Cleon Jones
Cleon Jones plaque at Mets Hall of Fame; by slgc via Flickr

He’s an Ancient Athenian statesman who fits right in with the hickster trend.

Thanks to Silent One for suggesting Cleon as our Baby Name of the Day.

If you named your kid Leo back in, say, pre-Titanic 1996, you were ahead of the trend. But maybe it was 2001, and you noticed Leo was on an upwards trajectory, so you went farther and named your son Leon. Since the 2008 arrival of the youngest Jolie-Pitt son, Knox Léon, Leon, too, is gaining favor.

Cleon has a completely different origin, but he shares sounds with Leo and Leon. And while he’s never been common, between the nineteenth century and the 1930s, he makes periodic appearances at the higher end of the US Top 1000.

It is probably more fair to class Cleon with other names from the era, like:

  • Homer
  • Virgil
  • Horace

Today they all scream old man – possibly old man from small town in Idaho or Alabama or someone obscure – hick. But in days gone by they were worn by a a writer of Greek epics and a pair of Roman poets. If you met a little kid in a fashionable New York or L.A. neighbor called Homer, you might even find it obvious and unoriginal.

Cleon was born wealthy, but his dad had earned his money in trade. This makes Cleon something new for Athens – a man of means, but also a man of the people. He made enemies with prominent writers, including Thucydides and Aristophanes, so history traditionally gives us a rather unflattering portrait of Cleon. He also appears briefly in Shakespeare’s Pericles, where he’s an outright villain. However, in more recent times, Cleon’s career has been re-evaluated and a picture of a capable figure – if an often dissenting voice – has emerged.

The name must’ve been somewhat common. At least two other Cleons surface in the ancient world – a Greek sculptor, and a warlord who fought with, and then against, Mark Antony.

In any case, we don’t think of Cleon as a villain or a hero – we simply don’t think of him much at all. His writings aren’t required reading, and few of his quotes have made their way into popular anthologies. Today, Cleon feels a little bit like a masculine form of Cleo, and indeed, the two names share a root – kleos, Greek for glory.

You might also think of:

  • The character Cleon from the 1979 movie The Warriors, based on a novel about a street gang – inspired by, believe it or not, the life and biographical writings of soldier fifth century BC. The warrior was Xenophon, and the name Cleon wasn’t used in the novel – I’m not quite certain how he made it into the film;
  • 1995’s Dead Presidents includes a military vet-turned-robber called Cleon;
  • Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series gave the name to an emperor of the Galactic Empire;
  • Cleon Jones, a member of the 1969 World Series-winning New York Mets, a team widely expected to lose to the Baltimore Orioles. Jones caught the fly ball that secured the Mets’ victory and earned him a place in the club’s Hall of Fame.

Despite Cleon’s similarity to popular picks like Leo and Owen, he seems unlikely to be the next big thing. But if you live in the kind of ‘hood where hipster babies named Roscoe and Dinah play, Cleon might be one 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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What do you think?


  1. This is my middle name. I am a girl and I never liked it. It was my grandmother’s name (she was born in 1900) and she LOVED it. I think she liked the strong sound of the name for a girl. I still do not admit that this is my middle name to anyone to this day. My advice is to pass on this name for a girl or a boy. The only plus to having it as my middle name is NO ONE has ever guessed it when they try to figure out what my middle name is!!

  2. Thanks for doing this. When I think of Cleon, I usually think of author/theologian Cleon Skousen, so it’s got a bit of an older, educated association for me. But I can see the hick in it, too. And I realize most people probably haven’t heard of Skousen.