Marlowe might be the next Madison.
Amber Tamblyn’s new daughter inspired this Baby Name of the Day.
Marlowe: Lo – Low – Lowe
Amber named her new baby girl Marlow – after punking us all with a birth announcement for baby Dauphinoise.
But three spellings compete for parents’ attention:
- Retro Marlo, which I’ve written about here.
- Surname Marlow
- Or, if you prefer, surname Marlowe
The numbers shake out like this. In 2015:
- 77 girls received the just -o ending version
- 83 girls are known by the -ow spelling
- And 220 girls now answer to the -owe form
The more letters, the more popular the spelling.
None of the three rank in the US top 1000 yet, but that’s almost certainly going to change.
Marlowe: Christopher and Philip
Why does the -owe version come out ahead? Maybe it’s because the two most notable bearers of the name use that spelling.
Poet and playwright Christopher lived in the same era as William Shakespeare. But Kit Marlowe died young, stabbed to death under mysterious circumstances after being arrested. He lives on in popular culture, from Shakespeare in Love to spins on his most memorable work, Doctor Faustus.
Then there’s fictional Philip, created by Raymond Chandler.
The detective debuted in 1939’s The Big Sleep. A veteran of countless short stories, novels, and adaptations galore, Philip continues to fascinate. Humphrey Bogart played the part in 1946. Liam Neeson is set to take on the role in an upcoming film.
Marlowe: Surname Name
The surname predates the playwright and the sleuth, of course. It comes from the map. In Old English, it means remnants of the lake – a boggy area.
On a more poetic note, some sites give the meaning as “driftwood” or “storyteller.” But I can’t confirm those origins.
Marlo – hold the -owe – also traces back to Margaret and compound Mary names, like Mary Louise.
Marlowe: Masculine or Feminine
With the exception of Marlo, none of this makes the name expressly feminine. Marlo Thomas, of That Girl fame and a long-time advocate for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, tips it towards Team Pink.
But Nip/Tuck gave us a male Marlowe during 2006’s fourth season. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is narrated by Charles Marlow, mostly referred to by his surname.
And yet, the numbers give this one to the girls.
Besides Ms. Thomas, a handful of parents might think of Loni Anderson’s character on long-running sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. Loni played Jennifer; the -owe spelling was the character’s last name. But that feels way too obscure to influence parents four decades later.
Put it down to pure sound. Harlow followed Harper up the charts. Harper dethroned Madison as the go-to surname name choice for girls. Take one part Harlow, factor in Madison’s M, and the rise of this name for girls feels inevitable.
Celebrities have embraced this one. Besides Tamblyn’s new arrival, there’s also:
- Actor Rob Corddry chose the -o spelling for his daughter.
- Besides Tamblyn, Pearl Jam drummer Stone Gossard also gave the -ow version of the name to a girl.
- It’s the -owe spelling that’s on fire, with Sienna Miller, Jason Schwartzmann, Eva Amurri, and Jenna von Oy all choosing it for daughters in the last few years.
We love o-ending names for girls, like Willow and Margot. Plus, surname names show no signs of slowing down.
Wrap it all up, and chances are that Marlowe will crack the US Top 1000 very soon, and move right up the charts.
Which spelling do you prefer? Have you been hearing more of this name?
Btw Marlow is a place name. It’s the name of my Mum’s hometown on the River Thames in England. It is a really lovely small town, nestled in and amongst classic English countryside.
We went with -ow version in ’15. Marlo could be confused with Mario when written and the -owe looks unfinished. We also loved the mirror image of M/W. My daughter told me she likes her name the other day, so I’m happy about that because I hated my weird name when I was young.
I think Marlowe is a masculine name hands down. It isnt a feminine name but is following a trend of masculine names that are given to females. I was going to use this for my son who is due in March and use Mars as a nick name but I really am at a stand off since I dont want him to have a name that is masculine but is primarily given to girls and have him shamed for it.
Here’s my take: if the person introducing himself indicates that he’s a boy, then his name is a boy’s name. Even if it’s Martha or Elizabeth.
English – and maybe 21st century American English especially – defies attempts to neatly categorize names. Kate is a girl, Nate is a boy, and Tate is probably a boy – but Tatum? Almost certainly a girl.
So the only thing that allows us to categorize names as masculine or feminine is USE, and that’s a frustrating, slippery kind of authority. It’s subject to constant change. That’s why I put Marlowe in the girls’ category – because it’s used for sixteen as many girls as boys in 2017, and it appears in the US Top 1000 for girls, but not for boys.
That said, I can’t see any reason to avoid using it for a son. It’s handsome. It’s relatively rare, so odds are that you won’t meet ANY kids named Marlowe, boy or girl.
And these things are fleeting. A few years ago, my teenage son mentioned a kid named Kelly. I asked if Kelly was a boy or a girl. He shot me a look before replying, “A boy, Mom! Who names a girl Kelly?”
When you have a sample of one, that shapes your opinions.
As far as I know, that boy Kelly is doing just fine. So are men I know named Shannon, Jade, Avery, Lacy, and lots of other names that are sometimes-masculine, but more common for women. It’s a great time to name a son, and less rigid ideas about “if it’s a girl’s name, it can never be used for a boy” … that’s just one reason.
I have a nearly four year old son called Marlow on his birth certificate, but we immediately dropped the W as it seemed to suit him better, the W May suit him more when he’s an adult. Both spelling is very musculane to us also.
I agree, this is a masculine name. Such a shame.
We have a boy cat named Marlowe. Spelled that way for Christopher the playwright who was a better playwright than The Barr, imho.
Due to the playwright association, I view this as a masculine name, but think it will be like Emerson, used more for girls but still unisex.