The baby name Beau blends vintage appeal with a bright, upbeat sound.
Thanks to Mercy for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
brings to mind an old school fashionista, a gambler with a heart of gold, and a Southern gentleman, too.
And now, today’s Baby Name of the Day also belongs to the youngest child of reality star Tori Spelling.
Remember your high school French? The baby name Beau means handsome, the masculine equivalent of Belle.
Both ultimately come from the Latin bellus, meaning beautiful or handsome.
In English, we’ve used the term to mean boyfriend, sweetheart, or maybe admirer since the 1700s. Multiple suitors might be described as beaux. Today it sounds quaint, even euphemistic, but you might still hear it in use.
So how did Beau go from term of endearment to boy’s name?
For years, Beau existed mainly as a nickname.
Beau Brummel, England’s original dandy and arbiter of men’s fashion during the eighteenth century, was born just plain George. (George Bryan Brummel, to be exact.)
- Another eighteenth century fashionista, born Richard Nash, and known for his prominent role in making Bath the go-to scene for privileged types.
- PC Wren gave the nickname to fictional character Michael Geste for a 1924 adventure novel. Beau Geste translates something like “a fine gesture,” making the name a play on words. In the novel – and later movie adaptations, Geste joins the French Foreign Legion because it’s the honorable thing to do.
- Jimmy Walker served as New York City mayor during the Jazz Age. Scandal brought down his political career. He also answered to this nickname.
- Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 blockbuster Gone With the Wind gave the name to Melanie and Ashley’s son, short for Beauregard, after a Confederate general.
- In the 1940s, prizefighter Sidney Walker went by the name Beau Jack.
- Born Lloyd Vernet Bridges III, actor Beau Bridges took his nickname from the character in Gone With the Wind.
The baby name Beau migrated to first name status thanks to a last name.
Think Beauregard, like the novel.
Some nineteenth century families probably did choose the name for their boys. But it was the twentieth century – the 1940s, in fact, before even a small number of boys received the baby name Beau.
Beauregard is in sparing use earlier.
That suggests that the novel – and 1939 blockbuster movie – probably gets credit for initial use of the name.
But it took a very different pop culture phenomenon to truly transition Beau from nickname to mainstream favorite.
Debuting in 1957 Maverick was a Western about a family of gamblers.
Brothers Bret and Bart starred in the early seasons.
In 1960, Roger Moore joined the series as cousin Beau. His backstory: he’s American, but has spent many years in England, explaining his accent.
Eventually a third brother, Brent, was introduced, bringing the total number of Mavericks to four.
Moore’s character bumped the name’s use up to a few dozen boys a year. It also transformed the name from French and fanciful to at home on the range.
By 1967, the baby name Beau entered the US Top 1000.
BIG in the 1980s
Actor Beau Bridges boosted the name. His long television and movie career started in the 1940s and continues today. He’s racked up three Emmy wins and dozens of nominations over the years.
But the 1980s were especially good to Bridges, with roles in movies like The Fabulous Baker Boys.
Another small screen character also boosted the name: Days of Our Lives’ Bo Brady.
Like many a soap opera character, Brady has been a little bit of everything, from motorcycle-riding bad boy to upstanding police commissioner. His full name is Beauregard Aurelius, but he’s always answered to just the two-letter Bo.
The 1980s also gave us Vincent Edward Jackson, better known as Bo, one of the few professional athletes to succeed in both the NFL and major league baseball.
Jackson teamed up with another famous Bo – musician and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Diddley – to promote his signature shoe in a Nike campaign. Diddley, incidentally, was born Elias Otha Bates. (The origins of his stage name are debated.)
And, of course, there’s also Bo Derek, born Mary Cathleen Collins. There’s the tiniest uptick in the name’s use for girls in the same era, too.
BY the NUMBERS
Athletes like Jackson and actors like Bridges kept the baby name Beau in the spotlight, and it rose in use accordingly.
Beau entered the US Top 500 in 2003, reached the Top 250 by 2014, and now stands at #89 as of 2022 – an all-time high.
BOLD, BRISK BEAU
Beau fits with favorites like Jack, Luke, and Kai. It’s a brief, complete name in one compact syllable.
More reasons the name succeeds?
- We love our cowboy names, from Wyatt to Kayce.
- It still feels slightly Southern, which can make a name seem a little more traditional.
- The American musician puts Beau in the same category as Otis or Cash – just a little bit of extra cool.
Celebrity parents have chosen it for their sons, too. In 2017, Tori Spelling named her youngest Beau, a sibling for Liam, Stella, Hattie, and Finn. While Spelling isn’t in the spotlight these days, there’s no question that she’s an ahead-of-the-trends namer.
And we do love the sound.
Beau baby boy names are having a moment. Besides Beau and Bo, the US Top 1000 includes Bode, Bodie, and Bodhi plus Boden and Bowen. Spellings like Bowe, Boe, and Beauden are possible, too, but not currently appearing in the rankings.
All together, it’s no surprise that the baby name Beau has caught on quickly and is racing up the popularity charts.
