Name of the Day: Mallory

Back in the 80s, Madison the mermaid splashed her way onto the streets of New York and fueled the last-names-first trend. At the same time, on the small screen, a similar choice was gaining notice of her own.

Thanks to Jess for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Mallory.

Odds are that you’ve seen an episode of Family Ties, which followed the life of the Keaton family on NBC from 1982 to 1989 and launched the career of Michael J. Fox. Justine Bateman played Mallory, the sweet slacker daughter. If the writers ever mentioned the rationale for using such an unusual moniker – especially when their other kids went by Alex, Jennifer and Andrew – the reference isn’t readily available.

Regardless, it was a good decade for the name. While the very feminine Jennifer, Jessica and Amanda remained firmly at the top of the heap, other trends were gaining speed. Popular two-syllable, ends-in-y choices, often borrowed from the boys, included Ashley, Lindsey/Lindsay and Whitney. Last names like Jordan, Kendall, Darcy, Taylor and of course, Madison, all appeared in the Top 1000.

Mallory debuted at #334 in 1983, a year after Family Ties first aired. Three years later, she peaked at #86. While the name has dropped steadily since then, it remains far from obscure – #247 in 2007.

We suspect that Mallory has failed to reach the heights of similar names because of her unfortunate meaning – literally. Originally an English surname, it has French Norman roots – evolving from Malorie to Malory to today’s most familiar version. Any one with a smattering of high school French can unpack the etymology. The bit “mal” is attached to words not unlike the English “un” – heureux is happy; malheureux is the opposite. In Old French, maleüré would have translated to ill-omened, and so the commonly given meanings for the name are luckless, unfortunate, unhappy.

One of the best known bearers of the surname was early 20th century mountaineer George Mallory. He perished on his third attempt to peak Everest. Unfortunately, no one knows if he made it to the top or not. And, of course, there’s Sir Thomas Malory, the 15th century author of Le Morte d’Arthur. While little is known of Malory’s life, his name appears in the historical record with some frequency – he was often arrested and imprisoned.

Those two figures aside, there have been plenty of perfectly well-adjusted bearers of the surname. While we’re not overly focused on the meanings listed in baby name dictionaries, we’ll admit that this one – combined with the ill-fated explorer’s tale – gives us pause.

Still, we suspect that there will be a steady stream of parents willing to overlook that defect. The name has remained visible as Mallory Dent, a first-season character on the CW’s Veronica Mars and the faerie-fencing Mallory Grace in children’s book series, The Spiderwick Chronicles.

While you won’t hear it in use internationally, it also has the feel of a logical choice in the US. Mackenzie is past her moment, but Delaney is hovering at the fringes of the Top 200. And with some parents considering choices like Devony and Romilly, Mallory seems relatively conservative.

On balance, we find Mallory a reasonable option for parents who like the idea of a surname-inspired choice, but want something that reads strongly feminine. She’s never been a chart-topper, so chances are that your Mallory won’t share her name with many others – but it will feel nicely familiar.


  1. Me says

    I take the meanings of names, like a grain of salt. If it sounds pretty, there you go. I named my daughter Mallory because of its uniqueness and it sounds ok rolling off be tongue. I dont even think i researched the meaning while pregnant. Ive researched my name and my first name is goddess of the moon and always had an owl perched on her shoulder. My middle name also is another godess… the Roman goddess of war or something. That same goddess is Athena in Greek mythology and guess what, she also always had a owl perched on her shoulder too.

  2. Lori says

    Oh sweet Mallory! I love the name so much. Partially, because my name is Lori and the second syllable of her name is mine. My oldest daughter, and second born, is named Mallory Addison Galloway and she is 11. She has blond hair and blue eyes and is the only Mallory in her elementary school. She is earns A’s in school and the meaning of her name isn’t even close to who she is a young lady.

    She gets called Mal, Mal Mal, Mal Gal, Ma-Lori, Mally, Moe, Mally Moe. I heard her fuss once about being called Mal Mal and my sister Amanda reminded her that she was called Aman-DUH in the third grade. Suddenly Mallory was alright with her name again.

