He’s the ultimate doomed romantic hero, with a name so deliciously literary and brooding that it’s hard to imagine a real boy wearing this one.

Thanks to Another for suggesting our Name of the Day: Romeo.

Believe it or not, last year more than 500 newborn boys were called Romeo in the US alone. He also appears sparingly in Canada, Belgium and Sweden.

If you follow celebrity offspring, you might link Romeo’s popularity to the 2002 birth of Romeo James Beckham. But this time we can’t blame a celebrity parent. Romeo re-entered the Top 1000 back in 1996, a year or so before Posh and Becks were even dating.

The driving force behind the name’s rebirth was the lush Baz Luhrmann update of the famous tragedy. In late 1996 Romeo + Juliet earned box office bank worldwide. Leonardo DiCaprio played the lovesick Montague. With the feuding families reinvented as postmodern gangsters vying for supremacy in a stylized Verona Beach, the movie’s edgy alt vibe sold the tale far better than any high school English class.

Just like that, Romeo was back. Juliet also resurfaced in 2006, after more than five years out of the rankings.

While the name was never a hit in the US, neither was Romeo taboo. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we find Romeo in use, along with other ends-in-o choices like Fernando, Ignacio, Domingo and Orlando, as well as literary choices like Ulysses, Virgil, Homer and Milton.

Romeo’s history prior to the 19th century is less clear. Shakespeare borrowed the bones of his play from an Italian poem by Matteo Bandello. Bandello called his lovesick swain Romeus. It’s a simple name, derived from the Late Latin meaning “pilgrim to Rome.” Dante references a Romeo di Villanova, and given the popularity of Rom- names, it’s likely that this moniker existed in medieval Italy. While it’s not Giovanni, we also find a handful of Italians wearing the name into the 20th century.

But Romeo is clearly at his most popular today, having climbed to #505 last year.

The pint-size rapper once known as Lil’ Romeo and featured on Nickelodeon’s Hey Romeo may’ve encouraged some parents to view it as a legitimate possibility. (Today he’s in college, and goes by just Romeo – which is actually his middle name.) Football fans might recognize Romeo Crennel, currently head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

Over the past decade, Romeo has slowly transitioned from an unthinkably dramatic choice à la Lestat or Django, to a name that the most daring parents can consider. With Orlando ranking #368 and Tristan a white hot #87, it’s easier to imagine other romantic heros’ appellations appearing on a playground.

But it’s still a stretch, and we’re not entirely confident that your son will thank you for it.

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. It is not so uncommon a name in French Canada where the Shakespearean “loading” of the name is not as pronounced. Case in point, General (and retired Senator) Romeo Dallaire, not to mention our former Governor General Romeo LeBlanc.

    In English Canada, however, it is not a name I hear often.

  2. I love Shakespeare and unusual names, but don’t think I would ever give a child this one. That’s probably because I was never Romeo’s biggest fan. He never struck me as the brightest lightbulb in the bunch. And he’s too cliche’ed besides. Mercutio, however, I loved. I don’t think I would ever get away with naming a son that either, but if I could, I would!

  3. I don’t think he does, Mom only called Romeo out. She was looking about 4 or 5 months pregnant though, so next spring I’ll be keeping my ears open! I’m hoping for something other than Juliet, myself. You got what I meant by scrappirs though. Romeo’s one of those that seems to invite trouble, especially from other little boys. Having had to deal with the trouble Simon could provoke was enough for me. Thank goodness he had a terror of a brother to stand up for him. These days they’re formidable together… no one better mess! And poor little Josephine, she’s got these two hulking brothers to stand up to (and is doing a fantastic bullying job of her own these days)! I fear for schoolmates. 😛

  4. LOL, Namestat! I think it’s the kind of thing that we WANT to be true – kind of like all these crazy names that people insist mean “princess.” 🙂

  5. Hmm, you could be right! My source is a 9th grade English teacher, but thinking back, he wasn’t a very good teacher.

  6. Funny, Lola, I was thinking that a kid would need to be a bit of a scrapper to carry this one off – my firstborn is so big, I can’t imagine anyone making fun of him, even if he were called Sue. But maybe it would be an invitation for him to get into (more) trouble!

    How fabulous that there’s a Romeo in your ‘hood! I wonder if he has any sibs.

    Namestat, I’ve heard that tale before, but I think it’s more a convenient coincidence than Shakespeare’s thinking. (As if I know!) Because the name Romeus predates Shakespeare’s play by at least a century, it would have to be someone else’s fortuitous choice.

    That said, I agree – Milo, Diego, Giacomo, Hugo, Marco, Matteo – I can think of DOZENS that I’d use before Romeo. In fact, years ago, my first cat was called Mercutio. (I’d forgotten about that until just now – thanks for jogging my memory!)

  7. “Oh, me!” is the heartbroken expression Shakespeare intentionally hid inside that star-struck character’s name.

    Romeo isn’t exactly the ideal aspiration name for a child. I like the way Lola put it — Romeo is too “loaded”.

    Milo or Diego are better “O” names with roots in the romance languages.

  8. Funnily enough, I have a Romeo in my neighborhood somewhere, I heard his Mom call him at the park the other day! (he fits here, we also have a Byron!) I agree, Romeo seems a bit loaded. I find him a rather femimine choice, as well. By that, I mean I can’t imagine a guy okaying this one, myself.

    I do love his swagger though. Just about all the ‘O’ enders have such a swagger and I thoroughly enjoy them all. I only have two on my list and one of those is a nickname. I think Romeo’d be in for a good bit of ribbing come “Romeo & Juliet” time at school (It was a required topic for my Freshman HS English class). But the right kid could probably skate. If you’re the literary type, your kids are the quiet, well-read sort and don’t hesitate to stand up for themselves, I’d say Romeo’s a safe choice for yours. Mine are scrappers, so it’s rather like adding feul to the fire.

    But what an awesome bonfire it’d be! 😀