Today’s pick is a fascinating gender neutral name with a certain sparky, international vibe.
Thanks to Findley for suggesting Nico as our Baby Name of the Day.
Originally, Nico is a Dutch version of Nicholas. Or maybe he’s related to Nicodemus, a separate name with the same meaning, or Dominic, a saintly appellation. Regardless, Nico is a logical short form of any name containing the nic sound – as is Nick or Nicky – and he’s also heard in German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and other European languages.
Nicholas was a wildly popular fourth century saint whose name has seen steady use over the years. Royals and popes have answered to the name.
There are bunches of early 20th century Nicos, guys like Nico Buwalda, the Dutch footballer pictured above, or Italian crooner Nico Fidenco. Over the course of the twentieth century, we find more and more Nicos.
Some of it may simply be better recording of personal biographies. That’s how we know, for example, that youngest Llewelyn-Davies brother Nicholas answered to Nico. (Along with George, John, Peter, and Michael, the brothers and their family were friends of J.M. Barrie, and the inspiration for Peter Pan.)
Llewelyn-Davis is the first English Nico I find. But then, despite Nicholas’ steady use, he wasn’t wildly popular in English until recent decades. In 1900, Nicholas ranked #200. Feminine form Nicole is even more of a new arrival. She first appears in the US Top 1000 in 1942, and stayed at the fringes until the 1960s.
All of the Nick names were on top of the world in the 1980s. In the midst of this, in 1988, Nico debuted as a boys’ name. He reached #591 in 2010.
Nico has never charted as a girls’ name, and was given to just 39 girls last year. But she has had some use for girls, thanks to a German singer. Born Christa Päffgen, the lingering rumor is that her stage name was borrowed from Greek director Nikos Papatakis, also nicknamed Nico.
In recent years, Nico has been catching on :
- Actress Thandie Newton has daughters called Ripley and Nico, and Nico is said to be named after singer.
- Coldplay’s Guy Berryman has a daughter called Nico, as does the lead singer of Blind Melon, the late Shannon Hoon.
- Short-lived television series Lipstick Jungle included a character named Nico, a high-powered magazine editor.
- Then there’s singer-songwriter Neko Case. It appears to be her given name.
In Germany and Austria, Nico is big for boys, and it is also the name of a male character in the Percy Jackson series.