  3. Mallory says

    No I don’t really think I would re-name myself, I really enjoy the name Mallory. It is not to girly but still has a feminine feel to it. It’s not too hard to spell and being a visual person I find it looks very visually appealing. The only thing about Mallory is that it always sounds wired coming out of my mouth. Every time I say Mallory it just sounds odd, maybe that is just how everyone feels about their name but I always find it wired when people ask my name to say it out loud. It is very elegant but can also be fun and to me sounds very cheery. It is also not too short that you can’t have nicknames but not way to long that it never fits in the box to write your name. Mallory is not to common of a name I have never personally met one but have heard of about three my friends know, but somehow still feels familiar and not super wired. I actually never knew it had that meaning a book my mom had said it meant armour so that is what we always thought. It get a few nicknames but most people now a days just say Mallory. I’ve gotten: Mal, Mal-mal, Malaria, Mally, Mallypoopoo, Mal Pal. I actually have never been called Lory and never even thought to be called it. maybe I’ll try it some time.

  4. Mallory says

    Another Mallory here :) My great-grandmother (whose name was Florence) wanted me to be Florence with Mallory as my middle name, but I ended up the other way. My siblings are Meilena, Marshall, and Madelyn. I like that it’s not too common, I only know of two other Mallory’s, and I’ve lived all over the place. And while I’ve always wanted to change my name I’ve never come up with something else that feels right. As for nicknames, I get Mal-Mal or Mal, and from one friend ‘Malasaurus’. I like that my name isn’t too girly, and I find the history behind it interesting. There are so many names from the bible or with similar meanings, it’s nice to have something different, even if the actual meaning is negative.

  5. Mallory says

    I used to absolutely hate my name. I loved it until my brothers and I started looking up the meaning of our names. Kevin = handsome beloved. Matthew = gift of God. Mallory = ill-omened. Distraught, I looked for the alternate meaning and fund army counselor. An ill-omened army counselor next to the handsome beloved baby boy and the gift of God first born son. Yeah, I was young and jealous and thought it was completely intentional. I also got upset when I watched Family Ties for the first time after finding out that’s where my mom heard the name and saw that Mallory wasn’t anywhere near being the sharpest tool in the shed. But it’s been years since I thought of that, this post just reminded me. But I like my name. When people yell ‘Mallory’ ninety-nine percent of the time they’re talking to me. I don’t really get called Mal. I did in middle school though. It was pretty funny actually. I had a teacher pull me aside after hearing someone call me that and asked if they were “bullying” me. Don’t know how she didn’t realize it was a nickname for Mallory but I got a really good kick out of it. Most of the time people just call me Mallory. My extended family has called me Mal-Mal since I was little and I still get called that by them. I get called Mal Pal more frequently than I do just plain old Mal. But yeah, just wanted to share that being called Mal isn’t going to happen all the time nor should you think of it as something bad – especially your own daughter.

  6. Amy says

    My Mallory is 8 years old. She likes it because it’s different and she doesn’t know any other Mallorys. I don’t concern myself too much with the meaning. I also love the name Cecilia, and that means blind. Although I grew up with Family Ties, I wasn’t thinking about that when I named her. As for having a Mallory and then Jennifer, I think that could happen. I know a family with their first daughter named Tabitha and second Emma.

  7. Anonymous says

    Personally, I absolutely love the name Mallory for a girl. It sounds sweet, strong and intelligent, but in no way frilly or too girly. The name rolls off your tongue so nicely, I’d love calling a future daughter of mine by that name. I also have a friend called Mallory who means alot to me and who has really been an influence on me, and so the name paints an appealing picture in my mind. Yes, the meaning may not be appealing, but the sound of the name is far more important to me. I also wouldn’t go with any alternate spellings, but again that’s just personal. Also, I’m not from the US, so it will be a really unique name too.

    Mallory – I just love and adore the name :)

  8. Mallory says

    I’m indifferent about my name. I’ve only ever met 2 other people with my name and though it is unique, it just feels wrong hearing it come from my own mouth. Awkward. I also never knew my name meant unlucky. :C And I already knew Mal means ‘bad’ in spanish. Overall I think it’s a cute name for someone else I would know, but my name has always been something weird to me.

    My middle name is Denise. I never liked being called ‘mal’ because I felt it was too predictable. Instead everyone called me ‘mallo’. Now that I’m older I like when people call me ‘mal’ and I can tell who’s been my friend for a long time verses newer friends.

    Joke nicknames include:

    It’s one of those names you can make into anything.

    • Mallory says

      I know exactly what you mean, whenever I say my name it sounds so odd. I don’t mind that my name means unlucky or that my nickname ‘mal’ means bad in french and spanish, I think it’s kinda funny :)

  9. says

    My best friend’s name is Mallory, and she occasionally answers to Mal, Mally, or Mal-Pal. Her sister once tried to bestow her with Lory and she hated it. There’s also an interesting smoosh up of our names – Malloren – out there.

