Gray leads the pack of possible color names for boys.
Thanks to Leah for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day, and Molly Sims’ new son for inspiring the update.
Gray: A or E?
British English prefers the ‘e’ spelling. Sometime during the nineteenth century, the ‘a’ became standard in American English. By the time the Confederate Army took to the field during the US Civil War, they were “the boys in gray.”
Both spellings have been worn as surnames for generations. Tea drinkers recognize the nineteenth century Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, he of tea. Charles came from a prominent family, served as prime minister of Great Britain. Stories about how the bergamot-flavored tea came to bear his name vary, but the name stuck.
Nineteenth century surgeon Henry Gray compiled the very first edition of Gray’s Anatomy back in 1838. The anatomy textbook remains in print today, currently on the 41st edition.
The long-running television series spells it with an ‘e’, of course – inspired by main character Dr. Meredith Grey.
Gray: Surname Name
In many cases, the surname referred to hair color. Or beard color.
But not always!
Anchetil de Greye traveled to England with William the Conqueror. Greye likely came from the Calvados region of Normandy, from a place known as Graye-sur-Mer. The English village of Rotherfield Greys also bears his name.
The place name seems to come from the Latin gratus – thankful, rather than the color.
Between 1895 and 1901, the ‘a’ spelling appeared in the US Top 1000 a handful of times – just like so many other surnames.
Gray: And Company
A handful of famous figures answer to the name. Former California governor Gray Davis seems like the most well-known. He was born Joseph Graham Davis, Jr.
But the story belongs to names that start with Gray. In 2002, The Nanny Diaries gave us a privileged kid called Grayer. The chart-toppers add the popular -son ending: Grayson ranked #47 in 2015, up more than 200 places in a decade. Greyson’s rise seems even more dramatic, gaining over 450 places to reach #111 over the same time period.
Only in the last few years has Grey caught on. It entered the US Top 1000 in 2013, and now stands at #916.
Gray: By the Numbers
As of 2015, 141 boys and 45 girls received the ‘a’ spelling of the name. The ‘e’ spelling comes out ahead, given to 233 boys and 70 girls.
Count Molly Sims among the most recent moms to embrace the name. She recently welcomed son Grey Douglas, a little brother for Brooks and Scarlett. A few years earlier, Blossom alum Jenna von Oy chose the name – and the ‘a’ spelling – for a daughter.
Gray: Future Favorite?
This name succeeds for so many reasons.
- Links to longer names, like Grayson, explain some of the appeal.
- And of course, parents have embraced short names for boys in recent years. Gray seems less turbo-charged than Jax, yet more slightly traditional than Kai.
- Color names, like Ruby and Violet, feature throughout the girls’ Top 1000. Gray seems a likely choice for boys.
- Speaking of color, while we sometimes use it to describe dreary skies or a less-than-upbeat mood, we also find good in gray. It feels soft, but also steely. It signals a sort of cool, modern sleekness – and also a hand-knit comfort.
One question remains, of course. What will the Fifty Shades franchise do to this name? The character in the book answered to the name Christian Grey – the same spelling currently preferred by parents.
If you’re after a name that combines a certain edge with a traditional vibe, Gray might be the name for you.
Do you prefer the ‘a’ or the ‘e’ spelling? Would you rather use Greyson or Grayer or Grady or any other name besides just plain Gray? Or do you like it short and sweet?
This post first appeared on July 13, 2010. Following substantial revision, it was reposted on January 25, 2017.
I named my daughter Catherine Grey. The name Grey is a family name, and my husband and I want to call her Grey. Most people say they love the name, but we have also gotten some disapproval. I think it is a beautiful name, and I like “Grey” because it is different. But I have questioned our decision, as names are so important. I laughed at one comment about the red haired Grey, as my husband is a red head and I thought “that could be my daughter”!
My name is Gray and I am very happy with it – people consider it to be unusual and always ask me about it… Better than John I suppose!
I’m due in April and I’m calling our baby boy ‘Grey’…I have loved the name for years….however I have a little niggle in the back of mind that he might get teased at school and called ‘Gay’…however I’m hoping by the time he goes to school that word won’t be a negative. Can I ask if anyone else has thought about this??? I’m 99.9% sure were going to call him Grey regardless.
My son is Grey! (Born Feb 2010) We sort of made it up (knowing it was likely an existing name), but loved it. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, but we chose the name Grey regardless. I think if kids call him “Gay” as a tease it’s a good learning opportunity to teach them that there’s nothing wrong with that!
