The term “surname” actually has Old French roots. The surname derives from Middle English and the Anglo-Saxon/Old French terms “surnum” and “surnoun,” which mean “above-or-over name.”  The first usage of surnames was documented in France around 1000 A.D., but providing last names did not become customary until several decades later. The usage of surname names in France, as in much of Europe, did not become required until the 11th century to distinguish between people who shared the same initial name.

Explore common French last names

Taking any last name you wanted was simple until 1474 when the monarch declared that all last name changes must go via him. Since then, all name changes have been recorded, making it easier to track family history.

Because of the repeated land swaps between the French and Germanic tribes over the ages, many French surnames are Germanic in origin. Due to the European population movement, many surnames in South-Eastern France have characteristics of the Italian language.

Exploring different French last names

There are a few French terms of endearment that are very culturally specific. Knowing these terms can help you understand native people and build strong and healthy bonds.

Understand the cultural significance of French last names

In the section below, we have mentioned some of the most famous and common French last names. We have also mentioned the English meanings to make them understandable.

  • Aubert – German origin surname that means “noble,” “bright” and “famous.”
  • Allard – Stemming from the Old High German words for “noble” and “hardy,” Allard is a surname denoting someone of strong and courageous character.
  • Barbier – Occupational name in France for a “barber-surgeon.”
  • Beaumont – This picturesque surname means “beautiful mountain,” indicating that the original bearer of the name likely lived near or came from a scenic, hilly region.
  • Bernard – Meaning “strong as a bear,” this name combines the Old German “bero,” meaning bear, and “hard,” meaning brave or hardy—a nod to strength and fortitude.
  • Cartier – Occupational name in France “one who drives a cart” or a “transporter of goods.”
  • Dubois – Surname originating from the Old French “du bois” translated literally as “of the wood.” W.E.B. Du Bois was a historian, author, and activist who was an important figure during the fight for Black civil rights in the United States during the 20th century.
  • Durand – French and Latin surname meaning “firm” and “enduring.”
  • Fontaine – Fonta
  • Garcon – An old French surname referring to a young boy or servant.
  • Granger – Granger originates from Middle French. It’s an occupational surname meaning “farmer” or someone who works in agriculture. A popular character with this last name is Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series.
  • Faucher is an occupational name for a reaper, mower, or maker of scythes. It originates from the Old French word “fauche”, which means “scythe.”
  • Larue – A common French surname that means “dweller by the road.”
  • Lemaire – French status title or surname that means “The Mayor.”
  • Moreau – A given name ine is a beautiful French name meaning “fountain” or “water source.”meaning “dark-skinned.”
  • Pelletier – Occupational surname from the French word pelletier, meaning “fur trapper.”
  • Roche – Topographic name from the French word “roche”, meaning rock. Refers to someone who lived by rocky terrain.
  • Rousseau – Derived from the Old French term for someone with red hair. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a famous 18th-century philosopher who wrote during the American and French revolutions.
  • Tremblay – Indicative of a place name, possibly derived from “tremble,” the aspen tree, suggesting that the name bearers might have lived near a grove of such trees.
Understand the meanings of French last names

You must know the background and meaning of these names to become good at French. There are several language learning platforms offering engaging French classes. If you also want to master French online, check out italki to find the best classes at affordable prices.

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This fantastic platform is ideal for those who want to learn French online at a gradual pace. italki makes learning a new language simple and well-organized. Let’s decode some of italki’s most prominent features to understand the learning practices better.

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Schedule flexibility: This online platform is well-known for allowing students to create their own schedules. You can make your own schedule, but remember to stick to it.

Conversational learning practices: italki’s main strengths are conversational French classes. You can discuss your learning objectives and needs with your tutor, who will guide you through the process and make French learning easier.

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The enrollment process at italki

  • Visit italki.
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Frequently asked questions

Are there any French last names that are of noble origin?

Yes, some French last names, such as De Gaulle, De Villiers, and De La Fontaine, are of noble origin. These names often indicate a family’s noble status or ancestral land.

How did French last names evolve over time?

French last names have evolved over time due to various factors, including changes in language, culture, and societal norms. Some names have ancient origins from Roman times, while others are more recent and reflect modern influences.

Are there any regional differences in French last names?

There are regional differences in French last names, with certain names being more common in specific regions of France. For example, names of Norman origin, such as Duval and Gagnon, are more common in Normandy.


French last names are steeped in history and meaning, reflecting the richness of French culture and heritage. From common names that derive from occupations, locations, or characteristics to noble names that signify ancestral status, French last names offer a fascinating glimpse into the past. Apart from these names, we recommend you learn some common greetings, such as good morning in French, to have basic conversations gracefully.

Check out italki to get the best French tutor online and kick-start the journey of mastering French from the comfort of your home. 

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