The baby name Romeo belongs to the ultimate tragic romantic hero. In recent years, it’s also become a very popular choice for a son.

Thanks to Another for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


The baby name Romeo started out as a fictional character.

Shakespeare borrowed the idea for Romeo and Juliet from Italian writers Matteo Bandello and Luigi Da Porto.

When Bandello’s poem was translated into English, the lovesick swain became Romeus. As the stories traveled from Italian to English, as well as French, Shakespeare reverted to Romeo for young Montague’s name.

Giulietta, however, became the English Juliet.

In any case, the baby name Romeo means “pilgrim to Rome.” It was a Late Latin name, and a similar name occurred in Greek. Dante referenced a Romeo di Villanova.

While it’s a separate name, Roman – in various forms – was heard in medieval Europe.


American parents discovered Romeo in a big way in the year 1996.

Australian director Baz Luhrmann reinvented Shakespeare’s tragedy with a lush, otherworldly update to the traditional story. A young Claire Danes donned angel wings to play Juliet. An equally young Leonardo DiCaprio won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the Berlin International Film Festival for his role.

It was a smash hit – the movie, the soundtrack, the careers of the actors.

Reinvented as postmodern gangsters vying for supremacy in a stylized Verona Beach, the movie sold the tale far better than any high school English class.

Just like that, the baby name Romeo was on parents’ radar. It returned to the US Top 1000 in 1996.

Juliet also returned to the rankings in 1996, after several years’ absence.


Also in 1996: actor and comedian Steve Harvey got his own sitcom, The Steve Harvey Show. He played a successful musician turned music teacher/vice principal at a fictional Chicago high school.

One of the other main characters? Student Romeo Santana.

It was one-two punch, boosting the baby name Romeo.


It wasn’t all about fictional figures, though.

From 2003 to 2006, child rapper Lil’ Romeo appeared on Nickelodeon’s Romeo!

The character was played by Percy Romeo Miller is the son of Master P – a successful rapper in his own right, and founder of the pioneering No Limit Records label.

The small screen gave parents more than one example of the name wearing well in the early 2000s.


In 2002, power couple Victoria and David Beckham welcomed their second son, Romeo James.

Given their sky high profile, it’s easy to imagine Romeo influencing others.

Get new posts sent to your inbox!
Don’t miss out! Subscribe and get all the new posts first.


It’s worth noting that the baby name Romeo wasn’t freshly discovered in 1996.

In 1880, the first year for which name data are reported by the US Social Security Administration, there were eight boys named Romeo.

By the year 1916, that was 118. newborn Romeos. In fact, the baby name Romeo appeared in the US Top 1000 as late as 1985.

After all, Romeo has long seen use internationally, at least in countries where romance languages are spoken.

And it might have caught on without the Baz Luhrmann movie. After all, boys’ names ending with O are wildly popular right now, with some credit to Leonardo DiCaprio for the rise of Leo names, too.

But what’s certain is that the combination of all the things sent Romeo soaring. As of 2023, the name ranked #293 – a new high.


Just thirty years ago, the baby name Romeo might’ve been overly extravagant – a little like naming your baby Lestat or Django.

But now it’s a mainstream favorite, a cousin to Roman and Rome, a stylish O-ender with a mix of literary and pop culture currency.

If you love your boys’ names romantic, dramatic, and comfortably familiar, rising Romeo might belong on your list.

What do you think of the baby name Romeo?

First published on September 20, 2008, this post was revised on July 14, 2024.

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.

You May Also Like:

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! 😀