Theo vs. Theodore

I am a long time lurker on this site (which I love). I honestly never thought I would make a post of my own, mostly because I am so secretive about naming choices. But I could REALLY use thr wisdom of this brilliant naming community. I think we have settled on Theo or Theodore (nn Theo) for this baby coming in a few months. I am pretty sure I can sway my husband in either direction, but I am really torn. Here is where I am:


Upsides: LOVE the look, sound, feel,  everything. It is what we would call him on a daily basis, and I like that the Theo version makes this clear. I dont love the other diminutives of Theodore.

Downsides: Does it feel like a “full” name? Also, a friend had a late term pregnancy loss and the name they chose after that loss rhymes with this one. Even though I had chosen this name before this happened, I dont know if it would be hurtful?



Upsides: History, versatility and that nickname-ability.

Downsides: Do not love the other dimunitives, not sure i like the full form as much as Theo.

Thank you and I would love your thoughts!




May 4, 2018 7:07 PM

I like Theodore as the full name and you can use Theo as a nn or the name you use daily

May 4, 2018 8:34 PM

I prefer the full Theodore because I think more options is almost always better than less. I also think Theodore is more versatile in terms of the formality of being able to dress up/dress down the name. The nickname Theo is obvious IMO and I don’t think people would jump to anything else nowadays, except your son himself if he wanted a change.

But Theodore is hardly the only name that yields the nickname Theo. The namefinder came up with: Theobald, Theoden, Theodoric, Theon, Theodosius, Theophanes, Theophile, Theophilius, Theophrastus, Theosiphus.

Any of these appeal? 


May 4, 2018 9:16 PM

Thank you so much for this! Of all of the other options, Theodore is the only one I like near as much as Theo.  Good food for thogh.

May 4, 2018 11:31 PM

Definitely go with Theodore. Theo is an obvious diminutive, and once people hear you use it they will as well. To be honest, some people may assume Theodore is the full name anyway (I know I'm guilty of assuming  boys named Sam or Ben are Samuel or Benjamin). You also get the solid history of Theodore, and avoid any unlikely but possible hurt of your friends. 

May 5, 2018 2:33 PM

Thank you- this is a really great point. 

May 8, 2018 4:45 PM

If I would've gotten here just a little earlier, I would've posted this exact same reply. :) Perfectly stated, livelaughlovenames!

May 5, 2018 12:13 AM

If you genuinely like Theodore and are OK with your son potentially deciding he wants to be Ted someday, then Theodore will give your son the flexibility to easily make use of those options. But if you aren't really crazy about either of those and would really prefer that he just go by Theo, then name him Theo.

There's a long tradition of Theo as a stand-alone name (going back to at least 1880, the earliest date we have social security name data) and I think it's solid enough to stand alone (unlike, say, Teddy). 

On the topic of your friend: pregnancy loss is incredibly hard, and there are probably all kinds of things that are bringing up pain for your friend. I suspect a similar-sounding name might give her a twinge, but unless you're extremely close (you see each other several times a week, and she's going to be godmother to your son) I don't think this name choice will have anywhere near the impact on her as it will on you. And if she were that close a friend, I would expect you would probably already have discussed the issue of having sons with rhyming names, in which case suddenly not using the name might also be a painful discovery for her.

May 5, 2018 2:37 PM

Thank you for this. I have bad, possibly irrational negative associations with the name Ted, so that’s what is giving me pause about Theodore. BUT I want him to be able to use the full Theodore if it feels more substantial to him in whatever job he one day pursues, maybe? That’s the catch i am trying to figure out.


In terms of my friend, you are right and I unfortunately know that regardless of name, my baby will be a reminder for her as our due dates were close. As see her about once or twice a year (we no longer live in the same city) and though we had talked about names, the rhyming thing never came up because they changed the name  they had been planning to use when they learned of the loss. All stuff I am still turning over in my mind, and your post helps. Thank you. 

