Cleo and Talia: talk to me!

Cleo and Talia...


Thoughts? Impressions? Associations?


February 18, 2018 8:59 AM

For a person? I prefer Talia. It feels different but not too out-there. Looks and sounds lovely.

Personally, I associate Cleo more as being a name for pets though that may just be me. Also it has a diminutive feel to me, like it must be short for something. Chloe avoids that but has a slightly different sound. I have seen the spelling Clio before and while I am not usually fond of non-standard spelling, Clio also avoids the must-be-short-for-something vibe for me. 

February 18, 2018 9:38 AM

I once knew a girl (she'd be a teenager now) named Cliona, which as far as I know is totally unrelated to the name Cleo but would be a good option if you did want a "long" version. 

By EVie
February 19, 2018 10:27 AM

Clio isn't a non-standard spelling, it's an independent name and pronounced differently in an English context: CLEYE-oh

(For reference, look at the original Greek spellings: Clio is Κλειώ, transliterated as Kleio; Cleo is Κλεο, transliterated as Kleo). This is consistent with the English pronunciations of other ancient Greek names, including Dionysus, Io, Dione, Orion, Calliope, Hermione, Niobe. 


February 21, 2018 3:41 PM

Yes, I noticed that in the thread and would have edited my post to reflect that but I could not find any option to edit.

But it is amazing all of the name knowledge on these forums- I am learning new things already!

February 18, 2018 9:34 AM

I absolutely love Cleo, I think it's short and sweet and has a bit of attitude, and I like that it has a non-typical ending sound for a girl's name. I don't get overly strong pet vibes from it (although I understand the association), and think that even for people who do that would quickly be replaced upon knowing a child with the name.

Talia is pretty, it's a bit more flowy feeling for me and has more of a gentle vibe. 

February 18, 2018 10:13 AM

I love the name Talia, but I'm also a sucker for the -lia ending. To use it, you'd need to be okay with the multiple variations in pronunciation. (Tally-uh, Tolly-uh, TAL-ya, TOL-ya).

I wonder if the Cleo pet association comes from the Disney goldfish who made her debut in Pinocchio. 

February 18, 2018 1:36 PM

Cleo is also the name of the poodle on the pbs show  from the early '00s Clifford the big red dog. 

And the mother lion on the pbs show Between the Lions around the same time. 

I wouldn't be surprised to see it in the current batch of preschoolers, but I have yet to encounter one in real life, so it still feels decidedly animalish to me.

February 18, 2018 10:21 AM

In my mind, Cleo and Talia are two totally different names. While both are great names, Cleo is very young and bubbly, while Talia is more grown-up and Russian-ish. My only association with either name is a mermaid named Cleo from a 2000s Australian teen show. Not a negative association. 

What do you want in this name? What characteristics are important to you? Do these names have significance to you? 

February 18, 2018 10:42 AM

My association with Cleo is the magazine - sorry not keen on the name, also goes with names like Leo and Theo

Cleora, Cleona, Cleonie, Cleola,  Clementine, Cleantha, Cleanthe

 Talia is lovely, although you may get a few different spellings and pronuncations,  pretty name,  know a young lady in her 20s with this name

February 18, 2018 12:05 PM

When I hear Cleo, my automatic association is of "Miss Cleo," the TV psychic. I also know several pets named Cleo, so that would be my second association there. To me, it just really isn't a "serious" name based on these associations. I do know, however, that Nev (from MTV's Catfish) named his daughter Cleo last year. It isn't my style, but it does fit in with a lot of the trendier names for girls now, like Harlow, Marlow, and other "o" ending names. 

Talia to me is just kind-of meh. I'm never 100% sure how to pronounce it, and that always turns me off of a name. I don't really have any associations with this one. 

February 18, 2018 1:19 PM

I really like Talia. My first and only association is Talia Shire, a wonderful actress and good association. She is known for the Rocky and Godfather movies.

I don't understand the pronunciation problem because I've only heard it as something like Towl-ya - I was going to write Tal-ya, but that seems more like the word tall. I hear it as "rhymes with owl."

I briefly knew a Cleo in Jr. High. She was nice and I remember thinking it was neat name I had never heard before. Back then I thought it was short for Cleopatra. :)



February 19, 2018 1:11 PM

Owl? Really? I have never, ever heard that pronunciation. Containing the word "tall", yes, I've heard Americans who say it that way. But definitely not "owl".

February 21, 2018 7:20 PM

Somewhere in my memory it seems you and I had a similar conversation about owl, towel, tall a long time ago.

