EXPLAINED: Is your name ‘French enough’ for France?

A new web tool allows people living in France to check if their first name is 'French enough' and suggests a Francophone alternative for people with unacceptably foreign names.

EXPLAINED: Is your name 'French enough' for France?
Sure, they look pretty French, but are their names acceptably Francophone? Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The site has been set up as a joke response to the suggestion by far right pundit – and possible presidential candidate – Eric Zemmour that so-called “non-French” first names should be banned.

His suggestion is a fairly common theme among the far right and it’s not a new obsession for Zemmour, who back in 2016 informed former justice minister Rachida Dati that it was “outrageous” of her to name her new baby Zohra. 

But now a French web developer has set up a name generator tool to mock Zemmour’s suggestion.

Vite Mon Prenom offers a one-click test to see if your name is “French enough” under a law originally passed in 1803 that obliged parents to choose a name for their baby from among a list of historically French names.

The site’s name is a tribute to the hugely popular Vite Ma Dose online tool that allowed people to find appointments near them for Covid vaccinations, but it is not believed to be connected to Vite Ma Dose’s creator Guillaume Rozier.

As well as telling you whether your name is acceptably French, the site suggests an alternative if you are too foreign.

Therefore William becomes Guillaume and Ben becomes Jean.

French football legend Zinedine Zidane would become Bernadin according to the site’s suggestion, while Sylvain (Kylian) Mbappé would be taking penalties for France in the future.

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

Before you take its suggestion too literally however, be aware that the name generator does not seem to consider your gender – therefore Britney becomes Brice, more usually a man’s name, while Yann becomes Anne.

Perhaps the most famous ‘non French’ name of all, Kévin (which even inspired its own phrase) can stay, however, according to Vite Mon Prenom, it accords with the 1803 law.

By Thursday lunchtime, more than 1 million people had tested their name on the site – which can be found here.

Until 1993, French parents had to choose a name for their baby from the long list of names deemed ‘acceptable’ by authorities.

That rule was later scrapped, but the courts can still block a name if they deem it against the best interests of the child – baby Nutella, baby Fraise (strawberry) and baby Deamon have all had a name change after the courts barred their names.

There is also a provision within the existing law for people applying for French citizenship to ‘Frenchify’ their names, either by altering spelling or translating their name into French – here’s how.

READ ALSO The list of baby names that French authorities won’t allow

Member comments

  1. I fear that my comment on the likes of Zemmour, if posted, would be rejected as too offensive. Brexit and the anti-vax campaigns have already proved that much of the population prefer to live in the dark ages, so this sort of populist nonsense is not really surprising – but such a disappointment.

  2. Fascinating – I though my name was French enough if I added an accent, but apparently I need to change (and my sex) to Boris….

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‘I’ve lost my eyebrows – but not my political ambition’, says France’s ex PM

France's former prime minister Edouard Philippe, a leading contender to succeed President Emmanuel Macron in 2027 elections, has opened up about a hair loss condition he says will not diminish his political ambition.

'I've lost my eyebrows - but not my political ambition', says France's ex PM

The 52-year-old politician, who spearheaded the government’s fight against the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, was a familiar face on television with his trademark brown beard.

Since leaving the post in the summer of 2020 and working as mayor of the Normandy port of Le Havre, his appearance has drastically changed with his hair and beard thinning and turning white suddenly.

“This is what had happened to me: I lost my eyebrows, and I don’t think they will come back,” he told BFMTV in an interview late Thursday.

“My beard has turned white, it’s falling out a bit and the hair too.

“The moustache is gone, I don’t know if it will come back, but I would be surprised,” he said.

“I have what is called alopecia,” he added, opening up about the auto-immune condition that accelerates hair loss.

He said the condition was “not painful, dangerous, contagious or serious”.

Philippe’s wry and avuncular style proved popular with many French and some speculated that his high approval ratings had caused tensions with Macron, with replaced him as Prime Minister in the summer of 2020.

Philippe now regularly tops polls of France’s most-loved and most-trusted politicians. 

He has now founded a new centrist party called Horizons that is allied with Macron’s ruling faction but also unafraid of showing an independent streak.

Some analysts see Philippe as an obvious potential successor to Macron, who must leave office after serving the maximum two terms in 2027.

And Philippe insisted that his condition would not stand in the way of his political plans.

“That doesn’t stop me from being extremely ambitious for my city,” he said referring to Le Havre.

Tellingly, he added: “It doesn’t stop me from being extremely ambitious for my country.”

With France buffeted by strikes and protests as the government seeks to push through landmark pension reform, Philippe gave his full backing to Macron for the changes.

He said he supported the changes “without ambiguity, without any bad note or any other kind of little complication”.