‘Foreign’ baby name still number one in France

For the third year in a row, a distinctly English-sounding name has topped the list of the 10 most popular baby names in France, knocking out traditional names such as Lina and Louise.

'Foreign' baby name still number one in France
Photo: AFP

Emma was the most popular name for girl babies in 2019, as it was in 2018 and 2017

Over the course of last year, 3,944 Emmas were born in France, according to French national research institute Insee, which ranks the 10 most popular baby names in France every year.

The English sounding girl's name, which actually has Germanic origins, beat traditional French names such as Jade and Louise, which came second and third with 3,820 and 3,752 babies respectively.

For the full lists, scroll down.


Gabriel most popular boy's name

Of all the boy babies born in 2019, most were named Gabriel (4,987 in total).

Gabriel won for the second time in a row, albeit with smaller margin than the previous year (5,419 babies were called Gabriel in 2018).

After Gabriel followed Léo (4,653 babies), Raphaël (4,454 babies) and Arthur (4,005 babies).

These names are, like most of the names that made the top 10 boy's list, quite traditional French boy's names.

Most of the top 10 boy's names in 2019 featured on the lists in 2018 and 2017, showing that the classic names are still popular for boys.

READ ALSO: The 6 boys' names that mean something very different in French 

You can see what name was the most popular locally in the maps below:


The French daily Le Parisien has made an online tool to search for the most popular name in your area. Click on this link, scroll all the way down, choose your département and a full list pops up.

Is your name Arya? The fierce young female Game of Thrones character seems to have inspired many parents to name their babies after her (more below). Photo. AFP

Soon to be dethroned?

Neither Emma nor Gabriel are traditional French names with longstanding and recurrent popularity comparable to old French names such as Marie or Louis.

Emma became popular in the 90s and has remained so ever since, but has been gradually losing ground since 2005. 

The decline continued last year when Emma's popularity dropped 10 percent compared to 2018.

Gabriel, which saw a massive upsurge in popularity in the 2000s, has seen its popularity drop since sometime around 2015.

Photo: Insee


The girl names that saw the biggest popularity boost last year were Joy and Arya. While neither made the top 10-list, they did increase by 46 and 38 percent respectively since 2018.

Joy is another English name, while Arya is probably best-known from the world famous series Game of Thrones. 

It's not the first time a celebrity name gains sudden popularity in France.

Back in 2018, 1,169 sets of parents picked the name Aya after the singer behind chart-topping hits such as Djadja and Pookie.

READ ALSO: How France's 'most embarrassing' baby name doesn't actually exist

On the boy side, 1,211 babies born that year were named Kylian, a newcomer name likely made popular by the 2018 French World Cup hero Kylian Mbappé.

But in terms of celebrity naming we're still a long way from 1991 when French parents turned their backs on traditional Gallic names and went absolutely mad for the name Kévin.

That year, some 14,087 bébé Kévins came into the world in France, with the accepted explanation pointing to two Hollywood films. 

Top 10 girl names in 2020:

1. Emma

2. Jade

3. Louise

4. Alice

5. Lina

6. Chloé

7. Rose

8. Léa

9. Mila

10. Ambre

Top 10 boy names in 2020:

1. Gabriel

2. Léo

3. Raphaël

4. Arthur

5. Louis

6. Lucas

7. Adam

8. Jules

9. Hugo

10. Maël





Member comments

  1. “English sounding name”? *Sigh* Not like the most famous French literary heroine was named Emma or anything…

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Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.