’s posts: |
Weta Tue 31-Aug-10 13:11:30

My SIL's husband is half-Jewish and was reluctant to call their son Joseph (for the reasons stated by Bonsoir) although he did eventually agree.

Penelope was originally SIL's favourite first name for a girl but her entire family (except me) thought it was horrific...

BriocheDoree Tue 31-Aug-10 14:24:07

My children have names which are considered Jewish (didn't think of it when I named them as they are both very common English names) and no-one has ever commented, apart from the Israeli and Moroccan jews with whom I work, who didn't realise how popular some of the "biblical" names can be!

frenchfancy Tue 31-Aug-10 21:32:40

We have an Eléanore in the same class as DD3. Lots of Eloise and Maëlisse.

The only Madeline I know is in her 60's.

gastrognome Thu 02-Sep-10 11:38:59

I had Madeleine on my list of potential girls names and my (French) husband said it sounded a bit old fashioned to him and just made him think of the cakes!

I still think it's a beautiful name though.

I think Penelope sounds lovely in English but in French to my ear it sounds a bit "clunky" as the final E isn't pronounced - it (sort of) rhymes with "antelope".

Thinking to the girls' names chosen in recent years by French friends of mine, there's Elisa, Emilie, Charlotte, Maelle, Louise, Emma, Sophie and Chloé. Of that list, I like Elisa best (she gets called Lili for short).

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