History & Meaning
Zoe comes from the Greek word for life, or ζωή. It's amazing how this ancient name strikes us as so modern and fresh today, making it a spot-on choice for those who love a spirited, contemporary classic with deep roots.
This powerful little name has quite a history, dating back to the classical period. It became a favorite among Christians in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, but didn't debut on the English naming scene until the 19th century. Today, we love Zoe for its zippy sound and beautiful meaning.
In Europe, and specifically in Dutch and German, the diaeresis (or umlaut) often appear over the last letter in Zoë as a little pronunciation guide. All it means is that the e is voiced, so that there isn't any confusion over rhyming this name with the likes of Joe or Monroe.
Since it's such a popular name, we're perfectly clear these days that when we see Zoe, we read it with a long e at the end. The diaeresis is completely optional. Some like the look of this, and others choose it to honor their Dutch heritage, but it's not used very often in the US. (Meanwhile, Zoé is the French form.) If you love Zoë, of course you should use it! And even if you don't make it official on the birth certificate, it's perfectly proper for a Zoe to clarify her name by spelling it Zoë when the occasion calls for it.
In the 70s, American parents began to really see the spark in this name, but it's never done better than it has in these last few years. You can thank none other than Sesame Street for introducing a female muppet with this name in 1993 and spurring on a trend.
Zoe is doing exceptionally well today, with two different spellings in the top 40s. Theoretically, if we could all agree on one single spelling of the name, it would rank in the top five.
Zoe is a wildly popular name that is also thriving across several continents. You can find it throughout Europe and Australia, as well as North America. It makes a great name for a globe-trotter.
Spellings by US Popularity
If you're unsure of how you'd like to spell this name, here's your guide by popularity. After the top two in the list, the variations become more rare, and after the top three in this list, they are out of the top 1,000. I thought I'd clarify that with bold. And YES, the spelling Zoey is officially more popular than the original Zoe.
- Zoe Isabelle, daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet
- Zoe Giordano, daughter of Woody Harrelson
- Zoe Grace, daughter of Dennis Quaid
- Zoie Laurelmae, daughter of Jodie Sweetin
- Zoey Mykhale, daughter of Durrell (Tank) Babbs
- Zoey Nidhi, daughter of Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein
Ok, so there are roughly 4 billion famous people and characters with this name (I may be exaggerating slightly), so bear with me while I list the most prominent.
- Zoe Saldana, actress
- Zooey Deschanel, actress
- Zoë Lister, actress
- Zoe Kazan, actress
- Zoe Sugg, "Zoella" vlogger and author
- Zoe, Sesame Street
- Zoey, Pokémon
- Zoey Brooks, Zoey 101
- Zoe Hart, Hart of Dixie
- Zoe Slater, EastEnders