O Names

September 8, 2011 § 2 Comments

Italic Cyrillic letter O - uppercase and lowercase

O names are hot right now. Kids named Oliver and Olivia are everywhere. They are the two most popular names in Britain right now, and in the Top 10 almost everywhere else in the English-speaking world (or French for Olivias, for that matter – but Olivier is out of fashion). Just how hot are O names, all over the world?

Orrin Ryder Homme was born to rockers Josh Homme of Queens of the Stoneage and Brody Dalle of Dragonette on August 12th.
Oscar Dylan Judd was born to Aussie Rules Football superstar Chris Judd on July 26th.
British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber (brother of theatre producer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber) and wife Jiaxin Cheng had daughter Jasmine Orienta June 15th – named to honour Cheng’s Oriental heritage.
All My Children star Eden Riegel had son Jack Oscar on May 21st.
Belgian rock guitarist Bert Ostyn welcomed son Otis on April 13th.
British Doctor Who star David Tennant’s daughter Olivia, called Olive, was born on March 31st.
Actor Colin Hanks had Olivia Jane on February 1st – Tom Hanks’ first grandchild!
MLS soccer coach Ben Olsen welcomed son Oscar Benjamin on January 18th.
Australian news anchor Tara Brown had son Tom Oliver in December.
In October, Dutch actress Ricky Koole welcomed Otis Benjamin, shortly before cyclist Lance Armstrong welcomed daughter Olivia Marie, and Dutch actress Georgina Verbaan welcomed daughter Odilia Lilibet.
A year ago this week, Canadian NHL star Dan Boyle welcomed son Wesley Ocean, and actor Esai Morales had daughter Mariana Oliveira on September 24, 2010.
In August 2010, American actor Jason Dohring welcomed son Owen Riley, and Brenna Gray, wife of Slipknot bassist Paul Grey, who was found dead in a hotel room the previous May, welcomed daughter October Dedrick on August 17, 2010.
In May 2010, actress Amy Adams welcomed daughter Aviana Olea.

Hot. Old-fashioned English names like Oscar (used by Hugh Jackman, Gillian Anderson, Btitish HGTV star Kirstie Allsopp, and the list goes on) and to a lesser extent, Otis (Tobey Maguire, British actress Amanda Mealing, rocker Bryan Ferry), have experienced huge a resurgence alongside Oliver, and the immense popularity of Olivia has sparked a bit of a trend to keep digging for new and interesting O names – there really aren’t enough. I’d imagine they’re suddenly trending in part because O names have been long overlooked. While J, A, or M names are often everywhere you look, O names in general are rare, decreasing the likelihood that your child will go through life with the same name as one or two classmates. Unfortunately, the trend has spoken, and sticking with Oliver (like actors Corbin Bernsen and Amanda Pays and actress Goldie Hawn, whose son is now an actor), and most certainly Olivia (like Lori Loughlin of Full House fame, sci-fi star Amanda Tapping, actors Al Pacino and Beverly D’Angelo among others), is likely to result in your kid becoming known by their last initial.

So what else is hot in O names, aside from the usual suspects?

The name Orson is simply old-fashioned and that’s what parents who select it seem to like about it. It’s only charted in the US Top 1000 once since 1880. In 1880, it was in the Top 800. Latin for “bear,” it brings to mind Orson Welles, the celebrated 20th Century filmmaker – a recently released film about the man starred Zac Efron and Claire Danes. It’s also been used by actors Lauren Ambrose, who welcomed son Orson Halcyon in January 2007, Paz Vega welcomed Orson the following May, and Jason Priestly, whose son Dashiell Orson was born in July 2009.

Olwyn is lovely. Sounds like the more popular Owen (used by singer-songwriters of different generations, Mama Cass Elliot and Michelle Branch on their daughters, though it was a Top 20 name in English-speaking countries for boys in 2010), but Olwyn is more exotic. It means “white footprint,” from the Welsh ol (footprint, track) + gwen (white, blessed, fair). In Welsh legend Olwen was a beautiful maiden, the lover of Culhwch and the daughter of the giant Yspaddaden. Her father insisted that Culhwch complete several seemingly impossible tasks before he would allow them to marry, and Culhwch was successful with all of them. Designer Stella McCartney gave her eldest daughter the name Bailey Linda Olwyn in 2008, and in 2006 former 24 star Sarah Clarke welcomed daughter Olwyn Harper.

