Romantic Heart from Love SeedsIt’s a surname name with a certain sweetness.

Thanks to Laura for suggesting Hartley as our Baby Name of the Day.

First question: is this a boy’s name or a girl’s name?

My initial answer was boy.  Hartley has a long history of use as a masculine name, even though numbers are very small.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge had a son named David Hartley in 1796.  The poet named his firstborn for a philosopher.  He was known by his middle, and Hartley Coleridge became a teacher and a writer.  Laura suggested it because her grandfather was named Hartley, too.

But in recent years, Hartley has followed other H surname names into use for girls.  Think of Hadley and Harper and Harlow.  101 girls received the name in 2012.

So let’s go with my general fallback for surnames: it is gender neutral, at least until usage tells us otherwise.  (Hunter is usually a boys’ name, while Madison is almost always used for girls.)

Like many an ends-with-ley choice, Hartley comes from England:

  • It’s a place name, especially common in Yorkshire.  Hart refers to a hart – a stag.  With that familiar leah – wood.
  • It may also be an Anglicized form of the Irish O Artghaile, Artghaile, or Artghal – a surname from a given name meaning valor.  There was a ninth century King of the Britons named Artgal, and an eighth century King of Connacht by the same name.

Famous bearers of the surname are plentiful:

  • Sir William Pickles (!) Hartley founded the company that produces Hartley’s jam back in the nineteenth century. A whole town called Hartley Village was built near the factory, complete with ingredient-inspired street names, like Red Currant Street.
  • Oscar-winning actress Vivien Leigh was born Vivien Hartley.
  • Mariette Hartley is one of many actors to use the surname professionally.  The Emmy-winning actress has had a long career on television, including turns on the original Incredible Hulk and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
  • Hartley County, Texas is named after Oliver and Rufus Hartley.  The brothers were both legislators in the young state.

There are places called Hartley throughout the English-speaking world, nearly all named like the Texas County, after some notable bearer of the surname.

As for those to answer to Hartley as a given name, there’s:

  • The well-born Hartley Shawcross was a baron – and the lead British prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes tribunal after World War II.
  • Young actor Hartley Sawyer has appeared on The Young and the Restless as well as a number of other television series.
  • The late British actor Roger Lloyd-Pack had sons named Spencer, Louis, and Hartley, as well as daughter Emily, a BAFTA-nominated actress.

All of this makes Hartley an interesting possibility: slightly Southern, vaguely British.  I’ll rely on readers from the UK to decide if Hartley’s association with jams and jellies make this too much like naming your kid Smucker in the US.

While Hartley’s hart doesn’t have anything to do with romance or cardiology, it is easy to read this one with affection.

Overall, if you’re fortunate enough to find Hartley on your family tree, this is definitely a name to consider.  But know that H surnames and names ending in -ley have been quite fashionable in recent years, and Hartley could catch on.

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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. It was my grandfather’s first name. Family legend has it that my pregnant great-grandmother got it from an advertisement for Hartley’s Processed Peas.
    It may also derive from Old English hard lea, meaning a stony meadow.

  2. This was my great grandfather’s name and my mom gave it to me as a middle name. Proud to have it and she hyphenated it with her maiden name.

  3. This name seems very wearable. It’s distinctive but not wholly unexpected. Personally, I’m drawn to the nickname Hart by itself. I’d love to meet a little Hart out and about!