baby name WendyThe baby name Wendy bridges traditional favorites and modern inventions.

Thanks to Kristin and Lola for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


Long before we met the eldest Darling child, a handful of women and men answered to the name.

Odds are that the baby name Wendy shortened traditional names like Gwendolen or Wendell. But it also was recorded as an independent name in 1615 in Cambridge, England. Given the long history of Germanic names like Wendela and Wendelmar, it’s easy to imagine Wendy in use.


But until the year 1904, the baby name Wendy was virtually unknown.

That’s the year JM Barrie – a Scottish novelist and playwright – penned Peter Pan. The stories were first written to amuse the Llewelyn Davies boys, five sons of his friends Sylvia and Arthur. Both parents died young, leaving Barrie a legal guardian of the boys.

It’s said that Barrie borrowed Wendy from a nickname.

Margaret Henley was the young daughter of poet William Ernest Henley. (He’s best remembered for “Invictus.”) Margaret referred to Barrie as “friendy,” but couldn’t say her Rs. So “friendy” became “fwendy.”

Drop the F, and … well, you know the story.

A 1911 novel, titled Peter and Wendy, followed the 1904 play. It’s the Disney animated classic from 1953 that cemented the characters in our imagination. Though adaptations and re-imaginings abound.

Wendy Darling remains mostly the same across the stories.

The big sister to Peter and Michael, she mixes sensible schoolgirl traits with a fanciful name and a daring streak. Unlike Peter, Wendy ultimately accepts that she must grow up. A sequel tells us that Wendy’s daughter, Jane, will eventually visit Neverland with Peter, too.


In the 1930s, English actor Marguerite Jenkins appeared in a string of box office hits. She continued to act into the 1940s, when she transitioned to hosting one of the first television talk shows.

Her stage name? Wendy Barrie.

Wendy was Marguerite’s middle name. And Barrie? It nodded to her godfather – JM Barrie himself.


The actor deserves credit for the name’s wider use.

In 1912, the year following the publication of Wendy and Peter, fewer than five girls were given the baby name Wendy.

In 1936, the baby name Wendy entered the US Top 1000 at #826.

It wasn’t until 1938 that more than 100 girls were named Wendy in a single year. By 1939, it ranked in the US Top 500 and climbing.


In 1954, the comics gave us Wendy the Good Little Witch, a companion for Casper, the friendly ghost.

She graduated to her own book by 1960. The comics have continued into the twenty-first century.

Multiple adaptations have depicted Wendy, too, from movies to video games.

While this Wendy might not be top-of-mind this decade, we’re always just one reboot away from the character’s revival.


American parents have another use of the baby name Wendy that comes to mind: the fast food chain founded by Dave Thomas.

Thomas famously named his restaurants after daughter Wendy. Turns out that Wendy’s birth name was Melinda Lou Thomas – but as a child, she couldn’t quite say her name, and Wendy stuck.

Founded in 1969, the chain’s mascot is based on Wendy Thomas herself.

While the burger joint might give some parents pause, there’s no question that Wendy is a given name first and foremost.


Sometime after the witch and before the hamburgers, the baby name Wendy started to rise.

It first entered the US Top 100 in 1954. The name peaked at #28 in 1970, and remained a Top 100 favorite until 1981.

It fit with other popular late 1960s/1970s favorites. Wendy rode the school bus with Tammy and Sherri, Tina and Julie.


Along the way, quite a few famous uses of the baby name Wendy occurred.

If you know your classic horror movies, Jack and Wendy Torrance sign on to be the winter caretakers at the Overlook in 1980’s The Shining. It’s based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel.

The late Sister Wendy is a British nun who became an unlikely art expert in the 1990s, via a series of acclaimed documentaries on the BBC.

Actors include Wendy Richard of Are You Being Served? and EastEnders, as well as Wendie Malick from Just Shoot Me! and Hot in Cleveland.

Wendy O. Williams pushed boundaries as head of daring punk band The Plasmatics. Her edgy work earned her a Grammy nomination in 1985.

A different Wendy Williams has hosted a syndicated talk show since 2008.


As storybook as Alice, as sparky as Sadie, the baby name Wendy could fit right in to the US Top 100. Imagine hearing it in the company of Luna, Lily, and Willow; Ivy, Ruby, and Piper.

Wendy fits.

Except it doesn’t.

Because the baby name Wendy remained in the US Top 100 until 1981. It recently left the Top 1000, departing after the year 2018.

It may simply be that the baby name Wendy needs a few more decades of rest before it feels truly fresh and different again.

Or not.

Because Disney’s live action Peter Pan and Wendy, starring Ever Anderson as Wendy – is due out in 2022. That might just herald this name’s return … a little earlier than we might have otherwise expected.

What do you think of the baby name Wendy?

First published July 17, 2012, this post was revised and re-published on November 2, 2021.

baby name Wendy

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. Hi im a wendy and ive hated it so im thinking of using the longer form of gwendellyn or even the shorter gwen

  2. It’s interesting when you look a top 100 girls names for England and Wales for most of the last century because Wendy was there from the 30’s to the 70’s, it never broke the top 20 but still amazing staying power don’t you think

  3. I don’t think it needs a few decades to rest. Yes, it made the top 100, and all the Wendys I can think of were born during that timeframe, but the names that are most tied to that specific era were in the top 10 for extended periods of time. I think it’s super usable right now.

  4. I am Wendy ( Lynn ) and I don’t think anyone associates me w being ‘cutesy’…everyone always liked my name as a kid and even though I was born in the most popular decade for its use, I’ve only ever met two or three other Wendy’s in my life …I had a great uncle home in Ireland that was a tough blacksmith (apparently) who was Wendie and he said it wasn’t uncommon for Irish/Welshmen w that name in 30s when he was born.
    Because of the dumb hamburger chain appropriation I used to get asked by teenag boys if I was ‘hot & juicy’ and as a kid I was best friends w Casper the ghost…my entire family has always called me Wend / Wen It’s come from ‘Wending’ (as in winding -like a river) and means “white/light ” I was told by a linguistics prof.

  5. I love the name Wendy, and don’t think she’s too nickname-y to use as she is.

  6. I like Wendy as a nickname, but it always seems incomplete as a full name. I’ve sometimes wondered whether we’re supposed to assume that Peter Pan’s Wendy had a longer birth name.