Orion is definitely on the upswing for boys, and some girls, too! Actor Chris Noth, who plays Big in the Sex and the City series, welcomed son Orion Christopher in 2008, and the name caught fire. Since entering the US Top 1000 in the mid ’90s, it sits at 466. The meaning of the name Orion is unknown (perhaps derived from the Greek horion, meaning “boundary, limit,” but comes from the famed constellation Orion’s Belt, named for the legendary hunter in Greek mythology, killed by a scorpion sent by earth mother Gaia. Cars frontman Ric Ocasek and Polish supermodel Paulina Porizkova gave a double dose of O when they welcomed son Oliver Orion in 1998. With a name like Orion, you can always call them Ryan (boy or girl) if they decide they want to go with something more common. This name also shares plenty of qualities with a similar star name, courtesy of British singer-songwriter Donovan, who bestowed the named Oriole Nebula upon his daughter in 1973. Nebulas describe the mist that surrounds the stars in astronomy, and paired with Oriole, her name in Latin means “golden mist.” An oriole, like the origin of the name of the Baltimore MLB team, is a golden bird.

Ocean has unisex written all over it for nature lovers. Not as obvious a nature name as Rain or Sunny, it connects earth mothers to the elements. The English word ocean for a large body of water is derived from the Greek okeanos, named for the body of water that was thought to surround the earth. In addition to Dan Boyle, the name’s been used by Oscar-winning actor Forrest Whitaker on his son Ocean Alexander, born 1990, and was altered by Canadian singer-songwriter David Usher of the band Moist on his daughter Océane Danaiya in 2008. In Portugal, Spain, and Italy the translation Oceano has been used of late.

Olaya is the name of Spanish striker David Villa’s youngest daughter. Spanish for “well-spoken,” this is actually a name that, though it’s never climbed high in North America, is actually on the decline and should receive more consideration. It fits right in with so many of the feminine, multisyllabic -a names so popular today. In ’07, French journalist Harry Roselmack had daughter Omaya, which sounds a lot like Amaya – hot since Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay announced it as the name of her adopted daughter earlier this year. Amaya is Arabic for “night rain.”

Odette is becoming slowly more wearable. Actress Odette Yustman is popularizing it, and actor Mark Ruffalo named his daughter Odette in 2007. In French, Odette means “wealth.” It was the name of the swan princess in the 19th Century Tchaikovsky ballet Swan Lake, cast under a spell, she must find eternal love or remain a swan forever. She is betrayed by a character of another O name, this one still off the map – Odile. Fittingly to the story, Odile is a variation of Odila, which is an Old German name meaning “fortunate or prosperous in battle.”

Oisin is an interesting choice. Irish Gaelic for “little deer,” it’s derived from the word os, meaning ‘deer,’ and combined with a diminutive suffix. The name currently ranks 17th in Ireland, in a country dominated by the simplicities of Jack, Sean and Daniel. The Irish legend of Tir-Na-nOg is built around the love story of Niamh and Oisin – pronounced OSH-een – who live happily together for hundreds of years in the land of the ever young, Tir-Na-nOg. (They had a son named Oscar.) Oisin is a warrior and poet in the story, and is the son of legendary mythical hunter-warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool). Oisin is purported to have been the narrator of stories from the Fenian (Ossianic) Cycle of Irish mythology, centered around mac Cumhaill’s followers, the Fianna. Ossian is a variant spelling introduced by Scottish Gaelic poet and writer James Macpherson in 1761. Irish musician Donal Lunny had son Oisin in the 1970s, and in 2009, Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgaard welcomed son Ossian.

