French Words

Closet Chemistry: Amines and Esters

I’ve been thinking about organic chemistry quite a bit recently, and the combining of it with the topic of names struck me when we mentioned Amine last week. It’s a name of relative popularity in France, but it’s also the name of a functional group containing a nitrogen with a lone pair of electrons. For those interested, they can look like this:

Primary Amine, from

You may have no idea why they’re important but it’s from amines that we get amino acids, which collectively make up proteins. That makes them vital for life. So, one could call Amino a slight variation of the name Amine – especially given that the French slightly altered the Arabic name Amin to get to Amine. Amin comes from the Arabic word for truthful and the female form of the name is Amina(h). Aminah was the name of the prophet Muhammad’s mother, who died when he was young. The Arabic word and name Amina means feel safe. For Bosnia and Herzegovina, Amina was the #1 female name in 2010; the most popular male name that year was Amar.

Names that sound like they’re related to the above ones include the Iranian name Minoo, sometimes seen as Minu, which derives from Persian and means heaven or paradise. Like the English name Heaven, or alas the infamous Nevaeh, Minoo is a feminine name. A name of Arabic origins which means heaven, or indeed sky, is the female name Alya. Going back to the French, in 2009, the name Alya ranked at #259 in France.

The reason Arabic names feature in French name popularity is Algeria and Tunisia. Both are former colonies of France, from which many immigrants have moved to France, and brought their naming tendencies with them. For both, Arabic is the official language and both earned their independence from France in the middle of the 20th century.

Other popular names of Arabic origins in France include Mohamed, Rayan, Mehdi, Nassim, Farah, Naim, Sana, Marwa and Salma, to name just a few.

And for those wondering whether we’re using Amine in England&Wales, we are – to a certain extent. In 2010, 11 boys were given the name Amine with a further 37 named Amin, putting the latter name at #792. Amina ranks even higher for girls, at #182, with 285 girls given the name and Aminah ranking at #254 with 128 of them born.

Another group of organic compounds are called Esters, said pretty much the same as you would the name Esther. She fit’s nicely with our already established post-theme of names inspired by our friends from the East as Esther means star in Persian. An Ester looks like this:

Ester, from
Of course, it’s not concrete that Esther derives from Persian and hence means star. The name Esther comes from the Bible, being given to Hadassah upon the moment she entered the royal harem of King Ahaseurus. Esther could also have derived from the name Ishtar, the name of the Babylonian and Assyrian goddess of love, war and fertility; the Phoenicians called her Ashtoreth. What is worth noting is that the Dutch word for star is ster, which has given birth to the Dutch name Sterre (ster-ra).
Esther has given birth to a plentitude of variations: from Hester to Estee; Eszti (Hungarian) to Esteri (Finnish). What’s worth noting is that the spelling Ester is a legitimate international variant of the name Esther, used by Scandinavians, Spaniards, Czechs, Finns and the Portuguese.
When it comes to Esther vs. Hester in the popularity charts for England&Wales in 2010, Esther wins outright. She’s at #156 with 334 girls given the name compared to Hester, who is much further down at #1815 with only 15 born.
The -er ending for male names is starting to be touted as an upcoming trend, but there are some undoubtedly pretty girls names which end the same way, like Esther and Hester:
  • Amber
  • Aster
  • Clover
  • Demeter
  • Ember
  • Ginger
  • Grier
  • Harper
  • Heather
  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Miniver
  • Piper
  • Skyler
  • Summer

Notice how most derive directly from English words? What’s more both Jasmine and Jasper are names popular in England&Wales, and of Persian origins, as Esther could be; Jasper means treasurer in Persian. Colour names Azure and Scarlet also have links with Persian words, and that’s where we shall end this post.

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French Words From Loup to Robinet

A popular brand of coconut-flavoured yoghurts from France, from

Many moons ago, I translated some of our favourite word names in English into their French equivalents. This post acts as a late follow-on, which I’d originally forgotten to finish (oops!) Either way, since the big arrival of GGC’s twin daughters, now seemed an apt time to return to the subject of French words which may not translate to a ‘usuable’ word name in English, but sound fine in their own right.

On the subject of what R&B’s names mean, according to my much-thumbed English-French dictionary: Reverie (with a circumflex on the first e) is the French word for daydreaming, whilst Boheme (grave accent on the first e) can be translated as either happy-go-lucky, unconvential or just simply bohemian.

Working one’s way through the rest of one of my much loved possessions, what other word names ‘shout out’ to me? I’ve also tried to select words whose pronunciation is not difficult.


My French essays are always happier for using this word, which means mahogany in French. Fun to say, and an entirely plausible pick.


Initially, one may think this is the word ballad ‘frenchified’, but it always means walk or drive, coming from the verb se balader, which means to go for a walk.


In Un long dimanche de fiançailles Mathilde’s fiancé, Manech, is sent to a trench named Bingo Crépescule. The word itself can mean either twilight or dusk.

Dactylo [daktilo]

The French word for typewriting, and the verb dactylographier means to type (out).


Since the name of a rather yummy bun in English is eclair, we’re opting to suggest a slight variation of the word which means bright or sunny intervals, rather than flash of lightning meaning of éclair.


The French phrase, Franco de Port, means postage paid.


In French, this word means little bell and the final t is silent.


This means propeller in French, and is pronounced with the h silent.


A slight cheat since the English word Ivory has seen use as a name.


A Floral-inspired word which either means hyacinth, or bluebell if part of the phrase jacinthe des bois.


The French word for a Village Fair.


Loup means wolf, whilst the slightly different loupe means magnifying glass. Trivia point is that the phrase Loup de mer means old sea dog.


The French word for plum, whilst Cassis is the French for blackcurrant.


This word can mean a variety of things, depending on which phrases it appears in. On it’s own, it means walnut and it means coconut if paired as noix de coco, whilst noix de cajou means cashew nut. As for it’s pronunciation, the x is silent, so it’s said nu-ah.


The French word for either shadow or shade.


The French word for pip, or maybe even used to mean snag.


The French word for tap, or faucet. There’s also a type of grape in France named Robinet. It’s said like the name of the English bird, Robin, with an ay sound tagged on at the end.


This is the French word for sand, and I know of occasions where we English speakers have already used the name.


The French meaning of the word is temple.


This means bolt, in the sense of a lock, not lightning.


This rather snazzy name which ends our list means shingles.

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