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French look to Bible and abroad for baby names

The Local/AFP · 16 Oct 2013, 18:20

Published: 16 Oct 2013 18:20 GMT+02:00

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The days of Jean-Pierre, Nicholas, Paul-Henri, Anne-Laure, or Marie-Élise, are well and truly over it seems.

The rankings of the most popular baby names in France for 2014 reveals the French are increasingly looking to the Old Testament as well as other cultures for inspiration for boy's and girl's names.

The 2014 edition of "L'Officiel des Prenoms", published on Wednesday, predicts that Nathan, which has been the  most popular boy's name for the last three years, and Emma, top of the girl's list for nine consecutive years, will retain their crowns.

The popularity of Emma is such that one baby girl in every 72 born in France next year will be given the name, Stephanie Rapoport, author of "L'Officiel des Prenoms" calculates.

Rapoport uses trends drawn from official registry data to predict the names parents will choose in the year ahead.

As well as the growing influence of fashions from the English-speaking world, the popularity of Nathan reflects the current fashion for Old Testament names with Gabriel (4th), Adam (13th) and Noah (16th) all featuring in the top 20.

“Old Testament names are doing very well in France. They are proving to be very trendy,” Rapoport  told The Local.

“This trend started in America and its now catching on over here. French parents want to be original so they are choosing biblical names. The names have a value to them and are well established."

“A few years ago, Nathan was not even in France and now it has been top for three years running. Choosing biblical names is really a recent phenomenon.”

In general, Rapoport says, there is a “globalization” of names in France.

“There is a really multi-cultural influence now and you will see names from many countries. Emma, Lilly, Lola, and Chloe are all names you will see from around the world,” she said.

If the list of the most popular baby names in France has a multi-cultural feel to it, it is a far cry from the 1990s when France only looked to the United States for new names and Kevin dominated the top of the rankings.

Story continues below…

Interestingly, Mohammed, which was the second most common name in England and Wales in 2012 if all its variants are counted, does not make the top 20 in France, despite the country's Muslim community being twice as large as Britain's.

Rapoport believes that can be explained by the two countries' different approaches to migration, with France, in her view putting a greater emphasis on integration into a 'French' way of life, leading to many families with a Muslim heritage opting for bi-cultural names such as Ines, Adam or Nadia.

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The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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