What do you think of the baby name Beau?
Originally published on March 31, 2010, this post was revised and republished on December 7, 2017 and again on May 23, 2023.
Literally a gorgeous name!
This post answered a question I’ve had for a long time. In the movie, Annie (as in little orphan Annie), there’s a line in a song (You’re never fully dressed without a smile) that I’ve never understood.
“Your clothes may be bogrummelly…”
Now I see it must be Beau Brummel -y!
It makes sense now!
Interestingly, here in the UK the girls aren’t far behind the boys with this one: http://names.darkgreener.com/#beau. In fact, there have been more girls called Beau than Belle for quite a few years now!
Andrea B. says
I knew a girl named Beau and I think it’s just lovely. I even think that spelling is so pretty…it’s the beginning of Beautiful after all. Is Beau just too absurd for a girl? What about spelling it Bow? Like tying a bow….
I am a Beau, actually, and there aren’t that many of us around. I think I’ve only met 2 others in the last 29 years! As a kid, I swore i was going to change my name the minute I turned 18, but I’ve grown into it since then.
Still, I do invariably end up having to spell it any time I’m asked for my name, and answering a phone by saying “Hi, this is Beau speaking” generally gets the response “Hi Boris” 🙂
I like Beau. I know a Robert who goes by Bo, and I think it works. It’s not that much of a stretch.
I actually know someone who has sons named Pierce and Beau. While I might not pick either name for my son, I respect her choices and find them refreshing.
My cousin’s son is Beau – he’s now in his early 20s. I like it, but not enough to use it myself.
There’s a rather famous Bo in the White House… Bo Obama.
British American says
Last week at library storytime, there was a little boy (maybe 2 years old) and his name tag said “Beau”. I was all “Ooooh, not seen that one before!” in my head. The librarian didn’t know how to pronounce the name.
It’s not really my style, but it was kind of fun to spot it on another child. It does sound rather soap-opera to me, having watched ‘Days of our Lives’ for awhile.
Seriously?! The LIBRARIAN didn’t know how to pronounce it? Oh my. It’s not that obscure a word in English for goodness sake!
British American says
Hahaha! Yeah, it was a bad week for storytime! The regular storytime lady wasn’t there & there was a fill-in librarian, who didn’t know some of the words to the rhymes. So maybe she was just having a bad day. 😛 She didn’t know how to pronounce Joaquin either, but that’s one you have to be familiar with.
I totally like that this library has you fill out name tags for your children. There’s another library I also go to and they don’t do that, so I’m always trying to eavesdrop on Moms and their kids. 😛
I know both a Bo and a Beau; the latter is actually IV, but has always been called Beau. This is one of my favorite old-fashioned Southern nicknames, especially for a son who’s Jr., III or IV.
I have a sister who answers to Bo, so Beau pops up on our lists. Except Aly misunderstood Bo as “Boat,” so he now has Aunt Boat and Aunt Bird.
Someday, I will have to explain to my children that their aunts have real names …
Charlotte Vera says
As a preteen I read an abridged version of Beau Geste. I found it a fascinating read, although not in my usual style. However, to this day when I hear the name Beau, I think of Beau Geste. I do hope to sometime read the complete novel, but I hope that for so many books that I’m not sure it will ever happen! The novel’s titular character lends the name a somewhat daring and dashing charm to my mind, but I think of it as more of a nickname than a given name.
Don’t forget Bo & Luke Duke – it’s the first Bo I think of. Beau isn’t for me. As a nn I prefer Bo as a spelling.
HOW could I forget Bo Duke?!
Do you think Beauregard is too over-the-top? What are your thoughts on Beaux? Would people make a negative connotation to the name Beauregard (Confederate, etc.)? Thanks!
I don’t think Beauregard is too much. It’s a big name, and it might be challenging with a longer or double surname. But I imagine he’d go by Beau, right? That makes it much more wearable. Does it feel Confederate? Hmmm … it strikes me as Southern, but not necessarily in a negative way. Though I can imagine some *might* view it in that light. (And in fairness, I’ve never lived in the American South. Perceptions almost certainly vary by region.) Let me ask this Q on social today and see what others say.
The thing about Beaux is that it looks plural to me. (I mean, it is plural, in French.) And it’s pronounced with a ‘z’ sound at the end – more like Bose speakers than Bo. Except maybe, with Beau gaining in popularity and ‘x’ names so in favor, Beaux will be seen as an alternate spelling and people will get it? Not sure … going to ask about that, too!
Sorry about suggesting a name that had already been done! (From past experience I knew that the search feature on your site isn’t the best, so what I did to see if a name had been done before I ran a Google search with site:appellationmountain.net and saw if there had been a NOTD with the respective name or not.)
Beau is a good choice though (a “semi-favorite” of mine).
I forgot to mention that apparently when I searched for Frederick that one wasn’t caught.
Kelly, I did a search and didn’t catch it, either! I think I just need to rebuild my Boys’ Names/Girls’ Names pages over the next few weeks.