September 8, 2011 § 6 Comments
With the exception of male names of Mediterranean origin (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, even Greek – Leo, Marco, Alejandro, Pedro, Luciano, Mateo, Diego, Enzo, Ricardo, Niko, Antonio, Marcelo, etc.), or names from Japanese culture (Kenzo, Miyako, Aiko), names ending in -o, -oh, or -ow have never been particularly commonplace. But just as O first names have surged in popularity, so too has the use of sometimes ancient names that finish with a long oh sound for both boys and girls.
Recently, we’ve seen the following on celebrity babies including:
Indio, son of British model Jodie Kidd (and it’s the much-discussed name of the 18-year-old son of Robert Downey, Jr.), born September 5th. The origin of this modern name is uncertain – possibly it’s a tribute to Native Americans or a masculine variation on the popular girl’s name India. It’s the name of the California city where the popular Coachella Music Festival is held each April. But in Mexico, the term indio is actually a racist insult directed at those of a lower class system. The trending name for boys could also find it’s way to baby girl birth certificates, and comes with the nickname Indy, ever more popular these days as well.
Milo Thomas, son of actress Alyssa Milano, born August 31st. She selected the name to honour Bugliari’s father, Miller, and her father, Thomas, citing them as “two very important men in my life.” Milo is of Germanic origin, and could derive from the German word mild (meaning “mild, peaceful, calm’), Old Slavonic milu (meaning “merciful”), or Old Slavic mil (meaning “grace, favour”). It was a given first name during both the Greek and Roman Empires. Italian-born Milo of Croton lived in Greece in 6th Century BC, and was a six-time victor in Greco-Roman-style wrestling at the Ancient Olympic Games.
As trending names go, Milo is rising on it’s closest phonetic cousin, Miles (Currently it’s 422 in the US Top 1000 for Milo, and 137 for Miles, which has barely moved from it’s position for over 100 years, while Milo has leapt more than 500 places in less than a decade.) Milo has proven fairly popular among celebs, including Mel Gibson (son born 1990), talk show host Ricki Lake (she had son Milo Sebastian in 1997), and British actress Amanda Mealing had Milo James in 1999 (as well as Otis in 2002, creating a sibset straight out of the movies, from the 1980s dog film about two four-legged best friends). The Practice star Camryn Manheim welcomed Milo Jacob in 2001, the same year talk show host Craig Ferguson welcomed son Milo Hamish, and in 2004 actress Liv Tyler and Spacehog’s Royston Langdon welcomed Milo William.
Arlo Robert, son of Australian actress Toni Collette, was born April 22. Arlo is a big trending name this year, following years of growing interest from the likes of British TV newsanchor Natasha Kaplinsky, who welcomed Arlo in 2008, and Australian country musician Kasey Chambers, who had son Arlo Ray in 2007. The name, of course, was popularized first by legendary American folk signer Woody Guthrie, who’s son Arlo Davy, born 1947, followed him into music. Arlo Guthrie released the 18-minute talking blues hit “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” in 1967. Guthrie was one of many who performed at Woodstock in 1969, and has become known, like his father, for writing and performing songs of protest in the world’s ongoing civil rights movement. The origin of the name is from the Old German word hlaw, meaning “hill.” It’s also a Spanish word for “barberry tree.” (Full disclosure: This one’s been at the top of my list for a while now!)
Hero Harper, born to British singer/TV presenter Myleene Klass on March 25th, younger sister of Ava Bailey. Hero is a Greek name, meaning, “brave one of the people,” – the origin definition of a hero, naturally! In Greek legend, Hero is a priestess of Aphrodite who lived in a tower surrounded by water. She fell in love with Leander, a young man who traveled often by water to visit his love. Unfortunately one evening he was drowned, and in grief Hero threw herself from her tower to her death. Shakespeare also selected the name for one of the lead characters in his Much Ado About Nothing.
Though Klass felt inclined to defend her daughter’s “amazing” name against hecklers on Twitter, she’s not the first celeb to select it – British actress Hermione Norris welcomed daughter Hero in August 2007.
Marlowe Rivers, born to actor Jason Schwartzmann in December 2010. The unique spelling doesn’t detract from the fact that Marlo is a name on a major upswing these days. Whether inspired by 16th Century English dramatist Christopher Marlowe (who penned the English version of the story of Hero and Leander, ironically), or by TV star Marlo Thomas (America’s sweetheart while she starred on That Girl, a feministic precursor to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she seemed to singularly popularize the name in the 1960s and 1970s), the name has legs today. Thomas was born Margaret, but her nickname became Marlo when she was unable to pronounce her parents’ choice of Margo. The name has also been suggested as a variant form of Marlene – itself a German derivative of Maria (Latin for “star of the sea”) and Magdalene (Greek for “from Magdala” – an homage to Mary Magdalene, reputed in various circles to be one of the closest women to Jesus Christ in his lifetime, whatever that may have meant.