    And about the negative meaning – my friend said her “ill-omened” name was discouraging, and was jealous of that same sister for being named after a song – Allison.

  10. Mallory says

    Personally, I absolutely hate my name. First of all, it isn’t as uncommon as some people think – I grew up knowing three other girls with the name Mallory, and I live in a relatively small city.
    I also dislike it because the meanings suck (French – ill-omened; German – army counselor; and I’ve also heard it’s from the Latin word ‘mal’, meaning hell, evil, and Satan). Which is just dandy.
    There are very few nicknames that can come from the name Mallory. At least none that are remotely interesting.
    I would much rather be Alexandra, which I was originally supposed to be named. Multiple nicknames, people don’t have to ask you how to spell it, and I’d rather be defender of mankind than any of the meanings of Mallory.

    • appellationmountain says

      Mallory, the Latin mal – evil – led to the French – in French, malheureux/malheureuse means unhappy. (Actually, I think it means downright miserable, as opposed to triste, which is sad.) But it is also present in plenty of English words, like malnutrition, where the meaning is gentler – poor nutrition, maybe.

      So mal doesn’t mean Satan – and there’s an argument that negative names were given to ward off evil, like a talisman … so a name with a negative meaning might not have been intended as such.

  11. Mallory says

    I love my name despite for the negative connotation in French. I heard in German it means “army counselor”.

    But is is SO great because there are so many Ashley’s, Caitlin’s (which is my middle name), and Brittney’s but every class all the way into college I was the only Mallory. When someone calls your name in the hallway, you know that they are only talking to you. There is apparently other Mallory’s/Mallorie’s/Mal’s out there. We have cool parents.

    • appellationmountain says

      LOL – thanks for the comment, Mallory. It’s good to know that sometimes parents get a child’s name choice EXACTLY right.

      And I agree – it’s nice to not be one in a crowd.

  12. Angela says

    Be Unique, not fearful!
    Some 20 years after first hearing the name Mallory (on Family Ties) I still hold the name on the top of my list for female name choices and happily due to have a girl in August!
    I just learned the ‘meaning’ yet have also read that it can mean beautiful, strong and dedicated- which I prefer to focus on, as these are modern times and I believe it to be reasonable and expected that names and their meanings change.
    Mallory, to me, sounds strong, yet femine, graceful and unique- but not too different.
    Sixteen years ago, I named my son Dustin, when everyone was using Justin, and still today, it’s a strong, unique- but not too different name that along his travels, he has rarley comes across- nice!

        • Mallory says

          Thats actually quite weird…. Becuase my name is Mallory, and my brothers name is Justin.. haha! My name was either going to be Mallory or Justine, but she named my brother Justin, so I got Mallory.

          I think the meaning is so perfect!!! Very boystrus and wild! I love how its unlucky! Quite unique! although i hate how I dont get many nicknames, all my friends call me “Mallory”, my family is the only one who call me “Mal”.. I really wish they would call me Lory though!! Or Mali .. I do admire Mallory spelt like “Mahlorie” though!

  13. Nicole says

    I named my daughter Mallory!! I love the name despite the meaning of unlucky. But my daughter is kinda unlukcy she was born with one kidney also she was born on Jan 13 2009. I love her name because it reminds of my childhood from being a devoted fan to the babysitters club books and plus I loved family ties. My son’s name is Mitchell so I was looking for some with a M and double ll’s so Mallory just fit. Plus I gave her a very feminine middle name of Autumn.

  14. Mallorie says

    As someone who HAS the name Mallorie, it’s not all bad. But the meaning does kinda suck. But there are very few with the name, so that’s nice when you’re in school. Though many people get your name wrong when they first hear it. As far as the meaning of Mallorie and Mal you get used to them as long as you find out under pleasant circumstances instead of reading it in a name book at school.

  15. Mia says

    Although Mallory seems really modern, a sister of one of my ancestors back in the 1800’s was a Mallury. Her middle name was Volumnia. (Doesn’t that almost sound like a punchline?)

    I am not too keen on the name. ‘Mal’ means ‘bad’ when it hits my ears, and it seems like the most likely nickname.

  16. !!!DirtyHippy!!! says

    The meaning kills this one for me. I think naming a daughter Mallory is just begging for trouble. I also dislike Tristan/Trista because of the “triste” root (sad in spanish and other romance languages).

