21 French Names You’re Probably Mispronouncing

From ‘Agathe’ to ‘Yves.’

(Left to right) Yves Saint Laurent, Brigitte Bardot, and Claude Monet.
(Left to right) Yves Saint Laurent, Brigitte Bardot, and Claude Monet. / (Yves) Reg Lancaster/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images; (Brigitte) Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images; (Claude) Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

When it comes to pronouncing names in other languages—Spanish, Irish, Arabic, etc.—most mistakes made by English speakers can be summed up in one tidy statement: We automatically apply English pronunciation rules where we shouldn’t. You see the French name Eugène, for example, and assume it’s pronounced like its English counterpart: “yoo-JEEN.” As you’ll soon find out, it’s not.

Sometimes, nailing a name in another language requires learning how to pronounce a sound that the English language doesn’t use—like the Welsh “ll.” French has one of those, too: the uvular fricative “r” sound, which you can learn with help from YouTuber MyFrenchStory:

Now that you’re better acquainted with France’s most guttural phoneme, try your hand at the French names below (but don’t worry—most of them don’t contain any r’s at all).

1. Agathe

Ignore the he. It’s “AYE-gat,” with both a’s matching those in cat.

2. Alain

Alain doesn’t sound like Elaine. It’s “A-lah.”

3. Amélie

The title of the 2001 Audrey Tautou–starring film is pronounced “AH-mey-LEE.”

4. Arnaud

Disregard the d. It’s “AR-noh.”

5. Brigitte

Brigitte Bardot’s first name isn’t pronounced like Bridget. It’s “BREE-zheet.”

6. Camille

In English, it’s “kuh-MEEL.” In French, it’s “KA-mee.”

7. Claude

The French Claude doesn’t rhyme with awed. It’s more like “KLOHD.”

8. Clémence

The first name of Clémence Poésy, who played Fleur Delacour in the Harry Potter movies, is pronounced “KLEY-mawss.”

9. Edouard

Disregard the final d in Edouard. If you can’t nail the French “r,” it’s best to just skip it in this case: “EYD-wah.”

10. Eugène

Eugène is “oo-ZHEN,” where the “oo” matches the one in good.

11. Geneviève

It’s not “JEN-eh-veev” in French. It’s “zhuhn-VYEV.”

12. Guillaume

Guillaume is “GEE-yohm” with a hard “g” sound like the one in get.

13. Hélène

It’s not “hell-EEN.” It’s “ey-LEN.”

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14. Henri

French speakers drop the “n” sound and make the “r” especially guttural, so Henri becomes “aw-REE.”

15. Irène

Paris-born scientist Irène Joliot-Curie, a Nobel Prize winner and the daughter of Pierre and Marie Curie, wouldn’t pronounce her name “eye-REEN.” It’s “EE-ren.”

16. Jacqueline

Anyone who’s watched The Devil Wears Prada (2006) already knows how to pronounce the French version of Jacqueline, even if they don’t know they know it: “zhak-LEEN.” (Miranda Priestly may loathe French Runway’s Jacqueline Follet, but she wouldn’t deign to botch her name.)

17. Julien

The French Julien is “ZHOO-lee-ah,” where the first syllable rhymes with too.

18. Noémie

The first name of Portrait of a Lady on Fire star Noémie Merlant is pronounced “NOH-ey-MEE.”

19. Olympe

It’s “OH-lahmp,” not “oh-LIMP.”

20. Thibault

Thibault has quite a few silent letters; it’s just “TEE-boh.”

21. Yves

Yves Saint Laurent is one of the most commonly mispronounced brand names in the business. The first part is easier than it looks: It’s just “EEV,” like Eve.