List of quaint, idiosyncratic or unfortunate French surnames

Maciamo

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France is the country with the most diversity of surnames in Europe along with Italy. According to the list of surnames in France on Filae.com, there are 1.3 million different surnames in France today, although a substantial percentage are foreign names. In fact, in this list over 800,000 surnames are carried by 5 individuals or less - the vast majority by immigrants.

Browsing through the 5,000 most common surnames, and excluding foreign ones, I stumbled across quite a few that were rather unfortunate or downright funny. I'll file them by category by order of frequency with the number of people who were born with that family name between 1891 and 1990.

Somewhat insulting names

  • Gras ("fat") : 12,482 individuals
  • Villain ("rascal, brat, nasty, naughty") : 8,798
  • Soulard ("drunkard") : 6,964
  • Pinard ("plonk, cheap wine") : 5,490
  • Nègre ("nigger") : 5,389
  • Legras ("the fatman") : 5,382
  • Sueur ("sweat") : 4,908
  • Tardif ("late, belated") : 4,585
  • Pion ("pawn") : 4,560
  • Mollard ("gob of spit, loogie, flob") : 4,353
  • Cretin ("cretin, idiot, moron") : 4,197
  • Bastard ("bastard" in Old French) : 4,157
  • Levillain ("the rascal") : 3,760
  • Batard ("bastard" in Modern French) : 3,707
  • Tétu ("stubborn, headstrong") : 3,124
  • Cocu ("cuckolded") : 3,084
  • Le Foll ("the madman") : 2,810
  • Podevin ("bribe") : 2,800
  • Sauvaget ("little savage") : 2,796
  • Couillard ("coward" in dialect) : 2,633
  • Pillard ("pillager, looter") : 2,461
  • Boiteux ("lame man") : 2,450
  • Veillard ("old man") : 2,333
  • Mouchard ("snitch") : 2,272
  • Chambard ("mayhem, pandemonium") : 2,231
  • Coquin (can mean "mischievous" or "naughty/risqué" or "little devil") : 2,168
  • Faux ("fake, false") : 2,141
  • Bourré ("drunk, wasted") : 2,040

How is it that over 100,000 French people can live with names like that? Why don't they change it? It's not easy to change family name in France, but having a ridiculous name or one that makes your life difficult is one of the accepted reasons allowed to request a change. At least French people don't have the tradition to have two surnames like the Spaniards, who get the (first) surname from each parent at birth. No chance of having a baby called Veillard Boiteux (lame old man) or Batard Cocu (cuckolded bastard) or Soulard Bourré (wasted drunkard). That still doesn't beat the imaginary Mr Villain Cretin (nasty retard).

Animal names

  • Renard ("fox") : 38,621
  • Poulain ("foal") : 21,693
  • Mouton ("sheep") : 11,193
  • Poulet ("chicken") : 9,765
  • Leloup ("the wolf") : 6,709
  • Dauphin ("dolphin") : 6,586
  • Lecerf ("the deer") 6,421
  • Cheval ("horse") : 5,745
  • Pigeon (pigeon, but also means "dupe") : 4,829
  • Boeuf ("ox, beef") : 4,567
  • Leboeuf ("the ox") : 4,465
  • Brochet ("pike fish") : 4,389
  • Lerat ("the rat") : 3,621
  • Rat ("rat") : 3,063
  • Le Coq ("the cock/rooster") : 3,039
  • Poux ("lice") : 2,853
  • Tétard ("tadpole") : 2,535
  • Hérisson ("hedgehog") : 2,408
  • Corbeau ("crow") : 2,246
  • Lachèvre ("the goat") : 2,022
  • Loup ("wolf") : 1,947
  • Veau ("calf, veal") : 1,944
  • Perdrix ("partridge") 1,942
  • Cochon ("pig") : 1,737
  • Vache ("cow") : 1,742

Imagine the potential marriages! :unsure:Mr Leloup et Mme Lachèvre. Mr Le Coq and Mme Poulet. The Corbeau and Renard couple (as in Aesop's fable). :bigsmile:

Names of objects

  • Soulier ("shoe") : 10,341
  • Bureau ("desk") : 10,293
  • Robinet ("tap/faucet") : 7,231
  • Pelle ("shovel") : 4,865
  • Bouteille ("bottle") : 3,289
  • Chapeau ("hat") : 2,870
  • Drapeau ("flag") : 2,765
  • Bouchon ("cork") : 2,515
  • Tonneau ("barrel") : 1,305

We see a typically French trend here. After the drunk and drunkard, here come the bottle and the cork, or the barrel and the tap. :LOL:

Out-of-this-world names

  • Terrien ("earthling") : 5,154
  • Lange ("the angel") 4,912
  • Dieu ("God") : 4,323
  • Paradis ("paradise, heaven") : 3,666
  • Désert ("desert") : 2,908
  • Ledieu ("the god") : 2,127

You can check the geographical distribution of each family name on Geopatronymes. In case you are wondering 'God' (Dieu and Ledieu) has its origins in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region. ;)
 

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