Laurel bridges the gap between classic Laura and novel nature names like River and Wren.
Thanks to Jessica for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Laurel: To the Victors
File this one with Rowan and Juniper. It’s another tree name that feels very wearable for a child.
The green leaves of laurus nobilis have long symbolized achievement. In Greek myth, Apollo wore a wreath made of them. Ancient Olympic champions were crowned with the leaves; later, so were military commanders in Rome.
It inspired the title “poet laureate,” and if you “rest on your laurels,” you’re relying on your past success rather than working hard today.
You might argue this makes Laurel a virtue name. But it succeeds for another reason.
Laura comes from laurus, too. The name always ranks in the US Top 400, and spent most of the twentieth century in the Top 100. Today, Laura has fallen out of favor, but remains a widely recognized classic.
Laur- and Lor- names regularly chart well in the US, though many – like Lorelei – are related only on sound.
No surprise, then, that Laurel peeks into the US Top 1000 a few times in the late 1800s. It sounds so much like evergreen girls’ name Laura.
You might expect the names to rise and fall together, but the pattern varies.
Laura peaked most recently in the 1960s. Lauren Bacall became a 1940s box office star, but her given name hit a high-water mark in the 1980s. As for our tree name, it fared best in the 1950s.
Laurel: Surname Name
You might think of this as a surname name, and indeed that can be the case.
But the most famous bearer of the name started out life as Arthur Stanley Jefferson, but you know him as Stan Laurel, comedic partner to Oliver Hardy. They appeared in a film together as early as 1921, but didn’t become a duo until 1926. Their partnership continued until 1951. The comedy duo’s movies and shorts remain in heavy rotation; odds are that everyone has seen at least a snippet of their work.
Or at least that held true until recently. Younger generations – including children born today – may not stumble on their comedy sketches. If anything, that probably makes the name more wearable.
Laurel: Nature Name Standout
Laura remained a Top 100 choice through the 1990s, and Lauren stayed there until just a few years ago. They fell, as an entire class of nature name rose.
Nature names of every variety feel white hot today. Newcomers like River, Rowan, and Willow join ecovintage picks like Lily and Forrest.
Combine these two factors, and Laurel qualifies as a current name. But it didn’t make the first wave of nature names, because we were still so in love with other Laur- choices.
Laurel: On the Rise
In fact, Laurel left the charts entirely after 2008. Now the name has returned, climbing to #643 in recent years. That’s a quick reversal!
It fits in perfectly with current trends. Consider:
- Even though it isn’t a common surname name, like Kennedy or Carter, it feels very much in that mold, a tailored, nickname-proof possibility.
- Like Madison, it shares sounds with traditional, familiar feminine names.
- It picks up a subtle virtue vibe, too, thanks to the association with achievement.
- And, of course, there’s no question this qualifies as a nature name.
One more factor? This now counts as a bona fide super hero name, one that expectant parents know thanks to Arrow. The CW series gave us attorney-turned-vigilante Laurel Lance in 2012, and she will return for a sixth season.
If you’re looking for a girl’s name that feels fresh and modern, but has unquestionable ties to the past, Laurel belongs on your list. Call it an on-trend name that feels surprisingly conventional, too.
What do you think? An underused gem or too close to long-time favorites to feel truly novel?
Amanda L. says
Don’t forget superhero Laurel Lance/Black Canary
yeah I think Laurel on Arrow has been a big part of why the name has been climbing. Also Laurel on How To Get Away With Murder
Yes! How could I forget?!
This is my name and I (now) love it. The only real bug bear is constantly being called Lauren, Laura, Laurie, L’Oreal etc but people tend to find it refreshing when I correct them. It’s also pretty cool having a rare but recognisable name (I’ve only met 5 other Laurels!)
L’Oreal – wow!! I had a colleague named Laurel about ten years ago, and was forever jealous when I heard someone mention her name.
My middle-school self was set on having daughters named Laurel and Hazel when I grew up. I could still see myself using either for a pet (my tastes for humans have changed a lot) but Laurel in particular still holds a spark. Beautiful and understated.