Since “R”s are tough to pronounce my son already refers to himself as “Gey” and so do most other toddlers, lol.
I’m still in love with the name!
Good luck with your baby!!!
I had a baby boy in August and named him Gray. I’ve taken some flack for it (especially from family members), but I think it suits him just fine. To me it is classy, strong, masculine, and awesome.
My son is six months older, named Grey. Funny, no one gave me any flack (didn’t tell them until he was born though) and most people love it. I agree with your description completely!
We just named our second daughter (born June 1) Gray Katherine. I decided before I was pregnant that it would be ‘Gray’ if I had another daughter. I would not have used it for a boy. I’m not sure why. I like the description above that is is warm and wooly like a sweater. I chose it because I felt it makes me think of stillness and depth. My husband and I have definitely felt a lot of disapproval about the name, but I love it. Her older sister’s name is Lorelei, and I liked the contrast of the one being so ornate and the other being so minimalist.
My son (Grey) would have been named the same if a girl. Always wanted to know what it would have felt like on a girl. 🙂 (And followed up with Katherine, how beautiful!)
I totally feel the same way about the name as you.
ruth salyers says
I named my boy Gray William David and he was born on June 1st. He is quite a bit older than your daughter though. His name has always suited him, his eyes being gray…..who knew! I believe it is a wonderful name for a boy or girl.
Grey Mello says
My middle name is Grey and it is my given name, meaning it is the one I have been called by since I was born. I also happen to be female. More than once I have had someone ask how I could be given such an ugly name. I like it because it is unique. My mother swears it is a Celtic variation of Douglas and also means dark haired stranger. I can’t find anything to back that up. My first name is Elizabeth. My daughter is Jillian Grey which I love the sound of and it fits her perfectly.
Ugly??? Never!!! It’s my son’s name and I love it. 🙂
I know this is an old post but I had to chime in. My oldest son is 16 and his name is Gray and we love it. We haven’t heard any others around us with his name and everyone comments that they love it when they meet him. My youngest son’s name is Brockington and we call him Brock. My daughter has her great grandmother’s first names and her names are old names but a little more common. I had a lady rave on and on how she loved my son’s names. She then asked what my daughters name was. When I told her Molly she said how did you end up with Molly when you have a Gray and Brock. It kind of took me by surprise because I love my grandmother and had always wanted a daughter named Molly.
My babies name is Graham, his nickname is Gray. We LOVE it! We end up calling him Gray more often then Graham.
How cool, Steph!
I’m planning on changing my middle name to Gray in the next year… it’s in remembrance of a good friend of mine named Gray who passed last year… and when i have a son his first name will be Gray as well.
This being lurker week, as a lurker, I’ll chime in. I’m with Joy. Our second child was going to be Grady nn Gray if she had been a boy. Is it too cutesy to have our first child be an Asher with an occasional nn Ash and another boy with the nn Gray? We kind of liked it because we both love the color ash gray. Unlike some of the other posters, although I do understand that it seems like a gloomy color, I think deep grays are extremely handsome and evocative, so the name Gray evokes a tall, dark, and handsome man in my mind. I was more reluctant with Grady, however, than my husband, to whom I gave final say, due to the sound similarities with all the Jaydons, et. al as mentioned in the post.
I teach piano to a 9 year old boy named Gray. He is brilliant and all around a cool kid. I also worked for a woman named Gray when I did a business internship in high school. She was a strong smart career woman. For her, I loved the contrast. She had fire-red hair and the confidence to go with it. She was anything but Gray.
I like Gray as a name, more than Grey, but I don’t love it either. Color names… this reminds me. I know three siblings, two girls and a boy. Their first names are color names. Here they are:
Hazel Maria (as in Hazel brown)
Ruby Katherine (as in Ruby red)
They decided if they were to have another daughter they’d name her Rose and if they’d have another boy they’d name him Indigo.
Kind of color-name obsessed, huh? Ruby and Gray I like as names, Hazel not that much. I love Rose though, but I think Indigo is just a bit too much.
I used “Grey” as the middle name for our first son. I worry that it will become the male equivalent of “Rose” but I adore it in the middle spot. I was worried that if I used it in the first spot, it would be too gloomy a moniker.
