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Want to See 400 Years of French Baby Names?

August 12, 2021 laurawattenberg 4 Comments

Want to See 400 Years of French Baby Names?

August 12, 2021 LauraWattenberg 4 Comments
Gargoyle-eye view of Paris

Some days, the y-axis feels like my enemy. I’ll be tracing a name’s past popularity on a graph, when the history cuts off abruptly at a point 100 or so years ago. Too many questions about the past are left unanswered. Now, though, we have an opportunity to take a deeper dive into name history—as long as the name in question is French.

The genealogy site boasts a massive collection of data about the French population, pooled from researchers across the country. They’ve tabulated the popularity of given names in their data set and made the stats available to graph at a click. While plenty of French parenting sites offer popularity charts starting with the year 1900, Geneanet’s reach all the way back to the year 1600. They also display popularity as a percentage of births, rather than a raw number of babies, to allow better comparison across time periods.

Exploring the four-century charts gave me a new perspective on many traditional names. I was fascinated to watch some names evolving into their modern forms, as the lingering use of medieval versions like Jehan (John) give way to familiar French names like Jean. Other names revealed surprises in their pasts. For instance, the name Adonis looks thoroughly modern in a 1900-present graph, like this one from the French parenting site

But zooming out tells a different story. The blue segment of this timeline corresponds to the period covered by the chart:

From this longer view, Adonis looks more like an antique revival. I also appreciated a fresh perspective on Charlotte and Mathilde, two names that were unquestionably antique revivals in 1990s France, apparently quite similar in history:

The bird’s eye view paints a different historical picture:

And where else can you spot a 400-year-old celebrity baby name trend? Check out the spike in the name Armand in 1629, the year Prince Armand de Bourbon was born:

Graph of usage of the name Armand with a sharp spike up in 1629

I hope you’ll enjoy exploring this treasure trove of name history yourself. If you make interesting discoveries, please come back and share them in the comments section here!

>> Explore Names on Geneanet

Special thanks to Allan Tulchin for pointing me to this topic


Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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  • SisterJudy August 12, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    You mean x-axis!

    • Namerology
      Namerology August 12, 2021 at 6:26 pm

      The y-axis is what feels like a barricade, blockading the x-axis at 1900!

  • SisterJudy August 12, 2021 at 6:57 pm

    Very sneaky of the x-axis, making it look like it’s the y-axis’s fault!

  • Elea August 17, 2021 at 3:41 pm

    Fascinating! I first looked at the first name list ( and clicked on Abednego and was really interested in not just the name chart but the map that shows up below. For Abednego, it appears that all the records are exclusively in Britain (mostly England) and America.

    I then looked up Willoughby which was my gtx4 grandmother’s name and, interestingly, the exact place she lived shows up on the map. It not only shows a picture of when the names were used but also where.

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