How popular is the baby name Guillaume in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Guillaume.
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Compound names (Anne-Marie, Jean-François) are falling out of style.
Once-taboo English names (Elliot, Mia) are seeing new acceptance.
Similarly, French names are flipping languages (Anne to Anna, Guillaume to William).
Names are also flipping gender (Ariel, Noa).
Pop culture is influencing names (Shania, Logan).
Unique names are on the rise.
Speaking of unique names, sociologist Laurence Charton of the INRS (Institut national de la recherche scientifique) suggested that the rise of unique names starting in the early 1980s was fueled in part by a 1981 change in Quebec’s Civil Code that loosened restrictions on babies’ surnames.
This claim makes me wish the article had included data from the ’60s and ’70s. I don’t doubt that parents felt liberated by the law change, but I do suspect that unique names were already on the rise by 1981.
At first glance, Guillaume always looks like gobbledygook to me. It’s the French form of William — that much I know — but it takes a few seconds for me to remember that it’s pronounced ghee-ohm, not not gwill-awm or gwee-awm.
And it’s not just Guillaume that trips me up. I find many other French names (Étienne, Edwige, Anaïs, etc.) equally tricky to pronounce.
So for those of us who struggle with French names, here are some simplified rules of French pronunciation, plus names to illustrate each rule.
This list is far from comprehensive, and my pronunciations are just approximations, but hopefully my fellow non-French speakers out there will find it helpful nonetheless.
French Pronunciation + French Names
AU: The vowel combination “AU” is pronounced like a long o.
Paul, in French, is pronounced pohl.
Margaux, a French form of Margaret, is pronounced mar-goh.
CH: The letter combination “CH” is typically pronounced sh.
Charles, in French, is pronounced shahrl.
D, P, S, T, X, Z: The six consonants “D,” “P,” “S,” “T,” “X” and “Z,” when at the end of a word, are typically silent.
Arnaud, the French form of Arnold, is pronounced ar-noh.
Denis, the French form of Dennis, is pronounced de-nee (remember the Blondie song?).
Lucas, in French, is pronounced loo-kah.
Louis, in French, is pronounced loo-ee (think Louis Vuitton).
…They’re not always silent, though. Here are some exceptions:
Alois, the French form of Aloysius, is pronounced ah-loh-ees.
Anaïs, a French form of Anna, is pronounced ah-nah-ees.
David, in French, is pronounced dah-veed.
Ë: The pronunciation of “Ë” (E with a trema) is like the e in the English word “bet.”
Gaël and Gaëlle are pronounced gah-el or gai-el.
Joël and Joëlle are pronounced zhoh-el.
Maël and Maëlle are pronounced mah-el or mai-el.
Noël and Noëlle are pronounced noh-el.
É: The pronunciation of “É” (E with an acute accent) is somewhere between the ee in “see” and the e in “bet.”
Noé, the French masculine form of Noah, is pronounced noh-ee.
Salomé, in French, is pronounced sah-loh-mee.
G: The consonant “G” is soft (zh) when followed by “E” or “I” but hard (gh) otherwise.
Georges, the French form of George, is pronounced zhorzh.
Guy, in French, is pronounced ghee.
H: The consonant “H” is silent.
Hélène, the French form of Helen, is pronounced eh-lehn.
I: The vowel “I,” and the forms Ï, and Î, are all pronounced ee.
Loïc, a French form of Louis, is pronounced loh-eek.
J: The consonant “J” is pronounced zh.
Jacques, the French form of Jacob, is pronounced zhahk.
LL: The letter combination “LL” is typically pronounced like an l.
Achille, the French form of Achilles, is pronounced ah-sheel.
Lucille, the French form of Lucilla, is pronounced loo-seel.
…But in some cases “LL” is pronounced like a y.
Guillaume, the French form of William, is pronounced ghee-yohm or ghee-ohm.
OI: The vowel combination “OI” is pronounced wah.
Antoine, the French form of Antony, is pronounced an-twahn.
Grégoire, the French form of Gregory, is pronounced gre-gwahr.
OU: The vowel combination “OU” is pronounced oo.
Lilou is pronounced lee-loo.
R: The consonant “R,” when at the end of a word, is typically pronounced.