I do think it's the difference in what we expect to hear. 

I will say that the many times I've heard Talia Shire's name I never heard "tall" in it.

Canadian v Texan ears, lol?


February 21, 2018 10:45 PM

Oh, yes!!!!!! You're completely right about that. You say owl in a much smoother way than I do (almost one drawn-out syllable rather than two distinct ones). When I affect a southern accent to say owl, I can hear how it could be applied to Talia. 

February 21, 2018 11:44 PM

I've only ever heard it pronounced like tar - lee - a

February 22, 2018 12:51 PM

Careful with that non-rhotic accent... :-) The majority of people on this board speak decidedly rhotic versions of English, so "tar" Doesn't Work for them as a representation of [tɑː].

February 22, 2018 1:59 PM

Ha, I'd assumed it was like people who pronounce wash like worsh

February 22, 2018 9:26 PM

Hmm, not really, no: y'all pronounce "tar" as if it were "ta", but it's not true in the other direction. You don't add R's, you subtract them. Yeah, I'm picking nits, but it's very, very confusing for a rhotic speaker to be told to pronounce "ta" as "tar", because there are dialects that actually do that, i.e. add R's where there shouldn't ought to be any.

February 22, 2018 10:03 PM

well in the case of Talia it rhymes with Carly a

February 27, 2018 6:07 AM

You pronounce Talia like YOU pronounce tar, but try imaginining Bruce Willis or someone saying "tar" or "car" and you'll see why this confuses the hell out of Americans.

I love these blips of how we perceive letters. I was in London last week, and had to resort to dropping the 't' sound from Gatwick in order to make myself understood to a ticket seller (wouldn't have thought it was a particularly strange request, but go figure).

By EVie
February 27, 2018 2:04 PM

Yes! I was just reading a blog comment about two Americans complaining about how one of the Harry Potter Sorting Hat songs positions Gryffindor and Ravenclaw as though they rhyme when they don't. The commenter was perplexed, because they obviously do! Major cultural disconnect going on -- to J.K. Rowling and other non-rhotic and caught/cot unmerged English speakers, they do end in the same sound, but without hearing them spoken, the Americans were just totally baffled.

(To those who still don't get it: Gryffindor/Gryffindaw and Ravenclaw/Ravenclor would sound identical in British English. In American English, it's Gryffindorrrrrrr -- think Cornish accent/pirates -- and Ravenclah).

February 27, 2018 2:24 PM

I love this!

It reminds me of when we were reading a kids' book called Each Peach Pear Plum and there's a rhyming sequence: "Mother Hubbard in the cellar/I spy Cinderella". My first instinct was to be annoyed and to think, "Well, THAT'S reaching..." but then I was struck by inspiration and checked to see if it was published in the UK -- which, of course, it was! So then I tried pronouncing Cinderella as Cinderellar, but that felt really awkward and I was pleased/relieved when I tried out saying cellar as cellah. It feels much more natural to drop Rs than add them in!

February 27, 2018 3:51 PM

It is very hard to remember sometimes when it's just how you're used to everyone around you speaking. I try to be aware of it on here because obviously a majority of users are Amreican but it's never once occurred to me before that for Americans Griffindor and Ravenclaw wouldn't rhyme! Each Peach Pear Plum is a classic here :-) probably equivalent to your Goodnight Moon, I'm now trying to pronounce 'cellar' with an r sound and it's weird. 

Back to names I remember causing confusion trying to explain to my sister's Canadian friend that the baby I was looking after was called Honour, because here it sounds like "On-ah" and she just couldn't understand what I was saying. When we finally cleared it up she very exasperatedly asked "Why don't you people say r's?!"

February 27, 2018 4:10 PM

Unlike the Mary/merry/marry merger which drives me crazy, the alternate use of R entertains me greatly. I especially enjoy that phenomenon in which an R is added to bridge two words when one ends with a vowel and the next begins with one. During the Canadian coverage of Olympic figure skating, British coach Carol Lane kept calling the Shib Sibs "Maiar and Alex" and it was never not cute.

By EVie
February 27, 2018 6:15 PM

My stepfather grew up in Cornwall, and every once in a while he will laugh at me for sounding Cornish when I lean a bit more heavily on the R in a word (he speaks with RP, no Cornish accent himself). When he tries to mimic me, he sounds like a pirate. Or like Hagrid. (Yourrr a wizarrrrd, Harrrry). 

