The baby name Lane brings to mind winding country paths, quaint village streets, and a growing number of people answering to the name.

Thanks to Alex for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


Lane means exactly what you think it does: a road or a marked track. It’s Old English in origin, with similar words in Dutch and Old Norse and so on.

Originally, it probably belonged to someone who lived on a narrow way, snug between hedges or fences or rows of other houses, a surname in the key of Hill or Lake.

Or possibly, Lane could come from one of many sources, including:

  • An Anglicized form of Irish surname derived from “descendant of Laighean,” meaning javelin or spear
  • Irish surnames give us O Luain – “descendant of Luan” from a byname meaning warrior
  • There’s also the Irish Liathán, usually imported to English as Lehane but possibly sometimes Lane, too, meaning gray
  • It might be a habitational name borrowed from an area in western Sweden
  • While we’re in Scandinavia, it might come from a Finnish word meaning wave
  • In French, it might refer to the eldest son: l’aînéto someone who sells wool – laine
  • Lastly, it might mean stubborn, thanks to the French l’asne, meaning the donkey – or, of course, in more neutral terms it might refer to the owner of a donkey

With any short surname, it’s easy to find many a longer or more complicated surname reduced to something like the last name Lane.

In any case, Lane has always been used as a given name in reasonable numbers, almost certainly thanks to the many Lane families in the United States.


Of course, some of these meanings and origins are more likely to lead to the spelling Laine.

Also seen in use: Layne, as well as longer name with the Lane sound, like Elaine, Laney, Lainey, and Delaney.

In some ways, they’re all separate names. But it’s a powerful sound, and several of these are all trending now. 

But what led to the rise in the name Lane?


polished Western name

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With rugged Western bona fides and a polished, gentlemanly sound, Lane offers the best of both worlds.


#260 as of 2022


holding steady


from an Old English word for path, first used as a surname; other Irish, French, and Scandi origins are possible


The name Lane got its start in the middle of the country. (This data from 2012 makes it clear: Lane was far more likely to live in  Montana or Iowa than California or North Carolina.)

What shaped Lane’s rugged, cowboy cool image?

First up: Robert Chandler Oakes, the son of a Montana rancher.

By the 1920s, he’d arrived in Hollywood, where his real life skills earned him bit parts in Westerns. He graduated to leading man status, using the professional name Lane Chandler.

The actor’s movie career faded in the 1930s, but revived with a series of roles in television Westerns through the 1960s.

Then along came Lane Frost, born in 1963. (That’s his real name.) A ProRodeo Hall of Famer, he died following a tragic accident in 1989, at the age of just 25. 

The bull rider’s life inspired the 1994 biopic 8 Seconds, starring Luke Perry as Frost. A number of songs have been written in his memory, and within the world of rodeo, it’s a familiar name – even legendary.

One more real life Lane that lends a certain rugged edge to the name: University of Mississippi football coach Lane Kiffin, born in 1975. 


Something happened along the way, though, and the baby name Lane’s image expanded well beyond competitive sports and the wide open range. 

Other uses included:

  • In 1985, John Cusack played Lane Meyer in the dark comedy Better Off Dead. He’s a California high school student dumped by his girlfriend, Beth. While it wasn’t a hit, the movie slowly gained cult classic status.
  • The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” was a chart-topper from 1967, but it transitioned to name status in 2000, when Kate Hudson played a character called Penny Lane in Almost Famous.
  • Also in the year 2000, the world met the residents of fictional Stars Hollow, including Rory’s BFF, Lane Kim, on television seriesGilmore Girls. (A show packed with amazing names!)
  • In 2009, the third season of Mad Men gave us Lane Pryce. Pryce joins the Sterling Cooper ad agency from England, and stays with the show through season five. He’s very British, and probably shifted some parents’ image of the name.
  • Downton Abbey gave us Mabel Lane Fox in 2014. While she’s a minor character, the series might’ve helped even more parents think of the name as British and feminine, since Mabel was routinely referred to as “Miss Lane Fox.”

The baby name Lane has ranked in the Top 1000 most popular boy names every year since 1929 in the US. As of 1993, it stood at #594. Then came the Lane Frost biopic, and the name reached #354 in 1994 and #246 in 1995.

It’s hovered between the mid-200s and low-300s ever since. As of 2022, Lane ranked #260.

While it’s yet to chart for girls, the number of births has quietly increased, reaching a new high of 119 girls in 2022.

There’s also:

  • Layne, ranked #662 for boys as of 2022
  • While Laine has never cracked the US Top 1000, it was given to 153 girls (and 61 boys) in 2022
  • Also as a baby girl names, Lainey has been a runaway hit, reaching #174 for girls in the US as of 2022 – the most popular variation of the name Lane by far

Factor in Delaney, Elaine, and other names with the shared Lane sounds, and this is a name that feels quite familiar.


The name’s image falls somewhere between a polished, sophisticated gentleman and a rugged country guy in a pickup truck. That dual nature makes the name Lane quite versatile, despite being just a single syllable. 

It’s one of those names that hits the Sweet Spot – instantly recognizable, easy to spell and pronounce, but not common, either. 

All combined, Lane is a solid choice for a son, not too traditional, not too different, either.

What do you think of the baby name Lane?

First published on October 9. 2019, this post was revised and re-published on May 8, 2024.

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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1 Comment

  1. It’s not a name I hear much in the Midwest either. I am guessing it is more common in the Southwest. I am not a fan, it definitely just sounds surnamey.