Horatio appears in history, literature, and on the modern small screen. And yet this name trends towards obscurity.
Thanks to Paul for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Horatio: Horace’s Sprightly Cousin
Back in the first century BC, Quintus Horatius Flaccus penned some of the greatest works of the Ancient World. We know the poet as Horace. Even if you don’t recognize the name, you’ll know his words. Carpe diem, anybody?
The name comes from hora, the Latin word for hour or time, making that business about carpe even more appropriate.
Along with Homer and Virgil, Victorian parents with an affection for the classics embraced Horace. The name ranked in the US Top 100 most years through 1902, and remained in the Top 250 into the 1940s.
Horatio, on the other hand, has never really caught on.
And yet the name remained in use over the centuries.
Shakespeare used it for one of Prince Hamlet’s hangers-on.
Lord Nelson answered to the name. Yes, that Lord Nelson, the one who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar. A famous statue to the admiral stands in London’s Trafalgar Square.
The war hero took his unusual name from his godfather, the 2nd Baron Walpole. His mother came from the powerful English political family. Most of the men in the family seem to be called conventional names like Edward and Robert, but there are at least five Horatios, along with a Horace.
CS Forester wrote the Horatio Hornblower novels between the 1930s and 60s. His fictional hero’s name nods to both the Hamlet character and the real-life admiral.
Gregory Peck starred as Hornblower in a 1951 movie. From 1998 through 2003, Ioan Gruffudd took on the role for an ITV and A&E production.
Then there’s nineteenth century writer Horatio Alger, Jr. Known for a specific type of American tale.
Alger’s stories followed a formula: boy from humble means works hard, does the right thing, is richly rewarded. The up-by-your-bootstraps narrative became so popular that we often call rags-to-riches stories “Horatio Alger stories.” It lends the name an almost virtue vibe.
Just as Hornblower was ending its run on A&E, another small screen character gave it life.
David Caruso played a character by the name on CSI: Miami. The show debuted in 2002, and ran for a decade.
The combination of the literary figure and the small screen hero combined to briefly boost the name. By 2007, there were 40 newborn boys called Horatio.
Horatio: Ready for Revival?
We’re wild about o-ending names for boys lately. Leo, Mateo, and Theodore rank in the US Top 100. Choices like Arlo, Milo, and just-Theo feel like the most fashionable of choices for boys.
If Santiago can trend, why not Horatio?
A clever user list at Nameberry titled “My Braver Alter-Ego Would Totally Use These” included the name, along with Crispin, Thora, and Sylvanus. I think that’s exactly the right note. Parents may love the sound of this name, but it’s trending towards obscurity. A mere nine boys were named this in 2015. That’s fewer than Savior, Carrick, Ruston, or Flavio. In other words: seriously rare.
One challenge: despite the -o ending, this form of the name isn’t known in Italian or Spanish. It’s Orazio and Horacio, neither of which fared much better in recent years.
Still, bold namers after a stands-out, fits-in choice would be well advised to consider the historic, literary, and bold Horatio.
What do you think of this name? Does it have a chance of catching on?
First published on October 6, 2009, this post has been revised substantially and republished on April 26, 2017.
One of the few “ends in O” names I like. My son is big on maths and when I mentioned it he said “Wow, it has ratio in it … I’ll take it!” Hope he remembers when his time comes!!
I think of Horatio Sanz first [who was born Horacio in Chile], then of Horatio Caine on CSI: Miami; those are the only associations I have with the name. I like it both as the English pronunciation of Horatio, and the Spanish Horacio.
C in DC says
My husband’s Brazilian great uncle is Oracio.
This is currently one of my favorite boy names. It was the Hornblower series that really made me love the name because I admired the character so much. Plus it rolls off the tongue in a beautifully Latin way. I’m a bit surprised it’s so far down the list on popularity. I would’ve thought there would be a few more avant-garde parents out there giving it to their sons. Personally, I’d happily give it as either a first or middle name, but would probably favor putting it in the middle.
@ Lynsey, nice, wonderful, I am glad, you won the battle with your husband.
I have called my little boy Horatio, after a long battle with my husband, everyone loves it and there are no other children with that name so when I call him at pre school he is the only one who comes running unlike other parents. He is called Harry by Grand parents and grate grandparents as it is easyer and his sister (age 13) calls him the BIG H,
mmmh….nice!….2 at a time…..nice regards to your daddy too.
Eo Space-Bound Venable says
My names Horatio and i love the name so is my dads (:
You are right, loving it, because it is such a beautiful name.