I really like Grey. And like some others, I find it especially nice as a girl’s name… maybe because I liked Grace and then it got so darn popular and Grey has the same sound, but a different kind of feel – more ‘warm and woolly’ like a warm, soft, comfy sweater.
Charlotte Vera says
I’m not particularly keen on Grey et all as given names, but they are a welcome relief to the Jaydons that appear to be running amok in my neighbourhood, cute kids though they may be. I came across a Graydon at the playground the other day. It was the first time I’d encountered the name in real life. I have, however, already met a few little girl Gracyns (spelt a variety of ways).
Well, I have a different POV on some of these names! My sister’s name is Grayson-born in 1984. My mom was definitely ahead of the surname and androgynous curves! Anyway, Grayson hated her name for a long time because it was a boy name, came to love it because it was distinctive, and now has a problem with it again because of the MILLIONS of little Graysons out there! She even has a “namesake” cousin named Gracen. Horrors!
As to Gray, the only little one I know is actually a 2 yr old girl. It’s a family name.
My hairdresser in Virginia named her son Gracen. “It’s, um, Grace with an N on it, because I love the bame Grace.” Envision (Enhear? Haha) heavy southern accent. Can’t say I’m a fan. Surname names just sound pretentious to me, more so when the surname in question isn’t a family name. However, I like it as a middle to an ultra-feminine name: Clara Grey, Anastasia Grey, for instance.
That reminds me, Abby, can you do Anastasia as a BNotD? Or have you already? I’m too lazy to look it up. 😉
*name, not bame. I’m typing one-handed while nursing the baby. Forgive me.
Thank you for covering Gray! As a nn for Grady, it is at the top of my list for boys. On my mom’s side of the family, Grady has been used three times as a first name and once as a middle name. I didn’t know that Grady was Celtic, but that makes sense, as my mom’s family is partly Irish.
I grew up in Grayson County, so that also may explain why I’m comfortable with Gray.
In the movie The Pelican Brief, Denzel Washington played a reporter named Gray Grantham. There’s also Gandalf the Grey in The Lord of the Rings. I like the idea of Gray as a given name, but it seems best as a “character name”. In my mind, that’s a name which is always said in full,
I actually quite like Gray. Strong and handsome.
Gray is in my Top ten list of boy names. I love it!
In elementary school, I was friends with a boy named Gr@y R@ins! I don’t think Gray was his given name, but I can’t remember for the life of me what Gray was a nn for. I didn’t realize until I was older the imagery suggested by his name. Some people might see it as a negative, but he wore it really well!
I suppose Lurker Week is a good time for me to comment, seeing as how I haven’t commented in probably a half year or so (and my commenting was really sparse anyway)!
I actually like Grey/Gray (I spell it Grey) a lot.I also like names with a similar sound such as Graeme/Grahame(not said like ‘gram’) and Grady. Grey/Greyson are both very pleasant and it has warm sound to me, ironically.What does put me off Grey, is that I generally don’t view things associated with greyness as positive . I.e. grey hair (though in some religions it’s viewed as a sign of wisdom) or living the grey, as in being lukewarm etc Another association is that of one of the cold ( I HATE the cold) and grey skies. So, while I like the sound and think that it’d work wonderfully on many different types of people and ages , my associations are mainly negative which stops me from personally considering it. That said, I’d love to meet a Grey and do think it is a nice name
British American says
I was thinking the same thing – the negative associations of the colour great kill the name for me. It’s a little too depressing of a colour.
I do like Graham / Graeme though too, pronounced like “Grey-um”.
I have met a toddler Greyson. My husband nicknamed him Greyskull as in He-Man (not to the child’s face).
Ditto Graeme/Grahame pronunciation.
Another name that I ADORE the sound of, but the connotation ruins it for me is Harper. A harper can be someone who harps on problems. I’ve already had a Mona in the family tree who was a Moaner, so I’m too scared to try my luck ;(
As if on cue, there’s a great article on Babble.com today, by Babble co-founder Rufus Griscom: http://www.babble.com/mom/health-and-relationships/parents-are-happy/
It’s a response to the New York Magazine article insisting that parenting is (mostly) misery-inducing drudgery. But it also mentions that Griscom’s two sons are called Declan and Grey.
If you are a parent, you’ll thoroughly enjoy Griscom’s thoughtful response. And if you’re just here for the names, well – Declan and Grey are certainly quite the impressive sibset!