The Baby Name Omoo

Omoo by MelvilleHerman Melville’s best-known book is Moby Dick (1851), but he did write other books. One of those other books is the semi-autobiographical Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas (1847).

What does “Omoo” mean? Melville defines it in the preface, saying it “is borrowed from the dialect of the Marquesas Islands, where, among other uses, the word signifies a rover, or rather, a person wandering from one island to another, like some of the natives, known among their countrymen as “Taboo kannakers.””

Believe it or not, I’ve found a handful of people with the given name Omoo. All were born post-1847. (I’ve also found some boats and one horse with the name.)

The earliest Omoo-baby I know of is Omoo Jenkins, a boy born in Massachusetts in 1849.

And Pennsylvania was home to a pocket of female Omoos, starting with Omoo Lamira Mack (née Decker):

Omoo, one of 10 children of Mr. and Mrs. Alva Decker, was born July 8, 1883, near Deposit, Pennsylvania, and named by the midwife who delivered her.

After her came Omoo Slocum (b. 1897), Laura Omoo Slocum (b. 1917), and Omoo Lamira Chase (b. 1921), who was Mack’s niece.

What do you think of the name Omoo? Does anyone in your family tree have the name?

Sources:

  • Acker, Clark. “Senior member reads Bible faithfully.” Visitor Magazine 15 Oct. 1986: 11.
  • Melville, Herman. Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas. 6th ed. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1852.

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