Then, of course, there’s Olive. Olive Oyl was Popeye’s girlfriend, but the name took on a new image when actors Sasha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher welcomed their first daughter in 2007. The name is also a food name, like Apple, Peaches, or Peanut, and for some that leaves the name off the list. It derives from the Latin oliva for “olive tree,” which can stand on it’s own or as a nickname for Olivia. For boys, Ozzy is a contender. It could come from any number of root names including Oswald, Osgood, or even Ostin/Austin (French for “great, magnificent”). Rocker Ozzy Osborne has always given the name a somewhat untouchable quality, what with his penchant for biting heads off birds and slurred, nonsensical speech from years of drug use, but that stigma is fading. Ozzy is a popular player from the American Survivor series, the even shorter form of Oz has picked up some points for modernity from it’s Wizard Of Oz past when it became known as the maximum security prison in the gritty, critically-acclaimed crime drama of the same name in the late ’90s. It’s the name that actor Anthony Perkins (Norman Bates in Psycho) gave his eldest son, from Osgood Robert, in 1974. The character “Oz” from the original American Pie, played by actor Chris Klein, will be back for American Reunion in 2012.

And continuing the surnames as first names trend, though inevitably not adding much to it, some parents have moved past using names like Hunter and Cooper to O’ names. In Irish ancestry, the O’ signals that someone is the grandson of another, while Mac means son of, so O’Flynn would be grandson of Flynn, and MacFlynn is son of Flynn. Rapper/actor Ice Cube, real name O’Shea Jackson, named his eldest son after him, though he goes by Shea. Jane Fonda named her son Troy O’Donovan in 1973. American TV chef Brian Malarkey had son Huntington O’Neil in 2007. Mia Farrow and Woody Allen’s adopted daughter Dylan O’Sullivan and biological son Satchel Ronan O’Sullivan were both given a middle name in honour of Farrow’s actress mother, Maureen O’Sullivan.

I wonder how Orlando would do in North America if Disney World wasn’t the happiest place on Earth, and the name wasn’t synonymous with a family vacation destination? Orlando Bloom‘s no slouch, and over in France where their Disneyland is in Paris, model/actress Laeticia Casta welcomed son Orlando in September 2006. It’s not like most other US cities haven’t provided naming inspiration in one way or another. Orlando is a Spanish variation of the Old German name Roland, meaning “renowned land.” Though the name is shared by NFLer Orlando Pace, the name has been mostly restricted to literary use.

What else is out there:

– French footballer Zoumana Camara – Oury, 2008 (French name, origin unknown, but it’s the name of a town in Burkina Faso)
– Venezuelan actress Gaby Espino – Oriana, 2008 (Latin for “sunrise”)
– Danish footballer Christian Poulsen – Otto, 2006 (Old German for “wealth”)
– Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron – Olmo Teodoro, 2005 (A name of Northern Italian and Spanish origin, meaning “elm.” It has been known to describe a person living by a particularly notable elm tree as a surname.)
– Actor Michael Chicklis – Odessa Rose, 1999 (Greek for “angry man,” which is interesting as it’s far more popular for girls. The name is a feminine variation of Odysseus. The city of Odessa, Ukraine, and subsequently it’s namesake, Odessa, Texas, selected it’s name from Homer’s epic The Odyssey.
– Former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon – Omri, 1964 (Hebrew for “my sheaf,” was the name of a king of Israel in the Old Testament.)
– Chrildren’s author Roald Dahl and Oscar-winning actress Patricia Neal – two daughters with O names, Olivia Twenty and Ophelia Magdalena in 1955 and 1964. Olivia Twenty got her name for Neal’s character in Twelfth Night, and Dahl bestowed her middle name for the day she was born, April 20th. Ophelia is Greek, meaning “help,” and was the name of the tragic heroine in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, about a Danish prince. The name was mostly popular in the late 19th Century.

My advice? O is for trendsetters. But it’s also for those seeking tradition, antiquity, and even for those seeking the common touch, O is a great place to start figuring out a name. Names beginning with O are phonetically pleasing, like most other names with vowel beginnings. But a word to the really wise namer – if you’re into O because you think it’s a unique first initial, the rest of the world is catching on fast.

See Also: Octavia Flynn Sorbo (Number Names)


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