When a woman marries in France, she doesn’t change her surname to that of her husband. Instead, women retain their surname as their legal name, which is used on official documents, and adopt their husbands’ surname as a “usage name.”
Also, as long as it is not for illegal purposes, anyone can adopt a “usage name” and use it in their day-to-day life. If you’re considering French last names as a first name for your baby, are interested in last names in general, or want to adopt a French surname, here are our favorite 100.
100 French Last Names and Surnames with Meanings
Even the most ordinary of French names manage to sound classy and romantic. Here are our favorite French last names that make us wish for such an elegant-sounding moniker.
Allaire is a surname used for people from the town of the same name.
Two branches of the Allaire family were established in North America. One Allaire settled in Quebec, New France, in 1658, and the other relocated to New Rochelle, New York.
André is a French form of Andrew and means masculine.
This French surname is from the given name André, which is both the French, German, Dutch and Portuguese version of Andrew. In Danish, André means second.
Archambault evolved from the Germanic language and means bold master.
Archambault.ca is the largest French-language e-commerce site in North America. Their primary focus is on musical instruments, sheet music, and music reference books, but they also sell a range of French-language books, toys, games, and other media.
A Germanic name, Arnaud means eagle power.
Arnaud’s is the largest restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana. The current management is the fourth generation to run Arnaud’s, and the menu is one of traditional Creole food.
Arquette could mean either little bow or little arch.
One theory is that Arquette was used for an archer because arc is French for bow. The other idea is that Arquette evolved from the Latin arcus, meaning arch, and was a name used for a market trader.
The French form of Albert, Aubert means noble and bright.
Jean Aubert was a merchant from Thionville, a town in the Lorraine region of northeastern France. In 1612, Aubert was inducted into the noble classes, and his descendants became members of the Danish and Norwegian nobility.
Augustin evolved from the Ancient Roman Augustus, meaning to increase.
The professional basketball player D.J. Augustin was born in New Orleans. Born Darryl Gerard Augustin Jr., his family moved from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and he began his basketball career in Texas. Augustin currently plays for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Babin is a French evolution of Babylon, which means gate of the gods.
Founded in 1568 in Babin, Poland, The Babin Republic was a satirical literary society. They were like the Mad Magazine or The Onion of their time. Their Latin motto was Omnis Homo Mendax, which means every man is a liar.
Babineaux is a variation of Babin, meaning gate of the gods.
Huell Babineaux is the bodyguard of Saul Goodman in two TV series, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. The character suffers from a narcolepsy-type condition causing him to fall asleep at inopportune moments.
Barbier is French for barber.
The Barbier crater, named after French astronomer Daniel Barbier, is on the south half of the far side of the moon. It is an impact crater caused by an unknown object hitting the moon’s surface at great speed.
The French name Barre was used for someone who lived near a barrier.
Barré was a French car maker established by Gaston Barré in 1899. His first car was presented at the Paris auto show the same year, and production ran until 1930.
This surname began as Baud, meaning brave, bold.
Baud was used as a nickname for anyone with a name that had the baud sound in it, such as Thibauld, the French form of Theobald, and Baudouin, the French version of Baldwin.
Beauchêne is French for beautiful oak.
According to the 2010 census, Beauchêne was the 44,423rd most frequently registered surname in the United States. There were 162,253 surnames in use overall.
Beaufort translates to beautiful fortress.
Irish hydrographer Francis Beaufort developed the Beaufort wind force scale in 1805. It uses observations to rate the wind rather than instruments that measure wind speed.
Beaulieu, meaning beautiful place, is a common town name in France.
Beaulieu House, usually referred to as just Beaulieu, is a historic mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Designed by the architect Calvert Vaux, who also designed the bridges in Central Park, the home was owned by The Astors and Vanderbilts.
From the French place name, Beaumont means beautiful mountain.
After College Hall, the first building on the Michigan State University campus, collapsed in 1918, Beaumont Tower was erected to mark the spot. Still a popular meeting place, the tower is one of the most photographed locations on campus.
Bélanger is from two Germanic word elements meaning bear and spear.
Denis Bélanger is an award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter from the French-speaking province of Quebec. Known as Snake, Bélanger writes and performs with Voivod but has also worked with other artists, including Dave Grohl.
Bellerose is French for beautiful rose.
Bellerose is an international clothing brand based in Belgium. With sustainability and social equity at the center of their philosophy, they are known for their commitment to providing free repairs to their clothes for life.
