How popular is the baby name Francois 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 Francois.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Francois


Posts that Mention the Name Francois

Babies named for Napoléon Bonaparte

Portrait of French Emperor Napoleon I (1769-1821)
Napoléon Bonaparte (circa 1812)

French military leader Napoléon Bonaparte may have spent his life trying to conquer a continent, but that life began and ended on islands.

He was born (as “Napoleone Buonaparte”) on the Mediterranean island of Corsica in 1769 — the same year that France took Corsica from the Republic of Genoa (now part of Italy). He died while in exile on the remote South Atlantic island of Saint Helena in 1821.

In between, Napoléon: attended military school on the mainland, began serving in the French Army, rose to prominence during the French Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars, became the de facto leader of France in 1799, declared himself Emperor in 1804, and proceeded to build a vast empire via the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).

Needless to say, a large number of babies all over the world have been named “Napoleon” since that time.

I don’t want this post to get too crazy, though, so I’ve decided to collect namesakes from just two locations — France and the U.S. — and to stick to the years during which Napoléon was active.

Portrait of First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821)
Napoléon Bonaparte (circa 1803)

Napoléon’s namesakes in France

Thousands of French babies were named in honor of Napoléon from the mid-1790s to the mid-1810s.

In contrast with namesakes in other countries (like the U.S. and England), most of his French namesakes were given only his first name — not both names — and it was typically combined with one or more traditional French names (e.g., “Louis Napoléon,” “Jean Baptiste Napoléon”).

With that in mind, I went out of my way to find combinations that were a bit more varied…

  • Napoléon Baillot, b. 1793 in France
  • Jacques Napoléon Desiré Campa, b. 1795 in France
  • Napoléon Stéphanie Joseph Therin, b. 1797 in France
  • Napoléon Joseph Buttin, b. 1799 in France
  • Napoléon-Jean Demeester, b. 1800 in France
  • Napoléon Nicolas Senelar, b. 1801 in France
  • Guillaume Napoléon Pelletier, b. 1802 in France
  • Willebrod Napoléon Désiré Degrave, b. 1803 in France
  • Charlemagne Napoléon Lambert, b. 1804 in France
  • Napoléon Louis François Richounne, b. 1805 in France
  • Napoléon Parfait Furpille, b. 1806 in France
    • parfait means “perfect” in French
  • Bienaimé Napoléon Le Cagneux, b. 1807 in France
    • bienaimé means “beloved” in French
  • François Desiré Prosper Napoléon Loiseau, b. 1808 in France
  • Napoléon La Paix Lemasson, b. 1809 in France
    • la paix means “peace” in French
  • Gustave Napoléon Fichet, b. 1810 in France
  • Esprit Napoléon Houdry, b. 1811 in France
    • esprit means “spirit” in French
  • Napoléon Bonaventure Dusautier, b. 1812 in France
  • Auguste César Napoléon Decoene, b. 1813 in France
  • Napoléon-Etienne Vernoni, b. 1814 in France
  • Fructueux Napoléon Artigue, b. 1815 in France
    • fructueux means “successful” in French

Almost all of the namesakes in this group were boys, but a handful were girls with feminized forms of the name (like Napoléonne, Napoléonide, and Napoléontine).

Several dozen more boys — most of them born early on — were given only the surname:

  • Jacques Dominique Bonaparte Venkirch, b. 1796 in France
  • Augustin Bonaparte Joseph Galle, b. 1797 in France
  • Jean Baptiste Bonaparte Mollard, b. 1798 in France
  • Séraphin Adolphe Bonaparte Decorne, b. 1799 in France
  • Alexis Sébastien Bonaparte Poirée, b. 1801 in France

Napoléon had usually been called “General Bonaparte” or “citizen Bonaparte” before mid-1802, when the people of France went to the polls to decide: “Should Napoléon Bonaparte be consul for life?” Millions voted yes, and, after that, “he was generally known as Napoléon rather than Bonaparte.”

Napoléon’s namesakes in the U.S.

