The nickname was borne by the celebrated British dandies Beau Nash (born Richard Nash, 1674-1762) and Beau Brummell (born George Bryan Brummell, 1778-1840), in reference to their obsession with highly fashionable and dandyish clothes, as well as fine social etiquette. The French word 'beau' originally meant 'handsome' or 'beautiful', but in the 19th century, it also acquired the meaning 'sweetheart' or 'admirer'.
As a given name, it was first used in the 20th century, given a boost in popularity by two characters so named in literature, from the hero Michael "Beau" Geste of the P. C. Wren novel Beau Geste (1924), which has been adapted for the screen several times, and more importantly, the infant Beau Wilkes in the Margaret Mitchell novel Gone with the Wind (1936) and its highly popular subsequent film (1939). The baby name has in recent times been made known by the US actor Beau Bridges (1941-), whose parents gave him the nickname from the character in the Margaret Mitchell novel. The name Belle is sometimes taken as the feminine form.
In addition, Beau is a short form of the name Beauregard (English).
Beau has 14 variants that are used in English and other languages. Variants used in English include Beal, Beale, Beaudan, Beauden, Beaudin, Beaudine, Beaudyn, Beaugard, Beaux, and Beele. The short forms Bo and Boe are other English variants. A variant of Beau in other languages is Bellino (Italian).
See also the related form, Bejay.
Beau is popular as a baby name for boys, and it is also considered trendy. The name's popularity has been rising since the 1960s. At the recent peak of its usage in 2018, 0.134% of baby boys were given the name Beau. It ranked at #151 then. Out of all boy names in its group, Beau was the most popular in 2018. 5 times more boys were named Beau than the subsequent ranked name, Bo, in that year. Beau has mostly been a baby boy name in the past century.
† Pronunciation for Beau: B as in "be (B.IY)" ; OW as in "oak (OW.K)"
A famous person named Beau is Actor Beau Bridges, born Lloyd Vernet Bridges III, 9 December 1941, Los Angeles, California.