I love Each Peach Pear Plum! And yes, that rhyme definitely works better in British English. We haven't read that one in a long time, so I'll have to pull it off the shelf again.

February 27, 2018 7:28 PM

I remember listening to an ebook with a British text-to-speak narrator and believing most of the way through that a character's name was Ana (like in Frozen), when it was in fact Hono(u)r. My British TTS engine is actually how I've realized a bunch of differences in pronunciation that never would have occurred to me. (Though it sometimes fails me in spectacular fashion; for example, for some reason it insists on pronouncing m'lady and m'lord as something like mash-nuh lady and mash-nuh lord, and I think I've posted here before about the mysterious urban fantasy villain Mathofficus.)

March 1, 2018 5:44 AM

Even within the UK though, there are plenty of accents that pronounce the r (my father is from Yorkshire, and while the extended family says r differently than I do, it isn't at all like the Southern English erasure of the r sound either). Years ago, when I taught English, I remember being in a teacher training class when the word "iron" came up. The Londoners were insisting it should only be said "i-on", the North Americans on "i-ern" and the Spanish (logically enough) on "i-RON."

I know a British Honor here in Catalonia who just introduces herself as Ona for simplicity's sake. :-)

By EVie
March 1, 2018 12:32 PM

Yes, the Cornish/West Country accent that I mentioned above is one of the rhotic ones. There are also at least a couple non-rhotic American accents: working class Boston (I paaked the caa in Haavaad Yaad) and working class New York. 

I believe that the American accents developed the way they did in part because of the regions of the U.K./Ireland that were sending the most immigrants: West Country and Ireland to the U.S. (sometimes a subtle Irish accent sounds very American even to me) and Scotland to Canada (hence the "aboot" and "sore-ee," which sound very much like the way they're said in Scotland). 

February 18, 2018 1:44 PM

Thanks everyone. We like names that are unique but still recognizable- preferably with a solid foundation. Nothing creative or made up. Also, a very strong culrural association is something we need to be aware of. (Ie “If I meet a Talia, I assume she’s Russian.”) For a measure of preference, our other daughter is Mabel.

I fell in love with Calliope! But I fear it’s too ‘out there.’ I was hoping Cleo was more recognizable and get would fewer sideways glances, but the responses so far have me not so sure. 

Other suggestions for relatively uncommon names that still sound somewhat familiar? I like feminine with spunk. And if it‘s long, we like a good nick name. :) 

February 18, 2018 4:32 PM

to go with Mabel - I think Cleo goes best,  I think Calliope is lovely

I think Alice, Clara, Evelyn, Lillian, Lucy, Ruby,  Stella, Beatrice, Beatrix, Celia, Cora, Edith, Esme, Elsie, Ivy, Nora, Pearl, Olive, Ida, Eleanor, Celia, Ruth, Sadie, Penelope, Dorothy, Phoebe, Daphne, Prudence, Calanthe, Elsbeth, Elspbeth, Ursula

February 18, 2018 7:34 PM

Clio is my daughter's name. Cleo was short for Cleopatra in my mind & Clio is a legitimate Greek name in its own right. Everyone I've met has said it's sweet and cute. I think it will grow well with her too. Caveat, from day one people (including our parents) called her Chloe which is kind of frustrating.

Thalia (Thal-lia) & Callisto/Callista were on my list for an future kiddos so we have similar tastes!

I like the Greek mythology connection for Clio, Thalia, Calliope, & Callista. Clio was the Greek muse of history, Thalia was one of the Three Graces & the muse of comedy, Calliope was the muse of eloquence, and Callisto was a nymph.

I personally like Calliope. If it feels too out there, I suggest Callisto or Callista. 

February 19, 2018 1:41 AM

I like Calliope! Callie is a good nickname.

Other ideas:






Francesca (Frankie)

Juniper (June, Junie)

Kiara/Chiara (Kiki)

Ramona (Mona, Mo)



By EVie
February 19, 2018 10:32 AM

Talia is not Russian at all, to my knowledge. It's Hebrew. My general impression is that the usage is mostly modern Israeli, but I could be wrong on that -- Karyn or Miriam, do you know?

February 19, 2018 1:05 PM

Agreed. It's definitely Hebrew, not Russian, though it can be used as a nickname for Natalia, which can have Russian usage.

As far as I understand, it's been a Hebrew word for a very (very) long time, with Tal meaning dew and the -ia ending being a reference to God (so "dew from God"/"God's dew") but its use as a given name is relatively modern.

