Tired of Riley and Bailey? Here’s another jaunty surname to consider, though it might scream Wild Blue Yonder to some.

Thanks to Elta for suggesting Langley as Baby Name of the Day.

Baby name devotees recognize -ley names as place names, usually describing a wooded area. In Langley’s case, the lang means long, so a long wood –

There are two other possible origins:https://appellationmountain.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=6153&action=edit

  • There’s an Old Norse feminine appellation Langlíf – long life;
  • In French, l’anglais referred to an Englishman and became the surname Langlais or Langlois.

The de Langley family came from France to England with William the Conqueror, and eventually settled in Lancashire. Subsequent generations were powerful into the 1500s. Fourteenth-century Thomas Langley served as Lord Chancellor of England. There’s still a Langley Castle in England, and there are places bearing the name throughout the English-speaking world.

Langley could be just another aristocratic surname, but there’s the considerable legacy of Samuel Pierpont Langley to consider. Born in Massachusetts in 1836, Langley was a scientist and aviation pioneer. Among his many achievements, he was the Smithsonian’s third secretary, and founder of the Smithsonian Observatory at Harvard. Langley also served as Chair of Mathematics at the United States Naval Academy.

He never did design a fully functional aircraft – though his Great Aerodome came close, after many improvements made after his death, and eleven years after the Wright Brothers’ sucess at Kitty Hawk. But his contributions to science are considerable, and everything from the Ly – a unit of energy used to measure solar radiation – to an Air Force base are named in his honor.

In 1916, Langley Air Force Base opened near Hampton, Virginia. It was pre-World War I. The base is still in existence today. Over the years, it has hosted a flying field, test course, training space, engineering labs, and served as an active part of the US’ coastal defense system. Technically it is now known as Joint Base Langley-Eustis; it is open to the public for a huge air show every May.

With so much history, many of us link Langley and flight, giving the name an adventurous spirit.

A handful of other references include:

  • Bearers of the surname are many, like Australian poet and author Eve Langley;
  • In 1979 All My Children introduced con man character Langley Wallingford. He’d adopted his posh identity after shedding the humble given name Lenny. Langley was intent on marrying the wealthy Phoebe for her money, but they fell in love anyhow, and he was a series regular until the actor’s death in 2001;
  • Fort Langley, British Columbia, figures in Canada’s history, as a former outpost of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Mariel Hemingway named her second daughter Langley in the late 1980s. (Big sister is Dree.) But the name failed to chart then, and still has only been used sparingly over the years.

This could be a great alternative to Avery and Delaney, Harper and Madison. With so little use, it is safe to say that you could certainly call a son Langley, but something about the sound suggests the Langley might be among the surname choices embraced by parents for their daughters.

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. On the island of St Vincent in the West Indies (Caribbean) the name L. Langley Punnett, CBE, (Planter descendent of an ancient colonial Hugenot family) is remembered as a philanthropist in some charitable institutions named after him. Many boys on the island are named Langley after him.

  2. We are expecting a little boy in June. We decided to name him Langley because it was my late grandfathers last name. There’s no more of his bloodline to carry the name so I couldn’t think of a better way to honor him.

  3. Love this name- my daughter is Langley (a family last name that died out- yes same as CIA). She is adopted from China and it sounds both Asian and American- we love it and it suits her to a tee! We get compliments on it all the time!

  4. I found this page two years ago after we had chosen the name Langley for our daughter. She was due Aug 30, so I was certain she would arrive on Aug 31 after reading this! We always get compliments on her name, and everyone remembers her. I like that it fits the current naming trend without being a common name. We are a patriotic military family, and don’t mind the connections. (BTW, the Navy’s first aircraft carrier was the USS Langley.) For us her name ties together many aspects of our life, including walks in green, English meadows. 🙂

    1. Oh, I’m SO glad you found the perfect name for your daughter – and great fact about the USS Langley! 🙂

  5. I guess I am the only anime fan on here but all I can think of is Asuka Langely Soryu from Evangelion. This can be a good thing if you admire fiery redheads.

  6. i grew up on langley court, so it has an old-home charm to me… i guess i wasn’t up on my military history, although i’m sure that if i mentioned this name-option to my husband, he would chime right in with all of the very valid points you all have made thus far. 🙂

  7. Since I’ve read too many stupid spy thrillers… Langley is either the CIA or the Air Force Base, not a baby name.