Thanks to Caroline for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Flann means red in Irish, and was used as a given name. Flannan – little red – was also heard. And Flynn is another form of Flann.
Flannery is a surname derived from the given name, just like Connery and Donnelly and Flaherty.
The second half of the name is debated, but most sources agree on “red valor” as the name’s full meaning.
Flann Sinna was a ninth century High King of Ireland. An Irish poet lived around the same time. And a Saint Flannan is recorded in the seventh century. So there’s plenty of history to draw on.
MARY FLANNERY O’CONNOR
The best known bearer of the name was an American writer of Irish descent.
Born Mary Flannery O’Connor in Savannah, Georgia, she dropped her first name around the time she left Georgia for the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. She returned to Georgia and would spend the rest of her career in her home state.
Despite a life cut short by illness – O’Connor died at 39 – her literary achievements are many. A trained journalist, she penned book reviews for newspapers in Georgia, as well as celebrated short stories and two novels. Short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” ranks among the most widely read.
O’Connor’s Catholic faith is evident in her work. She addressed a wide range of issues – racism, the Holocaust, the culture and challenges of the American South.
She once wrote, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.”
Her legacy is commemorated with the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, given annually from the University of Georgia Press. A 2019 documentary explored her life and writing.
Literary names like Harper and Hadley have become favorites for parents in recent decades. The baby name Flannery fits right in.
It’s not just Flannery’s status as a surname with literary overtones that makes it a potential hit.
In fact, this name has been on trend forecasters’ radar for some time.
Nearly twenty years ago, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner published Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. The co-authors tried their hands at predicting baby name trends.
They called Liam and Maya, but missed big-time on most of their guesses.
Hey, crystal ball-gazing is a tough gig.
Still, it was a reasonable guess.
- Irish surnames, like Riley, Finley, and Murphy, remains favorites for our children.
- The baby name Flannery fits with choices like Avery, Delaney, and Kimberly.
- If To Kill a Mockingbird is a huge source of naming inspiration, why not other American literary references?
HOW POPULAR IS FLANNERY?
In 2022, just seven girls received the baby name Flannery.
That’s down from a high of 23 births in 2006.
Single digits is pretty rare. As of 2022, it took 261 births to rank in the US Top 1000 for girls. Other names given to just seven girls in 2022 include Araminta, Coretta, Elsbeth, Galaxie, Kailor, Ludovica, Persia, Reeve, and Sparkle.
It’s never registered in the US popularity data for boys, meaning that it hasn’t been given to more than four boys in a single year.
OTHER USES of FLANNERY
With the exception of Freakonomics, places for parents to hear the baby name Flannery have been few and far between. Two that might be familiar:
- Flannery is a trainer in Pokémon. The red-haired gym leader works with fire-type Pokémon, making the name’s colorful meaning especially appropriate.
- Daniel Handler – better known as Lemony Snicket – wrote a non-Snicket coming-of-age novel called The Basic Eight back in 1998. Handler’s main character is Flannery, called Flan for short.
- Cape Flannery, in the South Sandwich Islands, was named for naval architect, engineer, and later politician, James Fortescue Flannery.
- William Flannery played competitive bridge. The card game now includes something called the Flannery bridge convention in his honor.
As famous figures go, these are all pretty low-key. Unless you’re a fan of the author, odds are you wouldn’t stumble on the baby name Flannery.
If you’re seeking something rare, with an intellectual vibe and a little bit of Irish flair, it’s tough to top Flannery. Far less expected than a surname name like Kennedy, but still plenty familiar, Flannery feels distinctively different.
With an admirable namesake and an on-trend sound, there are plenty of good reasons to consider the baby name Flannery for a daughter.
What do you think of the baby name Flannery?
Originally published on July 6, 2009, this post was revised and re-posted on November 24, 2014 and again on February 28, 2024.