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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. My son is arlo born 2013.i get varied comments on his name its like marmite you either love it or hate it

  2. My son Arlo was born on New Years Day in 2002. I love his name to this day, most people think know it’s a cool name!

  3. My wife & I named our son Arlo Jack in January 2016,we have had lot’s of positive comments, the odd dislike but we both love it & think it suits our sin perfectly