May 5, 2018 5:51 AM

Theo absolutely feels like a full name to me; but I feel like I have to add the caveat that I live in the UK where using "just" the short form of a name is the norm. I know that the prevailing feeling in the US is that it's better to have a longer version when you can for flexibility and I can see the logic in that if you're using a very cutesy short name (a little Teddy, Tommy or Benji will almost certainly appreciate having a more formal alternative as they grow up) but otherwise I don't think it's necessary. For me Theo, while being a sweet name on a little boy, seems perfectly serious/respectable for a grown man and I can't imagine it being a hindrance or feeling babyish. Perhaps that comes from it's history of use as a stand-alone given name or because it can be grouped with other short, ends in -o boys names that are entire names with long histories like Hugo, Arlo, Otto, Leo etc.

As far as your friend I think it's likely that you having this baby will be painful for her whichever name you use, I am sure she would tell you to use the name you love and wouldn't want to think that by naming her baby she had prevented you from using a name you'd previously picked. If it was the exact same name that would be different but I don't think anyone would expect their friends to rule out all rhyming names.

There is of course nothing wrong with making him a birth certificate Theodore if you love that name too, but if you don't I wouldn't because you cannot guarantee that he won't at some point decide he wants to use the full name only, and it could happen when he's fairly young. If it's mostly the other potential nicknames you're worried about then I think that's less likely to be a problem, especially if you've established Theo as his nickname from the start. But bottom line for me is if Theo is the name you completely love then just use it!

May 5, 2018 2:42 PM

Thank you!! Yes, I live in the US - though I like the UK naming conventions and can probably make that a winning argument with my husband as long as I use examples from the Premier League :). You have perfectly illustrated the reasons I have flirted with using Theo as a stand-alone. I think it all lies in how I feel about Theodore, which i think I still need to sort out. I haven’t mentioned the chubby chipmunk association, am I too optimistic to think that wouldn’t be people’s first thought?

May 5, 2018 5:06 PM

The chipmunk is not my first thought on hearing the name Theodore (like it would be with Alvin) but I do definitely have that association in there. However I think that for anyone important in your/his life he would quickly become their primary association for the name and the chipmunk wouldn't figure. 

I think figuring out how you feel about Theodore is really the key. Maybe try thinking of him as Theodore for the next week or so and see how it feels, or look for characters in shows/books with the name so you can get the effect of it in use. But if you decide you don't really like Theodore I think being just Theo would still stand him in good stead in life. 

May 6, 2018 9:11 AM

The chipmunk is definitely not my first thought for Theodore. And as a comparison, while it would have been my first thought for Alvin 20 years ago, I then met an Alvin who completely superseded the chipmunk and is definitely the first person I think of when I hear Alvin now. I think pop culture names disappear into the background quite quickly when there's a real person to hold up against them. Which doesn't mean that no one will ever say "like the chipmunk?" upon meeting your son, but that he, as a real person, will then come to dominate the name in their minds.

May 5, 2018 5:29 PM

I used to think of the chipmunk. Then I met an actual Theodore and the association completely vanished (except in chipmunk-related contexts.) 

Personally, I'd get really tired of having to tell people, "No, it's not short for anything. I'm just Theo," but tons of people with Kate and Alex on their birth certificates deal with that on a regular basis and I'm sure that they're divided on whether or not they wish their parents had given them longer versions.

By EVie
May 5, 2018 9:13 PM

It seems really ideosyncratic who prefers longer forms and who prefers nicknames. My husband goes by his nickname and has sometimes said that he wishes it were his legal name because he uses it for everything and doesn't really identify with his formal name. But on the other hand, I have a friend who grew up as Katie who chose to revert to Katherine in graduate school because she felt it would help her be taken more seriously. And then there was my old boss who was just Dan, not Daniel (and Dan is actually a name in its own right, not just a nickname for Daniel), and people were constantly assuming it was Daniel and writing that out in formal contexts when they shouldn't have.

I personally think it's better to be in the position of having the formal name in case you want to fall back on it, even if you never do. Everyone will always understand "My name is Theodore but I go by Theo," even if it's a pain to have to repeat it, but that's better than really wishing for something more formal than "just Theo" and being stuck without it. Honestly, the worst thing my husband has to deal with is getting his work email changed to reflect his nickname instead of formal name, and people like receptionists in doctors' offices calling him by his formal name. Not a great burden. 