Blaise evolved from the Latin name blaesus, meaning lisping or stammering.
The earliest known documented use of the surname Blaise is from 1459 when Robert de Blay (an earlier spelling) was recorded as the Magistrate of Toulouse. In 2019, Blaise made it to the 925th spot on the U.S. popular baby names list as a boys’ name.
Blanc is French for white.
Traditionally, this surname was le Blanc, or the white. This is because the name began as a nickname for someone exceptionally pale or with white hair.
The French surname Blanchet means white.
In English, many names evolved from the use of a suffix like y or ie being added to a name, such as Sam becoming Sammy. In French, het or ette are often used, and so Blanc evolved into Blanchet.
Bonfils is French for good son.
Bonfils Wine & Chateau is a family-owned and operated company in the south of France. They run ten chateaus and estates at which you can stay while discovering the wines of the region.
An Old French name, Bonheur means good luck or lucky.
Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, was established on June 15th, 1952. It started life as an orphanage founded by the Le Bonheur Club women’s sewing circle.
Brisbois comes from the French words for cut and forest.
Michel Brisbois was a French-Canadian trader who settled in what was to become Wisconsin. After the war of 1812, in response to the unstable government currency, he encouraged locals to use the bread from his bakery as a unit of exchange.
Bureau comes from the Old French bure, which was a type of cloth.
The coarse woolen cloth known as bure was used to cover desktops and these desks became known as bureaus. Eventually, the rooms in which these desks, and finally the government departments in those offices, became known as bureaus.
From the Old French chape, Chaput means cloak, hood.
Michael Chaput is an ice hockey player currently on the roster for the NHL team Arizona Coyotes. First signed by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, he has played for the Vancouver Canucks, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Montreal Canadiens.
Charbonneau is from the French charbon, meaning charcoal.
Jean Baptiste Charbonneau was the son of French Canadian trapper Toussaint Charbonneau and Sacagawea, who was famous for her role in the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Charpentier is Old French for carpenter.
While the English language version of this name, Carpenter, is pretty obvious, the German alternative is the somewhat surprising Zimmerman.
Chastain comes from the Latin castanea and means chestnut tree.
Jessica Chastain is sometimes confused with Bryce Dallas Howard. Even Howard’s dad, Ron Howard, has mixed the two up. So, Bryce Dallas Howard made a tongue-in-cheek music video entitled “I’m Not Jessica Chastain.”
Chevrolet comes from the French word chèvre meaning goat.
In 1913, Louis Chevrolet, the Swiss racing car driver and automotive engineer, co-founded the Chevrolet Motor Company in Detroit. His partner was William C. Durant, the man responsible for the idea of car dealer franchises.
From the Latin word clemens, Clément means gentle, merciful.
Clement migrated from a forename to a surname. Clement Clarke Moore was the writer and professor who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas, more commonly known as ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.
Cloutier comes from clou, which is French for nail.
At a time when nails were made individually by hand, a Cloutier was the person who created them. A rod of wrought iron would be heated, hammered to a point at one end, and flattened at the other.
Colbert is from the Germanic word elements, which means bright and helmet.
Have you ever noticed how Stephen Colbert’s right ear sticks out? As a child, he had a tumor removed from his right ear, which left him without an eardrum and completely deaf on that side.
The name Comtois was given to people from Franche-Comté.
The Franche-Comté region has been populated since the Stone Age. Located in what is now the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in Eastern France, Franche-Comté translates as free country.
Courtemanche means short-sleeve in French.
The asteroid belt is between Mars and Jupiter and comprises an estimated 1.5 million asteroids, many of which have been mapped and named. One of these is Asteroid (63129), Courtemanche.
Cousineau is an Old French word meaning cousin.
The word cousineau was used casually as a nickname by family and friends, in the same way we use brother today. Eventually, Cousineau became a surname in the Middle Ages.
Couture means tailor in Old French.
In France, the term haute couture is protected by law and is overseen by Fédération française de la couture. Fashion houses are assessed each year to determine whether they are awarded the classification.
The name D’aramitz was given to people from Aramits, France.
Henri d’Aramitz was a Musketeer, the royal guard of the French military. Part of the Black Musketeers, so-called because they rode black horses, D’aramitz was the inspiration for the character Aramis in Alexander Dumas’ novel, The Three Musketeers.
DeGarmo is an American version of the French de Garmeaux.
