Name of the Week: Ivo – British Baby Names

Name of the Week: Ivo – British Baby Names

Ivo name meaning



Ivo is an old Germanic name, derived from the Proto-Germanic *iwo- “yew” or possibly the Gaulish ivos “yew.” Either way, both ultimately derive from the same source: the Proto-Indo-European route *ei-wo- “yew.”

The same element appears in several ancient names including the Greek Milo/Milon, Norse Ivar, Scottish Ìomhar, Irish Éber, Roman-Celtic Eburus, Welsh Ifor, and also in the places Iona, Jura and York to name a few. Such propensity demonstrates the importance of the yew tree to ancient people.

The yew is an evergreen tree which are incredibly hardy. It takes a long time to grow, but is extremely long-living. Hedges of yew trees grow back quickly and even a fallen branch can grow roots to form a new tree. These rejuvenating qualities led them to be associated with rebirth, renewal and steadfastness. As well as being strong, the yew wood is also flexible, making it perfect for the English and Welsh longbows which were so effective in battle.

Ivo is also a Slavic hypocoristic form of Ivan, which is itself the Slavic form of John.


Ivo can be found in Germany as early as the tenth century* but is most likely much older. It was Latinised as Ivonis/Yvonis and developed in Old French into Ives/Yves and Ivon/Yvon. The name was brought to Britain by the Normans, where it was added to native cognate choices such as the Anglo-Saxon Iva/Ifa, Welsh Ifor, Norse Ivar and Scottish Ìomhar. It even became conflated with the Scottish Ewan and Welsh Owain (Yvain/Ywain), which possibly share the same root.

Ivo Taillebois (d 1094) was a powerful Norman nobleman who was Sheriff of Lincolnshire. Loyal to William the Conqueror, Ivo Taillebois led an army which besieged the Isle of Ely and captured the rebel leader Hereward the Wake. Yvo de Vesci (b. 1040) was a wealthy landowner who was given Alnwick castle by King William II. Through him, the name Ivo passed down the aristocratic Vesey family. There are several other examples of the name in British nobility from the 10th century onward. The People of Medieval Scotland database has 39 citations for the name between 1093-1314.

During this period, the feminine form Iva also came into use, developing into the diminutives Ivotte, Ivett and Ivetta. The surname Ivatt likely comes directly from this, though it may have also developed directly from Ivo itself.

The name was also borne by two medieval saints. Saint Ivo of Chartres (c. 1040-1115) was the Bishop of Chartres and an important canonist. Saint Ivo of Kermartin (1253-1303), known as “Advocate of the Poor,” was a Breton priest who is considered the patron of Brittany, lawyers and abandoned children.

Despite its early use, neither Ivo or Ivon survived beyond the 15th century, unless it was conflated with Ivor or Ivar.

In England and Wales, use of Ivo as a given name gradually increased over the 19th century. Some of this increased usage is perhaps attributed to the Victorian love of all things medieval and the revival of medieval favourites such as Ethel, Maude, Alice, Alfred and Edwin.

Another influence was Ivo Bligh, 8th Earl of Darnley (1859-1927), a British nobleman who was also the English cricket captain in the first ever Test cricket series against Australia in 1882, making him a national treasure (see image right).

Births per decade in England and Wales:

1840s: 4 births1850s: 4 births1860s: 23 births1870s: 32 births1880s: 79 births1890s: 89 births1900s: 103 births1910s: 77 births1920s: 53 births1930s: 32 births1940s: 20 births1950s: 13 births1960s: 26 births

Another namesake, and perhaps the reason why the name spiked in the early 1900s, is General Sir Ivo Vesey (1876-1975) who served in the Second Boer War 1899-1902 (known to have created many Boer-battle namesakes), where he was wounded in the Battle of Colenso.

By the 1940s, Ivo was mostly confined to the upper classes in Britain. Of the 13 Ivos who appear in the England and Wales Birth Index from 1950-1959, five are listed on The Peerage website.

Births for IvoSince 1996, Ivo has seen a little more usage in England and Wales, rising from #2020 (5 births) in 1996 to its peak of #977 (29 births) in 2012. In 2014, Ivo ranked #1117 with 24 births.

Since 1974 in Scotland, Ivo has only ranked in once in 2000, 2001, 2013 and 2014 and twice in 2005 (#656) and 2010 (#800). It did not rank at all in 2015.

Famous Bearers:


* Saint Ivo of Chartres (c. 1040-1115), Bishop of Chartres and an important canonist.* Ivo Taillebois (d 1094) was a powerful Norman nobleman.* Yvo de Vesci (b. 1040), prominent Norman nobleman.* Ivo de Grandmesnil (d. 1101), English crusader.* Saint Ivo of Kermartin (1253-1303), patron of Brittany, lawyers and abandoned children.* Ivo Bligh, 8th Earl of Darnley (1859-1927), British noble, parliamentarian and England cricket captain.* Ivo Andrić (1892-1975), Nobel prize winner, Serbo-Croatian writer.


* Ivo Malec (b.1925), Croatian composer and conductor* Ivo Watts-Russell (b.1954), British musician and producer, founder of 4AD record label* Ivo Stourton (b.1982), British author.* Ivo Rodrigues (b. 1995), Portuguese footballer.

Literature and Other Media:

* Dr. Ivo Robotnik, the main antagonist of the Sonic the Hedgehog video game series.* Ivo Salvini, main character in Federico Fellini’s last film The Voice of the Moon, played by Roberto Benigni.


Yvo, Ive, Ives, Ivon; Yves (French)


Ī-vō [key]

Possible longer forms:

Ivan, Ivano, Ivanhoe

Sibling Names:

Flora Hebe Aurea Beatrix Romola Astrid Aidric Rex Hector Rufus Maxim Alban

Name Lists:

Slim Softies Slickly Continental Short and Sweet

If you like Ivo you may also like: Ludo, Inigo, Dante, Alden, Otto, Felix, Jago, Everett, Arlo, Benedict

Thanks to Ella for requesting this post.