O Boy!

July 24th, 2008


When I first heard Madonna had named her son Rocco I was dumbstruck.  At the time, I was not writing a weekly column on saints’ names, nor had I yet studied abroad in Rome, and I was unfamiliar with this old Italian appellation (I’m dating myself here).  It sounded harsh and bizarre, I didn’t like the repetitious Rs or the comingling of ethnicities, and to my mind this was a rather unfortunate doozy to saddle on a poor unsuspecting baby.  Now eight years hence, I can really respect this choice.  The double O power of that name, not to mention alliteration with the last name, seemed appropriately daring for the child of a living legend.  It also fit tidily into trend already well underway in the Cacchione-Richie’s neighborhood.  

O names are not uncommon amongst our British counterparts.  On any given day you’ll find Orlando and Cosmo in the Telegraph birth annoucements.  Nigella Lawson, the saucy chef, has a young Bruno.  It’s been the thing for a while now to name a boy (perhaps your third?) something stylish and ending in O.  In France, Enzo, Hugo, Theo, Leo, and Matheo are all top 15, reflecting an affinity for Italian culture at the moment.  However not all names ending in O have a Latin root.  Jago is Cornish, Ianto is Welsh, and Mungo is a Scottsman. Greece brings us Cosmo and Philo.  Viggo and Paavo are vigourous additions by way of Finland.  

Os are round and soft, yet really pack a punch whether they end a name or begin it. There is something quite amiable about an O boy– he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and is perhaps a bit of a prankster or a sensitive scultpor.  

The fashion for boys’ names ending in O has yet to hit our shores full force.  I do know a few little Milos and Theos, and perhaps can jog my memory for a Hugo or two.  On the whole, to us these names still sound either fresh, very Latin, or both, depending on one’s perspective.  By no means should the O be relegated to the end of a name.  Oscar is heard regularly ’round here, another brought to you courtesy Great Britain, and Owen and Oliver have been popular for ages in baby name years.  Why not consider Otto or Odin?  Anything with a round O sound in the middle too, might benefit from the impending obsession: We’re familiar with Logan and Cody, but perhaps one might consider Soren and Toby?  What about consecutive O power of Joost?


Recommended O Boys:

Adão- Portuguese form of Adam, Hebrew for “man”

Alvaro- Spanish, Portuguese, from the Visigothic Alewar, meaning “guard of all”

Amado, Amadeo- From the Latin Amatus with the warm meaning “Beloved”

Arlo*- We don’t know what Arlo means.  It may be from the Spanish for “Barberry tree” or Germanic for “Hill.”  We do know that folk singer Arlo Guthrie is likely the most well-known bearer of this name. Guthrie is a pretty adorable option as well!

Arturo- I’ve got my eye on this one.  This Italian and Spanish form of Arthur (“bear”) has all the right stuff:  Solid history, mystique, and a friendly air.  Arturo Toscanini was a distinguished forbearer. 

Arvo- Finnish for “worth, value.”  Another worthy composer from a very different genre is Estonian Arvo Pärt

Benicio- Spanish “benevolent one.”  This name took center stage with the fast rise of Benicio Del Toro in the 1990s.  His name did not follow.  

Bruno- French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, from the Germanic “little dark one.”  St. Bruno was a monk who founded the Carthusian order in the 11th century.

Cicero- Could this ancient Roman surname possibly mean “chickpea”?

Claudio- Italian/Spanish form of Claudius, a Roman name meaning “lame, crippled.”  His appeal goes well beyond his unfortunate meaning.

Cosmo, Cosimo- Greek and Italian, from the Greek cosmos.  VERY cool, if you can move beyond Seinfeld, the magazine, and the drink.  Hope you can.  

Diego- Spanish form of Jacob, “the supplanter.”  Children the world over are now familiar with this name via Dora the Explorer’s cousin.  Diego Rivera is the more reknowned bearer.