Clair, the French masculine form of Claire, is pronounced kler.
Edgar, in French, is pronounced ed-gahr.
…When the “R” is preceded by an “E,” though, it is not pronounced.
Gauthier, the French form of Walter, is pronounced goh-tee-yay or goh-tyay (remember Gotye?).
Olivier, the French form of Oliver, is pronounced oh-lee-vee-yay or oh-lee-vyay (think Laurence Olivier).
TH: The letter combination “TH” is typically pronounced like a t (which makes sense, since “H” is silent).
Thibault, the French form of Theobald, is pronounced tee-boh.
TI: The letter combination “TI” is sometimes pronounced like an s or sy.
Laëtitia is pronounced lay-tee-sya.
W: The consonant “W” is pronounced like a v.
Edwige, the French form of Hedwig, is pronounced ed-veezh.
And finally, just a few more French names that I tend to have trouble with.
Anatole is pronounced ah-nah-tohl.
Étienne, the French form of Stephen, is pronounced eh-tyen.
Geoffroy, the French form of Geoffrey, is pronounced zho-fwah.
Ghislain and Ghislaine are pronounced either ghee-len or zheez-len.
Ignace, the French form of Ignatius, is pronounced ee-nyas.
Those aren’t too hard, right?
That’s what I tell myself…and then I come across Guillaume in the wild and my mind goes blank all over again. :)
If you know French and would like to add to the above (either another rule of pronunciation or a more precise pronunciation for a particular name) please leave a comment.
If you’re not a French speaker, here’s my question: Which French name gives you the most trouble?
The image below, of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, was captured in early 1838 by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype.
It may be the earliest surviving photograph of a person. Two people, actually. Both are in the lower left:
Here’s a close-up:
The standing man is getting his shoe shined, and the other man (partially obscured) is doing the shoe-shining.
Of all the people on the sidewalk that day, these were the only two to stay still long enough (about 10 minutes) to be captured in the image.
Now for the fun part!
What would you name these two Frenchmen?
Let’s pretend you’re writing a book set in Paris in the 1830s, and these are two of your characters. What names would you give them?
Here’s a long list of traditional French male names, to get you started:
For some real-life inspiration, here are lists of famous 19th century and 20th century French people, courtesy of Wikipedia. Notice that many of the Frenchman have double-barreled, triple-barreled, even quadruple-barreled given names. (Daguerre himself was named Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre.)
This little verse was sent to me by a reader named Petra:
Algy met a bear.
The bear was bulgy.
The bulge was Algy.
Petra went on to ask: “Is the name Algernon/Algy still in use or has it sunk without trace? I’m curious!”
The name Algernon is still in use, but just barely. And Algy is so rare that it’s nearly extinct.
Here are the SSA’s most recent numbers for Algernon:
2011: (fewer than 5)
2010: 9 baby boys named Algernon
2009: 5 baby boys named Algernon
2008: (fewer than 5)
2007: 9 baby boys named Algernon
And here’s similar data from England and Wales:
2011: (fewer than 3)
2010: (fewer than 3)
2009: 4 baby boys named Algernon
2008: (fewer than 3)
2007: 4 baby boys named Algernon
I was able to find only a handful of babies (born in the last 2+ decades) with the legal name Algy/Algie.
One of the most interesting things about Algernon? The name’s rather manly etymology.
Algernon originated as a nickname for William de Percy, who moved from France to England during the Norman Conquest.
His family name being probably reserved for occasions of form and ceremony, he was familiarly known in his own day as Guillaume al gernons, that is, Will with the Whiskers–which puts us in possession of at least one point in the personal appearance of this founder of the English house of Percy. Hence Algernon became a common baptismal name among his descendants.
It didn’t become a “baptismal name” until four centuries later, though.
The first descendant to get the name was Henry Algernon Percy (1477/8-1527), 5th Earl of Northumberland. Other descendants named Algernon include:
Algernon Percy (1602–1668), 10th Earl of Northumberland
While cleaning out my bookmarks the other day, I rediscovered this post on French names from francophile blog Polly-Vous Francais. It contrasts the names found in the birth and death announcements of a French newspaper. Here’s a sampling: