Nederlands: Nico Buwalda
Nico Buwalda; Image via Wikipedia

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 in La Dolce Vita; Image via Wikipedia

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.

Call it one of the true gender neutral choices for this generation. If you want to play it safe, put a more conventional Nic- name on your child’s birth certificate. But this stylish diminutive can stand on its own, for a son or a daughter.

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. Even though I am a NIcole born in 84 when it was super popular and this has resulted in me being identified as Nicole A. in all of my school classes, I actually like my name. I love the Nic- names.. Nico being on the top of my list. I dot feel it is way too close to my name to use on a child, I like the idea of them having a name all their own, and not always have to explain that “I was named after my mom” or “I was named after my dad”… I also wouldnt like the confusion arrund the house for 18 years.. always looking every time my son’s name is said. … so I wouldnt use it, but I would love to see Nico around much more often.

  2. I don’t see Nico as a girlish name, either. I like a lot of the Nic- names, like Nicola, Nikolai, or Nicolette. I am not a fan of Nico, the character in the Percy Jackson series is an…intense character (for lack of a better idea) and kind of ruined the name for me.

  3. I HEART THIS NAME SO MUCH. I was considering it for either boy or girl, as a nn for Veronica or Nicholas.

  4. Yeah I can’t see it as gender neutral either, sounds really masculine to me. But I see Nicky as gender neutral, maybe that would be a better option?
    I really don’t like Nicholas, but I do like Nicola, Nicolai and Nico/Niko for boys, and Nicole, Nicolette for girls.

  5. See I don’t see this as a unisex name at all.
    For me it is like Luca/Luka, it sounds softer but is completely masculine.

  6. So thrilled you’ve chosen to profile Nico, as it’s one of my all-time favourite names, and the name I have picked out for my next baby, whether it’s a boy or a girl. I’m secretly hoping I’ll be able to bestow this name on a girl, however, as I am particularly fond of it for a girl, and have a couple of awesome middle names picked out to pair it with too! Although I’m not generally a fan of ‘unisex’ names, for me the singer Nico made it an acceptable choice for females.

  7. Nico comes across as extremely masculine to me, although I can understand why some would see it as gender neutral (i.e. it’s similarity to other gender neutral / feminine names that begin with Nic). I think I prefer it as a nickname (no pun intended!) than as a name in its own right though.

  8. Hmm, I can’t seem to be able to look at Nico as a gender-neutral name. It just sounds masculine to me and looks even more so in writing. I don’t know if it’s because I have a male cousin who goes by Nico.

  9. As always, a great, thoughtful breakdown. Unfortunately, tho, I can’t get past Necco wafers on this name. Ugh!