Past posts have explored many a daring ends-in-o name for babies, including gems like Primo and Cosmo. This one brings to mind an ancient philosopher, sweet treats and the inventor of the television.

Thanks to Emmy Jo for suggesting the eclectic Philo as Name of the Day.

The original Philo was a first century philosopher. Some credit Philo with laying the groundwork for much of Christian thinking, by combining the Hebrew Bible with Greek philosophy. While he left behind extensive writings, he’s no Aristotle or Plato. (Hmm … there’s another ends-in-o option!)

Pronounced FYE loh, the name was worn by other notables in ancient times, including a historian, an engineer and a few other philosophers. You probably recognize his roots. The Greek phileo means to love and lives on in English – philately is a passion for postage stamps; Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love.

Philon is a related name, sometimes found in Ancient Greece. There are two possible pronunciations. The first, fee lon, suggests cats or possibly that old Simon & Garfunkel chorus. Ba da, ba da, ba da, ba da … feelin’ groovy. The other option, fil on, is a smidge better but sounds as if his full name could be Philon The Blank.

As for the sweet treats, this name might remind you of phyllo dough, but in fact the words are unrelated. Phyllo dough takes its name from the Greek word phyllon – leaf.

If you’re a fan of early 20th century detective stores, you might recognize Philo Vance, the fictional detective created by SS Van Dine. Van Dine described his hero as “an aristocrat by birth and instinct.” There were even radio and movie adaptations, with Basil Rathbone – the future Sherlock Holmes – playing Vance.

In Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock, Philo and Gunge lived on the trash heap. And in 1978, Clint Eastwood played Philo Beddoe in Every Which Way but Loose. That’s right – Dirty Harry once shared the screen with an orangutan named Clyde.

But the most famous Philo was an Idaho farm boy with a knack for all things electronic. Born in 1906, Philo T. Farnsworth was named after his grandfather, a man who headed west in the company of Mormon leader Brigham Young.

He studied briefly at Brigham Young University. By 1927, he’d transmitted the first television image – a dollar sign. While Farnsworth was a technological pioneer, he once said of his invention: There’s nothing on it worthwhile, and we’re not going to watch it in this household, and I don’t want it in your intellectual diet.

Of course, that was before Top Chef debuted on Bravo.

RCA’s cathode ray tube technology would ultimately prove more successful, but Farnsworth went on to invent dozens more gadgets and gizmos over the course of his career.

How did he feel about his name? Throughout his adult life, Philo answered to Phil.

And that might be the best option, should Philo charm you – use him as an unconventional nickname for Philip.

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. Since Philo comes from greek… Wouldn’t it be pronounced “fee-lo” or “fih-lo”? Seeing it rhyme with Milo doesn’t sit well with me at all, considering the fact that I’ve always heard it pronounced like the two other versions. By the way, my name is Philo.

    1. Y’know, you’re probably right. At least there’s an equally strong case for the long ‘e’ pronunciation …