Cropped screenshot of Peter O'Toole from the t...
Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia; Image via Wikipedia

Boys answer to Jamie and Robbie. Why not this diminutive form of an enduring classic?

Thanks to Emily for suggesting Lawrie as our Baby Name of the Day.

There’s the third century Saint Laurence and the twentieth century’s daring Lawrence of Arabia. It is difficult to call Laurence anything but an evergreen classic.

And yet he’s clearly out of favor these days. The earlier u-spelling last charted in the US Top 1000 in 1995. At #457, Lawrence has fared better, but he’s still stumbled from his glory days in the Top 50 during the first five decades of the twentieth century.

Laurence is derived from Laurentius, a Roman name indicating ties to the city of Laurentum. All of them come from the Latin laurus – laurel – and its associations with victory and triumph.

The third century Saint Laurence was born in Spain and became a leader of the church in Rome. He’s famous for having been roasted to death – cooked on a gridiron – though it may be more story than fact. In their gory way, the Catholic Church has made him the patron saint of chefs. My favorite tale of the martyr is this: when ordered by authorities in Rome to assemble and hand over the church’s treasures, he gathered up the poor and infirm and presented them as the most valued parts of his faith.

He was popular, and the name caught on, with international variants like Lorenzo and Vavrinic and Laurent. The u-to-w spelling appears in Medieval England, but seems to have really gathered steam in the nineteenth century, fueled by the surname spelling.

Lawrie is just one possible short form of Lawrence, more typically Scottish. There’s also Lawry, and surname forms like Lowry and Lowery.

Laurie brings to mind the March’s neighbor in Little Women, but seems almost unwearable for a boy today. Unlike Jamie, Laurie feels clearly feminine, at least in the US.

That’s why Lawrie stands out. His first syllable rhymes with cow and wow – low REE. You might think of Lawry’s spices and marinades. He’s in the same style category as surname choices like Riley or Tyler. Artist Lee Lawrie created the Atlas that stands in front of Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center.

Lawrie is different from Lori, but also distinctly different than Larry, the usual short form of Lawrence for much of the twentieth century. Larry peaked at #10 in 1949, and today he’s golfing with his friends Barry and Gary.

It’s too bad, because there are some truly dashing Lawrences. Captain Lawrence Oates was a member of an ill-fated South Pole expedition in 1912. Injured, and slowing down his party, Oates walked out of their tent to certain death, saying “I am just going outside, and may be some time.” Pop culture references abound.

And then there’s T.E. Lawrence, the archeologist turned British military officer, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. His knowledge of the region helped the British secure Damascus, as well as other key victories. Lawrence’s life was captured in his writings, but also in others’ words. The 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia won the Academy Award for Best Picture; Peter O’Toole was nominated for Best Actor.

If you find Lawrence dashing and distinguished, but can’t land on a short form, Lawrie might work. Or, if there is a grandpa Larry you’re trying to honor, Lawrie could be an inventive twist that would wear well today.

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. Having grown up with a parcel of female Lori/Laura/Laurie/Laurel’s (Lauren for girls came just a bit later), I think Lawrie for the boys is great and so much better than the dated Larry.

    Funny story: My dad’s name was Gary. He had distant cousins named Cary and Terry (both guys). All three were married to Lindas. He also had another cousin Gerry. The -ary sound just works well with our odd German surname.

  2. I have an Aunt Laurie and my mom has always been in love with Laurie and Jo from Little Women. I came across the name Laurence for a girl (apparently the traditional fem. version of Laurent in France) and I rather like it. I think Laurie/Lawrie for a boy is cute but maybe a bit too unwearable today. I fear I fall into the crowd that thinks once a name goes to the girls it can’t really come back. : (

  3. I love Lawrence or Laurence. I do what makes people chose one spelling over the other though.

  4. I don’t think Laurie is particularly feminine as a short form — I actually immediately think Hugh Laurie. I prefer it to Lawrie, which to my eye looks clumsly.

    I’m sure some people have Lawrence of Arabia in mind when they use the name, but of course, in his case, as you point out, it was his surname. His father was actually Sir Thomas Chapman, Baronet — but T.E. (Thomas Edward – known as Ned to his family and close friends) and his brothers were all illegitimate, the sons of Sarah Lawrence, governess of Sir Thomas’ four legitimate daughters. He left his wife and estates in Ireland and, after much meandering, settled in Oxford as ‘Mr Lawrence’. Lawrence’s brother – Arnold – was also an archaeologist; he was, ironically enough, the Laurence Professor of Classical Archaeology in Cambridge.

    1. Larkin is a medieval diminutive – origin of the surname Larkin. Interesting that it has been picked up as a pet-form again. Love it!