Enzo*- Short form of Lorenzo and Vincenzo, now used on its own.  Ready to be co-opted, and would make a great little brother for Gianna.  

Fausto- Roman surname meaning “auspicious.”

Giacomo- Italian form of Jacob and James, “the supplanter.”  

Giuliano- Italian form of Julius, meaning “downy-bearded.”

Hugo*- Dutch, English, and French.  Greek for “intellect.”  Already on the upswing, this is a solid choice if you’re in any doubt.

Ianto- Welsh diminutive of Ifan, a form of John, which means “God is gracious.”

Inigo- English form of the Spanish Iñigo, which may be a form of the Basque Ennecus of unknown meaning. 

Isidro- Spanish variant of Isidore, meaning “gift of Isis.”

Ivo- German, Dutch, French, meaning “yew.”

Jago- Cornish form of Jacob, “supplanter.”  Jacob certainly does have his share of disparate cognates!

Jethro- From the Hebrew name Yitro, meaning “abundance.”  Jethro actually has a respectable history, but this name is still locked up in the vault for me along with Ellie Mae.  I am, however, hearing it in use among a creative, risk-taking set.

Ladislao- Italian form of the Slavic Vladislav, meaning “to rule with glory.”  Laszlo is the zippy Hungarian cognate.

Leo*- Latin for “lion” and the name of thirteen popes, six Byzantine emporers, and five Armenian kings.  Know any young Leos yet?  If you don’t now, you will soon.  Works in a sibset with Rebecca and Moishe, Reina and Mario, or Rose and Miles.

Lorenzo- Italy and Spain’s form of Lawrence, which is ultimately from the Latin for Laurel.  Lovro is a Slovenian diminutive form.

Marco*- The Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese version of Mark, which comes from the Roman god Mars by way of Marcus.  San Marco is the famous Cathedral in Venice.  

Mauro- From the Roman name Maurus, which means “dark-skinned.”  I knew a man with this name and he really sold me.  It’s lovely to say and hear repeatedly.

Milo*- Of uncertain origin, Milo is one of the cheeriest names we can think of.  Liv Tyler has a son with this name, as do many New York mothers.  

Mungo- Scottish, “gentle, kind.”

Munro*- Scottish version of Monroe meaning “from the mouth of the Roe river”, either of which are slightly more edgy than many of the surname names of the day. 

Nico*- Italian and Dutch short forms of any Nico- name, be it Niccolo or Nicodemus, both of which are directly related to the Greek Nike, meaning “victory.”  This name works particularly well in English and sounds fresh yet familiar in today’s climate.

Nunzio- Italian, “messenger.”

Orazio- Italian for Horatius, which may be related to “hour” or “gold.”

Orlando- Italian form of Roland, meaning “famous land.”  It is indeed a famous land in Florida, but he was also a formidable character in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”

Ottavio- Italian form of Octavius meaning “eighth.”

Paavo, Pablo, Paolo- Finnish, Spanish, and Italian forms of Paul, respectively, which mean “small.”  I have a particular affinity for the exotic Paavo in particular, but the other two are vastly more user-friendly in this country.

Piero, Pietro- Italian forms of Peter, “the rock”, a name bestowed unto him by Jesus himself.  St. Peter’s Basilica is the seat of the Vatican.

Prospero- The name of the magician in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” which means “fortunate.”  ”Prospero’s Books” is Peter Greenaway’s adaptation.

Sergio- Spanish and Italian, with divergent pronunciations.  Sergios is Greek for “servant.”  Sergio Leone was an Italian director of spaghetti westerns.

Umberto- Italian form of Humbert, meaning “famous warrior.”   “Umberto D.” was an Italian neo-realist film directed by Vittorio de Sica in 1952.  Sergio and Umberto would certainly be the evocative duo!

Waldo- English, German, meaning “to rule.”  Where’s Waldo?  Well, I decided to add him here because he’s got just so much quirk it might make him cool again.

