- Meaning: Theo can mean God, a gift from God, or bold people.
- Gender: Theo is primarily a boys’ name but also works as a girls’ name.
- Origin: Greek or German origin.
- Pronunciation: “THEE-OH”
- Popularity: Theo is a popular boys’ name and a fairly popular girls’ name.
- Nicknames: Dodo, Doro, T, Te, Ted, Teddy.
- Variations: Fyodor, Tadros, Teo, Thea, Theophania.
- Namesakes: Theo Adam, Theo van Gogh, Theo Shapiro, Theo Waigel, Theo Walcott.
What Does Theo Mean?
The exact meaning of Theo varies depending on whether it is a name in its own right or part of a longer name.
For instance, when derived from Theodore or Theodora, the name Theo gets translated as ‘God’s gift.’ That’s because ‘Gift’ comes from the Greek ‘Doron,’ which comprises these names.
However, an alternative translation of Theo comes from German. Instead of deriving from ‘Theos,’ linguists interpret Theo as coming from ‘Theud,’ the German word for people. So, instead of meaning ‘God’s Gift,’ the German interpretation translates Theo as meaning ‘Bold people.
What is the Origin of the Name Theo?
Theo is a Greek or a German boy name, depending on how you interpret its linguistic root.
In Greek, it originates from the word for ‘God’ and has been used throughout history. The elongated ‘Theodore’ appears as early as the sixth century, associated with the sculptor Theodore of Samos (1).
The Greek association with divinity made it a popular name for early saints and martyrs and even an early Archbishop of Canterbury.
The shortened name, Theo, arrived after various, older permutations of the name and was initially used as a diminutive. As time passed and people’s tastes in names changed, the diminutive Theo became a name in its own right.
How Popular is the Name Theo?
Despite its early popularity in Greece and Byzantium, Theo took a while to reach the Western World. When it did, it was initially as longer names that shared the same root as Theo, Theodore.
The diminutive Theo arrived later and was not immediately popular.
Theo has steadily gained popularity since 2010. In 2010, Theo was a fairly popular name and ranked 918 out of the top 1000 boys’ names (2).
Since then, Theo’s popularity consistently increased. Its most pronounced leap in parental favor occurred between 2013 and 2014, when it rose over 100 places, becoming a popular name.
At present, Theo remains a popular name. It now ranks the 142nd most popular boys’ name in North America.
How Do I Pronounce Theo?
Theo is pronounced “THEE-OH.” The first and second syllables are equally stressed. Crucially, the TH sound is voiced. In other words, it sounds like the TH at the end of ‘Teeth’ (3).
Is Theo a Boy or Girl Name?
Although Theo is primarily a boys’ name, it’s a name that works well for boys and girls. That’s because it is a diminutive that now gets used as a name in its own right.
Theo usually derives from longer names like Theodore or the feminine Theodora. But in its truncated form, it loses gender distinctions and can be used interchangeably for children of both sexes.
Variations of Theo
There are many variations on Theo suitable for boys and girls.
Variations For Boys
Some of the most common masculine variations on Theo include:
- Fyodor (Russian)
- Tadros (Arabic)
- Teo (Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish)
- Teodor (Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian)
- Théo (French)
- T’voros (Armenian)
Variations for Girls
While popular and more obviously feminine variations on Theo include:
- Theoda (German)
- Théobaldine (French)
- Theodóra (Icelandic)
- Theodosia (Greek)
- Theophania (Greek)
Nicknames for Theo
Despite originating as a nickname, there are several ways to shorten Theo. Some of the most popular nicknames for Theo are:
- Te amo
Similar Names to Theo
If you aren’t sure if Theo is the right name for your child, there are many variations to choose from. These are more gender-specific than Theo but have similar meanings or origins.
Similar Names to Theo for Boys
Similar boys’ names to Theo are:
Similar Girls’ Names to Theo
Some of the most popular female alternatives to Theo are:
Middle Names for Theo
Theo is also well-suited to a wide selection of middle names. Common middle names for Theo vary depending on the sex of the baby.
Middle Names for Boys Named Theo
Popular middle names for boys called Theo include:
Middle Names for Girls Called Theo
Favorite middle names for girls named Theo are:
Sibling Names for Theo
There are also a variety of names that work effectively as sibling names for children called Theo.
For a Brother
Popular boys names for brothers of Theo are:
For a Sister
Parents with children named Theo consider these names for sisters or daughters:
Famous People Named Theo
History is better-known for its Theodores, partly because the name Theo took a while to emerge as a name in its own right. But there are still several famous Theos, including:
- Theo Adam: German classical singer.
- Theo Van Gogh: Dutch filmmaker.
- Theo Shapiro: American film score composer.
- Theo Waigel: German politician.
- Theo Walcott: English football player.
Theo in Popular Culture
Fiction also has its share of Theos. Some of the best-known include:
- Theo Decker: Character in the novel ‘The Godlfinch.’
- Theo Faron: Character in a novel by P.D. James.
- Theo McEwen: Character on the kids’ TV show ‘Maya and Miguel.’
- Theo Saville: Character in ‘A Million Little Things.’
- Theo Raeken: Character on the TV show ‘Teen Wolf.’
If you are still unsure about the name Theo, here are other questions parents ask about the name to help you decide.