Napoléon didn’t wage any wars on North American soil (though he did sell a lot of that soil in 1803, when he let go of the Louisiana Territory for $15 million). Nonetheless, U.S. newspapers paid close attention to him:

French plebiscite mentioned in U.S. newspaper (July, 1802)
The “consul for life” vote mentioned in a Virginia newspaper, 1802

Americans were clearly impressed by Napoléon’s achievements, judging by the hundreds of U.S. namesakes born in the late 1790s and first decades of the 1800s. Many of these babies received both his first name and his surname:

Others were given only his first name:

And a good number simply got his surname:

  • Buonapart Manly Towler, b. 1796 in New York
  • Buonaparte Bennett, b. 1797 in Maryland
  • Buonaparte Mann, b. 1798 in Rhode Island
  • William Bonaparte Wood, b. 1799 in Massachusetts
  • Charles Bonapart Hunt, b. 1800 in Maine
  • George Washington Bonaparte Towns, b. 1801 in Georgia
  • Louis Bonaparte Chamberlain, b. 1802, probably in Mississippi
  • Lucion Bonaparte Keith, b. 1803 in Massachusetts
  • Consul Bonaparte Cutter, b. 1804 in Massachusetts
    • Napoléon Bonaparte served as Premier consul from 1799 to 1804
  • John Bonaparte Dixon, b. 1805 in North Carolina
  • Erastus Bonaparte White, b. circa 1806 in Rhode Island
  • Socrates Bonaparte Bacon, b. 1807 in Massachusetts
  • Bonaparte Crabb, b. 1808 in Tennessee
  • Madison Bonaparte Miller, b. 1809 in Vermont
    • James Madison served as 4th U.S. president from 1809 to 1817
  • Bonaparte Hopping, b. 1810 in New Jersey
  • Israel Bonaparte Bigelow, b. 1811 in Connecticut
  • Joseph Bonaparte Earhart, b. 1812 in Pennsylvania
  • Ampter Bonaparte Otto, b. 1813 in New York
  • William Bonaparte Steen, b. 1814 in South Carolina
  • Leonard Bonaparte Williams, b. 1815 in Virginia

A few of the people named Bonaparte (but not Napoléon) did have other given names — like Lucien, and Jerome — that could have been inspired by other members of the Bonaparte family. I found a Josephine Bonaparte Evans (b. 1815), for instance, who was probably named after Napoléon’s first wife.

Another of the relatively few females in this group was Federal Anne Buonapart Gist (b. 1799), the daughter of Joshua Gist, who served in the Maryland Militia during the Revolutionary War.

Defining “Napoléon” and “Bonaparte”

Other famous men named Napoléon Bonaparte (including Napoleon III) also had namesakes, but it was the original Napoléon Bonaparte who put these two unusual names on the map.

So…what do they mean?

The Italian forename Napoleone has obscure origins, so the meaning isn’t known for certain. One popular theory is that it’s made up of the elements Neapolis, the original name of Naples, and leone, meaning “lion.” When Bonaparte was born in 1769, the name was “relatively common around Genoa and Tuscany,” though it was spelled a variety of ways (e.g., Nabulio, Nabulione, Napulione, Napolionne, Lapulion). The name had been used in his family before; his father’s uncle, for instance, was also named Napoleone.

The Italian surname Buonaparte, on the other hand, is much more straightforward: it’s made up of the elements buona, meaning “good,” and parte, meaning “part, share, portion.”

Was anyone in your family tree named after Napoléon?

Sources:

African names in the newspapers

In 1971, a list of African names published in Jet magazine had an impact on U.S. baby names.

In 1977, a list of African names published in Ebony magazine had a similar impact on U.S. baby names.

And in between, in 1973, a list of African names was published in an interesting place: U.S. newspapers nationwide. That is, not in a magazine written for an African-American audience specifically.

African names, newspaper article, 1973, baby names
African names in U.S. newspapers, Aug. 1973

So…did this newspaper-based list have an impact as well?

