Where Did The World’s Most Popular Pet Names Come From?

Your furry (or not-so-furry friends) are like family, and the name you give them will become an integral part of who they are. According to a 2019–20 survey by the American Pet Products Association, 67% of American families own some kind of pet, dogs being the most popular.

There are plenty of names to choose from. Some choose to name their pets after food, some give them human names, and still others hunt for unique names for their one-of-a-kind companions. However, there's nothing wrong with giving your pet a name that is tried and true.

Some classic pet names have endured because they describe animals according to their nature. Others are so deeply rooted in our culture or history they're hard to forget. Why? Well, of course, we are here to answer that.

Read on to see the history of some of the most popular pet names.

Fido

Fido is the quintessential dog name. While it's now considered outdated, and it won't win any popularity contests, it's hard not to think of a four-legged friend when you hear it. Plus it's become the de facto name for any dog whose name you don't actually know.

Fido comes from the Latin word for "faithful": fidus. This plays into the stereotype of dogs being ever loyal to their owners (we'll say this holds true).

One famous Fido was actually Abraham Lincoln's beloved pet dog. Perhaps the tradition of presidents having dogs started with Honest Abe!

Spot

Spot is another pet name that is inextricably linked to dogs—usually Dalmatians. Of course, the name fits if your pet actually has a few spots on their fur, dog or not.

The origin of this name is easy to pinpoint. You might already know where it comes from!

If you read the early reader books Dick and Jane, you're already familiar with the siblings' rascally pet dog, Spot. Spot helped children learn to read by accompanying the kids on their adventures. See Spot run!

The books continue to enjoy a following, so it's no wonder the name has stuck around since the 1970s.

Rover

Rover is so popular a name, the pet care site Rover.com chose it to represent their services. But have you ever come across a dog named Rover? Yea, we haven't either.

Oh well ... this classic name gained fame from a British movie made back in 1905. It was called Rescued by Rover, and its popularity turned its protagonist into the first canine film star. Although it was only six-and-a-half minutes long, it was a cinematic feat for the time period. The plot follows a dog, Rover, who saves a baby from a kidnapping.

Rover is a noun that means "someone who wanders." It was also a popular name for hunting dogs in the 1700s.

Felix

You'll commonly see Felix used as a cat name, but it's also a popular name for many furry animals. If you're keen on your Latin, you'll recognize Felix, or felicis, as the word for "happy" or "lucky."

With a closer look, you'll also see why this name is perfect for a happy-go-lucky cat. The Felis catus is otherwise known as the domesticated cat! It's the source of the word feline. We also get the word felicity from the word felicis.

Outside of the Latin origins, Felix the Cat was a popular animated character originating from the silent film era.

Nemo

Cats and dogs don't deserve all the love, even if they make great snuggle buddies. Millions of families keep pet fish, whether it's a solitary beta or a school in a tank.

The name Nemo owes its popularity to the 2003 animated Disney film Finding Nemo, in which a tiny clown fish needs to get back to his dad in the ocean. Many other names from the film, like Bruce (the shark)are also popular fish names.

Nemo also has Latin roots and means "nobody." It was famously used in the Odyssey!

Momo

In Japan, pet parents tend to name their fur babies after food. Cute-sounding names are preferred, and Momo fits the bill.

It might sound nonsensical in English, but it means "peach" in Japanese. This name is usually given to cats and is one of the most popular.

Among other food related monikers? Choco (short for chocolate, of course!), Maron (chestnut), and Ringo (apple).

Pets are so revered in Japan that in the spiritual hierarchy, they are directly below humans and above other kinds of animals.

Poppy

Poppy has been one of the top female pet names for a few years running on the British Isles. It's used for both dogs and cats, although its popularity may have grown due to a character created in 2011 for the children's show Poppy Cat. The show ran all the way until 2015.

The poppy is used by Brits on their Remembrance Day, which falls on November 11. On this day, those who have served in the armed forces are honored. The red flower was one of the first to bloom on battlefields after World War I. But the common poppy, or the Papaver rhoeas, is actually considered an agricultural weed!

Simba

Simba is a fitting name for a cat if you're a fan of either version of the Disney film The Lion King. Both the 1994 and 2019 versions inspired many to name their tough kitties after animals from the film. Characters like Rafiki, Pumbaa, and of course Simba, owe their names to the Swahili language, a Bantu language that is the official language of Tanzania and Kenya and spoken in numerous countries on the east coast of Africa.

The word Simba in Swahili means "lion." By calling your cat Simba, you're giving them a name that is ferocious and fit for a big cat!

As such, the name Simba is popular in Africa as well. Some other popular names for pets in Swahili include Asante (many thanks) and Nuru (light).

Laika

There once was a stray dog who, in 1957, became the first dog to fly into space. Soviet engineers boarded Laika onto the Sputnik 2 with a one-way ticket to space. She wore a space suit which restrained her in the vessel, and had a few ounces of food with her. This flight opened up the possibility of space travel for humans.

To honor Laika, there are many dogs named after her. It's a particularly popular name in Russia, of course. Laika translates to "the barker" in Russian, so it's an apt name for a pooch. There is also a dog breed named after the brave Laika that's known for its herding abilities and affectionate nature. The first space dog's legacy hasn't been forgotten!

Bella

Pet owners across the world seem to agree that, no matter the species, Bella is a great name.

Bella, which means "pretty" or "beautiful" in Italian and Spanish, has been a top dog name since 2009. That year, the book craze du jour was the Twilight saga by Stephanie Meyer; people were in a frenzy naming their pets after characters like Jasper and, yes, main character Bella Swan. However, you'll find that because of its ubiquitous appeal (who doesn't want to call their pet beautiful?), it has endured.

This name is also popular around the world, as bella is a word in both Spanish and Italian. It's the perfect, classic name that's feminine, but not overtly so.

Do you have a pet whose name is on this list?

 

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