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.