Lioness czech zoo

She’s a lioness with a certain European flair.

Thanks to Shannon for suggesting Leonie as our Baby Name of the Day.

Like all of the Leo names, Leonie comes from the Latin word for lion. Saints and emperors have answered to Leo. Throw in the Old English element leof – beloved – and a few other sources, and you have even more names in this group: Leon, Leonardo, Leofric, Leona, Leontia. They’re broadly pan-European, and while some have fallen out of use over the centuries, they make for a truly enduring bunch. You can probably find someone of note with a Leo name in every century.

In fact, Leonie appeared in the US Top 1000 most years from 1880 through 1907. Today she’s on the upswing in France – where’s she actually Léonie – and she’s huge in German-speaking countries, too.

While Leonie is unknown in the US – fewer than two dozen girls received the name in 2010 – she’s not unwearable. With Leah at #24 for girls, and plenty of L- names in vogue, she’s an unusual name that isn’t off trend. And Leo re-entered the boys’ Top 200 last year, with no signs of slowing down.

Famous Leonies might come to mind, like:

  • Opera gives us Austrian-born soprano Leonie Rysanek. In this case, Leonie was a short form of the elaborate Leopoldine.
  • If you’ve ever toured historic homes in Long Beach, California, an imposing English Tudor style mansion called the Leonie Pray House might’ve made your list. Leonie was the Paris-born bride of a Los Angeles attorney. The couple was famous for entertaining. Even if you’ve never set foot in California, you might’ve seen the home – it has made cameos in movies and television, including Beverly Hills, 90210.
  • Brooklyn-born pooet Leonie Adams served as US Poet Laureate from 1948-1949.
  • French nun Leonie Duquet moved to Argentina in the 1970s to work with the poor through the human rights group Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Duquet was arrested and killed by the military regime.
  • A 2010 film told the story of New York-born Leonie Gilmour. She became the editor to Japanese writer Yone Noguchi, and possibly his wife, during his time in New York, and eventually moved to Japan. Together they are the parents of sculptor Isamu Noguchi, and Leonie is also the mother of dancer Ailes Gilmour. For a woman in the early 1900s, she must have led a wildly unconventional life, and her biography was captured in a Japanese film titled Leonie last year.

Italian model-actress Monica Bellucci and French actor Vincent Cassel named their younger daughter Leonie in 2010. (Big sis is Deva.)

All together it makes for an intriguing appellation: vintage and elegant, but also quirky, artistic, even defiant. The average Leonie is quite fierce. If you’re attracted to the sound of Lily and Lila and Leah but want something more distinctive, Leonie is 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. My daughter’s name is Leionie Emma, we were set on it as soon as we saw it in the baby name book, although it was spelled Leonie I didn’t want Leon in it as other halfs best friend is called Leon so felt it would be weird, all her friends call my daughter “nonie” though.

  2. I’m still confused…I’m reading the historical novel “Sepulchre” by Kate Moss & a main character’s name is Leonie(accent over the 1st é. In my limited French I pronounce it as Lee-oh-nee. I guess it works for me, plus I’m a Leo, so I might b drawn more toward this pronunciation. I’m just going to go with what feels right to me. By the way Sepulchre is a must read!!

    1. Oh, I love Kate Moss – and I’m sure I haven’t read that one. Adding it to my list – thanks!

  3. My name is Leonie and here in the UK it is almost always pronounced lee-oh-nee. The only time it has been pronounced with Lay is when it has been a person of French origin reading it. I’ve always liked my name, it’s uncommon, (I’ve only ever met 4 other Leonie’s) feminine but strong.

      1. Very late reply, but no.

        Leonie is an anglicized spelling of French Léonie – the acute accent on the first “e” (é) is what gives the “ay” sound (roughly); the ending “ie” is pronounced “ee”. Hence, Léonie = “lay-oh-nee”.

  4. I love Leonie– it’s distinctive, yet familiar sounding and not wholly unknown. I hope it starts getting more use; I’d love to see a little Leonie. I did know a Leonie Violet, which I think is lovely.