baby name ArloThe baby name Arlo blends a cool, current sound with an intriguing backstory.

Thanks to JNE and Christina for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


The origins of the baby name Arlo are subject to much debate.

Here’s a list of contenders:

  • It could come from the Italian form of Charles, Carlo.
  • Some suggest that the name was once a Spanish word for barberry trees. El bérbero seems to be the preferred Spanish word, at least now.
  • It might be a a form of the English surname Harlow, which may mean fortified hill.
  • Speaking of hills, in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, Arlo Hill is “the best and fairest hill” and is surrounded by “faire forrests.” Scholars believe Spenser was inspired by a real location, possibly Ireland’s Glen of Aherlow.

One more twist: American author and newspaperman Arlo Bates may be among the earliest Arlos. His name was invented in keeping with a family custom. His father, Niran, also had a name invented by his dad. Arlo called his son Oric.


The baby name Arlo first appeared in the US Top 1000 in the year 1900.

From 1912 to 1944, it ranked every year before heading towards obscurity.

Between the 1960s and 90s, the name was given to around two dozens boys a year.

Everything changes after that, but for now, let’s talk about one very influential figure that kept the baby name Arlo on our radar.


American folk singer Arlo Guthrie remains the best known bearer of the name, decades after he recorded his enduring 1967 hit.

Tune into many a radio station on Thanksgiving Day, and you’ll hear Guthrie’s famous “Alice’s Restaurant.” The song lasts for 18 minutes, 34 seconds. It’s more cultural touchstone than actual hit record. And it meant that the baby name Arlo never quite left our radar – even when no one was choosing it.


By the year 2000, boy names ending in o were starting to sound quite stylish. Leo leapt up the charts. Matteo, too, was gaining. More names joined the list with every passing year – Milo and Theodore, nickname Theo, were two to catch on early days, not counting romance language choices like Antonio and Leonardo.


After over six decades in hibernation, the baby name Arlo returned to the US Top 1000. The name ranked #915 in 2011. It’s powered up the charts since then, reaching #500 in 2015 and #220 as of 2020.


While the baby name Arlo’s revival owes much to sound and style, pop culture played a part, too.

The 2015 Disney Pixar movie The Good Dinosaur introduced us to an apatosaurus. His name? Arlo. He befriends a lost caveboy – called Spot. They rescue each other.

As Disney Pixar movies go, it wasn’t the biggest hit. And yet, it likely contributed to the success of the baby name Arlo.


In 2010, we met a very different Arlo. FX’s Justified gave us a tough-as-nails Vietnam vet turned criminal, father of main character Raylan Givens. While Raylan serves as a deputy US Marshal, his dad has always been on the wrong side of the law.

The series was a success, earning critical accolades over six seasons, ending in 2015.

Characters have also worn the name on a later season of Fox’s 24, and a handful of other shows, too.


The sum of a friendly dinosaur and an unrepentant crook, plus an activist/folk singer is a boy’s name that feels cool and capable. It’s homespun – a down-to-earth choice that isn’t too formal or fancy. And while that o-ending and brief sound make the baby name Arlo a modern possibility, it feels rooted in the past, too.

It’s a great alternative to Arlo, and the perfect name for parents seeking something current and substantial.

What do you think of the baby name Arlo?

First published on January 31, 2009, this post was substantially revised and re-posted on February 1, 2016 and again on May 15, 2021.

boy name Arlo

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. When our son was born we picked Aurelio Robert from our list of names also because it can be spelled the same in most cultures (i’m Italian, my husband’s American), although for the US side of the family we immediately directed them to Arlo as a nickname. Its easier for them, its still melodic and every-other-letter of the longer name (I am not a fan of diminutives as ‘official’ names) and this way I did not have to renounce to the meaning of a name I loved (meaning aside I am not a huge fan of Carlo). We did not pick Aurelio just because of the Arlo nickname but it seemed a natural and plausible connection between the names. Any thoughts?

    1. I think that’s quite lovely. Aurelio and Arlo are both great names, and Arlo follows logically from Aurelio – even if they’re not technically related. Crossing language and cultural barriers can be challenging – it sounds like you’ve found a very graceful way to do so!

      1. Thanks, we’re very happy with it, selecting a name was not an easy process for us. Other than Arlo the name Aurelio is proving to have several other good nickname options so we’re really just spoiled for choice, Arlo’s still my favourite, but we’ll see what he and/or his friends think as he grows.

  2. Do you think that you could use Arlo as a nickname for a kid called Carlsen? That’s a family name which I would love to use but I don’t like the nn Carl. Seeing that Arlo is also a variant of Charles then I’m thinking in a way it kinda does relate. What does everyone else think – too far fetched?

    1. I think it would work. There’s no doubt in my mind that Carlo would work, so why not Arlo? I’ll say this about unusual nicknames: it helps to get them out there early, like birth announcement early, and reinforce them consistently.

  3. i’ve been thinking about this name soo much! i like it more and more all the time. At first, I didn’t think it had the same feel as Milo, but it does. It’s a little more rugged to me though, I think it would age better. Milo sounds like a little boy to me. Arlo still has that happy, fun sound, but would make a much better adult. I’m really loving it… It’s one of my favorites now.

  4. I really like Arlo! I adore it as a given name, but it’ll always seem a bit feminine to me because I knew a little girl named Charlotte who went by Arlo. You know, chARLOtte? Either way, I would love to meet a child named Arlo.

  5. I was thinking exactly what Nessa stated: Arlo could either be really cool, or incredibly dorky 🙂 … either way, I do like him.

    I’ve never considered him before, but he has an awesome – almost 1920’s Jazz Age – feel to him, IMO. VERY smooth. Plus, it kinda reminds me of Marlon Brando in a round-a-bout way, and that’s never a problem 😉

  6. my husband saw this page open and said “ooh, Arlo, I like that”. Shocked me. I had never considered it, but it’s cool. I imagine an Arlo would be either really cool, or a big nerd. I’m putting him on my list. Since we’ve decided on Dashiell, I’m constantly looking for a boys name that could be a brother for him (not that that’ll be an issue anytime soon!), Dash and Arlo works pretty nicely together, i think.

  7. Thanks Verity! I adore Arlo. For me the “-ar-” sound in a boy name is extremely appealing – not sure why, but it is (I also like Harvey, Barnaby, Charles, but not Arnold – I think that the ending there ruins Arnold for me). We have family friends who used the name (their second, Jake, was a bit of a naming let-down for me after that). It seems like a thoroughly wearable name – not too childish for an adult or to adult for a child. For me, Arlo is both British and salt-of-the-earth sounding… kind of like another -ar- favorite already covered wonderfully by Verity – Jarvis. Guthrie isn’t enough of a feature in my life to put me off of the name as it is for Lola… but it would likely lose out to Jarvis (partly because of our friend’s use of the name). But I would LOVE to meet more little Arlos!

  8. I love Arlo! He’s on heavy rotation ’round these parts. Especially around Thanksgiving * Christmas (the Motorcycle song is a Christmas favorite of the boys’) One of the few artists I liked before he did. He’s not in play for us because of Guthrie. Too famous for us and very “one man” name right now. And he’s only 62, so it’s likely to be awhile before I’m allowed to consider it for a child of ours but oh, how I love Arlo! Happy, cheerful feeling and definitely creative sounding. Very awesome indeed. Laid back, serene and sweet. Arlo’s got all the hallmarks of a winner for me. I’d love to see someone else use him!