O by Too Far North via Flickr

Today’s choice has two distinct origins with similar meanings.

Thanks to mom-to-be Michelle for suggesting Orly as our Baby Name of the Day.

Let’s start with the Hebrew origin for this name. Remember the middle name songstress Christina Aguilera gave to her son Max? It’s Liron – Hebrew for my song. The “li” element – my – appears in the name Orli, too. Or- comes from the word for light. The meaning is roughly the “light is mine.” File this under yet another appealing Israeli option, as worn by notables like Jerusalem-born pianist/radio host Orli Shaham. The spelling Orlie is out there, too.

But that might not be your first thought. You might hear Orly and wonder when your flight arrives. If you’re in Orly, you’re in the Paris ‘burbs. Most flights in the metropolitan area head in and out of De Gaulle, of course, but a 2010 French film was set in the airport.

You’re also not too far from an ancient settlement called Aureliacum. Roughly translated, it means Aurelius’ place. Here’s the really fascinating part: Aurelius was, of course, a Roman family name, worn by several saints. But the -acum is Celtic in origin, a suffix added to the Latin name.

Back to Aurelius: it came from Latin aureus – golden. It’s not quite the same as light, but they’re in the same ballpark. The lovely Aurelia left the US Top 1000 after the 1940s, but has attracted some attention of late. Aurelia would fit right in with Amelia and Olivia. The French version Aurélie has migrated into English as Oralie and Aura Lee, too.

Orly has a totally different vibe, but she feels quite current, too. She’d fit with:

  • Modern, gender-bending choices like Avery, Aubrey, and Riley;
  • Brief-but-complete names like Zoe and Chloe;
  • The -or sound brings to mind names like Marley, Lorelei, Carly/Carlie, Cora, and Caroline – everything from the modern to the vintage to the classic.

This next generation of parents might think of one other thing: O RLY. If ILY is your equivalent of hearts and flowers doodled on the bottom of a notebook page, O RLY might be your version of an arched eyebrow. If that describes you, then you might see Orly and think not of light or airports or Ancient Rome, but of the phrase “oh really.”

In that case, Orly seems an unlikely choice for a daughter. Should you still like the sound, there’s always the similar place name Airlie, previously covered here, or the Irish Orla.

But Orly has the virtue of being that rarest of names: legitimately female, frills-free, complete in her ends-in-y form. She’s almost a 21st century Mary – but unlike the former #1, Orly is undeniably unexpected.

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. To a Russian speaker Orly sounds like the word meaning “eagle like” which is a great combination — a spectacularly beautiful, powerful bird :).

    Aurelia is my Hispanic mother-in-law’s name. Interesting, perhaps a little too flowery for me, but pleasant. Incidentally, my daughter’s French male teacher’s name is Aurelien.