The baby name Ferris has always been rare, but maybe it’s ready to rise.

Thanks to Angel for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


Like so many first names, we have to start with the last name Ferris.

That’s because it’s one of those surname choices that probably started out as mother’s maiden name. Or possibly another relative, typically of significance. Handing down their surname as a first or middle was a way to connect your ancestors to future generations. 

The history books usually trace the Ferris family to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The invaders brought their language – including names – with them from Normandy, France and eventually transformed English completely. 

Surname Ferrier likely came from ferrier – blacksmith, ultimately from the Latin ferrum – iron. It was a place name in Normandy, too. To be specific, Henry de Ferrers came to England with the Normans and was awarded quite a bit of land, including Tutbury Castle, in Staffordshire.

His son, Robert, became the 1st Earl of Derby. Ferrers became thoroughly English, and, at least sometimes, transformed to Ferris.


Of course, lots of similar names are in use. Not all of them trace back to the Norman family.

Instead, they’re often related to the occupation of farrier – one who shoes horses. Horseshoes were traditionally made of iron. 

So we’re right back to the Latin word.

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There’s another origin for the name, though.

Irish and Scottish heritage choice Fergus means “man of vigor” or vigorous.  It’s the name of a figure from Irish legend, several early rulers of Ireland, and an eighth century saint. 

While Fergus is still used as a boy’s name in the UK, including England and Wales, it became Ferris as a surname. 

Plenty of famous people have worn the family name Ferris since.


The Arabic Faris is yet another given name with a similar sound. It means knight – which feels like a close cousin to Fergus in spirit.


When we hear Ferris, there’s a good chance that one structure comes to mind: the Ferris Wheel.

Designed by engineer George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, it was meant to one-up the Eiffel Tower, which debuted at Paris’ exposition in 1889. 

It’s an interesting story. Others had created wooden wheels on a much smaller scale. And the organizers of the Chicago event initially thought it couldn’t be done.

Ferris, however, commissioned safety studies, invested his own money, and eventually convinced the world that his wheel was the right choice.

By all accounts, it was a success. Except Ferris himself went bankrupt after the fair closed and the original wheel was sold for scrap. 

All these years later, though, George Ferris’ invention is found all over the world, from the towering London Eye to pop-up traveling carnivals. 

His spirit – the mix of confidence, daring, and precision – made this the perfect name for a fictional Ferris. After all, the organizers of the Chicago exposition had told their team: “Make no little plans.”

Did John Hughes know the backstory when he sent George’s namesake singing “Danke Schoen” down the streets of his beloved city?


Long before young Mr. Bueller took a day off, this name was already associated with carefree adventure. 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was John Hughes’ fourth teen movie, following smash hits Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Weird Science.

It starred Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller; Alan Ruck as Cameron Frye; and Mia Sara as Sloane Peterson. They were high school seniors in suburban Chicago who decided to take a cut day and explore the city. 

Hughes has described it as a love letter to Chicago, with the friends visiting the Art Institute and taking in a Cubs game, along with an impromptu performance on a parade float. There are no ferris wheels in the 1986 big screen adventure, but there’s something about the day that shares the same energy.

Edward McNally, a childhood friend of Hughes, is sometimes considered the prototype for Ferris. The pair had another friend with the surname Buehler.

Buehler’s first name, however, goes unmentioned. Odds are that it wasn’t Ferris.


free-spirited & strong-willed

In the 19th century, the first Ferris Wheel soared over Chicago. A century later, Ferris Bueller took a day off in that same city. Now the name Ferris might be set to rise.


unranked as of 2022; given to 50 boys


gaining in use


from a surname meaning iron, iron-worker, or man of vigor


The name Ferris appears in the United States Top 1000 just a handful of times between the 1890s and 1920s.

It hasn’t appeared in the rankings since 1922. 

A few notables from that era include:

  • Academy Award-nominated film editor Ferris Webster, whose long career spanned the 1940s into the 1980s, including classics like The Manchurian Candidate and The Great Escape.
  • During the 1940s and 50s, Ferris Fain played baseball in the Major Leagues.

But Ferris has never really fallen out of use, either. The movie could’ve given it a bump during the 1980s; instead, usage stayed pretty flat.

As of 2022:

  • The name Ferris was used as a baby boy name 50 times – a high not seen since the 1920s.
  • It also appeared in the data for baby girl names, with eight newborns.


Nearly forty years after the film’s debut, name your child Ferris and you’re in for a certain amount of “Bueller … Bueller … Bueller …”

But is that a bad thing? The character may have his flaws, but he embodies the name’s image perfectly: a mix of strength and adventure.

It’s a Chicago love song, too. Windy City natives might see this as a meaningful connection to home, even if they never ditched school in their best friend’s dad’s Ferrari.

Now, with similar sounding names like Ellis, and other boy names ending with S on the rise, it might be the perfect moment for Ferris.

What do you think of Ferris?

First published on October 21, 2010, this post was revised on April 15, 2024.

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. Ferris is a neutral name used throughout the Brittish Isles. I’m a female named Ferris and have met others females named Ferris. We used to be in touch. Many years ago, I met a writer who was searching for a first name for the main character of his story. Upon hearing my name, he said that he very much liked it and was going to use it. The author introduced himself as John. I’ve always wondered if it was John Hughes, the writer of Ferris Bueller. I remember what he looked like but haven’t seen a photo of a younger Hughes.

    All this said, the name has pros and cons. It is unique. People remember and it’s a conversation starter, an ice breaker. The pro/con side is always being assigned a locker in the boys’ locker room. I used to hate it, but now I’d appreciate it!

  2. Well, I’m female and my first name is Ferris. There are a few of us around and we are in contact. BTW, my friends sent me a shirt from Ferris State. I wear it proudly!

  3. I suggested Ferris to a friend, just this past summer. She wanted a familiar, but uncommon name and I thought Ferris would be perfect. I’m really surprised that Ferris isn’t more popular, it’s easy to spell/pronounce and would fit in perfectly with Charles and Jonas. I wonder if parents associate it with the 80’s and therefore think it must be much more common.

    (My friends named their son Javan.)

  4. Not really, it reminds me of ferris wheels, and if your last name were Wheeler: Ferris Wheeler… that just made it more ‘no’ for me

  5. Ferris has an interesting history, but it’s not for me. I know a Beagle named Ferris so I think of first Ferris Bueller and than the dog. 🙂

  6. i like the name personally, but it wouldn’t work here in michigan. it’d be along the same lines as naming your child “central”, “western”, or “state”, after one of our other fine universities. to add to that, ferris state university also has a reputation as a bit of a party school, owing to the fact that there’s not much IN big rapids, michigan except the university, frat houses, and bars.

    it’s great to learn the history of the name, and i can see it catching on in other areas of the country, but as an FSU graduate, i can tell you that this is not one of those names that fellow grads will be naming their children to honor their alma mater.

    1. Though maybe chance to get your name on a college hoodie is kind of a bonus, maybe?! And I know a James Madison alum who says lots of his classmates used Madison for their daughters … but, of course, it was a really popular name already when they were choosing it, so that’s a little (a lot?!) different …