(Full disclosure, Theodore nicknamed Theo is the current frontrunner for my boy due in October. I would never consider going with just Theo). 

May 5, 2018 9:40 PM

Dan reminds me of Ron, which is a full name in Hebrew. There is a boy in my daughter's preschool named Ron and every time I see his artwork on the walls, I think of how annoying it's going to be for him to constantly need to explain, "No, Ron is actually my full name". While Ron is technically a unisex name in Hebrew, there are also female variants Rona and Ronit (I know two of the former and one of the latter, all adults). 

By EVie
May 5, 2018 10:28 PM

My Israeli neighbors have a little boy named Rahn--I presume a different transliteration of the same name? His mom told me it means "joy." And I've known both a Rona and a Ronit, never made the connection until now. 

May 6, 2018 8:30 AM

Definitely the same name. רון (Ron/Rahn) means joy or song. 

In fact, Rahn is how it's usually written phonetically in pronunciation guides and I like it because people are much less likely to assume that it's a nickname and lengthen it. I do, however, understand if parents opt for the spelling that doesn't immediately signal "foreign name". Because it looks like an English nickname, Ron is completely unremarkable and would blend in, except for its apparent informality.

That just reminded me of a silly meme that really amuses up and is highly apropos!

You: Bobsled

Me, an intellectual: Robertsled

May 6, 2018 2:39 PM

Congrats, and what excellent name taste you have :). I also think we might have the same husband? I’m joking of course, but mine also dislikes the long form of his name and is one of the main reasons I had considered not doing the full Theodore. Through this conversation though, and just saying and thinking it many tiMes, I am feeling warmer and warmer toward it.

By EVie
May 6, 2018 4:34 PM

Thanks! I do really like the long form Theodore along with the nickname--I find it very distinguished and professorial, which is what I'm aiming for in a name. As it happens, we also will have a rhyming situation with my nephew Leo (a name we also considered for our first, before my sister threw a fit because she wanted to use it herself). This might cause some confusion for the grandparents, but they're just going to have to deal with it, and they can always use the full Theodore if it's really a problem. (We're actually waiting until he's born to make the final decision, so no one will find out until he's already named. Other contenders are Arthur and Oliver, but husband likes Theodore/Theo the best). 

May 6, 2018 8:15 PM

Yes! Me too. I do think it is also in line with my other boy favorites nixed by my other half : Oliver, Xavier, Sebastian.

By EVie
May 6, 2018 9:54 PM

Mine nixed Sebastian, too! I'm hoping that I can talk him around to it as a middle name--he didn't dislike it entirely, just thought it was too much name for everyday use.

May 6, 2018 2:41 PM

This is a really excellent point. I went to college with a “just Jessy” who routinely got awards as “Jessica.” I also need to remind myself that in a world where toddler Matthew and Jonathan would never be presumed Matt and Jon, people probably won’t just leap to Ted without the all clear.

May 6, 2018 3:04 PM

In a world where people worry that it's strange to call a Catherine by Kate, freak out that there's a typo on the royal wedding invitation when Harry is called Henry, and spell the name Alexzander "so that they can call him Zander", nicknames are viewed incredibly literally. People believe that nicknames should be contained within the full name and would definitely default to Theo should they decide to shorten it on their own.

May 6, 2018 4:21 PM

This is such a bizarre concept to me, but I have no doubt you are right! (I recently had to explain to someone that Jack (age 70) is actually John on his birth certificate, and that is in no way confusing or weird.)

May 6, 2018 4:27 PM

Did people really freak out that the invitation said Henry and not Harry?? You would think that if a person cared enough to want to see the invitation they'd care enough to know what his actual name is. 

The over-simplification of nicknames trend (if all the letters aren't in the full name in the right order and preferably together then it can't be a nickname) baffles me, but I agree it would definitely help in this case to make it very unlikely that anyone would just up and start calling him Ted. 

May 7, 2018 7:25 AM

My first thought is Theodore Roosevelt :)

... my first association for Theo is Theo Huxtable from the Cosby show.

May 13, 2018 5:17 PM

I’m usually only a fan of long names if they have catchy nicknames. So this would be something I love typically but something about the name Theodore is kind of unappealing to me. So if you love Theo go with Theo.