Lump of Indian indigo dye
Lump of Indian indigo dye; Image via Wikipedia

David Bowie met a girl called Blue Jean back in 1984, but you’re more likely to meet a child wearing this colorful appellation.

Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Indigo as Baby Name of the Day.

If Scarlet and Violet are acceptable given names with some history of use, why not Indigo?  The story is at least as ancient and compelling as many a nature name – maybe more.

Indigo is the blue of blue jeans, a staple so common that rare is the American who doesn’t own a pair or three.  But once upon a time, indigo was a commodity so precious it was called blue gold.  The color actually falls somewhere between blue and purple.  (It depends on your perspective – there are many ways to parse and categorize color.)  The dye is also one source of the purple color of royalty, among the few to afford garments made with the precious stuff.

The word refers to the place the Western World first encountered the hue: India.  The Greek indikon means from India; it became indicum in Latin, indico in Spanish, and eventually indigo in English, sometime in the late thirteenth century.

Derived from a family of flowering shrubs called the indigofera, it was exported to ancient Greece and Rome at great profit.  Other ancient civilizations developed similar processes.

Add it all up, and Indigo emerges as a nature name with a luxurious undercurrent.  It’s certainly more subtle than Armani or Chanel.  And yet, Indigo has an over-the-top vibe, maybe because:

  • A number of fictional uses, including a 1992 retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, retitled Indigo, by Marina Warner, and a 2002 young adult novel by Alice Hoffman, plus Ntozake Shange’s 1982 Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo.  Each of the nature names in the title belongs to one of her creative characters;
  • It’s been heard in Hollywood circles.  Lou Diamond Phillips gave the name to his daughter in 2007;
  • Ditto Blue and Bleu, names that are almost unsurprising with bestowed as a starbaby middle.

If your daughters are Ruby and Jade, Indigo might seem like the rare color choice that could work for a son.  Despite several female references, including 1990s folk phenom The Indigo Girls, you’ll see him listed as an option for boys, too.  Indigo sounds close to the masculine name Inigo – which may be related to Ignatius, and is familiar thanks to The Princess Bride – as well as Indio, a California place name used by Robert Downey, Jr. for a son.

Indigo could also appeal to the same parents who embrace Aura.  There’s a vaguely spiritual, New Age vibe to this choice, thanks to a number of traditions linking the color to intuition and the third eye.  Some believe indigo children possess certain supernatural abilities.

For now, Indigo has never appeared in the US Top 1000 for either gender.  Nickname Indy is equally gender neutral.  Nancy tells us that there were 20 boys called Indigo in 2009, against 67 girls.  Odds are good that this isn’t a future Top Ten choice.  But if you’re interested in a gender-neutral nature name with a long history, rich with meaning, Indigo could be an option.


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. I have a baby boy a d he is called indigo ray .I knew he would be a big character .thought it may be a risk but I knew he would be such a character he will suit it perfect and that he does indigo ray .indi 4 short x