Viggo- Scandinavian, and related to “war”, and of course, to the singular Viggo in Hollywood Mr. Mortensen.

Zeno- From the Greek, Zenon, and ultimately from the god Zeus.  On my celebribaby watch list.


Oberon- Literary, and variant of Auberon, and the King of the Faeries in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Octavian- From the Latin, Octavius, meaning “eighth.”  Ancient names are simmering– choose this and you’ll be ahead of the pack!

Odin- Chief of the Norse god of art, wisdom, war, and death.  

Ogden*- Surname meaning “oak valley.”  Has everything going for it and could be a good surname name replacement for the -aden crowd.

Oisín- Irish, “little deer.”  Pronounced “osh-een.”  He was the son of the legendary warrior Fionn Mac Cool and the goddess Sive. He and his beloved “Niamh of the Golden Hair” spent 300 years together in the land of eternal youth.

Olaf- Danish, Dutch, German, Polish.  From the Old Norse meaning “ancestor’s descent”, and the name of five Norwegian kings.  This name seems to be ripe with potential and seems in the company of names like Axel, Nico, and Sven.

Olek- Polish diminutive of Alexander “defender of mankind.”

Oliver, Olivier- Norman French forms of the Germanic name Alfihar meaning “elf army.”  Spelling was changed to resemble the olive, whose tree is a symbol of rejuvination and dignity.

Omar- Hebrew, “speaker”; also Arabic form of Umar meaning “flourishing.”  Cross-cultural, smart, and sensual.  Omar Khayyam was a 12th century poet and author of The Rubáyiát.  By way of Hollywood come Omar Sharif and more recently Omar Epps.

Oscar*- Gaelic, “deer lover”; or it may derive from Old English Osgar meaning “God’s spear.”  Hot to the point of scalding amongst urban hipsters and Latinos alike.  

Orion- A hunter in Greek mythology, who also has a constellation named for him.

Orson*- English surname meaning “bear cub.”  Orson Welles is the most well known forbear of this name.

Otis*- A surname derived from a cognate of Otto.  Otis Redding leaps to mind.

Otto- Dutch, Finnish, German, Scandinavian- From Odo meaning “wealth, fortune.”  The name of four kings of Germany.  Otto von Bismark is another unfortunate association.

Ovid- Latin, “shepherd.”  Ovid was a Roman poet famous for writing “Metamorphoses.”



*This post is dedicated to my self-proclaimed baby-addicted friend, Jess, who helped provide impetus.  The starred names are for you!


Image Above:  ”Love Target” by Peter Blake

4 Responses to “O Boy!”

  1. Jess Says:

    Woohoo! Thanks for the O’s and for the dedication, E! You know I love ya! Of those you starred I adore: Hugo, Milo, Nico, Oscar and Otis. Newbies that you’ve given me to think about: Arlo, Enzo, Munro (Monroe) and Orson. Thanks so much for posting this! I’m sure the world will be blessed with more O babies thanks to your article! :)

  2. !!!DirtyHippy!!! Says:

    There are so many fabulous names on this list. My love Oscar is proud and representing! I like the o-ending names for my sister, who will someday have children with a cool Italian last name.

  3. youcantcallitit Says:

    Oh Jess, I’m glad you liked some of them. Monroe is a pretty cool presidential name, though I’d be sure to research him first. I also like the idea of Arlo for you a lot, or even more adventurous, GUTHRIE! WDYT?

    !DH! Oscar is a big favorite of mine, too. It *sort of* honors a family member for us, so I may fight for it should we have a boy. I’m a little worried that it’s faddish, which it certainly is in England… but I still think people will be put off by the grouch. I thought of you when I was researching Arturo. How’s he doing? Your sister is lucky, she’s got a bevy of yummy names to consider.

  4. Piero Says:

    You forgot Fabio my youngest (third child) brother’s name.

    Also Flavio too

Leave a Reply