The exact meaning of de Garmeaux is uncertain, but it’s likely from the town of Garmeaux in Normandy, in France. Gare means station, and eaux means water, so it’s possible this was a spot where people could draw water.
40. De La Fontaine
De La Fontaine is French for from the fountain.
Jean de La Fontaine is considered one of the greatest French writers ever. He took traditional tales from around the world and rewrote them in humorous ways. De La Fontaine’s fables are still published today and can also be read online.
Deschamps is French for from the fields.
Deschampsia is a genus of grass named after naturalist Louis Auguste Deschamps. The Antarctic Seagrass, or Deschampsia Antarctica, is in the Guinness Book of Records as being the southernmost flowering plant.
Desrosier is French for from the rose bushes.
Canadian professional ice hockey player, Philippe Desrosiers, was signed to the Florida Panthers in 2019. His contract is worth $700,000, even though, as a backup goalie, he is unlikely to play.
Dior comes from the French D’or, meaning golden.
Christian Dior was one of the world’s most famous fashion designers. Kanye West released Christian Dior Denim Flow in 2010 and mentioned Dior in Stronger, Devil in a New Dress, and Barry Bonds. Dior might make a good baby name for a fashion-forward mother.
The French surname Dubois means from the forest.
In 2015, there were 95,998 people named Dubois in France, making it the third most common surname in the country. Meanwhile, Dubois is the 1459th most common surname in the U.S., with 27,737 people named Dubois.
Durand is an Old French name that means enduring.
The eighth most common name in France, Durand ranks as number 4,070 out of 162,253 surnames in the U.S.
Émile is derived from the Latin aemulus, meaning rival.
The Roman family name Emil evolved into a beautiful forename, Emil for a boy and Emily for a girl, and then back to a surname in France in the form of Émile.
Fabian comes from the Latin faba, which means bean.
The Fabian Strategy is a military approach where instead of large scale assaults, you carry out smaller, annoying, harassing actions in order to wear down the will of the opponent.
Faucher is from the Latin falcis, which means sickle or scythe.
Native English speakers, or others who do not speak French as a first language, are inclined to pronounce Faucher as f-OUCH-er or FOR-cha. However, the correct pronunciation of Faucher is foo-SHE.
Favreau is Old French and means blacksmith.
Actor, producer, director, and screenwriter Jon Favreau was born in Flushing, Queens, New York. Like many Americans with French surnames, Favreau has a French-Canadian heritage.
Derived from the Latin word faber, Fèvre means blacksmith.
Fèvre and Favreau evolved from the same word. The Latin word fabri means maker, and a form of this was faber, meaning maker in hard materials, smith. In Southern France, this became Favreau, and in Northern France, it became Fèvre.
Fournier is an occupational surname for a baker.
The Fournier Museum of Playing Cards is in Vitoria, Spain. It began as a private collection that was purchased by the government and declared of significant cultural interest. The museum has over 20,000 decks of cards.
The French name François means Frenchman.
American orthopedic surgeon Elvis Francois is also known as Dr. Elvis. He has released charity eps to raise money for Covid relief, appeared on The Masked Singer, and was on People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive list for 2020.
Gagneux comes from the Old French Gagnier, meaning to cultivate.
Occupational surnames emerged in France during the medieval period. To begin with, they were not inherited but only given to a person when they took on a particular profession.
Gagnon was Old French for guard dog.
Gagnon didn’t begin as a name to show a family relationship, nor tell you about where a person was from or what they did for a living. Instead, Gagnon began as an insult used for someone cruel or aggressive.
Garçon is French for boy.
Many people mistakenly believe that Garçon means waiter. This misunderstanding began after English speakers first went to French restaurants. Locals would gesture at the server and call “garçon!” which is the equivalent of clicking your fingers and shouting “boy!”
Gauthier comes from a Germanic name meaning ruler of the army.
Gauthier has many unlikely cousins in the name family. Gauthier is the French form of Walter, and the surnames Watts, Waters, Gutiérrez, Watkins, Watson, and Waltz are all versions of the same name in different European countries and languages.
Granger is from the Latin granicarius, meaning granary.
While this is a decidedly English language, Granger is a slightly shorter version of the Old French grangier. A grangier was a farm bailiff, responsible for the collection of rents and taxes.
William is an anglicization of Guillaume and means will helmet.
American actor Robert Guillaume was born Robert Williams. He won two Emmys for his role as Benson DuBois in the comedy Soap and spin-off Benson and a Grammy for his performance in The Lion King.
