I spend enough time on name websites that I probably saw Indigo on some list or other previously, but the first time I really noticed it as a name was when some friends chose it as the name for their baby.
It’s a name I never would have chosen, but I could immediately see the appeal: as a modern word name, Indigo has the advantage of being an uncommon name while still being familiar to say and spell. It has a soft, gender neutral sound, and lots of nickname potential (this Indigo sometimes goes by Indy, but I also love the idea of a toddler called Go-go (Gogo? Go Go?)). It’s a color, which makes it a little bit artsy, but the association with the rainbow also makes it feel like a nature name.
My questions were mostly answered by Indigo’s mom, Danielle, with some input from his dad, Kevin.
Name pronunciation: IN-di-go (sometimes in-dee-go)
Birth year range: 2018-2023
Name popularity: Indigo entered the US baby name data in 1971, bounced in and out for a couple years, started showing up consistently in the 90s, and then really took off around 2013. In recent years it has been trending up sharply, with 294 babies whose sex was recorded as female and 82 babies whose sex was recorded as male in 2021 (1).
Over the last 5 years of available data, about 76% of the Indigos born in the US have been recorded as female. That’s a strong enough leaning that you might expect Indigo to feel like a girl name that’s sometimes used for boys, but I think because the overall numbers are so low, people don’t really have expectations and most Indigos are going to be able to define the name for themselves.
Full name: Indigo Jay Sutherland
Who named Indigo? What was your process like?
D: Kevin and I picked Indigo’s name.I think Kevin originally had the idea for the name, very early on in my pregnancy. We knew we liked natural and science-y names, so that was our basis for brainstorming. We each kept running lists of favorites and compared them every few weeks or so to see what didn’t feel right or inspired other names. Indigo was always at the top. We wanted the middle name to be family-inspired and we both have several family members with the first initial “J” so we did a bit of a clever thing with Indigo’s middle name (this was also Kevin’s idea). Our family surname is Sutherland (even though I haven’t legally changed my name yet… more out of laziness than anything else), so that was an easy choice (while technically not Kevin’s “idea” it was his last name first, so in a way, he gets all of the credit for naming Indigo!). I found the process to be pretty fun.
Where did you first hear this name?
D: Well, it’s a color, so that’s where we heard it, of course. Neither of us knew/know any other Indigos, though, I’m aware, via google, that they exist!
How did you end up considering Indigo as a name for your child?
D: I think we both really loved how emotive Indigo as a name could be. It’s a beautiful color! We’re not “crunchy” parents by any means, but it also really suited our desire to do something a bit different.
Did you like the name right away? Were there any hesitations or downsides?
D: Very much yes. The only reason we didn’t immediately latch on to it was that I was concerned it was too out there and wanted to make sure we didn’t just pick the first name we liked (for what it’s worth, we’ve twice now bought the first house we’ve looked at, and we’re high school sweethearts, so maybe we’re just the kind of people that know what we like).
What other names did you consider?
D: It’s hard to remember the other top contenders, but some other interesting ones in the note on my phone are: Winter, Peregrin, Palmer, Astrid, Tycho, Joule, Rosalind.
K: Pretty much every mineral, season, biome, color, plant, etc.
Describe what you like about the name. Are there other names that share the same traits? Do you think your partner liked the name for the same reasons?
D: I love that it evokes a visual, natural image, particularly one that involves a really nice shade of blue. We also liked that it had some good nickname options (Which, interestingly, we don’t use at all, even though we’d planned to. There was a long period of time right after he was born where our families only called Indigo “Indy” so I think having a more familiar nickname to use helped warm our more-traditional parents up to the idea). I also loved that it wasn’t even remotely popular. Danielle (my name) isn’t a particularly popular one for my birth year range but there were 3 in my elementary school classes, which I didn’t enjoy. I also feel pretty exhausted by some of the top-of-list baby names lately (which is totally a me-problem… I’m hating on things other people like that are harmless, I know, I know). Kevin and I agreed pretty fully on all of these traits, though he cares a lot less about popularity (again, that’s just because I’m a judgy person).
