Arsenio Hall

This romantic name was a late night talk staple in the early 90s.  How would it wear on a child today?

Thanks to Virginia for suggesting Arsenio as our Baby Name of the Day.

Arsenio: Saintly & Romantic

Something about Arsenio sounds at home in the plays of Shakespeare: Benvolio, Orlando, Orsino, Arsenio.  Why not?  Unless you’re talking historicals, many of the Bard’s boys answered to elaborate, vowel-heavy given names.

But I triple checked.  There’s no Arsenio in any of Shakespeare’s works.

Instead, history gives us Saint Arsenios, a fifth century deacon, and tutor to sons of the emperor.  Not just any princes, either.  Arcadius and Honorius officially split the empire into two halves following the death of their father, Theodosius.

The name means strong, virile.  But on sound alone, Arsenio brings to mind arsenic and arson.  Dangerous – and fiery, too.

Arsenio: Late Night Splash

While Arsenio is used in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, and Arsene is found in French, the name was pretty much unknown in English.

Until along came Arsenio Hall.

The Ohio-born minister’s son built a career as a comedian and actor, beginning in the late 1970s.  In 1988, he played Eddie Murphy’s BFF in Coming to America.  He followed it with a stint as a guest late night television host, and landed his own show in 1989.

The Arsenio Hall Show was a syndicated sensation from 1989 through 1994.

As the star rose, so did his unusual given name.

Arsenio leapt from obscurity to the US Top 1000:

  • In 1988, the name ranked #854
  • By 1989, 397 were boys were named Arsenio – a ranking of #479
  • And in 1990, the name charted at #743

Pre-Hall, around a dozen boys received the name every year.  As Hall’s career waned, the number returned to those levels.  22 newborn boys were called Arsenio in 2013.

Arsenio: Beyond Late Night

And yet, it would be a mistake to think of Arsenio as another Oprah.  The world includes many an accomplished Arsenio.  They’re just not American.

Especially in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking worlds, you’ll find athletes, musicians, politicians, and others who answer to the name.

Here’s one.  Back in the nineteenth century, Arsenio Martinez-Campos y Anton was a Spanish officer who helped restore the Bourbon Dynasty in Spain.  He later served as Captain-General of Cuba.  Plenty of others can be found in the history books up through the present day.

Arsenio: Name for 2015?

If you’d never heard of Mr. Hall, Arsenio would seem like an undiscovered, on-trend baby name just right for 2015.

Sebastian, Leonardo, Arsenio.

Quite stylish, isn’t it?

Remember that Romeo ranks #338.

Now that Mr. Hall isn’t dominating late night talk, it seems like the name has rich potential.  If you’re after an elaborate appellation for a son that works in Spanish and other romance languages, Arsenio is a surprising possibility to consider.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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1 Comment

  1. In Australia and the UK, ‘arse’ is common slang for the buttocks (like ‘ass’ in the US, I believe), so this name might invite way too much teasing in some contexts! If that’s not an issue in your context, it’s a fine European-sounding name 🙂