Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Otto

Otto was originally a pet form for any of the ancient Germanic names beginning with the element “od, ot” meaning “wealth, prosperity” (it shares the same Germanic root etymology with the Olde English element “ēad” also meaning “prosperity, riches” which gave birth to English names like Edward, Edgar and Edwin). Otto is actually an early medieval variation on ancient names such as Odo or Oden and was borne by the founder of the Holy Roman Empire in the 10th century, Otto the Great. To put into perspective just how old this name is, Otto the Great had brothers named Thancmar and Hedwig (names which obviously didn’t survive into modern times). Four different Holy Roman Emperors claimed the name Otto between the 10th and 13th centuries, but it really all began with Otto the Great who marked the beginning of the German monarchy. At this point in European history, the Carolingian kings had lost their power. The Carolingian Dynasty had been founded by Charlemagne in the 8th century and controlled much of Western and Central Europe (the first great empire following the collapse of the Roman Empire three centuries earlier). By the 10th century the Carolingians had become ineffective at holding back Germanic, Slavic and Hungarian tribes pushing at their borders. This offered an opportunity for Otto to carry out the work begun by his father Henry the Fowler, Duke of Saxony and appointed first King of the medieval German state. Otto inherited this lofty position and deftly set about unifying the various German tribes, gaining control of the Roman Catholic Church and subduing the political power of the aristocracy through strategic marriages and appointments. His son and grandson (Otto II and Otto III) were not as “great” as Otto I but the Ottonian period (as these three successive reigns are often referred to) formed the beginning of a German national identity. Another illustrious and pivotal figure in German history is Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) who used his considerable power as Prime Minister of Prussia to lead the unification of the modern German states through a series of wars (first with Denmark, followed by the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars). Considered a pragmatic nationalist yet diplomatic genius, von Bismarck would eventually be named Chancellor of the newly defined united Germany. Another important Otto was Otto Frank (1889-1980), the father of Anne Frank. Otto is one of those quintessential German masculine names (others that come to mind: Karl, Ludwig, Franz, Claus, Johann, Leopold, Sigmund and Wolfgang). Today the name Otto is most commonly used in Finland but it’s also a Top 100 choice in Sweden. It appears to have fallen out of fashion in Germany, though.

All About the Baby Name – Otto



The number Seven personality is deeply mystical and highly in tune with their spirituality. They operate on a different wavelength than the average joe. Spending time alone comes easily to Sevens, as it gives them time to contemplate philosophical, religious and spiritual ideas in an effort to find "real truth".  Sevens are wise, but often exude mystery as if they are tapped into something the rest of us don't understand. They love the outdoors and are fed by nature. Sevens are constantly seeking to understand human nature, our place in the universe, and the mystery of life in general. This makes them quite artistic and poetic, but they are also keen observers with high intellect - so they are equally scientific-minded. Sevens are charitable and care deeply about the human condition.



Otto’s success as a popular boy’s name in the 19th century up through the early part of the 20th century can be traced to the large population growth of German-Americans happening at the time. The 100 years between 1820 and 1920 saw the largest influx of German immigration, but most of this occurred between 1840 and 1880 following the European Revolts of 1848. These German immigrants were known as the “Forty-Eighters” and represented the liberal middle-classes of various German states who had unsuccessfully sought more freedom from the autocratic political system under which they were subjected. So by the end of the 1800s, Germans represented a healthy portion of the overall U.S. population and were therefore in a position to influence the naming charts in America. In 1880 (which is the first year we have comprehensive available data on name popularity), Otto was the 63rd most commonly used baby boy’s name nationwide. Pretty impressive! The name fell off the Top 100 list right around the turn of the 20th century and continued its slow and steady decline in usage for the next several decades. Perhaps as German-American immigrants began to assimilate they began to leave their ethnically-flavored names behind. Otto completely retreated into the shadows in 1975 when the name disappeared from the Top 1000 list – hardly on anyone’s radar for over 25 years. The name just recently reemerged on the Top 1000 in 2011 but is still ranked very low and rarely used. We wonder if the character "Big Otto" Delaney on FX’s popular TV drama “Sons of Anarchy” has any impact on renewed interest in this name. German in spirit, Otto is a strong, confident and no-nonsense name – no sissies allowed, please.

Quick Facts











AH-toe; or AW-toe (German)


Prosperity, wealth, fortune










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Otto

Literary Characters


Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Otto

Popular Songs


Otto Wood the Bandit
a song by Doc Watson

Otto Titsling
a song by Bette Midler

a song by The Replacements

Famous People


Otto the Great (King of the Germans and first Holy Roman Emperor)
Otto II-IV (Holy Roman Emperors)
Otto of Greece (King of Greece)
Otto of Bavaria (King of Bavaria)
Otto von Bismarck (Chancellor of Germany)
Otto Preminger (theatre/film director)
Otto Frank (father of Anne Frank)
Otto Graham (football player)
Otto Freundlich (artist/sculptor)
Otto Klemperer (German conductor/composer)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Otto

Historic Figures


Otto Frank is the father of the famous Anne Frank of the heartbreaking diary, and the only one of the four Franks who survived the Holocaust. German-born, Otto Frank had served in the German army in World War I; he and his wife were raising their two young daughters in Germany. In the mid-thirties, as Nazism’s persecution of Jews was on the rise, Otto decided to take his little family to Amsterdam; there he opened a small business with the ownership in the name of non-Jewish associates. He also attempted on more than one occasion to obtain visas so he and his family could emigrate out of the country, preferably to the United States. We all know how that turned out. After two years in hiding with his family and assorted others to whom they extended their generosity, the Franks and the others in hiding were betrayed, taken prisoner and ultimately sent to Auschwitz. After the war, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam and collected the diary from the ransacked hiding place. He spent the rest of his life overseeing its publication (with some controversial bits of editing), seeing to the production of stage plays and movies, and establishing the Anne Frank Foundation. He married a fellow Holocaust survivor, had more children and lived to the ripe old age of 90, but surely a large part of Otto Frank had already died in 1945.