K: Part of what I really like about this name is that, in addition to being evocative of a pleasant color and flowers, it offers a nickname that is almost the exact opposite. “Indy” is much more evocative of the wildness of Indiana Jones. This will give him the ability to decide which of these (if either) he wants to be at different points in his life.
How do you and your partner feel about your own names? Did this affect what you were looking for in a baby name?
D: I feel pretty indifferent about my name, though I really enjoyed Dani as a nickname as a pre-teen (because it was less feminine than Danielle).
K: I’m not a big fan of the name Kevin. It feels about as vanilla as a name gets. I wanted something that had a bit more meaning to it outside of being a name.
D: Yeah, “Kevin” is often a scapegoat or a dufus in popular media too.
Were you specifically looking for a gender neutral name?
D: It wasn’t a requirement, but it was a definite pro. I was specifically looking for a non-masculine name, if that makes sense. I was (and remain) anxious that our boy would be pigeonholed into stereotypical boy-ish things so I’m always trying to find ways to pull his experience of the world into a full and diverse one, including via his name.
K: This has become a common theme in our parenting…with books, toys or accessories, we want to make sure everything that is traditionally considered “for boys” (e.g., trucks, dinosaurs) is balanced by an equal and opposite number of options that don’t fit that stereotype (e.g., dolls, pink blocks, etc). Indigo feels like the name version of this goal.
If you had more children, would you consider using other color names?
K: We have explicitly considered more color names…but I think we will not yet divulge what specific colors.
D: It will be challenging. Girl color-name options are plentiful, but If you look at the top 100 lists of girl’s names, you’ll find all the good colors all over it, which I have a bit of an allergic reaction to (see my previous note about popularity… this may be something I just have to get over!). Boy or neutral color-name options are much more “128-not-24-pack of crayons”-sounding or are in the theme of plants/nature more than they are colors. All of that said, I’m also cognizant that we’re naming a child and not a nail polish, so I think we’d need to reflect a bit on if we’re making a overly-cute “set” of names vs. choosing names that are dignified, long lasting, and meaningful. But I love the idea that family is identity and having meaning between names yields something emergent. It’s a lot to balance!
When did you announce the name? What was the initial response from family and friends?
D: We waited until after Indigo was born, due to a preference of mine. Kevin would have shared earlier, but I was anxious that people would give negative unsolicited feedback. I don’t think our circles were surprised we picked a non-traditional name, and we’ve only heard of people who like the name (so if we know people that don’t like it, good for them for keeping it to themselves!)
Now that your child is older, what reactions does the name get from strangers?
D: Most strangers do have a reaction and react positively or curiously (“oh that’s such a cool name,” “how did you pick that?,” etc.). A related point is that strangers usually think Indigo is a girl, because he wears a lot of pink and purple and has longer hair, which I’m sure affects how his name is perceived.
Did you have any moments of regret or doubt after giving your child the name?
D: Nope. I think part of being “we know what we like” people is also being people that can easily move on with a decision without regret.
Overall, how do you feel about the name now?
D: I think we love it even more now that it’s attached to a person who has such a colorful, big personality (Indigo is busy and happy and emotive and so his name seems to suit him). When Indigo was juuuuust starting to talk, Kevin taught him a trick where we would say “Innnnn-deeeee-…..” and then Indigo would shout “GOOO” and it’s the cutest thing ever.
What are some names for young children you’ve heard “in the wild” recently?
D: There’s a kid in Indigo’s daycare class who is named after a national park (as is their sibling). I enjoyed learning about that pair of names because it’s exactly the kind of thing that we would have done and hearing their name in daily conversation probably leaves a similar impression as when you hear “Indigo” (i.e. I’m sure there’s some eyerolls). It’s nice to have a little reference in daily life to something visually and experientially beautiful.
Thank you to Danielle and Kevin for talking to me about Indigo and his very fun name!