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Leo Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

Learn about the name Leo including the meaning, gender, origin, popularity, and more.

Leo Overview

  • Meaning: Leo means “lion,” but can also mean “voice” or “command.”
  • Gender: Leo is most popular as a male name.
  • Origin: Leo comes from the Latin word Leo, which itself comes from the Greek word Leon, both of which mean “lion.”
  • Pronunciation: Leo is pronounced, “LEE-oh.”
  • Popularity: The name Leo has maintained a high level of popularity in the United States and is ranked in the top 50 baby boy names.
  • Nicknames: L, Lee, Lion, Oh,
  • Variations: Leon, Leonard, Leonardo, and Lionel
  • Namesakes: Leonardo da Vinci, Italian painter.

What Does Leo Mean?

Leo is a classic name with a relatively straightforward meaning: it is the Latin word for “lion,” and its many derivations reference this meaning.

However, the word “leo” also appears in a variety of other languages, which can lend added meaning to the name. In many Polynesian languages, such as Hawaiian, Niuean, and Tuvaluan, “leo” means “to speak” or “to command.” In Vietnamese, it means “to climb.” In Swahili, it means “today.”

No matter the meaning, the name Leo connotes nobility, authority, and strength.

What Is the Origin of the Name Leo?

The closest origin of the name “Leo” is the Latin word “leo,” which means lion. However, even further back than that, the word comes from the Greek λέων, or “Leon.” This name was common in other ancient languages throughout the Mediterranean and Near East, such as Akkadian (1).

How Popular Is the Name Leo?

For the past hundred years, the name Leo has seen consistent popularity in the United States, remaining within the top 500 baby names each year.

The name was extremely popular around the turn of the twentieth century, ranking as the 46th most popular name for boys. It peaked during this period in 1903 when it was the 38th most popular name but quickly dropped in popularity. Its nadir was in 1995 when it was the 486th most popular name.

The name saw a significant spike in popularity after this point, however. It surged in popularity in 2003, jumping to the 285th most popular boy name in the country (2).

Today, the name Leo is still soaring in popularity, being the 31st most popular baby boy name in the United States.

How Do I Pronounce Leo?

Leo is pronounced, “LEE-oh.” When pronounced, it should rhyme with the word “Rio.”

Is Leo a Boy or Girl Name?

Leo is statistically more popular for boys, but it is possible to use a feminine variation, like Lea or Leonarda.

Variations of Leo

Since Leo is a name of Latin and Greek origin, it has spawned several variations in the languages with Latin and Greek elements. Possible versions of Leo include:

  • Leon (Greek, Slavic)
  • Leonard (English, French)
  • Len (English)
  • Leonardo (Italian, Spanish)
  • Leonarda (Italian)
  • Lionel (Latin)

Nicknames for Leo

Leo is already a relatively short name, but there are some nicknames you can use. Possible nicknames for Leo and its variations include:

  • Lion
  • Lee
  • Len
  • Leopard
  • Lion
  • Nardo
  • Oh
  • Po
  • Pold

Similar Names to Leo

If you like the name Leo, you may also enjoy similar names of Latin or Greek origin. Similar names to Leo include:

Middle Names for Leo

Leo is a classic name that is also at home among other classy modern names, and there are plenty of middle names that would work well with it. Some middle name ideas for Leo include:

Sibling Names for Leo

Leo is a name with both history and classic appeal, so finding a good sibling name for a baby Leo is a piece of cake. Be sure to look for common Greek or Latin names or names that have a combination of modern flair and timeless panache.

For a brother:

For a sister:

Famous People Named Leo

There are various famous people named Leo, including:

  • Leonard Bernstein: American composer.
  • Leonardo da Vinci: Italian artist and inventor.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio: American artist.
  • Leo “Lenny” Kravitz: American musician.
  • Leonard Nimoy: American actor famous for playing Spock on Star Trek.
  • Leo Tolstoy: Russian Christian anarchist and author of War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and more.
  • Leo Varadkar: Tánaiste (Prime Minister) of Ireland.
  • Lionel Messi: Argentine soccer player.
  • Pope Leo: The taken name of thirteen Popes throughout history.

Leo in Popular Culture

There are several fictional characters named Leo, including:

  • Leo Corbett: Character in Power Rangers
  • Leonard Hofstadter: Character in The Big Bang Theory
  • Leo McGarry: Character in The West Wing
  • Léon: Character in Léon: The Professional
  • Leon Kennedy: Character in Resident Evil
  • Leon Kowalski: Character in Blade Runner
  • Leonardo: Character in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Uncle Leo: Character in Seinfeld

Leo FAQs

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the name Leo.

What Is the Name Leo Short For?

Technically, the name Leo is not short for anything; it is the entirety of the Latin word. However, in some contexts, Leo can be short for Leon, Leonardo, and Leonard.

Is Leo a Popular Name?

While it has fluctuated in popularity, Leo is currently one of the top 50 most popular names in the United States.

Are Leo and Leopold the Same Name?

Although Leo can be short for Leopold, the names are technically not related. The former, a name of Latin and Greek origin, means “lion,” while the second, a name of German origin, means “brave.”

Is the Name Leo in the Bible?

Although the name Leo does not appear in the Bible, the Greek Septuagint (the original Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible from the Hebrew language) and the Greek Christian Bible reference lions, usually using words related to the name Leo.

Additionally, there have been several Popes and Saints whose names have been Leo.

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