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The Story of O Names: Then and Now

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By Kelli Brady of  NameFreak!

Apart from the letter ‘U’, ‘O’ is the least likely vowel to be used at the beginning of names. In fact, there have been zero ‘U’ names in the Top 100 since 1880. On my blog I have already looked at I names, and putting together posts on’ A’ names and ‘E’ names is a daunting task at this point, so, without further ado, the ‘O’ names!

In 1880, there were three ‘O’ boy names in the Top 100: Oliver, Oscar and Otto. While Otto fell out after 1898 and Oliver became sporadic from 1897 until it fell out after 1903, Oscar stayed on top through 1925. Otis also made some appearances in 1899, 1905 and 1909, but from 1926 through 2001 there were no ‘O’ boy names in the Top 100. In 2002, Owen appeared and remains so currently. Oliver returned to the Top 100 in 2009 and also remains.

As for the girls, in 1880 there was only one ‘O’ name in the Top 100: Olive. Ollie showed up in 1885, 1887 and 1888, but did not stick around longer than that. Olive fell out in 1904, to be replaced by Opal in the same year. Opal lasted until 1920, and then from 1920 until 1990 there were no girl ‘O’ names in the Top 100. Olivia then jumped in and is now, still, the only ‘O’ girl name on top.

So, from 1926 until 1990… for 64 years… there were no ‘O’ names in the Top 100 at all!

If we analyze the beginning sounds of the O names, there is an obvious change in preference from the “ah” pronunciation to the “oh” pronunciation. The early names were Oliver, Oscar, Otto, Olive and Ollie. Otis made some brief appearances and then Opal showed up in 1904 when only Oscar was still up there for the boys. Currently, not including Oliver‘s reappearance, the top O names are Owen and Olivia. I know the preference is not exclusive, but the tide is still interesting to note.

Other O names currently in the Top 1000: Oscar, Omar, Olive, Orion, Orlando, Odin, Omari, Osvaldo, Otto, and Oakley (all boys except Olive).

What is your favorite O name? Can you see Oscar, Otto, Otis, Olive, Ollie and Opal returning to the Top 100 like Oliver did?

Originally posted at NameFreak! on September 27, 2013 and revised for Nameberry.

Kelli Brady is a stay at home mom of two who needed an outlet for her name obsession. She found it at NameFreak!, a blog dedicated to a wide variety of name-related whims and fancies. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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About the author

NameFreak!

Kelli Brady is a stay at home mom of two who needed an outlet for her name obsession. She found it at NameFreak!, a blog dedicated to a wide variety of name-related whims and fancies. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her eBook, Name-alytics, is a look at the history of the Top 100 names in the United States. Check it out at https://gumroad.com/l/name-alytics!
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