Wednesday, October 19

let's talk about: Louis

Here comes the sun king

Male/female, introvert/extrovert, left-brained/right-brained, manic/depressive —  to those, I say, whatever. What I'm interested in is your preferred pronunciation of the name Louis. It seems to me there are two types of people in this world: those who like the French pronunciation ("loo-EE") and those who like the English ("LOO-is") —  and never the 'twain shall meet.

Louis comes from Ludwig, a German name meaning "famous warrior." It was first popular with royalty, used on kings and princes from Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Monaco, Bavaria and, most notably, France. It's currently quite popular in France (#4) and Belgium (#5). Louis is #69 on the UK charts, though they seem to prefer the spelling Lewis, which ranks at #27. However, both spellings have lost rank since 2000.

Louis is also losing ground in the US charts, and has been, near-steadily, for the past hundred years or so. It was in the top 20 back in the 1880s and 90s, and though the fall has been slow, it's #343 now and looks like it'll keep dropping. 

Personally, like the two handsome devils above, I much prefer the French pronunciation, and do not get me started on that Lewis spelling. Why put "ew" in the middle of a name where you could have light, airy, rotund "ou"? And "LOO-is" comes off a little whiny and stuffed-up. "Loo-EE", though, he could be a little blond dauphin or a mob boss, a jazz trumpeter or a microbiologist. Louis is an underrated classic, a versatile name that can be sophisticated or  regular-guy (just call him Lou) —  it's a recent addition to my list but one I can see sticking around for a long time to come.

There are plenty of great variations: Ludovic is a favorite (love the nickname Ludo), and French Loïc is interesting. Dutch Lowie seems like a strong contender for a crossover girl name, with its Chloe-Zoe sound similarities, not that I'd encourage it. Alois and Aloysius bring the stodgy-cool vibe, and Italian Alvise looks sharp. Luis cracks the top 100 in the US right now, resting at #78. For girls, classic Louise and her cousin Louisa have plenty of lovely variants themselves — try Loes, Louisette, Lula, Lovisa, Maori Ruiha or Luísa.


  1. I for one, LOVE the French pronunciation, I think it's fresher and has a brightness that I enjoy. Although I find the English pronunciation alright I'm still on the side of the French. Probably has something to do for my love of Brad Pitt's Louis in "Interview with the Vampire".

  2. There's also the people, like me, who don't like the name at all ;)

    I've always disliked it. Too old fashioned for me, perhaps, too confusing (I don't like silent letters in names), and the American pronunciation is ugly, in my opinion.

    I went to school with a Lou-is, and his nickname was Lew to make it more masculine - Lou was too much like Louise.

  3. I like the name Louis, preferrably with the French pronunciation, but doubt I could ever use it since I'm a Lou, and things would just get confusing.

  4. It's standard in the UK for Louis to be pronounced the French way, while "loo-is" is reserved for Lewis. Both have enjoyed a lot of popularity here, with Louis probably at its height in the 90s and Lewis in the early OOs. I remember a colleague in around 2000 saying he and his wife had chosen Lewis because they thought it was unusual and then were shocked to discover it had actually been 13th that year!

  5. I love Louis, ever since Interview with a Vampire. But my mom's cousin is a Louis that goes by Lou, and Lou is much too feminine for me.


Names are all opinion -- share yours.