Clio belongs to a muse and a queen, and while the name is short and simple, there’s nothing flimsy about this one.
Today’s Baby Name of the Day goes out to my daughter on her eleventh birthday.
In Greek, kleos means glory. The original bearer of the name wasn’t earning renown as much as she was telling of others’ feats, as the muse of history and historic poetry. Legend has it that she also introduced the alphabet to Greece. (Fraternities everywhere can thank her.)
There were nine muses in all, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. While Thalia and Calliope sound reasonable by today’s standards, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore and Urania might be more of a stretch. In illustrations of the nine, Clio is the one holding a parchment or scrolls.
There’s a minor nymph called Clio, too.
The original Greek spelling would’ve been closer to Kleio, so both Cleo and Clio are derived from the same source, and are equally valid spellings. Cleo brings to mind Cleopatra, the powerful, alluring, and ill-fated Egyptian queen. She was the seventh ruler to bear the name. Adding patra transforms the meaning to something closer to father’s glory. Others argue that Cleopatra is a distinct choice related to khleis, or key, and meaning “key to the fatherland.”
Silent film star Cleo Madison was born Lulu Bailey in 1883. But she could’ve been born Cleo. The name ranked in the US Top 500, rising into the Top 200 around the turn of the twentieth century.
During the 1950s, it left the US Top 1000 and has been absent from the rankings ever since.
Fun fact: Cleo can be short for Cleopatra … or Cleon or Cleopas, so it’s a unisex name.
Clio-with-an-i tends to be more consistently used for women.
Back in 1947, Rita Hayworth played the muse Terpsichore, who adopted the name Kitty Pendleton and attempted to help a Broadway producer in the movie Down to Earth. That title was taken from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan.
In 1980, the modern adaptation of that old movie became – wait for it – Xanadu. That’s right. Olivia Newton John roller skated and sang her heart out as the muse Clio in the 1980 cult classic. Except on Earth, Clio the Muse became Kira.
Kira the name skyrocketed, and remains popular today.
Clio, on the other hand, has never charted in the US Top 1000.
RARE BUT RISING
We all recognize Cleopatra, whether it’s the sultry Elizabeth Taylor 1963 movie version, or Shakespeare’s enduring Antony and Cleopatra.
In more recent years, Cleo has taken on a pop culture vibe, veering between kitschy and quirky. It’s the name of the goldfish in Pinocchio. In the 1990s, television viewers were encouraged to call Miss Cleo on the Psychic Hotline. And 1998’s catchy single “Cleopatra’s Theme” still gets stuck in my head. Cleopatra, comin’ atcha …
More recently, it’s the name of the Mummy’s daughter, Cleo de Nile, one of the original ghouls enrolled at Monster High.
E OR I?
In nearly every case, I’m repeating Cleo-with-an-e. And that’s the spelling on the rise. Friends alum David Schwimmer gave the name to a daughter in 2011. Characters in Sofia the First, H2O: Just Add Water, and other uses have raised the name’s profile. As of 2018, the name sat just outside of the current Top 1000.
Clio with an i, though? A mere 23 girls received the name in 2018, which makes it quite rare, indeed.
Writer Jane Roper has a daughter by the name, and her blog is one place I regularly see the name spelled with an i.
Outside of my own house, of course. Because the lollipop-mouse-ear-wearing, blue-milk-drinking girl in the picture above is my Clio.
BUT NOT CHLOE
If there’s one headache for this name – no matter how you spell it – it is the similarity to Chloe. Reverse the vowel sounds, and it’s the same name. And given how very popular Chloe has been over the last few decades, and it’s no surprise this name is regularly misheard.
And yet, I don’t think that diminishes the name’s appeal. It’s bright and strong, an ends-in-o name deeply rooted in history, but very much at home today.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on September 25, 2008, and was substantially revised and re-posted on October 1, 2012, and again on October 2, 2019.
Hi my name is Clio
I hope your lovely Clio had a great birthday!
I named my 2 year old Cleo, after the muse. I like it because it sounds like a perfectly common name but nobody has it. The only problem is all the chloe’s running around! People get it wrong a lot. Cleopatra was an interesting powerful woman who got a bad rap so I don’t mind that association either. We hope our daughter will love it too.
Excuse me my name is Clio you really think that not another girl has the name Clio
Well … clearly there are a BUNCH mentioned in this post, so no! We knew of another Clio when we chose the name, and I’ve since met another family with a Clio. (Well, I know Clio’s aunt.) So it’s out there … and I’m so glad about it!
I thought about you today Abby. It has been raining, and so naturally I decided to plunder through the family records. I learned that my grandmother had an aunt by the name of Cleo, which has been one of the best names I have seen. I think they must have been more creative in rural areas as I have learned my grandmother had great aunts by the names of Henriella, Louella and Queen Isabelle. Their mother even had the name of Khayine. Reuben “Ruby” Augustus was also intriguing, and there was a surprising number of Juanitas, one of whom spelled it Wauneta.
Juanita had a good run back in the day – she and Inez were quite in vogue around 1910/1920.
What fabulous names you found on your rainy day! Thanks for sharing. Henriella is fascinating. And oh, a Cleo – makes my day!
