He’s a Harry Potter hero and a literary gem.

Thanks to UrbanAngel for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Kingsley.

The US Top 1000 is chock full of little monarchs: there’s Kingston (#225) and King (#462), plus Prince (#691) and Rex (#752). That’s not counting names that conjure up famous rulers, from Arthur to Messiah to Cash.

Kingsley started out as something of a generic place name. It comes from a handful of places in England that would’ve been called cyningesleah in Old English – the King’s (cyning) woods or woodland or field by the wood (leah). It’s easy to imagine plenty of locations fitting that description once upon a time. Even now, there are places bearing the name throughout the English-speaking world.

Like any surname, he was occasionally promoted to the first spot over the years, though he has never cracked the US Top 1000.

In the late nineteenth century, British politician Kingsley Wood wore the name – though he was actually born Howard Kingsley Wood. He had a long career, eventually serving under Winston Churchill.

Around the same time, Kingsley Taft made a name for himself in Ohio politics. He’s from the same Taft family that counts President William Taft amongst its members. If you check out their tree, plenty of family names are passed down generation to generation. I couldn’t figure out exactly where Kingsley came into the mix – it must be a mother’s maiden name – but it’s a pretty ordinary appellation compared to some Taft choices. Thankful, Esick, and Japhet also appear. Kingsley Taft served on the Ohio Supreme Court and also as a US Senator.

But the most famous bearer of the twentieth century is prolific English author Kingsley Amis. Amis is usually considered one of the original Angry Young Men, a group of 1950s era British writers known for their criticism of post-World War II society. His debut novel, Lucky Jim, was a satire that pitted the educated, but awkward, Jim Dixon against his social betters. Dixon has the last laugh.

A younger generation isn’t thinking of Amis’ enduring works, but of another writer: JK Rowling’s wizarding world, brought to life in the Harry Potter series. Kingsley Shacklebot is one of the good guys. He first appears in Book Five, sent to escort Harry to the safe house for the Order of the Phoenix. He also works undercover in the Prime Minister’s office, and after the series ends, becomes the Minister of Magic.

Kingsley’s sound fits nicely with the surname picks so popular for boys in 2010, but he has one additional advantage. While Riley, Avery, Delaney, and Hadley are all likely to be worn by girls, Kingsley is closer to Crosby. Yes, you could use the name for your daughter, but the sound seems less likely to appeal to parents attracted to Bailey, Kenley, and company.

So if you’re searching for a surname pick with worthy namesakes and low odds that your son will come home crying that you gave him a girls’ name, Kingsley might make for the perfect choice.

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 sister loved the name Kingsley and always planned to name her son that. Well, then they chickened out because they thought it was a bit too strange as a first name. So my nephew is named Ryan Kingsley.

  2. My daughter’s name is Suzanna Kingsley and goes by Kingsley. It is a family name. My sister’s child is Anne Kingsley (double name.) there is not a day (or maybe week) that goes by that she is not complimented on her name. We live in the south so maybe that is why no one thinks it is masculine. We have loved the name and it is a perfect fit for her!

  3. I’d also like to throw Leroy (Le Roi), Royce, etc., into the mix. My grandfather was Arthur Leroy — tells you what my great-grandmother thought of her first and only son.

    I like the sound of Kingsley. I mentally associate it with a British accent every time, though.