What are Leo names?
Short in letters, but big on style, the regal Leo ranks in the current US Top 100. But so do over a dozen more names that easily shorten to Leo. The more daring your appetite for naming babies, the more possibilities appear!
Let’s take a look at the best of the longer Leo names. But first …
King of the hill, it’s the three-letter Leo that parents love best – at least right now. It represents a whole host of trends: it’s got that great ecovintage vibe, but it also ends with a bright, upbeat ‘o’ sound. It’s old-fashioned and modern, a little bit gentle and a whole lot fierce.
Golden Aurelio is the brother to the more popular Aurelia. Both claim ancient roots, but it’s Aurelio’s ending sound that makes it a possible Leo name.
ELLIOT (#150); ELLIOTT (#168)
It’s not an obvious nickname option, but the sound is smack dab in the middle of Elliot.
Sure, it’s lay-oh, not lee-oh, so maybe Galileo isn’t the most logical way to get to Leo. But it’s a bold, world-changing name, related to the Biblical Galilee. With names like Orion and Luna so much in favor, why not a famous astronomer’s name, too? And the letters are right there. If you love rare boy names ending with ‘o’, this name might belong on your list.
Another ancient possibility, Leander feels like a mash-up of Leo and Alexander. And that’s exactly right! It means “a lion of a man,” a bold and inspiring meaning. One downside? The Leo nickname doesn’t follow as logically. (But Leonder just plain looks wrong, doesn’t it?) Still, I think Leander makes a great, under-the-radar possibility.
Leandro is simply the romance language form of Leander, discussed below. It’s used in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. It fixes one possible flaw in Leander: there’s an ‘o’ here, making Leo the obvious contracted nickname.
This one started out as an English place name. Reality television gave the name a boost, thanks to Dog: The Bounty Hunter. The reality series follows Duane “Dog” Chapman and members of his family and family business, including son Leland. I think it sounds polished, even gentlemanly. But the nickname Leo makes it roar.
I’m a big fan of Leocadia, the name of a third century saint. It stands to reason that Leocadio would be the masculine form; in fact, I found the Late Roman name, Leocadius, too. Instead of lions, this group of names comes from a Greek word meaning bright. They’re extravagant and dramatic, but I think they work. If Leonardo and even Leonidas feel mainstream, why not Leocadio? Possible nickname Cade offers an alternative to Leo, too.
It sounds a little like a Leo-Otis mash-up. Leodis made waves when actress Keke Palmer gave the name to her son with boyfriend Darius Jackson. (Wait, maybe that’s a Leo-Darius mashup?) Former NFL player Leodis McKelvin is one notable bearer. And was used in small numbers for boys born in the US through much of the twentieth century. With that stylish -s ending and a high profile birth announcement, Leodis could be ready for a sharp rise in use.
It sounds like a Leo name, but in this case, it’s Old English. Leof means dear; it’s cousin to our word love. Still, it’s a quirky way to arrive at Leo.
A new coinage, Leomar combines the oh-so-stylish Leo with the -mar ending. (Think everything from Omar to Waldemar.) Seldom heard, but very wearable, and made familiar thanks to a handful of footballers.
Wildly stylish in Europe and parts of Latin America, Leon remains slightly under-the-radar in the US. But it might be the most international form of the name, used in French and German, as well as Spanish and several several Scandi languages, too. Back in 2008, the Jolie-Pitts chose it as the middle name for youngest son, Knox Leon, to commemorate his place of birth, France.
Solid, sensible Leonard isn’t without worthy namesakes. There’s legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, and Leonard Nimoy, the Star Trek actor better known as Spock. It feels a little heavy for a child born today, and yet nickname Leo works, as do Lenny and Len. It might make for one of those great grandpa name choices that no one expects, but wears very well.
A second Top 100 pick, Leonardo extends the mini-name to a full four syllables. It brings to mind world-changing Renaissance man da Vinci and Hollywood royalty DiCaprio. Of course, it’s the Italian and Spanish form of Leonard. That romance language angle likely explains some of the name’s appeal.
Another Spanish name, Leoncio comes from Leontios, the name of a handful of early saints, plus a Byzantine emperor. It’s an upbeat, intriguing rarity.
Most of the Leo names are cousins, and Leonel is no exception. It’s the Spanish language form of Lionel, which evolved as a diminutive for Leon in French. But while Lionel feels slightly removed from his Leo name cousins, Leonel – with the pronunciation lee oh nel – seems logical.
Worn by an ancient warrior king of Sparta, the long and elaborate Leonidas caught parents’ eyes thanks to the movie 300. Call the movie historical fiction, a mix of real events and Hollywood embellishments based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel. Gerard Butler played the brave, but doomed, ruler. A year after the movie’s release, Leonidas returned to the US Top 1000 for the first time in ages.
Maybe you’ve never heard Leoncio or Leofric, but Leopold? It’s familiar, if only from our history books. Leopold is yet another Leo name with no ties to lions; it comes from the Germanic Leudbald or Liutpold, meaning bold and people. It feels vaguely European and maybe a little eccentric today, but also terribly charming.
Leoryn is a character from the World of Warcraft universe of card and video games, plus novels and even a movie.
Leodis was a sometimes-heard twentieth century Leo name of uncertain meaning and origin. And Leotis? That’s a slightly more popular cousin to the ‘d’ spelling of the name.
LEOVANNI and LEOVANI (unranked)
A modern mash-up of Leo and Giovanni, it debuted in the US Social Security data in 2007 – which is pretty much yesterday. Despite the name’s novelty, it works well.
The name literally means “little lion,” but the spelling separates it from Leo, if only slightly. It also conjures up model trains, thanks to the long-time model train company by the name. Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi has given the name a boost, but it remains one of the less popular of the Leo names. Maybe that’s because it last peaked in the 1930s – so it’s just readying for a comeback right about now.
It’s a big name for a child – heck, it’s a big name for a full-grown adult! And yet, it’s been used in small but steady numbers over the generations. If you did give this imperial appellation to your son, a nickname might be in order – and friendly, accessible Leo might be your most logical choice.
What do you think of Leo? Do you like it best on its own, or would you consider one of the longer Leo names instead?
First published April 20, 2012, this post was revised substantially and re-published on February 21, 2019 and again on July 30, 2019; April 26, 2020; September 28, 2020; August 17, 2022; and August 23, 2023.