    And, on the Family Ties question, I was always really, really bugged by Mallory with that sibset. No one, and I mean no one, would pick Mallory for their first daughter and Jennifer for their second. That would be like having a Juniper and an Emily . . . just weird. I also thought Elise was a bit of a stretch for her generation . . . how did she end up with this chic, French name? It’s always bugged me.

    Kind of like Rudy on the Cosby Show though I’ve heard a theory that the character was originally supposed to be a boy but they liked the female actress so much that they just changed it a girl part but kept the name.

  17. appellationmountain says

    Allison, LOL at your Latin!

    Dear me, Mhalleriey – that’s so bizarre! It makes Malerie look perfectly normal – except not.

    Lory is a cute nickname – and sidesteps all the malfeeling. :)

  18. Allison says

    I love Mallory; it was on my shortlist for a girl. I wanted an “M,” and I have a thing for surnames. I’ve been a nurse for a long time, though, and I can’t get past the nickname “Mal.” Malpractice, malaise, malignancy, malaria. Still like the name, just couldn’t do it myself. Am pretty sure mal- is from the Latin for “you better hope your HMO is gonna cover this.”

  19. 8dana8 says

    My first association with the name is the Babysitters Club books also. I’m kind of neutral about this name- it’s not my favorite, but I’ve heard worse. I know a ten year old who spells her name Malerie, like Valerie with an M. It’s always bugged me.

  20. Laney McDonald says

    I like Mallory, despite its meaning. It is alot prettier to me than Madison (which I can’t stand! And I hate the nickname Maddie) I’m not sure I would use it for any of my future daughters, but it’s still nice.

    While Mallory is a cute name, the alternate spellings Mallorie, Mallery, Malorie, etc. are really flimsy. I actually knew someone who spelled it Mhalleriey. Good thing she just goes by Ally, ‘cuz her full name is a pain to write out. Now that should be child abuse. Alternate spellings are evil, not to mention confusing and just plain stupid.

  21. Unknown says

    I actually like Mallory. It’s a pretty name that isn’t too girly or frilly. I think it would be an interesting choice for a daughter either as a first name or a middle name. Like Lola said, it would be nice to hear Mallory instead of Mackenzie/Madison and Mallory gets a thumbs up from me too!

  22. Lola says

    Hey, just thinking.. instead of Mal, how about Lory? Seems a decent nickname (Just don’t call this Laura anything buut Lola!) 😀

  23. appellationmountain says

    I worked with a guy named Malvern and called Mal. While he was sweet, he was the kind of intensely pessimistic, sky-is-falling kind of person that could really make you sure and certain that the world was ending. Now. Right now.

    So while Mallory has some appeal to me, I always think of Eeyore – my private nickname for Malvern – when I hear it. If not for that connection, I think I’d like it more.

    Kayt, was one of the Babysitters named Mallory? I’m just a smidge too old to have read them.

  24. Another says

    It will always remind me of Justine Bateman. I like the name as a whole, but the nickname Mal isn’t my cup of tea. When we were kids, Mallory was my brother’s favorite name. He said that if he had a daughter one day, he’d name her Mallory. I think he had it bad for Ms Bateman. Anyway, he has no kids yet, so we shall see.

  25. Lola says

    Indeed, Mallory feels quite conservatively yuppie to me, nicely matching Alex, Jennifer & Andrew. :)

    I don’t outright hate Mallory, she’s been around long enough for me to get used to her and while I’m not fond of her meaning, it’s not the main deterrent for me. Thomas Malory is. The misogynist he was *really* rubs me the wrong way. I have a nitpick with “Spiderwick” too.. Mallory, Simon & ….Jared? The twins just feel oddly paired (and I adore Freddie Highmore!) but Jared really bugged me as a choice. Classic surnamey feel for the girl, classic biblical boy and… ? Jared’s Hebrew, I know but has been repelled so many times (Jarod, Jarred, Jerrod, Jerod, Jarrod…) that he just doesn’t feel the smae as the others. The related Adam would have suited better.


    Mallory would actually be refreshing today, after that swell of Mackenzies/Madisons. A nice, classic choice in the sea of surnames for girls that abound today. Mallory get a nice :thumbsup: from me.

  26. coolteamblt says

    I’m sorry, I hate it. I find it dated and tired. It also makes me think of the Babysitter’s Club books from my childhood. And really, I just can’t get past the meaning. It’s just too blatantly bad for me to use without a strong family connection to the name.


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