In addition to Schwartzmann, celebs including disgraced MLB slugger Mark McGwire (Marlo Rose, June 2010), blogger Heather Armstrong at Dooce.com (Marlo Iris, June 2009), and comedian Rob Corddry (Marlo Stevenson, November 2008) have recently chosen the name for their daughters, and it’s a name that’s catching on all over again in the real world.
This year has also seen more apparent use of Greek female -o names (both four-letter, two-syllable selections, which in itself is a trend worth noting) – Cleo and Echo. Cleo was the name given to Friends star David Schwimmer’s daughter on May 8th, but the name, derived from storied Cleopatra, the former Egyptian Ptolemaic queen, has provided varying levels of inspiration for thousands of years. Actors Katharine Ross and Sam Elliott welcomed daughter Cleo Rose in 1984, and in November 2010, Belgian footballer and wife Elke welcomed daughter Cleo. The name derives from the Greek kleo, meaning “glory,” while you add the Greek pater to create Cleopatra (“glory of the father”). As the name has also found favour in French-speaking countries, it’s possible the name is intended more as a derivative of the fairly common name, Clothilde (from the Old German Clotilda, meaning “famous battle”) – but Cleopatra is a universal heroine.
Echo was a nymph in Greek mythology – one story says that Zeus used Echo to distract his wife, Hera, during his many extramarital indiscretions and Hera, upon discovering the truth, sentenced the nymph who loved the sound of her own voice to an eternity of only being able to repeat the last words said by anyone to her – hence, the origin of an echo, and the meaning of the word. Echo and the Bunnymen were a New Wave band out of England in the early 1980s. Fairly new on the modern day naming stage, it was used by 311 frontman Nick Hexum for his eldest daughter, Echo Love, born August 2009. Another American rocker, Strung Out’s Jason Cruz, welcomed Sydney Echo in 2010, and actress Kari Wuhrer had daughter Echo Luna in 2008. Because it fits right in with so many other trends the popularity of this name will grow, though it will likely never be a serious charter.
Rocco, for boys, is on an extended rise (evidenced by the fact that both Mariah Carey and Mike Tyson’s sons born in 2011 were named Morocco or a variation as a way to get to Rocco, or Roc, as a nickname), but once-burning-hot Coco is cooling down for girls. Brando as a boy’s name has found some traction; the further we get from the death of legendary (and frightfully eccentric) actor Marlon Brando, the more iconic his name becomes. Shiloh seemed destined for greatness when it was selected as the first name of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s first biological daughter, but maybe it’s public overexposure to the Jolie-Pitt clan that really helped a name full of promise go nowhere all that fast (though it was the family’s use of the name that let Shiloh first chart on the US Top 1000 in 2o07). Shiloh is a Hebrew unisex name meaning either “his gift” or “peace.”
When designer/TV star Nicole Richie and Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden welcomed their daughter in January 2008, no one anticipated that their name choice would alter the landscape of girl names so drastically with each of her three given names. Harlow Winter Kate became a celebrity overnight, and no one could get enough of that name. First, the double middle name trend was out in full force; the use of a noun, like celebs are so often predisposed to, but a peaceful and lovely one such as winter, and the trendy and popular second middle name, but the popularity of Harlow increased exponentially. A nod by the couple to ’30s Hollywood starlet Jean Harlow and for Canadian model Shalom Harlow, the name caught a wave and is still riding it up the charts. It wasn’t just what to name your daughter that the young Hollywood couple initiated, but how. (It wasn’t the Richie-Maddens who used Harlow first (or the naming convention on trend), of course – as celebs go, actors Patricia Arquette and Thomas Jane welcomed daughter Harlow Olivia Calliope in 2003 – but flashbulbs all over California were trained on Richie’s every move during her star-making first pregnancy, and so she gets most credit for the current popularity of Harlow, which is an Old English surname meaning “from the mound of the people.” Less credit was paid for the almost universally maligned Sparrow, however – the other -ow name in the Richie-Madden household, it was bestowed upon their son in September 2009.
