Playgrounds teem with Jacobs. History books are packed with Jameses. The animated Diego appears on lunchboxes everywhere and we’re quite keen on Giacomo. Ready or not, here comes yet another fashionable twist on that tireless appellation.

Thanks to Katharine for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Jago.

In some ways, Jago isn’t terribly exciting. Like Jacob and James, he comes from the Old Testament Ya’aquov. The original Latinization of Ya’aquov was Iacobus; later, some favored Iacomus. And so English has two similar, but distinct versions of the same name. Betcha you can find parents with sons called Jimmy and Jake, unaware of the connection.

Like many an ancient name, there’s some debate over his meaning. It’s most often given as supplanter – one who takes the place of another. Others argue for derivation from a phrase meaning God will protect, and some suggest it comes from the Hebrew aqebh, or heel, since he was born holding his twin Esau by the foot.

The original Jacob was known as the son of Isaac and Rebecca. He fathered a dozen sons himself – the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob has long been considered a Jewish heritage choice, while James, worn by two of Christ’s apostles, was preferred by Christian families. That changed following the Protestant Reformation, and today both are simply very popular choices for sons.

Jago is the Cornish form of Jacob and James, and sometimes also heard in Spanish-speaking countries. It’s one letter removed from Shakespeare’s villain Iago – yet another spin on Iacobus. Iago is usually pronounced ee AH go, while Jago has a two-syllable pronunciation. We’ve come across at least three:

  • JAY go
  • JAH go
  • YAY go

Jago was never cracked the Top 1000 in the US. Jacob is, of course, the #1 choice for American boys since 1999 and James has been in the Top 20 since 1880.

Cornwall, in southwestern England, has traditionally been remote, and some of the region’s traditional language has endured. While Jago has been in hibernation as a given name for some time, he’s never completely disappeared, and sometimes appears as a surname, too. In the UK, Jago probably strikes just the right note – a fashionable heritage choice.

In the US, we’re less confident. Django – honoring legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt – is over the top. Jaden is horribly overexposed. Jago might represent a middle path – historical authenticity combined with that bright final “o.” We’re hearing more parents considering Hugo and Milo, and Marco and Matteo could be called mainstream. Jago’s ending is a plus.

Still, given the wide range of accents in American English, we can hear this one being butchered by regional pronunciations. The sound that seems most sophisticated to our ear – JAH go – is probably the least likely to be heard.

We love Jago, and think it’s a smart way to honor a James or Jacob. But you’d have to be patient with others’ manglings until your preferred pronunciation catches on – and we know a lot of 30-something Andreas who are still waiting for that day.

About Abby Sandel

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What do you think?


  1. My Great Grandmother was Jago, she was Cornish, I did wonder if it had a Spanish/Jewish connection, must do some research!

  2. I love the name Jago considering it is my last name. People tend to butcher it into Yah-Go quite a bit but I politely correct them and they seem to love the sound of it.
    I must say, it gets a great deal of attention when I have to spell it aloud when making major purchases or giving out my address.
    I am just thankful it’s not the norm here in the U.S.

  3. Katharine, I don’t think you’re alone! It does seem more daunting to choose a less-than-mainstream name for a son.

    I’ve assumed it was always that way, but it appears that in the Middle Ages, there were actually MORE names for boys and fewer for girls – at least in a number of eras. There may have been more nicknames for girls, still. But all of my reading seems to conclude that girls shared a smaller pool of baptismal names. (If anyone has a good, definitive source on the topic, please post – I’m just gleaning this from offhand comments from members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, lists of names in use and similar, less than meticulously researched pieces.) It may also be that fewer women’s names were entered in the historical record – but again, just guessing.

    Dana, I think that’s a good question – I can see a JAH go becoming a HAH go here, too.

    Katharine, I’m putting Theodore on the calendar for 10/24 – he’s one of my personal favorites, and my MIL’s second middle name. So I always thought he’d be a lock for a son’s name, but my husband veto’d him based on the Chipmunk connection. (Alvin and Simon have also been given the boot.) I’m a little bit heartbroken over that, but since #2 is a girl, we never really argued that one out. I know two small Theodores – one Theo and one Teddy. (Though I suspect Teddy might choose another nickname ’round about third grade.)

  4. When I read the name I pronounced it YAH-go in my head for some reason, though I like JAH-go the best. I’m wondering if, down here in my heavily Spanish-speaking community, it might be mistaken for a Spanish-influenced name and sometimes pronounced HAH-go. A name like this would definitely stand out here- I am surrounded by Jadens (and even female Jaedynns). It would be a most welcome change!

  5. Jago has been on my horizon for a little while, a bit like Isla – he’s appeared as if out of nowehere and is popping up all over the place! I would much rather encounter a Jago than a Jaden too (FYI: I’ve never come across a Jaden or any of the other variation on the -aden theme except Aiden – and not many of them at that).

    I’m not in love with Jago though, I’d like to be but just can’t quite get to grips with him. To be honest I struggle to think ‘outside the box’ when it comes to boys names, I don’t know why but I just can’t settle for anything less than traditional sounding, proper boys names…

    On that note and because Lola mentioned him – could you look at Theodore or if thats already been done -Theodora? Thanks!

  6. I like Jago, any way he’s said at all. Just don’t say him like Iago. He’s too villanous! (Too bad too; because I like the way that sounds best of all!) I’ve also heard Yah-go from my Russian relatives trying to figure it out. Most of the cousins speak fine English but their parents, not so fine. 😉

    But Jago’s neat. And I like the line he walks: familiar but funky and so not popular. (at least yet)
    Not all us Yanks are chickens, and if Cosmo, Miles/Milo & Lucius/Lou weren’t already on my list (and I didn’t already have a J girl), Jago would be on my list, easily. I find him snappy, spritely & completely charming. He’d fit right in here in my neighborhood, witha Hugh (Huey), a Teo (Theodore) and a Geo (George).
    Katherine, you’ve got a winner in Jago (I think). Thanks Verity for covering him! He’s neat! 🙂