According to Wikipedia, there's a feminine form of the French-Canadian "dit" name spelled "dite", as in, Josephine Roy dite Lauzon.

That was the only specific name I could find after looking at hundreds of parish records. Part of the difficulty for me is that the "dite" name was often omitted from the narrative of the record, as in, "...baptisé Henriette née le même jour du légitime mariage de François...", where only the father's dit name was written.

Can I safely assume the gender agrees with the individual, rather than the family name? Or, would a Joseph Chapelle use the feminine form?

What level of importance would be placed upon the correct gender in a dit name? Is agreement needed for formality? Was this simply never standardized?

Edited, for those unfamiliar with these dit names:

The surname Roy dit Lauzon would be inherited from the father. It was generally used by the whole family for 2 or 3 generations before the old surname was dropped.

  • I just don't get how a Family name could have a gender... As the Wikipedia page you link to dit/dite means "called", it is the person who is called of course. Note that this custom can be found in France, although not as frequently as in French-speaking Canada. Se here for example.
    – None
    Dec 30, 2023 at 18:54
  • @None Ici, n'est-ce pas Josephine qui induit l'accord de dit(e) au féminin? Je ne sais pas si Josephine a un genre en tant que nom, mais la personne qui porte ce nom est sans doute une femme, ce qui rend dite tout à fait approprié?
    – Frank
    Dec 30, 2023 at 19:57
  • @Frank C'est ce que je dis, non ? La personne qui s'appelle Josephine est habituellement une femme. Un homme ne s'appellerait pas Josephine en principe (mais imaginable, bien sûr, auquel cas on utiliserait dit)
    – None
    Dec 30, 2023 at 20:02
  • @None OK, c'était pas clair pour moi, mais on est d'accord. J'ai upvoté ta réponse.
    – Frank
    Dec 30, 2023 at 20:08

2 Answers 2


Dit is an adjective. In French adjectives always agree with the noun they qualify. As indicated on the Wikipedia page you link to dit/dite means "called", it is the person who is "called" something or other, i.e. given an alias. So for a woman we'd have : Josephine Roy dite Lauzon and for a man Joseph Roy dit Lauzon.

In case of a gender-neutral given name we'd have, for example, Dominique Leroux dit Peluche in the case of Dominique being a man, and Dominique Leroux dite Peluche in the case of Dominique being a woman.

If necessary the alias can be masculine or feminine as appropriate. For example we could have Paul Legendre dit Parisien or Paule Legendre dite Parisienne.

This custom of giving aliases is found in France as well, although probably not as often as in French-speaking Canada. You can read about it on that page.

Edit after reading the comment:

If I saw Joséphine Roy dit Lauzon, to me it would undoubtedly mean that Lauzon applies to Roy and is part of the family name. But this isn't the case described in your question, and I do not think anyone would write dit without gender if the dit name concerned the person whose first name is mentioned.

But, indeed when looking at records, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between the family name and the dit name as in the long run the dit name can become part of the family name. Here's an extract of the page Les "noms dits" from the website Francogene:

Après quelques générations, il n'est plus évident de décider ce qui est le patronyme ou le surnom et nous pourrions trouver par exemple: Beauregard dit Jarret. De plus, il est aussi possible que les patronyme et surnom aient été inversé dès le premier usage du "nom dit".*

* [sic]

  • Thank you. And for even more clarity, when I see a parish record for the same person under "Joséphine Roy dit Lauzon" is that to be considered a mistake, or a style variation, or someone who just always writes "dit" without gender? Dec 30, 2023 at 21:56
  • @RobertChapin In that case, maybe the dit refers to Roy (family name), rather than Joséphine though?
    – Frank
    Dec 31, 2023 at 1:19
  • @RobertChapin I don't think that would contradict None's answer. She explained why dite was used in some of the records you found but that doesn't rule out the fact someone else could have considered her name to be the invariable compound "Roy dit Lauzon".
    – jlliagre
    Dec 31, 2023 at 2:06
  • 1
    My guess is that if the nickname was specific to the person agreement was mandatory, if the nickname was actually an alternate first name, agreement was definitely mandatory but if the nickname was shared with one of their parents, agreement was optional. Here the nickname is likely the name of a town and was possibly inherited from her father. Elsewhere, agreement (dit, dite and dits) was mandatory, e.g. la dite Joséphine Roy dit(e) Lauzon.
    – jlliagre
    Dec 31, 2023 at 3:32
  • 1
    I'm not sure I see a problem anymore then :-) Whether it's Roy dit Lauzon or Roy dite Lauzon, the Roy family at some point was dealing with lauzes (I know those very well, many in Ardèche), and that's that. If the Roy family member is a woman, you can use dite. If you don't, there is no ambiguity though.
    – Frank
    Dec 31, 2023 at 16:23

This is an extra part of the answer. I'm adding to the excellent information already posted.

I believe there is a regional component to the expression of gender in dit names. I found a 2nd example of the feminine dite in my research and started scrolling through microfilm images within the same parish. In the parish of Saint-Germain-de-Rimouski during the mid 1840s, use of dit names was rare overall, but the priests consistently wrote dit for men and dite for women.

Most of my research has focused on parishes and/or eras where the feminine dite was never written. They would write only one surname in the margin without the dit name and then mention the father's dit name in the narrative. There are also examples where dit was used without gender agreement.

As pointed out in the comments, there is no ambiguity in either spelling, just some inconsistency.

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