The French surname Hubert means bright heart.
The Special Operations Forces of the French Navy is the Commandos Marine. Commando Hubert is a Special Mission Unit of the Commandos Marine composed of a team of combat divers, the details of which are classified.
Jacques is the French form of James and means the one who follows.
The first documented use of the surname Jacques was in Medieval France, where it was adopted by a Knight returning from the crusades in the Holy Land.
Janvier is French for January.
This has been used as both a surname and a forename in France. It was usually bestowed upon someone who was either born in January or baptized that month.
This French surname evolved from the name of John the Baptist.
The mother of British actress Marianne Raigipcien Jean-Baptiste was from Antigua, and her father from Saint Lucia. Jean-Baptise was raised in London but moved to Los Angeles when she landed the role of Vivian Johnson in Without a Trace.
Joubert is the French form of the Germanic Gautbert, meaning bright Goth.
In 1968, Dr. Marie Joubert described a condition whose features included an inability to coordinate conscious muscle movements, rapid breathing, and erratic eye movements. This rare genetic disorder was named Joubert Syndrome.
Lachapelle is French for the chapel.
American photographer David Lachapelle is known for his fine art photography and music videos. He has worked with artists as diverse as Jennifer Lopez, Elton John, Blink-182, and Florence and the Machine.
The French name Lacroix translates as the cross.
Many famous international businesses have been named Lacroix, including a fashion house, a flavored sparkling water business, and a brand of luxury Swiss watches.
LaFramboise means the raspberry in French.
In 1695, Joseph Frye from Kittery, Maine, was captured by Native Americans, and while with them, he was fed large quantities of raspberries. Later, he adopted the name LaFramboise, and all LaFramboises are descended from him.
Lambert is derived from Germanic name elements meaning bright land.
English speakers pronounce this as LAM-BERT, but as a French surname, this is pronounced LAH- BER, without the strong M sound in the middle or T sound at the end.
Langlais is French for the Englishman.
This name was given initially to English immigrants in France, then English speaking immigrants. The Americanized spelling, used by the first French immigrants to the U.S., is Langley.
Lapointe is French for the point.
Lapointe is thought to have originated as a nickname for a soldier. The point in question was the point of a lance.
The French name Laurent means laurel.
Famous for the wearability of his designs, French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent was the first living designer to be honored with an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Léandre evolved from the Greek words meaning lion man.
Léandre is the French form of Leander. Greek myths tell of Hero, a priestess, and Leander, a young man. They fall in love, Leander drowns in a storm, and Hero throws herself into the sea to be with him.
Lemaire is French for the mayor.
Lemaire began as an official title for the sitting mayor before evolving into a surname. It was also used as a nickname for anyone who was pompous and self-important.
Lemieux means the best in French.
The Lemieux Family Association of America is dedicated to connecting Lemieux family members from the U.S. and France. This name is not to be confused with Lémieux, which was given to people from the French town of Leymieux.
Lévesque is French for bishop.
Emily Levesque is the astronomer responsible for a glorious geeky science exchange between arachnologists and astronomers on Twitter dubbed #arachnoastronomy. The concept began when spiders fell onto Lévesque’s laptop and grew from there.
The French name Maçon means mason.
Fort Macon State Park, North Carolina, is home to Fort Macon, a five-sided stone and brick fortress with walls 4 ½ feet thick. It was named after Nathaniel Macon, a North Carolina politician of French descent.
The French form of Matthew, Mathieu, means gift from god.
English language versions of this surname include Mathews, Matthewson, and Mathieson, as well as shortened forms such as May and Mayes.
Meunier means miller in French.
Roughly one-third of the wine grapes planted in the Champagne region are the black grape Pinot Meunier. It was given this name because of the flour-like down on the underside of the plant’s leaves.
Montagne is French for mountain.
The Montagne Event Center is part of the Lamar University campus in Beaumont, Texas. Opened in 1984, it is home to the university’s basketball program.
Moreau evolved from the Latin Maurus, meaning dark-skinned, Moorish.
H.G.Wells’s novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau, tells the story of a scientist who is creating experimental part-animal, part-human creatures on his private island.
Moulin means mill in French.
The Moulin Rouge cabaret in Paris is famous as the birthplace of the modern interpretation of the can-can dance. Founded in 1889, the original building burned down in 1915 but was rebuilt and is still in business today.
Noyer is French for walnut.