What else is out there:
– In November 2010, actors John Travolta and Kelly Preston welcomed son Benjamin Hunter Kaleo, less than two years after the death of their 16-year-old son Jett. Kaleo is a Hawaiian name meaning “the voice.” (ka = “the,” leo = voice, tone, sound, command, advice.”)
– How I Met Your Mother‘s Cobie Smulders welcomed daughter Shaelyn Cado in May 2010. Cobie’s family is Dutch, and while the origin of a name like Cado is unknown, and possibly made up, it’s interesting to note that in the Netherlands, similar monikers (Cato, Kato) are already trending. In the US, Kato was heavily affected by actor Kato Kaelin, a witness in the OJ Simpson Murder Trial in the mid-’90s. The sensational popularity of the trial caused the popularity of Kato as a baby name to rise and fall accordingly.
– In the midst of divorce, Sandra Bullock adopted son Louis (pronounced Louie) Bardo in early 2010. Bardo is the name of German Saint Bardo, the 11th Century bishop of Mainz. Bullock’s mother Helga was born in Germany and Bullock can speak the language fluently. Bardo is also a concept familiar to followers of Tibetan Buddism that signifies an intermediate state of awareness, but Bullock has never made such affectations to Buddism previously known, so it’s more likely she chose the name from the saint.
– Musician Taylor Hanson of the band Hanson welcomed son Viggo Moriah in December 2008. Viggo came from genealogy records on Hanson’s family tree, but the name was made famous by actor Viggo Mortenson. Viggo is of Danish origin, and means “war.”
– Actor Mark Feuerstein had son Frisco Jones in 2008, inadvertently giving his son the same name as Jack Wagner’s character on General Hospital (This is why blogs like these were created – you should never pick a name that you haven’t researched. You need to be aware of, and okay with, any and all connotations to the name of your choice.) Frisco is a short name for Francisco, the Spanish version of Francis – a Latin name meaning “Frenchman; free man.” It’s a tribute to the kingdom of the Franks – first ruled by Clovis from CE 481 – 509.
– Ukranian-born actress/model Milla Jovovich and British filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson welcomed Ever Gabo in 2007. Jovovich created Gabo (gah-BEAU) by combining the first two letters of her parents’ names – Galina and Bogdan. It’s also the last name of Russian sculptor/architect Naum Gabo.
– In 2005, Northern Irish TV newsanchor Andrea Catherwood had twin sons Ruari and Jago. Pronounced JAY-go, the English name derived regionally in Cornwall from the immensely popular, and significantly familial names Jacob and James. In 2010, Dutch radio host Astrid De Jong had son Sim Jago Paul.
– Personally, I like Django. And not just because I’m a geography nut and it’s the only name in the world that shares a naming convention with Djibouti. I don’t even know that much about Djibouti, but not many words in the world have a silent d – and that’s just how much I like words! The name has long been associated with musicians, following the success of Belgian jazz artist Jean-Baptiste “Django” Reinhardt. King Django was an American ska musician, Django Bates a British composer, and Django Haskins an American singer-songwriter. Django Reinhardt was a traveller, and his nickname was a Romany gypsy term meaning “I awake.” As the gypsy population in Europe is higher in places like Italy, perhaps it’s unsurprising that “Django” was a recurrent character moniker in 1960s Italian spaghetti westerns. Dave Stewart, the male half of The Eurythmics, and Bananarama’s Siobhan Fahey named their second son Django James Lawless in 1990, after Reinhardt. Star Trek TV star Nana Visitor welcomed son Django El Tahir in 1996.
– In December 1980, British playwright Andrew Birkin (brother of actress/singer Jane) welcomed son Anno. Does Anno derive from Andrew, Angelo, or Adriano perhaps? No, it’s actually yet another nickname possibility for the hugely popular Alexander – of Greek origin, Alexander combines alexein (“to defend, to help”) and andros (“man”), which becomes “defender or helper of mankind.” It was first seen on Alexander the Great, the warrior who conquered much of eastern Europe, much of Asia to India, and parts of what is now pieces of the the former Soviet Union in the name of Greece. Talk about nickname possibilities beyond Alexander for boys and girls with Anno!
My Advice? While -a’s seem to belong to girl names, -o names are much more inclusive. Male or female names can end in -o, and sometimes those -o names are perfectly suitable for either sex. The possibilities are endless, and you can take a cue from others and come up with something entirely new that doesn’t sound outrageous or out of place, especially if you can come up with something that’s four letters, two syllables. But that’s not to say that the names already trending aren’t still completely perfect and still, for now, underused.