Great Blog. My little Clio is 10 months old and it is a wild name for a wild baby girl… funny though about everyone mixing it up with Chloe! There is the car, as i learned from watching “Top Gear UK”… but it’s a very cute and popular car… just like my girl. I thought Calliope would have been too eccentric until i was watching Grey’s Anatomy and saw they used it… so part of me was like “oh, Calliope wouldn’t have been that weird then” and the other part thought “Glad I picked Clio because i don’t know of any others yet!”
Kleopatra was the name of Alexander the Great’s younger sister – she went on to become a Queen in her own right, but her brother stole her thunder :/
Love Clio! I could never use it though, because of the car. Everyone has one, it seems :/
Happy Birthday to Clio – a beautiful name! And sure to be getting some more use in the future.
I do think of you whenever I see an ad for the car ….
Ha, I guess my naming style falls at least partially into what you define as ‘The Katnisses’. We seriously considered Clio for our daughter, but it’s the name of a popular car made by Renault sold in Europe and other parts of the world, so we thought our relatives in Europe might find it an odd choice. I do think it’s a great name, though.
@Nicole – I forgot about the fish! Clio’s first Halloween costume was a goldfish in the theme of Cleo from Pinocchio – great addition to the list!
Love Clio/Cleo … the thing that pops into my mind is the sweet flirty fish on Pinocchio named Cleo. I have always loved more of the main star friends from disney movies more than the star.. such as Flounder, Cleo, Timone and Pumba.. anyway, I am aghast that this sweet little fish didn’t make it onto the description =). I do love the connection to muses and cleopatra… overall I am convinced Cleo is uber chic and very wearable… I do like it as just a name and not short for anything, but I am a nn proof kind of girl. Happy Birthday little Clio!
I love the sound of Cleo/Clio. I know a few:
A beautiful 14 year old Clio, along with her sib set Sam, Anna, Clio and Reuben.
My great aunt was Cleotta nick named Cleo. No one knew her real name until she passed away! She went by Cleo her whole life.
My mother has a cat named Cleopatra nick named Cleo! She also has a cat named Chloe so it is often confusing!
Also, happy birthday to your little one!
Blue Juniper says
Happy Birthday to Clio! She has a great name 🙂
I LOVE Clio! (It’s my daughter’s name as well, so I’m ever so slightly bias). However, I must say, I was a bit dissapointed to discover the “Clio” Renault Car, which is incredibly popular in just about all of the Western World other than America! We just moved to Italy, and these Clio cars are EVERYWHERE here. Cest la vie, maybe I’ll name my second child Mercedes 😉
Oh, another Clio – how fabulous!
BEST. NAME. EVER.
Apart from the Chloe attatchment, I have never ever wished to be called anything else. Your daughter will be tres cool. Lets just hope it doesn’t get too popular!
Add to my Bookmarks )
Yay for another Clio! I obviously love the name, though I hope it doesn’t become the next “Emma” or “Madison”
Thanks for all the wonderful background. I’m going to hang onto this post for my Clio to read when she’s older.
And yes, a fair number of people do get mixed up and call her Chloe by accident, but it’s not a big deal.
Congrats on the (impending) new member of the family.
Emmy Jo says
I love Clio, and I think it’s a fabulous choice. It made my long list a few years ago when I was looking for interesting Greek mythological names that would wear well today. I occasionally suggest Clio and Thalia to people on Yahoo Answers looking for coordinating twin names, though I think Clio’s definitely the more substantial sounding of the two.
I love Clio too – she’s short and simple but has a whole lot of substance – a winning combination! Good luck with everything … 🙂
Ah, the question for the ages! As it happens, I’m due pretty much right now. We’re hoping she doesn’t arrive until later this week, when my mother will be in town. (As soon I hit post, this means I’ll probably go into labor.)
But I’ll have Arthur post a post as soon as she’s here. And I guess I’ll need to update my icon eventually, too. 🙂
I love it! And I love the sentimentality, too. I think it’s a great name for your new baby – by the way, when is she “arriving”?
Yes, they do. At least, in my experience. But rest assured, by the time she’s an adult, she’ll not only like her name but enjoy it. (I know, I had the worst case of name hate and I’m fine with Laura now) 😀 Clio’s awesome!
Thank you, thank you and thank you!
There’s a sentimental twist to Clio – my dear dad, who died when I was 14, used to call me Cleopatra. When I was younger, I always thought it *might* make my baby name list, but it seemed too out there. Somehow, ends-in-o names sound so much more mainstream than they did in the 80s.
Of course, she’ll probably hate it. Doesn’t every girl go through a phase where she wants to be Emily or Evalina or something completely different than what she was named? 🙂
Indeed, Clio is just perfect! I have a soft spot for Cleo and Cleopatra) since I was 2. I decided then that I’d make an awesome Cleo and still think so. (Brash, loud, attention grabber I can be). 🙂 I don’t fear confusion with Chloe, rather, I’d be worried she’d have to spell it for all & sundry “no, C-L-I-O, not ‘e’ ” I considered it as a possible middle for Josephine but in the end went with a family surname, again.
Light, airy, Historical and pretty, I can’t find a single fault with Clio and think you chose beautifully. I’m sure she’ll thank you in years to come! (I wanna see pictures if you can when she finally does get here!) 😀 Clio’s awesome!
I agree with Jess and Lola: what a great choice! Your daughter is going to have the name that all her friends are jealous of! It has history, it is beautiful, and it stands out from the crowd.
You could not have chose a more beautiful name for your daughter! I absolutely adore Clio! Congratulations on finding the perfect one.