The surname Noyer is a transliteration of the Galacian name Nogueira, which means walnut tree. Consequently, the name Noyer was given to someone living near walnut trees.
Paquet means bundle in French.
Paquet is an occupational surname. However, it demonstrates how not every job has a short, snappy, name-friendly title. Paquet was given to those who collected firewood, tied it into bundles, and sold the results.
This name means either notable or parent.
Parent is the 339th most common surname in France. In 2010, the last year where accurate records are available, there were 11,897 people named Parent in France.
Patenaude does not translate from French to a single English word or two.
Patenaude is from the French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada. It is equivalent to the English and Italian name Paternoster. Paternoster translates as Lord’s Prayer and was the name given to those who made the rosaries used in Catholic prayer.
Périgord was a name given to those from the Périgord region of France.
The region of Périgord is home to Lascaux, a complex of caves in which over 600 paintings cover the walls and ceiling.
The French name Perreault means stone.
Mathieu Perreault is a professional ice hockey player. He has played for several NHL teams, including the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks.
Porcher is Old French and means swineherd.
Built in 1916, Porcher House was purchased by the city of Cocoa, Florida, in the 1950s and turned into the town hall. In 1984, Porcher House was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Richelieu is a French surname meaning wealthy place.
Richelieu, France, is an early example of a planned town. Cardinal Richelieu bought the land and built a wall, inside of which he set out a grid system for homes. People then built their own houses.
Roche is French for rock.
The Roche de Bout bridge in Waterville, Ohio, spans the Maumee River. Built as an interurban trolley bridge, it is supported partway across by the limestone outcrop known as Roche du Bout.
Rousseau comes from the Latin word russus, which means red.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a philosopher, writer, and composer. His works, Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract, are considered as foundational to modern politics, and his work, Emile, sought to establish the perfect education.
Sauvageon is from the Old French sauvage, meaning wild, untamed.
In 1999, French Minister of the Interior Jean-Pierre Chevènement caused controversy by referring to young, working-class, urban males in Northern France as sauvageons or savages.
Sauveterre comes from the French words for safe and land.
Sauveterre-de-Béarn is a village in south-western France. Founded in the 11th century, the village was extended in the 13th and 14th centuries, becoming the beautiful example of medieval building it is today.
Severin evolved from the Latin severus, meaning stern.
Marie Severin was an American comic book artist who worked for, among others, EC, DC, and Marvel Comics. A recipient of Comic-Cons International Icon Award, she was posthumously awarded the Inkwell Awards Stacey Aragon Special Recognition Award.
94. St. Pierre
A place name surname, St. Pierre is French for Saint Peter.
MMA fighter George St. Pierre is considered one of the greatest fighters in the sport’s history. However, he has recently unveiled his love for dinosaurs, even hosting a show, The Boneyard, about his favorite creatures.
The meaning of Theroux is uncertain, but it may mean by the well.
Louis Theroux is a British-American documentary maker known for making films in which he embeds with Americans of specific subcultures or beliefs. Many of his shows are available on Amazon Prime.
The French name Tremblay means aspen.
Tremblay is the most common surname in Quebec and the third most common in Canada. All the more than 110,000 Tremblays are descended from Pierre Tremblay and Ozanne Achon, who married in 1657, and had 11 children.
Trudeau is the French form of the Old Norse name Torvald, meaning Thor’s ruler.
Stephanie Trudeau of Saint Ignatius won the Miss Montana title in 2007. She went on to represent the state in the Miss USA competition. Although she did not win the contest, Trudeau did win the Miss Congeniality title.
The French name Vidal evolved from the Latin vitalis, which means vital.
British comedian Ava Vidal began her career not in show business, but as a correctional officer. She left her job to study law but began writing comedy while in law school.
Vincent is from the Latin Vincentius, meaning to conquer.
Also a forename, Vincent, is a common surname in both France and Italy. American actor Frank Vincent was best known for his roles in The Sopranos, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and Casino.
Voclain is the modern form of Vauquelin, which means foreign.
Voclain & Co. is a fictional jewelry store in the movie Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. When a Niffler escapes from Newt Salamander’s suitcase, it is Voclain and Co. it breaks into while attempting to steal necklaces.
French Last Names Roche
Whether you are looking for a new last name to use yourself, a candidate for a surname to forename moniker, or are just interested in names in general, French last names have a rich and exciting history that is well worth exploring.
We were fascinated by some of the material we discovered, and we hope you were too.