Noble French Last Names

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Bonjour! France is a beautiful country with a long, fascinating history. In addition, the French language is considered to be one of the most romantic languages in the world. I remember studying it at school and even as part of my degree, so I’ve always liked the sound of the language (it’s a shame I don’t have much of an opportunity to speak French these days!)

Many noble French last names are steeped in this history and sound lovely to boot. Let’s look at some names and learn more about the traditions that accompany them.

History of French last names

Last names came about in the Middle Ages when people wanted to distinguish themselves from others with similar first names to themselves. Before this, people went by just one name. It didn’t take long for last names to become hereditary. They began to be passed down from generation to generation.

In France, names were now inherited and usually connected to particular regions. The wealthiest families led the charge on last names and their names became well known throughout the country. It was common for these noble names to have aristocratic connections and history as well.

The word ‘noble’ in both English and French means high-born, well connected or distinguished in some way. It originated in France and is still used in both languages today, especially when we talk about royalty or others with titles. In France, the word noble was used as a nickname for the wealthy and thus even became a last name itself for one of France’s wealthiest families. So, there were noble families and the Noble family.

Once last names had caught on, they began to carry meaning and convey an image of a person based on their family reputation. Many last names told you about what a family did for a living or what they lived near. For example, Boucher (butcher) or Barre (barrier), for someone who lived near a barrier. Put simply, last names mattered then and still make a mark today.

French naming traditions

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There are quite a few interesting French naming traditions and trends:

  • It is common for babies to have more than one first name, usually to honour a family member
  • Many French families choose two, three or even four middle names for their children, again this is often to honour family members
  • Women don’t legally have to take a man’s surname when they marry. Many women do not change their name officially, but they do use their husband’s name in common usage. It is also popular to hyphenate their last name and add their husband’s to their own. Things are constantly changing though and fewer women each year take their husband’s name, even for everyday use.

List of French last names

There are lots of French last names with noble connections. Some lines have died out, but the name lives on and some lines are still alive and kicking. Many of the names derive from the town or region that the families lived in or came from. Others take their meaning from the word’s Latin origins. Here is a list of names to get you started:

  1. Amboise
  2. Allard
  3. Alarie
  4. Ardennes
  5. Aubert
  6. Barrau
  7. Bourbon
  8. Colbert
  9. Coligny
  10. Cremoux
  11. Damas
  12. De Beauharnais
  13. Dampierre
  14. De Galard
  15. Normandy
  16. Du Bellay
  17. Dufort
  18. Gourgue
  19. Gramont
  20. Monfort
  21. Monmirail
  22. La Fayette
  23. Laval
  24. Potier
  25. Marbot
  26. Marpeou
  27. Monchy
  28. Plantagenet
  29. Polignac
  30. Roquefeuil
  31. Rougé
  32. Tabouillot
  33. Trencavel
  34. Vandive
  35. Vergy

Related Post: Old Money Names

Why do people choose French last names?

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French last names are chosen by people because they carry a sense of history and tradition. Many people like the way they roll off the tongue too. A French last name is believed to sound classy and cultured. Names can tell us a lot about a family such as where they are from and who their ancestors were. They can also shape how we perceive others. For example, we often assume that people with a classy name steeped in history are wealthy and successful. And many of us want to be associated with success to get or stay ahead.

Can you change your last name?

You can change your last name if you choose to, as long as there is no criminal intent. In fact, it is a common process that many people undertake when they marry or perhaps when they adopt a child, among other reasons. There are lots of reasons people change their last name and tried and tested processes are in place to help you do so.

In the USA, you can pay to change your last name through a court order. Any US citizen has the right to change their first, middle or last names. The law varies by state, but the basic premise is the same across the country. You can choose a new last name and file to change it. Then, so long as the civil court agrees that it is not fraudulent, it’s a done deal. Most banks or other institutions will want to see the court order to change your name in their system.

In the UK, you can apply to change your name by deed poll. You can do it yourself or pay extra to enrol the deed. There is detailed information here from the UK government.

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