Cropped screenshot of Marilyn Monroe from the ...It is a Hollywood-certified surname with a vibrant -o ending.

Thanks to Whitney for suggesting Monroe as our Baby Name of the Day.

Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon made waves when they gave this name to their daughter in 2011.  If Monroe’s name was inspired by a Hollywood icon, she wasn’t alone – meet celeb kids called Harlow, Chaplin, and Gable.  Her twin brother’s name – Moroccan  – was more of an outlier.  It was inspired by the decor of a room in the couple’s home.

We all know Monroe as a surname, and a presidential surname at that.  From Lincoln to Kennedy to Reagan, names that have occupied the Oval Office have fared well on the popularity charts.

Which president, you ask?  Number five, James Monroe.  A revolutionary war veteran, he was the last of the founding fathers to serve as president.  Among other things, he’s responsible for the Monroe Doctrine – the idea that it was time to end European colonization and interference in the Americas.

Plenty of places are named in his honor, in Michigan and Pennsylvania and Georgia and beyond.  Way beyond, as in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, since James Monroe championed establishing independent African colonies for emancipated slaves.

As a given name, Monroe has a long history of sparing use for boys.  It’s a common surname, after all, and most surnames enjoy some use in the first spot.

Two notable bearers spring to mind:

  • Munro Leaf, the children’s writer best known for 1936’s beloved – and controversial – Ferdinand, the story of a bull who preferred smelling flowers in the field to fighting.  He was born Wilbur Monroe Leaf.
  • But the first image that pops into my head is actor Jm J. Bullock, from 80s sitcom Too Close for Comfort.  His daffy character answered to Monroe Ficus.  (As a child I was fascinated by the spelling of Jm … and by the fact that the late-in-life child added to the series had the same name as the late-in-life child added to Family Ties Andrew.)

It might put Monroe squarely on Team Blue.

Then along came Norma Jeane Mortensen, also known as Norma Jeane Baker, but best remembered as Marilyn Monroe.  After a tumultuous childhood, she became a model and then a starlet and then a major Hollywood star.  Monroe was her mother’s maiden name.  Marilyn was chosen after much deliberation.  Her glittering career was cut short by a too-early demise, but she lives on in her memorable movies and her status as a style icon.

It’s a lot of meaning to layer on a name.  The surname is Scottish, probably from a word meaning hill.  A Munro is a Scottish term for any mountain more than 3,000 feet tall, thanks to Sir Hugh Munro, who spent his days compiling tables of all the peaks in Scotland.  And the Scottish Clan Munro sometimes traces their name to the River Roe in Northern Ireland.

How would it wear as a given name?  Monroe is on the rise for girls and boys.  In 2012, Monroe was given to 77 boys, while 266 girls received the name.  She’d actually been climbing for girls throughout the 2000s, a successor to Madison, a cousin to Marlowe.  

Overall, Monroe is more likely to belong to a baby girl these days.  After more than five decades’ absence from the US Top 1000, she re-entered the rankings in 2012 at #948, for girls.  With her on-trend, frills-free sound, and ties to the Hollywood icon, no wonder parents are discovering Monroe for their daughters – and maybe also their sons.

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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. Monroe is a cute name and after read this article it seems to be the perfect one!!

  2. Maybe it’s the “mun” sound at the beginning, but Monroe leaves me flat. I much prefer Marlowe, or even better, Marlo.