by Sophie Kihm
Leo baby names season runs from July 23 to August 22, making this the perfect time of year to give your child a leonine name. Of course, even if your baby isn’t born under the sign of the lion, a number of leonine names are distinguished and fashionable options.
Top Leo Baby Names
Leon, which is a smash-hit across Europe, comes in at a respectable #238 in the United States. It’s the third most popular name in Germany but maintains a somewhat geeky and old-fashioned image in the US. This may be changing though, as Leon has risen over 200 spots since its lowest point at #524 in 2004.
Leonidas is one of the fastest rising names of the decade. It first appeared in the Top 1000 in 2008 and has since risen to #502. It’s a Greek name, right on trend with other hot ancient names like Cassius and Atticus. The historical Leonidas was a Spartan warrior king who led the Greeks in battle.
For girls, the most popular Leo name is Leona, which is ranked #511 on the popularity charts. It took a hiatus from the Top 1000 from 1981 to 2009, but since then has climbed quickly. The British singer Leona Lewis may have helped revive her name.
The last Leo name in the US Top 1000 is Leonard, which sits at #633. It’s a serious name—one that’s so uncool it’s actually cool. There are plenty of notable Leonards for potential namesakes, including actor Leonard Nimoy and singer Leonard Cohen. Another well-known, albeit fictional, Leonard is Leonard Hofstadter from The Big Bang Theory.
Unique Leo Baby Names
Leocadia: Leocadia is a Spanish name with a beautiful meaning—“splendid brightness.” Yes, that means it’s not actually a leonine name. Leocadia is derived from the Greek Island Leucadia. At five syllables long, it might be a mouthful for a little girl, but nickname possibilities include Leo and Cadie. It can also be spelled Leokadia.
Leonie: A sweet name with French and German origins, Leonie hasn’t been in the US Top 1000 since 1907. It’s high time it makes a comeback, especially since the Leo names are so on-trend. One possible mark against Leonie: it’s pronunciation. There’s no universally agreed upon way to say it. In Germany it’s pronounced LAY-own-ee, and also sometimes lay-OWN-ee. In France it’s LAY-awn-ee and in the Netherlands it’s lay-own-EE. The first syllable can also be pronounced with a Lee sound.
Leonor: Leonor is the Spanish and Portuguese variation of Eleanor, so like Leocadia it doesn’t have a leonine meaning. It’s a royal name in Spain and Portugal, and that’s actually how it originated. Leonor was invented n the 12th century, when Eleanor of England married King Alfonso VIII of Castile. Today it’s the name of Leonor de Todos los Santos de Borbón y Ortiz, the Princess of Asturias, who was born in 2005.
Leontine: Chic French Leontine was given to fewer than five babies last year, which is perfect if you want rare but stylish Leo name. Unlike Leonie, it has a standard pronunciation—lay-awn-teen, with the emphasis distributed equally among the three syllables. Another spelling is Leontyne, as in opera singer Leontyne Price.
Leopold: Stately German name Leopold is on the rise, but at the rate it’s going now, it won’t break the Top 1000 for another 8-9 years. It was a common name among German and Belgian nobility and is the name of patron saint of Austria. Besides the obvious Leo, a fun German nickname is Poldi.
Sophie Kihm has been writing for Nameberry since 2015. She has contributed stories on the top middle names of 2019, the top baby names in each state, and the hottest nickname names of 2018. Sophie is Nameberry’s resident Name Guru to the Stars, where she suggests names for celebrity babies. She also manages the Nameberry Instagram and Pinterest. You can follow her personally on Instagram or Pinterest, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sophie lives in Chicago.