Airlie beach, Queensland, Australie
Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia; Image via Wikipedia

There’s a castle and a beach by the name.  Why not a child?

Thanks to Evangline for suggesting Airlie as our Baby Name of the Day.

Parents have previously landed on Airlie as a name for their daughters – not too many, but more than zero.  There’s an ABC Tasmania presenter named Airlie Ward.  And a short-lived Facebook group was formed by an Airlie, who managed to attract nearly two dozen more.  Nancy tells us that five girls were named Airlie in the US in 2009.

There are two possible sources for the name:

  • Creative baby namers could dream up Airlie, just like they imagined Airen or Ainzlee.  Some may have been looking for a nature-inspired name, and liked the first syllable – air.  This makes her a cousin to nouveau coinages like Skyla;
  • Alternately, parents were inspired by the Scottish place name or the Australian beach – both of which trace back to a Scottish title.  In this case, file her with Clarence.

The title brings us back to the castle.  Back in 1432, King James I of Scotland granted lands to his faithful treasurer, Walter Ogilvy.  Ogilvy built Airlie Castle on the site.  But where did Ogilvy get the name?

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland suggests that the name has also been spelled ErrollyAirly, Iroly, and several over variants can be found.  One theory links Airlie to aird – a Gaelic term meaning the extremity of a ridge.  I’m struck by the similarity between Errolly and Errol or Erroll – an equally Scottish given name derived either from the title earl or possibly another place name.

In any case, the place was probably named well before Ogilvy arrived.  But Ogilvy’s legacy is intertwined with Airlie.  Walter’s descendant, James, was created Lord Ogilvy of Airlie in 1491. In the seventeenth century, the current Lord Ogilvy became the Earl of Airlie.

It doesn’t get much more powerful than Clan Ogilvy, and they feature in many a historical episode throughout the centuries.  A traditional folk song relates just one such story.  “The Bonnie House of Airlie” tells about the Earl of Argyll’s raid on Airlie Castle in 1640.  The families were long-time rivals, but in the mid-seventeenth century, the two were on different sides politically.  Among other atrocities, the Earl of Argyll destroyed the castle entirely.  A mansion house was built atop the ruins and stands there today.

You can find Airlie on the map in Scotland, Canada, the US, and Australia.  It even picks up a hint of Southern charm, thanks to a Mississippi plantation called Airlie.

The Australian destination seems a particularly likely source of inspiration.  Airlie Beach, in Queensland, is popular with tourists.  I’ve never been there, but apparently you can take day trips to the Great Barrier Reef or sail the Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach, so I’m betting it is picturesque.

If you’re looking for an unusual name that nods to your Scottish roots while still sounding feminine, Airlie is an option that fits in with Hayley and Riley, and seems likely to be pronounced without error in the US.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. My name is Airlie. I was named after the prettiest Vinyard my mom had ever seen, in Oregon anyways. I love my name, but it’s weird and it is misspoken and misspelled all the damn time. Pronounced without error my ass. Name your kids Kevin or John or something

  2. My name is Airlie and I live in Canada. My mom chose the name because her best friend would never tell her middle name. When she put our her wedding invitation is said her middle name. My mom loved her friend and the name Airlie. This woman’s maiden name was Ogalvie. I used to not like my name because it was always pronounced wrong, liking it now!!