Yes, turns out it had roughly the same impact as the other two lists.

The opening line of the article was: “Here’s help for young black couples wanting to give their infants African names.” Toward the end, the article featured a list of 23 names. Most of these names ended up seeing movement in the data, including 10 (!) debuts.

  1. Abeni – debuted in 1974
  2. Avodele – never in the data
  3. Dalila – increased in usage ’73
  4. Fatima – increased in usage ’73/’74
  5. Habibah – debuted in 1974
  6. Halima – increased in usage ’74
  7. Hasina – debuted in 1974
  8. Kamilah – increased in usage ’73/’74
  9. Salama – debuted in 1974
  10. Shani – increased in usage ’74
  11. Yaminah – debuted in 1973
  12. Zahra – debuted in 1973
  13. Abdu – debuted in 1973
  14. Ali – no movement in the data
  15. Bakari – debuted in 1973
  16. Hasani – debuted in 1973
  17. Jabari – increased in usage ’73/’74
  18. Jelani – debuted in 1973
  19. Muhammad – no movement in the data
  20. Rudo – never in the data
  21. Sadiki – not in data yet
  22. Zikomo – not in data yet
  23. Zuberi – not in data yet

The article cited as its source The Book of African Names (1970) by Chief Osuntoki. As it turns out, though, the Chief wasn’t a real person. He was a fictional character invented by the publisher, Drum and Spear Press. Here’s a quote from the book’s introduction, purportedly written by the Chief:

It is strange, indeed, it hurts my heart, that brothers from afar often come to greet me bearing such names as “Willie”, “Juan” and “François”. But we can not be hard against them, for they have been misled.

Of the 23 names listed above, the one that debuted most impressively was Jelani. In fact, Jelani ended up tied for 43rd on the list of the top boy-name debuts of all time.

  • 1976: 55 baby boys named Jelani
  • 1975: 46 baby boys and 6 baby girls named Jelani [debut as a girl name]
  • 1974: 53 baby boys named Jelani
  • 1973: 36 baby boys named Jelani [overall debut]
  • 1972: unlisted
  • 1971: unlisted

Which of those 23 names do you like best?

Sources:

  • “African chief explains symbolism of names.” San Bernardino County Sun 15 Aug. 1973: B-4.
  • Markle, Seth M. A Motorcycle on Hell Run: Tanzania, Black Power, and the Uncertain Future of Pan-Africanism, 1964-1974. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2017.

Baby names in the news: Revy, Cali, Jameson

Some recent and not-so-recent baby names from the news…

Abbey: A baby girl born in England in November of 2017 was named Abbey in honor of Dr. Abey Eapen, her parents’ fertility doctor. (Mirror)

Blake Ramsey: A baby girl born in Florida in January of 2018 was named Blake Ramsey after Jaguars football players Blake Bortles and Jalen Ramsey. (First Coast News)

Cali: A baby girl born into the Perry family of Kentucky in July of 2017 was named Cali Perry in honor of John Calipari, head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team. (SEC Country)

  • Here’s another Cali from a couple of weeks ago.

Derc’hen (rejected): A baby boy born in France in August of 2017 was almost named Derc’hen, but the French government rejected the name because of the apostrophe. (The c’h is “a combination widely used in Breton language.”) (The Local)

Fañch (rejected): A baby boy born in France in May of 2017 was almost named Fañch, a traditional Breton diminutive of François, but the French government rejected the name because of the tilde over the n. (The Local)

Harveigh: A calf born in Texas a few days after Hurricane Harvey was named Harveigh. (Today)

Jameson: A baby boy born in Missouri in February of 2018 — and whose birth was broadcast live on his mom’s St. Louis radio show — was named Jameson, thanks to radio listeners who’d voted in a name poll held in January. (Newsweek)

Joshua: A baby boy born in Wisconsin in September of 2017 was named Joshua in honor of Dr. Josh Medow, the doctor who’d saved his mother’s life two years earlier. (Fox47)

