Spelled Beau, the name feels like a Southern gentleman – but also has history as a feminine ending in France. There were 39 girl Beaus and 1059 boy Beaus born in 2012.
Bo is less formal – more of a nickname – but 19 girls and 285 boys born in 2012 had just Bo put on their birth certificate.
But what if this name strikes you as too brief? No worries! There are plenty of formal names, both mainstream and not-so-ordinary – that lead to the nickname Bo or Beau, for a son or a daughter.
Getting to Bo: Girls
Boadicea, Boudicca – A warrior queen who led her tribe to victory against the Romans before finally meeting her end, Boadicea appears in plenty of artwork and literature. The historical figure’s exact name is in dispute, as is the pronunciation. But there’s a case to made for a first syllable Bo, and she’s a fierce name for a daughter. I like her best as an unexpected middle – Elizabeth Boadicea, maybe?
Boheme – Blogger Rebecca Woolf added this name to the list when she named one of her twins Boheme Shalom back in 2011. Boheme was daring, even outlandish, to some. For me, it was the same kind of head-smacking, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that moment that I had when I saw the birth announcement for her older daughter Fable. The français Boheme with her operatic overtones is so lovely and dramatic and, well bohemian, but then Bo is such a friendly, accessible short form.
Bonita – I almost put Bonnie on this list, but isn’t Bonnie a diminutive? And can you nickname a nickname? Well, I probably could. But then I thought of Bonita, a retro, flirty name, the Spanish word for pretty. From Florida’s Bonita Springs to California’s Bonita Falls, there’s no shortage of places sharing this name. A boyish Bonita could easily lop off the last few letters and answer to Bo.
Deborah – She’s in style hibernation at the moment, but classic Deborah could possibly lead to the nickname Bo.
Isabeau – Also spelled Ysabeau, she’s a rare French form of Elizabeth and Isabelle. She’s getting some attention lately thanks to the Deborah Harkness All Souls trilogy, featuring powerful vampire matriarch Ysabeau, immortal vampire mother to Matthew.
Rainbow – Is this one too daffy for words? More My Little Pony than actual human child? I have my hesitations, but let’s say that Rainbow undeniably leads to this short form.
Getting to Bo: Boys
Abbot, Abbott – A handful of surnames include the right letter combination, if not quite the right sound. File Abbot, Abbott, and Talbot under preppy possibilities that could lead to Bo.
Beauregard – He’s a surname derived from a scenic view – beau meaning lovely, and regard meaning to look at. The first wave of baby Beauregards could honor Confederate Civil War General Gustave Beauregard, a Louisiana-born officer. But I’m just basing on that on Gone with the Wind, where Ashley and Melanie really did name their son after the Ashley’s commanding officer. The numbers suggest that Beau caught on later – inspired by the novel, the film, and later, The Dukes of Hazzard.
Boaz – He’s an upstanding fellow in the Bible, the husband of Ruth. Plus his name means swiftness – a rather current meaning in our age of active names for boys. He’s less expected than Noah, a smidge easier to wear than Nehemiah.
Bode, Bodie, Bodhi – After back-to-back baby Bodhis earlier this year, could this name be on the rise? He’s most spiritual as Bodhi – awakened, from the Sanskrit. But he’s a modern wearable in any of his forms.
Boden – There really is a Johnnie Boden, founder of the catalog/online retailer Boden and Mini Boden, a catalog I love as much for sharing the names of its mini models as its bright and cheery kids’ clothing. It’s not quite like naming your kiddo Chanel, but Boden is definitely recognizable as a surname and a brand.
Bodhan, Bohdan – The Slavic name Bogdan means “given by God.” In Czech, the ‘g’ becomes an ‘h’ and Bogdan becomes Bohdan – a reasonable way to get to Bo, with a rich heritage tie-in as well. Similarly, I’ve come across a Sanskrit name, Bodhan, which could work equally well.
Bolivar – Looking for a hero name? Simon Bolivar helped liberate South America from Spain. Bolivia is named in his honor. It’s originally derived from a place name, and many other places have been named in his honor. Bolivar is also the name of Donald Duck’s dog, a large St. Bernard.
Bolton – Is this surname too tied to singer Michael Bolton? Maybe … but he’s a place name-turned-surname, one that’s not far from popular picks like Dalton and Colton.
Bonaventure, Bonaventura – Originally a given name meaning good fortune, the Italian Bonaventura shifted to the surname spot, and became Bonaventure in French. I appreciate his similarity to the word “adventure.”
Booker – Recently chosen by Thandie Newton for her son, Booker has a number of positive associations – the literary link, as well as early civil rights leader Booker T. Washington.
Boston – He’s a popular place name, and a possible way to get to Bo.
Bowen – I almost put Bowman on this list, too, but he feels clunky in a way that Bowen does not. Football player Drew Brees has boys named Baylen, Bowen, and Callen.
Bowie – A hero name, thanks to David, and a sharp choice, thanks to the Bowie knife.
Robert – He’s a steady classic, relatively underused in recent years – the masculine equivalent of Deborah on this list. If you’re naming your son Robert, Jr. – or maybe Robert III – Bo becomes a way to shake up this venerable name.
Would you use Bo, Beau – or even Bow! – as a given name? How ’bout a nickname? Which formal versions would you consider?