About A Name: Arlo

October 13, 2011 § 7 Comments

(c) Bettman/CORBIS: Arlo Guthrie sings for peace at Tufts University in Massachusetts, 1969.

I’m actually sad while I write this post – it feels like I’ve lost my boy baby name forever, after Johnny Knoxville selected Arlo for his daughter, born last week. I see name trends, and I know that four-letter names ending in O are popular for both sexes, but more so for girls, and as much as I might try to deny it, Arlo wears well as a feminine name. Plus, this name in particular is so hot right now, I can see it gaining even more strength, that by the time I finally have children it will be dated, feminized, and lost to me. So forgive me if this post seems in any way wistful or disappointed, because the truth is that Arlo is an amazing name that should be noticed.

I’ve loved this name for more than half my life, first getting wind of it when I watched my dad’s old Woodstock concert documentary on VHS when I was a kid. Arlo Guthrie, who wrote the epic folk song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” and was the son of American folk legend Woody. (He had eight children with three wives, most with traditional names – Gwen, Sue, Bill, Cathy, Nora, and Lorina – but Arlo Davy, with his younger brother Joady Ben once made ‘wacky name’ lists all the time.)

It’s become one of the hottest names of the year. Not only was it recently selected by Knoxville for his daughter, Toni Colette welcomed son Arlo Robert in April, British TV newsanchor Natasha Kaplinsky welcomed son Arlo in 2008, and in 2007 Australian country singer Kasey Chambers welcomed son Arlo Ray. (She very recently welcomed daughter Poet Poppin, so named because she was always “poppin’ around like popcorn” in Chambers’ belly.) Mark “Bez” Berry from the Happy Mondays also has a teenage son named Arlo.

Knoxville and his wife, Naomi, were probably partially inspired by the popularity of currently trendy girls’ names Harlow and Marlo. And Knoxville, who selected Madison for his eldest daughter in the mid-90’s, before the name was quite as popular as it’s been, and who named his son Rocko, is definitely a trendy guy when it comes to names. It’s also a possible alternative to the Old English Arlene, meaning “rabbit.”

Arlo is an Anglo-Saxon name, meaning “fortified hill.” It’s a derivative of Harlow (here; war, army + hlaw; hill, mound) It also derives from Spanish, meaning “barberry tree.” It makes this name earthy, rooted in nature in the spirit of Willow, arguably the trendiest nature nature at the moment. Arlo also represtents power and strength, and it’s an Italian variant of the name Charles (Old German for “free man”), from the popular Carlo.

The relation to Charles is where I feel really connected to Arlo. My grandfathers were Albert and Charles, and when I look at the name Arlo it looks like it could be a perfectly satisfying contraction of the two names. I like creativity, but I also like names that mean something to my family. And you know, my mom doesn’t like the name – so maybe it’s growing popularity will make her come around! It’s definitely, most certainly on the rise, and it might go far. Within the US Top 1000 in the early half of the 20th Century, it’s yet to climb back in, but Nameberry knows just how popular it is, grouping it with Pippa and Hadley this summer as the hottest names of 2011. The name is making serious moves in pop culture since our introduction to Arlo Guthrie.

Variant spellings Arlow and especially Arlowe are classy and sophisticated, and really do seem to suit both sexes. But Arrlo may be a bit much, especially on International Talk Like A Pirate Day.


§ 7 Responses to About A Name: Arlo

  • I hate to point out the obvious, but won’t Arlo become “feminised” ONLY IF parents of boys stop using it? So if you don’t use it, you will be the one “feminising” it, hmm?

    Anyway, if you really love it, I hope you end up using it, either for a boy or girl.

    • namemuststay says:

      I just fear that the scales will tip too far in the female direction, like with Ashley, by the time I can use it. The name ticks off enough boxes for female trends, and while I can appreciate a unisex name, I have never been inclined to give a boy a name that too many people think of as a girl name πŸ™‚

  • Candace says:

    We named in daughter Arlo, April 2011. We named our son Dylan in 2000. After that there was a movie where Drew Barrymore’s character was named Dylan and I was afraid Dylan would become the new cool girl’s name. You do see it occasionally, but it didn’t take off like I feared, making Dylan a sissy name.

  • Ashleigh says:

    My son’s name is Arlo – I know of only 1 other Arlo (whi is about 25 years older than my son).
    I too cringe when I hear someone (mainly hollywood) has named their child Arlo…I love how different it it & so, so many people comment on his name!!
    Keep it on your list, it will always be a gorgeous name

  • Nick Barker says:

    my sons name is Arlo he is 14 months old my other son’s name is Sunday??????? who gives a shit really they are their own people that will go of into their lives and probably never hear or care about knoxvilles and kidmans etc as for Arlo Barker(mine) he can say “Dad Dad ” and ‘ UNNY uNNY for his big brother ” he’s yet to say Hollywood?
    love to all the little Arlo’s

  • Stephanie says:

    I love love Arlo and it is on my list for #3. There is really nothing I don’t like about it other than people are starting to use it for a girls name…boo. I think it goes very well with our other kids names, Violet and Silas ❀ if #3 is a girl she will be Willa πŸ™‚

  • Lisa says:

    My son’s name is Arlo, and I agree that it’s an earthy name. My Arlo was born on Arbor Day of 2013. It’s a great name! πŸ™‚ I have met many other Arlo’s in the Seattle area, but not before he was born. Definitely gaining popularity, but who cares. If you love it, you love it.

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