About A Name: Arlo
October 13, 2011 § 7 Comments
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.