Oh…..Really my favorite name. For me the most beautiful name. I like it especially in German pronounciation. If I had a boy, I would call him “Horatio”
To the nick-names:
Horatio Hornblowers wife Maria called him “Horay”
You also could call him “ratio”, what in latin means “reason”
there are a lot of famous Horatios whom I like, as Horatio Spafford.
And of course Hamlets fried! I Iike him very much! He was nearly a saint. He was not “hanging around Hamlet”, he tried to help him. An at last, when Hamlet died, he said the most famos and beautiful words “Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angles sing thy to thay rest”.
Shakespeare lets him speek out his most beautiful lyriks. When the sun raises, Horatio said “…but look, the morn in rosset mantle clad walks o’er the dew of yon high eastward hill”.
Some people say, it is an Etruskian Name.
But if the name is related to latin hora – hour , then, may be there is a connection to the Egyptian God Horus in the background….who was the Lord of time…..may be, it means “a believer to the God Horus”, like “Christian” means ” a believer to Christus.
Sorry for my English is not perfekt….I am a German
I myself am a Horacio, only a select few can have this name bestowed. Just like the men 300. LOL. Anyway as far as nicknames go ive been called Hershey by girls, and Hibachi by the guys. I like both equally.
Oh yes, this is true! But I think, there should be more little boys be named Horatio in Germany.
The name is a phonetic tidbits, a candy to hear, indeed!
Eo Space-Bound Venable says
i have been called hershey by the girls also … wierd
Sorry, but I absolutely hate this name. It’s my grandfather’s name (the spanish version of it, anyway.. my grandpa’s name is Horacio). And while i do like the sound of it in spanish (Ohr-aaah-see-o), the english sound just doesn’t role off the tongue. And it’s too close to Horace, which, no offense to anyone, is just one of the ugliest names I’ve ever heard in my life.
I don’t know why, but I just don’t seem to like most names that end with an “o” sound (Margot being the exception), so this one’s an instant out for me. I like it’s history, however — it’s quite fascinating!
+ 2 Homers!
It’s horrendous. On par with Ptolemy for ‘toff’ factor but doesn’t sound one half as pleasant 😉 I think Horace a whole lot worse of course. Horace is a great grandfather’s name but there’s no way in blue heck I’m considering it.
12 little Horatios born for England in 2008 the new stats say. Oh and 3 Horaces.
I want to live somewhere where I can use “toff” as an insult. “Sissy” just doesn’t have the same ring.
Me, I’d have a Horatio in a heartbeat. But then, I like names that end in vowel sounds. And my ‘hood is heavily Spanish-speaking – Mechi, he’d be called ohr-aaah-see-oh by some of our neighbors, I’m sure. (Insert standard disclaimer about not being pregnant here.)
Not sure how Horatio would work in Polish, though …
…Oh no, its not horrendous but WONDERFUL.
I Iove this name!
But 12 little Horatios and 3 Horaces are MUCH TOO LESS for England. They have such an hero like Horatio Nelson and moreover even Shakespeares Horatio, but only 15 Horatio/Horaces in one year?….better should be 1.500!
Dear British Parents, let us have some more Horatios please!
Darn it, forgot to click notify buton again.
All I can think of is Horatios Sanz, the grotesque, unfunny SNL alum. No thanks!
I think its a very cool name. Dramatic, masculine and a bit quirky. I don’t know if I’d ever use it myself, I do think it would make a great middle name for a more common or ordinary first name like John or Michael.
Shay, that’s a great point – Horatio would make a fabulous middle name!
I think it’s darling, and the Alger and Hornblower connection makes it spunky and upbeat.
Horatio made our longer list…. but you got it on the nose with the ‘no easy nickname’ as being the problem for us. I’m OK with pushing things a little with the full name, but there has to be something to fall back on. And a middle name as a plan B wasn’t good enough to get Horatio on the short list… although he still crops up in conversation now and then, when we’re not thoroughly feeling our short-list names, which is happening a lot lately. I’d love to meet a little Horatio – it’s a great name (even if the OH occasionally says it sounds like a sneeze)!
As for nicknames, we labored over it for some time and the best we got was Ray. Not exactly my cup o’ tea. Racy was another thought, but that was more ‘out there’ than the original in my opinion. Tio (rhymes with Theo) is another one we threw around, but was nixed as it’s the Spanish word for ‘uncle’ (that doesn’t stop people from using Tia – the word for Aunt, so maybe I was being too retentive there?). In any case, I’m fairly certain our boy won’t be Horatio, but again, great name!
I thought about Ray, too, JNE – but it didn’t quite work for me, either. Too bad!