Paris is named after the people who lived there before the Romans arrived, the Celtic Parisii tribe. In 52 BC, the Roman army settled on what would later be called the Isle de Paris, calling their camp Lutetia Parisiorum, or “Lutetia of the Parisii.”
Before it became the home of Louis XIII’s 1623 hunting cottage (much less Louis XIV’s monumental 1661 palace), Versailles was rural farmland: its name originating from versare, Latin for "to turn over and over,” a medieval expression for plowed fields.
Unique Name History
As in most European countries, French children were traditionally named after saints: Jean for John, Luc for Luke, Marie for Mary, and so on.
Many also have Latin roots. There's Estelle, for example (from stella, or star), and Rémy (from remigis, or oarsman). Solange is derived from the Latin sollemnis, which means religious.
Some names have both male and female forms. An “-e” or “-ette” or “-ine” often transforms French boy names into French girl names: Nicolas becomes Nicole, Claude becomes Claudette, Gerald becomes Géraldine.
Up until 1993, France had rather strict laws on what a child could be named — a statute first created by Napoleon Bonaparte. Parents had to choose their child’s first name from a preapproved list.
After the law was relaxed in the early 90s, French parents were able to choose whatever name they liked, unless a court decided it was “contrary to the interests of the child.”
In 2009, a judge ruled that a couple could not name their son Titeuf, after a famous French comic book hero, since it would invite bullying, especially during the child’s teenage years. Similarly, in 2015, a court ruled that a couple could not name their daughter Fraise (French for strawberry) because the slang expression "ramène ta fraise” means “get your ass over here.”
Another judge, after rejecting the proposed first name “Nutella,” renamed the child “Ella” in the absence of its parents, who did not attend the hearing.
Popular French Names
In 2015, 778,691 babies were born in France, resulting in 12,731 unique names, according to The Local. Of the baby girls, Louise, Emma, and Jade were the three most popular names.
The most popular boys names in 2015 were Gabriel, Jules, and that traditional saint's name, Lucas.
Using official statistics from France's National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, author Stéphanie Rapoport has predicted that these names will remain extremely popular throughout the year, with French boys names Raphaël and Léo edging out Lucas in the top three.
Rapoport has noted that "double-barreled," or hyphenated names have fallen out of trend. Parents are ditching names like Jean-Marie, Jon-Paul, and Marie-Pierre for shorter names like Mila, Manon, Louis, and Hugo.