If you can name a child King or Contessa, why not this slightly more subtle choice?
Thanks to Beth for suggesting Gentry as our Baby Name of the Day.
If you took a lot of European history in college, chances are the phrase “landed gentry” springs to mind. Gentry isn’t an fixed concept, but typically to be a member of the gentry meant that you and your family owned a decent chunk of land. In a pre-industrial economy, land ownership was a big deal, though wealth and social standing varied greatly even amongst land owners, and even the most powerful member of the gentry was still a few pegs below royalty. Think of Lady Diana Spencer. She was to the manor born, the daughter of a viscount, and undeniably moved in lofty circles. But strictly speaking, she was considered a commoner until her wedding day.
So Gentry isn’t a title – it is a loosely-defined social class. In some ways, it makes the interest in Gentry even harder to explain.
Except that Gentry’s roots make for an appealing meaning. You might not name a son Gentleman, but the origin of Gentry is the same. The Old French gentil came from the Latin gentilis, meaning from the same family. At different points in English, gentle has meant kind or mild. While those senses are mostly obsolete today, they linger in the terms gentleman and gentry. It has also been used to refer to faeries or other enchanted creatures. The word’s evolution lends lots of positive qualities to borrow for the name.
Gentry also has history as a surname – perhaps the most plausible explanation for how parents first dreamed up the idea of using Gentry as a given name. Country crooners Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry perform as Montgomery Gentry. The Gentry Brothers are big noise in thoroughbred racing. And Viola Gentry set aviation records for women early in the history of flight.
While it has never been common, there have definitely been people named Gentry, like:
- Gentry Lee is a full-time rocket scientist and some-time collaborator on science fiction novels with Arthur C. Clarke.
- Gentry McCreary, Sr. is a major force in the gospel music industry.
- Salt Lake City’s alternative music scene has long been dominated by the innovative Gentry Densely.
Add in a bunch of politicians, and this starts to feel like an underused option, a possible successor to Jeffrey.
Or is Gentry a girl’s name? A few years ago, a Miss Teen USA pageant contestant wore the name. And if you look at the statistics, it isn’t so clear:
- On the boys’ side, there were 62 newborn boys named Gentry in 2010, plus 9 boys called Jentry, for a total of 71.
- As for the girls, Gentry alone was given to 73 girls, plus 30 more named Jentry, 9 called Jentri, and 6Gentri.
File Gentry’s gender under TBD. My best guess as of 2012 is that Gentry is another Peyton – some re-spellings feel feminine, but the name is genuinely gender-neutral.
Overall, Gentry is a modern romantic – a straightforward surname name with an extravagant feel. Gentry’s also solidly under the radar, fair game for either gender, and a thoroughly unexpected option.
Denise Lynn Banks says
I know 2 Gentry’s who attended the same high school as me. Both are Black men of 57- and about 65-years- old, likely hailing from families of Louisiana and/or Texas origins. Both are loving & kind, educated gentlemen whose name fits them each to a T. Many names that we consider to be female were originally male, e.g., Jan, Leslie, Kimberly, Stacy, Jackie, Kelsey. So, I say to each their own.
Hi, my name is Gentry and i live in Cali. My name is very unique and i really like it. I don’t know why there is so much controversy surrounding it.
I am an American female and my first name is Gentri. The reason, according to the aunt that named me, that my first name ends in an “i” and not a “y”, is because it is the feminization of Gentry (masculine). Compare this to Tony. If a female is given this name, it is usually spelled, “Toni”, with an i.
candace lange says
I named my second son Gentry. He has always done well with the name, likes it just fine I think. He is noble, kind and unique. His name fits him just fine. As for it being a girl’s name…I beg to differ. It just depends on the wearer. He is definitely not girly.
Definitely love it, but ONLY for a boy, it’s pure boy and country ruggedness. Hate it on a girl
LOVE the name but deffinatly a GIRL name. I know 4. Three live in Utah, one lives in California.
My husband and I finally agreed on Gentry if we have a girl.
I love Kendall for a girl but my husband is very against it since he feels it’s a boy name
…so it’s weird to me to hear people say Gentry is a Boy name when I’ve never heard of a Boy named Gentry and my husband immediatly agreed to loving Gentry for a girl when he doesn’t like Kendall….just my thoughts 🙂
When I’ve looked up the meaning on Google I’ve always found: “of noble birth” before this entry…So I don’t think she will feel the meaning is negative…I also like the nickname “Gent”
My name is Gentri, I always get strange reactions when I tell people, some have heard it before but most haven’t. Some love it and some don’t say (so they probably don’t. haha). It’s different, but it has grown on me as I’ve aged. Especially since my blog is called “Gentri Lee” (Lee is my MN).
I personally know 2 Gentrys. Both are quiet, beautiful women in their 20’s. I’ve heard of other people named Gentry too.
I am from Oklahoma though, so Gentry doesn’t sound odd here at all. I’ve never heard of a boy Gentry though.
An old co-worker has sons named Cooper and Gentry. I know that Cooper was named in part after Gary Cooper. I had thought Gentry was also named another Classic Western movie actor or character and I’m stunned that it isn’t. Gentry just FEELS like a character in a western.
As for why girls are being named Gentry, maybe Bobbie Gentry is the inspiration? She retired from country music over 30 years ago, but I remember my parents having her albums back in the day.
Sarah A says
I love Montgomery, but I don’t think I can get behind Gentry. For me it sounds almost like trying too hard. It’s a name that makes me think of the Gone With the Wind era because it does have a romantic quality, but Gentry still doesn’t feel ‘namey’ enough to me. I would file it as gender neutral as well, but my first thought is definitely male.
I know two girls named Gentri so I can’t imagine it being used on a boy…
It seems really, really, really country/western to me for some reason. Not in an appealing way.
I’m sorry, but this one gets a big ol’ “blech” from me. It’s odd to have that kind of gut reaction and still feel that way after reading about it, but this name. Just, no. It makes me think entitled, bourgeois, ugho, awful. My apologies to any Getries out there or any mamas or papas who named their child this – it’s merely my opinion. I can see how the sound works, but just, no.
I know an adult male Gentry, and it wears well. He’s also from the south (Louisiana) and that seems to fit.
Charlotte Vera says
I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the use of Gentry as a name. My first thought when I saw the post was, “Seriously???” However, I guess I could see it working in certain parts of the Southern US — not that I’m an authority on the area by any stretch of the imagination!
At a medical centre the other day I noticed a Dr. People, which I found interesting because people, while technically I guess a non-count noun, signifies plurality. I’d say the same holds true for Gentry. I’d feel like it’s a name I should apply to a group, not an individual.
Ok, I’m starting to feel like I know A LOT of people with unusual names and/or names you’ve posted on your blog. Or just that the Deaf community really consists of a lot of people with unusual names 🙂 I know a Gentry (MN Kyle). He goes by Kyle but everything he puts his name on, he puts down all three of his names. It does have a nice ring to it, almost elegant (despite him being a big redneck).