Lucifer (rejected): A baby boy born in Germany in 2017 was almost named Lucifer, but the government rejected the name due to the association with evil. He’s now known as Lucian. (Deutsche Welle)

Olivia: A baby girl born into the Garton family of Arkansas in December of 2017 was named Olivia Garton as a tribute to Olive Garden restaurant. (ABC News)

Pilzner (rejected): A baby boy born in Sweden in August of 2017 was almost named Pilzner after his grandfather (nicknamed Pilzner), his father (nicknamed Pilzner), and Pilsner lager (clearly a family favorite), but the government rejected the name. (The Local)

Revy: A baby girl born in California in November of 2017 was named Revy after the ski town of Revelstoke, British Columbia. (CBC)

Brady Ruben Nuno: A baby boy born in England in December of 2017 was named Brady Ruben Nuno after: American football player Tom Brady, Portuguese footballer Ruben Neves, and Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. head coach Nuno Espirito Santo. (Express & Star)

Swachhata: A baby girl born in India in February of 2018 was named “Swachhata” in recognition of the country’s cleanliness campaign, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. (Hindustan Times)

Popular and unique baby names in Quebec (Canada), 2016

According to data released recently by Retraite Québec, the most popular baby names in Quebec in 2016 were Emma and William.

Here are the province’s top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2016:

Girl Names
1. Emma, 632 baby girls
2. Lea, 514
3. Olivia, 507
4. Alice, 489
5. Florence, 470
6. Zoe, 416
7. Rosalie, 406
8. Charlotte, 400
9. Charlie, 387
10. Beatrice, 378

Boy Names
1. William, 791 baby boys
2. Thomas, 697
3. Liam, 654
4. Nathan, 614
5. Felix, 603
6. Jacob, 597
7. Noah, 590
8. Logan, 580
9. Alexis, 532
10. Gabriel, 530

In the girls’ top 10, Charlie returned and ousted Chloe.

In the boys’ top 10, Gabriel replaced Samuel.

Some of the baby names used just once last year include:

  • Girls: Aucelia, Augia, Denasada, Eulogia, Flechere, Haydence, Juridielle, Luotta, Mavericka, Nermine, Omica, Saranella, Sydra, Tuleen, Waapikun, Zealy, Zoralie
  • Boys: Bienvenu, Brinx, Clouthier, Danevick, Dyberry, Endrick, Holiday, Knochlan, Luzolo, Naulaq, Ozroy, Rockwell, Syphax, Tchaz, Tunu, Vinicius, Zabian

A CBC News article about how Quebec’s baby names are evolving to reflect the province’s changing values mentioned several name trends observed from the 1980s to today:

  • 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.

rare baby names, quebec baby names, baby name graph

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.

Here are Quebec’s 2015 rankings.

Source: Retraite Québec – List of Baby Names

Massachusetts family with 24 children

children

Here’s a French-Canadian family that welcomed at least two dozen children from the 1870s to the 1890s.

Francois Gervais was born in St. Roch (near Montreal) in 1847. He later moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, and found work as a carpenter.

He and his second wife, Marie Louise, became the parents of 21 children within their first 20 years of marriage, according to a New York Times article from 1895 about “Francis” and his family. At that time, only 9 of the children were living:

  • Frank, 18 years old
  • Arthur, 17
  • Roch, 14 (called Rodrique elsewhere)
  • Henry, 10
  • Louise, 9
  • Eugene, 5 (middle name George)
  • Edward, 4
  • Eva Marie, 3
  • Albert, 1.5

According to records, two of their non-surviving children were named Josephine (b. 1889) and Joseph (b. 1893).

After the article came out, Francois and Marie Louise had several more children, but it looks like only one survived:

  • Joseph and Marie, twins, b. 1896, died of “infantile weakness”
  • John, b. 1898, survived
  • Dorila, b. 1899, died of diphtheria

Francois also had triplets with his first wife, Melvina, but the babies didn’t survive, and Melvina died a few years later.

Source: “Twenty-One Children in Twenty Years.” New York Times 23 Jun. 1895: 21