The Story of O Names: Then and Now
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.
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.
About the author
View all of 's articles
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
on December 11th, 2013 at 12:37 am
From the O names mentioned, I’m a fan of Oscar, Otis, Otto, Olive, and Opal.
Here are more O names that I have on my lists:
on December 11th, 2013 at 12:46 am
Some of my fave O names:
on December 11th, 2013 at 3:56 am
Opal : ) loveeee!
on December 11th, 2013 at 7:30 am
I think Oscar will start creeping back up the most popular lists soon. I love it, and Oliver, Otto + Owen. Orlaith is one of my top girls names but that’s about as far as my love for ‘O’ names goes.
on December 11th, 2013 at 9:33 am
I love Opal! Because of Winn Dixie was published in 2000 and every student read it in school. Maybe as that generation starts having children we will hear more of the name?
on December 11th, 2013 at 9:33 am
There is a little girl named Ocean in my family! 🙂
I am a huge Game of Thrones fan, so I have fallen in love with the name Olenna. <3
on December 11th, 2013 at 10:38 am
Odette- As the protagonist in Swan Lake, it sounds so delicate and pretty, with the added French twist.
Olivia- Sorry, I know this is really popular, but it is a classic having been in Shakespeare as well as i would then be naming my child after my grandfather (Oliver).
Oona- Kick-ass character in the Kiki Strike series, and a more interesting twist on the more common Una. It just looks and sounds beautiful.
on December 11th, 2013 at 11:47 am
on December 11th, 2013 at 12:13 pm
I’m actually considering O’Shea if I have another boy. I wonder where names like that come into play? O’Malley, O’Brian, etc. I love Irish names, so that’s why I’m drawn to them.
on December 11th, 2013 at 1:02 pm
on December 11th, 2013 at 1:56 pm
Os on my list:
and none for the boys, though I do like Oliver and Owen.
on December 11th, 2013 at 2:57 pm
Oren and Odelia are my faves (amongst all letters too).
on December 11th, 2013 at 3:25 pm
I like O names. My favorites are Octavia, Olympia, Olivia, for girls and Owen and Oliver for boys. Otto is growing on me. I used to like October for boys, but now it’s gone girly.
I come from an Irish family with O’ name. People spell it wrong and technically the first two letters are both initials.
So if the name is O’Shea, the initials are OS.
If the name is O’Mara, the initials are OM. etc.
I can see an O name trend being the last bastardization of Irish heritage. Sighs.
on December 11th, 2013 at 3:29 pm
I also like Ottilie, and Odette.
I prefer Una to Oona. I actually the Oona spelling is my common. More people seem to have heard of Oona O’Neil than the L. M. Montgomery character that first drew me to the name.
on December 11th, 2013 at 3:40 pm
My favorite o names are Oksana and Orlando. I could see Oscar reaching the top 100, maybe. I also like Octavia, Oceane, Odessa, Olympia, and Ophelia for girls, and Octavian, Omar, and Oliver for boys.
on December 11th, 2013 at 4:16 pm
I like a few O names. I really like Ophelia and Orlando, however, for me they are GP names are DH does not like them.
The O names that would be under consideration for when I get pregnant would be – Orion and Owen
on December 11th, 2013 at 4:48 pm
on December 11th, 2013 at 6:57 pm
Oriana! I love Oriana. And Odelia. Ottilie is sweet. For boys, Ozias. Octavian is intriguing, too. It’s such a pity my husband seems to hate all O names.
on December 12th, 2013 at 9:26 am
2 of my favorite names are actually o names, Ophelia and Orion. I always wanted to name a boy orion but i married one instead so I guess it worked out!
on December 12th, 2013 at 10:37 am
Some of my fav. (though perhaps more GP) ‘O’ names are:
on December 12th, 2013 at 12:27 pm
@ waiting12 – that’s too cool!!
I’ve always loved Oliver, but husb doesn’t care for it, so it’s out for me at this point; he is, however, recently enamoured over Owen, but I think there are names that suit us better and that speak more strongly to me. Our friend’s name is Oscar; he’s in his late 30’s.
Ophelia sparks something in me, but it’s not one I think of on a regular basis nor would I actually consider it for a child.
on December 12th, 2013 at 12:52 pm
WAIT! I started thinking about all the other names I listed above and TOTALLY forgot MY VERY FAVE O NAME!
~ Oakley ~
I don’t know why bc I’m not a huge lover of nature names, but Oakley is sooooo cute (for a girl). Ever since I saw it on a map last year, I’ve been swooning over it. It is a recent crush, but it’s here to stay!
on December 12th, 2013 at 1:05 pm
Oswald – a good alternative for a little Ozzie without connotations of that grouchy green Muppet in a garbage can! 😛
on December 12th, 2013 at 9:05 pm
Represent, O names!! I’m Oriana so I’m biased, but I love O names. Best vowel ever.
I also enjoy Owen and Orlando. O all the way!
on December 15th, 2013 at 8:53 pm
My favorite name ever is an O name, Oakley! For boys only though! Its sooo cute and fresh and amazing! Dont like it on a girl though, makes it cheap.
leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.