February 19, 2018 7:30 PM

Oh so Natalia is where I get the Russian feel. Thanks, very interesting!

February 19, 2018 2:21 PM

Hmm, Mabel as a sister really changes things for me! Mabel seems so firmly American, and pleasantly vintage, while both Cleo and Talia are more exotic and Old World. I'd go with something more along the lines of:




Winnie (Gwendolyn, Winnifred, etc)






Ok this has turned into me adding tons of names to my own list! Whoops. 

February 20, 2018 10:15 PM

My son's friend Mabel has a little friend named Talia. And he has a girl in his kindergarten class named Cleo. So I associate all three names with adorable little girls. Another pronunciation of Talia is Ta LEE uh. The possible mispronuncations might sway me toward Cleo, but in the abstract I like Talia better.

February 18, 2018 5:56 PM

I really like Cleo, especially with Mabel (I also think Calliope would be fine).

Talia is fine... it's one of those pretty, fluid names that don't have a lot of substance for me, but on the plus side it's known without being too common.

February 19, 2018 1:37 AM

For some reason I also have the "pet" association with Cleo, I think because my dad had a cat named Cleo. It is also one of the Greek muses though, so there's that. I think names ending in O are becoming more popular, especially for girls.

As for Talia, almost everyone I know with that name is Jewish (as am I) and it has Hebrew roots. It's actually one of my favorite names, although the differing pronunciations would bug me a little. I say it "tall e ya"

February 19, 2018 10:59 AM

I will second that the only Talia/Talyas I've met are Jewish (though not Israeli), but I wouldn't be surprised if that were less usual going forward as it hits a lot of current style points and doesn't, at least to me, sound particularly Jewish if you don't know its roots.

February 19, 2018 1:24 PM

I suspect that there will be some Talias out there who are using a more phonetic spelling of the name Thalia, which is pronounced with a T- rather than Th- sound in many traditions (and is ultimately Greek, the name of one of the three Graces).

By EVie
February 19, 2018 2:07 PM

You know, I was never clear on where the T pronunciation of Thalia came from. In Greek the name is spelled with a theta (Θαλία), not a tau, so it's definitely a "th" sound. The few English words/names that have a th pronounced "t" are generally French-influenced, but Thalia in French is Thalie. 

February 19, 2018 2:50 PM

I think it's because /θ/ is not a common sound in all European languages, some of which imported the Greek name with the Thalia spelling but couldn't easily import the sound. It's a rare enough name in English-speaking contexts that it may have been sometimes directly taken from the Greek, but not often enough to out-compete the borrowings via German or Spanish or some other language that had modified the pronunciation. At this point, I would say that either pronunciation is "valid", but I can see why simplifying the spelling would be attractive just to cut in half the potential pronunciations.

By EVie
February 20, 2018 3:19 PM

Yes, I guess it must be something like that. Thomas and Theresa are interesting comparisons. Theresa is the easiest to explain -- it also most likely has Greek roots and is spelled with a theta, but its medieval usage was primarily Spanish, which doesn't have the "th" sound. If it then spread to the rest of Europe from Spanish, it makes sense that it retained the Spanish pronunciation. In Italian it lost the h entirely to become Teresa. 

Thomas is a bit more mysterious -- it was originally an Aramaic name that transliterates as something like Ta'oma', so as far as I can tell, it was *always* pronounced with a "t" sound. But for some reason, the Greeks transliterated it with a theta, so that stuck in the spelling even while the pronunciation stayed consistent. 

The major difference between those and Thalia is that they are major Catholic names, so it makes sense that the pronunciations and transliterations would shift as they were in constant use over the centuries and moved back and forth between languages. But Thalia is a pagan name and I'm not aware of it having a significant history of use outside Greece, nor of it coming to English through another language. It may just be a case of simple confusion -- no one is familiar enough with it to be sure how it's pronounced, and so some people guess that it must be like Theresa, etc. 

Anthony is another interesting one. It should never have had an h to begin with -- the Latin name is Antonius. But for some reason, in the 17th century the English decided it looked prettier with an h because it reminded them of Greek anthos (flower), so stuck it in there for decoration. But it was and is still pronounced Antony in British English. Then we Americans got confused (understandably) and started pronouncing the "th." 

February 20, 2018 3:39 PM

I've wondered about the British Antony! Given its spelling, I never really thought that the TH would be the alternate pronunciation.

February 20, 2018 5:08 PM

Do you know if the H in Thames was added for a similar reason? I know it's never been pronounced...