Lorelei: Baby Name of the DayLorelei is a fanciful German choice boosted by a popular dramedy.

Thanks to Dirty Hippy for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


German folklore gives us Rhine maidens, a mix of mermaid, shape-shifter, and siren. They lured sailors to their deaths on the treacherous rocks of the Rhine River.

One especially dangerous boulder shared its name with one of the maidens – Loreley.

Legend says she’s the ghost of a lovesick maiden, drowned in despair.

Poets, composers and painters have been inspired by her tale for generations:

  • In 1801, Clemens Brentano wrote a poem about Lore Lay.
  • Heinrich Heine penned the poem Die Lorelei in 1838.
  • At least a dozen songs share the title, and there’s an Italian opera by the name, too, as well as another one based on the legend – but it’s called Lurline.

The name comes from the murmuring sound of the water – lurlei or lureln – or maybe from the same root that gives us the verb to lure, plus the word ley, from a Celtic word meaning rock.


A handful of women were named after the poetry and operas, but it took a comic novel by Anita Loos to boost the name. Her 1925 bestseller was the story of a stenographer from Little Rock who shot a would-be suitor for his unwanted advances. The judge’s sentence?  He re-named her Lorelei and packed her off to Hollywood to use her beauty for good. She ends up in Europe, on madcap adventures with her BFF, Dorothy. All ends well.

It became a comic strip, a 1928 movie, and then a 1949 Broadway musical.  But it was 1953’s big screen extravaganza that cemented the story in our memories. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starred Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei.  The diamonds and pink dress are iconic – years later, Madonna borrowed her character for her “Material Girl” video. We all recognize it, even if we’re not exactly sure about the backstory.

As the various adaptations of Loos’ story succeeded, more girls received the name. Lorelei hugged the edges of the US Top 1000, breaking in multiple times, from the 1930s into the 1960s.

But it took the small screen to make the name a hit.


The Gilmore Girls debuted in 2000. The show used the variant spelling Lorelai for its two main characters – a mother-daughter duo. The mom used the name in full, while the daughter was known as Rory. We eventually learned that they weren’t the first to bear the Gilmore family name. Rory’s late great-grandmother was yet another Lorelai, but she answered to Trix.

The show was a major success, and the name caught on – maybe because the mom and daughter both showed how wearable the name could be.


Lorelei re-entered the Top 1000 in 2004. As of 2012, the original spelling charted at #533. By 2018, the name reached #473. As for Lorelai, it entered the US Top 1000 in 2006, and reached #568 by 2018.

That’s not too common, and yet, it’s also not exactly rare. It hits a sweet spot for plenty of parents.

Plus, it feels like a spin on the classic Laura, and boasts nickname options like Lola and Rory.

If you’re looking for something a little bit sparkly, with hints of German heritage but a current feel, Lorelei might be the name for you.

Would you consider this name for a daughter? Do you like the -lei or – lai spelling better?

Originally published on July 30, 2008, this post was revised and re-posted on September 2, 2013 and again on February 5, 2020.


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. I named my daughter “Aubrey Lorelai“ in 2012. Although Aubrey has become quite popular, I still love both names. It would make me so happy if one day my daughter has her own daughter and names her Lorelai as a first name. When people hear me say both names together, they remark on how beautiful it sounds and how perfectly it fits my sweet little girl.

  2. I love “Laura” names.the sound is so lyrical to me. My second daughter’s name is Lauralyn. My family has a history of Laura names (Laurel, Laura, Lauren…), and so we chose Lauralyn to honor that tradition and to specifically pay tribute to my sister Lauren. Though Lauralyn isn’t traditional, the reason we chose it was because my oldest son (two at the time of Lauralyn’s birth) couldn’t say Aunt Lauren, but instead always said “Lauralyn.” My husband thought that was beautiful, so we went with it. I love how it has a traditional sound (Laura/Marilyn), but is unconventional, too. It fits my spunky, unique, and dramatic girl well!

  3. Wow, I never expected to find so much bickering and snarking on a thread about Lorelei! What the dealio???

    Anyway, I think Lorelei is terribly pretty, and it certainly doesn’t have any of the images attached to it here that it seems to in the US. It seems like a natural follow-up to Lauren to me.

    The only thing I’ve never got is how Rory is a nickname for Lorelei (there’s no ROAR sound in it, and they both start and end with different sounds, and they don’t have the same letters so it’s seeming quite a stretch as a diminutive), and I wonder whether it was ever used that way before “Gilmore Girls” – is it purely a pop culture creation?

  4. Wow, what a contentious thread to reopen! My great-grandmother’s name was Lurline, and while I knew the name was related to Lorelei, I didn’t know about the murmuring water sound part. That’s a lovely nature reference, but it doesn’t make Lurline sing to my ears.

    1. Yes – I hesitated to repost it, but the name is really very popular, the post is often read – and it was VERY out-of-date.

      I had the same reaction when I added that bit about Lurline. I’d come across one recently, and was surprised to realize how closely the names were related. It makes me love the idea of Lurline, but I don’t think the sounds works in 2013. Too bad … it is a really cool name to find on your family tree!

  5. When I was young, I wrote a story with sisters named Lorelei and Leilani. Completely different origins (and different pronunciations of “lei”), but somehow they made a good pair in my head.

    1. I think they do fit – even though they don’t share origins. Lorelei and Eleni, maybe, too – even though one is German and the other Greek.

  6. I loved Lorelei for years, ever since I was a kid and I read a book with a heroine of the same name. My husband and I were set on using it ever since we started dating, so I was absolutely heartbroken when a family member used it first. But we’ve since moved on. I had no idea it was this disputed, and now that I see firsthand the problems they’ve had with it (no one knowing how to spell or pronounce it, people thinking it’s a creative smoosh of Lora and Lee) it does make me realize that “no name is perfect in everyone’s eyes”. I still love the name, and my little relative who wears it!

  7. My sister’s name is Lorelei and she was born in 1983. King Henry the VIII lopped off all his wive’s heads, and no one seems to have a problem with others who name their kids Henry…

  8. My name is Laura. I think that Lorelei is the most beautiful name in the world. Growing up, I always wished that my name was Lorelei. I named my daughter Lorelei Elizabeth. I had her when I was 28 years old. I have two degrees: a teaching degree and a nursing degree.

    1. I think Lorelei is a great name with lots of nickname options! My husband and I were just in Germany and saw the actual “Loreley” on the Rhine. In Germany it was spelled LORELEY. Not sure what is more original Lorelei or Loreley, but another spelling option for anyone who loves the name. 🙂

  9. Wanted to post this link for everyone. Just found it interesting because of all the negativity portrayed behind the name. Sometimes it pays off to do some research before actually condemning a name. Legends are only stories and there is always room to add your own twist! P.S. Someone mentioned that the father uses it as sort of a warning and I thought that was a very clever twist to the “meaning” and legend behind the name 🙂