When we look at the first names of the different generations, we see that there is a strong fashion effect, but the decline in religious practice and changes in legislation have also led to a growth in the diversity of first names, which we see from generation X onwards.
In the 19th century and until the end of the 20th century, the choice of names was very limited compared to today. Indeed, there was a law that governed the choice of first names: the law of 11 Germinal of Year XI. This law stated: “the names in use in the various calendars, and those of well-known figures from ancient history, can only be received as first names in the civil status registers intended to record the birth of children; and public officials are forbidden from admitting any other name in their records.” 1 This law was only abolished in 1993.
This is why Marie and Jean are the most popular names of the Silent Generation born before the Second World War. We also find Nicole, Jacqueline, Monique, Jeaninne or Yvette for women and Michel, André, Claude, and Pierre for men.
Top 10 names given between 1929 and 1944
Nowadays it seems normal to call people by their first name but this was not the case a few years ago. In fact, at school, for the Silent and Baby Boom Generations, the teacher called the children by their surnames. It was not until the GenX generation that the first name started to be used by teachers.
Marie and Jean, still remain popular in the Baby Boom generation born between 1945 and 1964. For example, the average age of people with the name Mary is 69 today.
Between 1955 and 1960, it is the fashion of the compound names, Marie-Christine, Marie-Pierre but also Jean-Pierre, Jean-Jacques bloom then which mark this generation.
Top 10 names between 1945 and 1964
For the Baby Boom generation, Martine is the second most popular female name. You must surely remember the children’s books published from 1954 onwards whose main character is called Martine. Little Martine, who is 10 years old, goes to the farm, the beach, the circus… This emblematic heroine has marked this generation and Martine is now 68 years old.
For the boys, it is Michel who comes second. Among the famous men of this generation we can think of Michel Druker, Michel Sardou, Michel Blanc…
Top 10 names between 1965 and 1982
There has been a real change in the names given to Generation X. This can be explained by a legal relaxation in 1966 on the attribution of first names and by the increasing cultural diversity…
In first position it is the name Nathalie which predominates for women and Christophe for men.
The name Nathalie exploded in 1970 and this could be explained by Gilbert Bécaud’s song Nathalie which was a big hit in 1964.
Each generation has its own names and that is why many children found themselves in class with other children who had the same name. Each generation has its own fashion and the sources of inspiration are diverse. It is interesting to note, for example, that obsolete names dating from the First World War, which are now found on war memorials, are once again becoming fashionable, such as Jules or Louis, which have been in the top 10 names given in recent years.