The baby name Flannery combines Irish heritage with surname style and literary flair.

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.

Surnames of Irish origin have been favorites in recent years – think Riley and Nolan and Quinn. Some of those children were wearing a family name, of course – especially considering how many Flannery families migrated to the United States across the years.  

But those names have become mainstream favorites, and not just for the descendants of Irish immigrants.


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.


Irish & literary

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A spirited Irish surname, Flannery was made famous by Southern writer Flannery O’Connor.


unranked in the US; given to seven girls in 2022


falling in use, though it has always been rare


From an Irish surname related to the color red; “red valor” is one possible meaning


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 EverythingThe co-authors tried their hands at predicting baby name trends.

They called Liam and Maya, but missed big-time on most of their guesses.

Including Flannery.

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?

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.


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?

baby name Flannery

Originally published on July 6, 2009, this post was revised on November 24, 2014; February 28, 2024; and April 11, 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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What do you think?


  1. PS: I must admit that I’m not enthused that a group (reputed to know such things) is predicting that Flannery will be one of the most popular names by 2015. I hope not. One of the things I like about it is its uniqueness.

    1. Glenna, what a great choice for your daughter! And it was smart to give her a clearly feminine mn, too – I think one gender-ambiguous name per child is a good standard. (Quinn Avery, no. Tucker Ellen, yes.)

      And I really think the predictions are WAY off-base. The authors might understand many trends, but they’ve oversimplified baby naming. I doubt there will be a wave of Flannerys following your darling daughter.

  2. I have an adorable 6 1/2 mo. old granddaughter named Flannery. Her mother (my daughter) has strong Irish roots and Flannery O’Connor is one of her dad’s favorite authors, so the name pleased each of them. I have loved the name since they first told me they’d chosen it. Some friends, however, were not supportive. One asked the name they’d chosen and, when told, asked incredulously, “Why?” It suits our baby just fine and we hope she’ll like the name. She has a one-syllable feminine middle name (just in case someone might think her name belongs to a boy).

  3. Flannery is a wonderful name. I love the author and so the name rings for me with depth and wonder.

    As for Flannery O’Connor’s canonization. So far, she is only canonized in that her works have entered the American literary canon. Though the idea of her being a saint is truly captivating, I am afraid people would stop reading her.

  4. I’ll agree that once a boys’ name has been worn by a female author, it gains credence as a girls’ name. Flannery and Harper feel like substantial, meaningful choices for daughters; whereas Harley, Carter, and Delaney (on girls) feel like bandwagon choices.

  5. Saint Flannery – I didn’t know! How cool, and thanks, Sebastiane.

    The law firm babies do vex me. “This is my son, Parker Nicholson Brown.” Or, “Yes, I’m a partner in the estates and trusts practice at Parker Nicholson Brown.” I don’t suppose anyone will ever think that your tow-headed cherub was named after a professional services firm, but why risk it?

    And not “if and when,” Elizabeth – WHEN! I already tried to read Harry Potter to the 4 y.o., but a) they’re a tiny bit scary and b) he mostly wants to read our history of the Stanley Cup. Here’s hoping he branches out, or I’ll be the mom in the bookstore buying her 12 y.o. the biography of Wayne Gretzky.

    Lana is cute. And I love the nn Annie, but it isn’t nearly as distinctive as Flannery. (I don’t know any Annies at the moment, though I do know a 3 y.o. Annabel.)

    I do like both Flannery and Harper for girls. And Hadley. Must be the literary connections.

    1. I love the name Flannery. It was on my short list 5 years ago when I was pregnant. I, too, was conflicted b/c of lack of nn and the largeness of the name. I thought it might be a lot to harness a baby with…

      However, I am currently pregnant with twins and am considering it. I love the literary ties and Irish element (being half Irish!).

      I also think that it would go well with Annabel (my 4 yr old). We are thinking of using the nickname Fanny (as in old English nickname, not rear).

      1. Congrats on your babies on the way! Annabel and Flannery make for an interesting pair. Do you know the gender of maybe-Flannery’s twin?

      2. Thank you for the well wishes. I currently have Jack William, 8, Annabel Margaret 4, and we have chosen not to find out the genders of our twins (much to the chagrin of family and friends).

        I love Flannery Jane and am thinking Eleanor Ivy, if we have two girls…

        For boys, we are considering Daniel, Declan and Gabriel, but are unsure in what combination at this point. Thinking possibly Gearen (pronounced Garren) and Gallagher for middle names.

        Any thoughts? Thanks in advance.

      3. Eleanor Ivy was one of two girl names we were sure were the final-two had my son been a girl… love it! Our other girl choice was Beatrix Fern. (We already have an Imogen Lily.)

        Congratulations on the impending arrivals!

      4. Thanks, JNE! I love the way Eleanor and Ivy sound together. I almost used it last time (Annabel Ivy) but chose to honor a grandparent with Margaret….

        Beatrice/x is also on our list!

  6. All I think of when I hear this name is the character Flannery Culp in the novel ‘The Basic Eight’ by Daniel Handler. Though I love Mr Handler (if and when your children get into reading, Verity, I fully recommend ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’; don’t be put off by the film, they’re really very good) I would never name a child Flannery after such a book, since the character is… well, let’s just say, you wouldn’t want her as your daughter!
    So no, no Flannery for me!

  7. As for nicknames, how about Lan/a, Wrenn?

    I actually don’t mind this one. Not that I’d ever use it myself, even if it had a connection for me, it does sound a bit too dessert-y. 🙂
    But I like the sound and wouldn’t blanch if I ran into one. Be careful though, this is another one of those wasp-y types that if not paired carefully, can sound like a law firm!

    1. Hmm…Lan/a could work – thanks Lola!

      And warning about sounding like a law firm. It is still to be determined what last name any future offspring of mine would have… 🙂

      1. My name is Flannery — I was named after the writer and I’m also a fourth Irish. Nicknames I have gone by include: Lala, La, Flan, FlanFlan, Flannanigans, and Anne.

  8. Flannery O’Connor was also known as a Catholic Apologist. She is up for sainthood and is considered the patron saint against lupus (that is what she died from). I have a friend named Flannery, she was named for the author. I must admit, I do like Flannery because I am a fan of the author. I’d never use it, but its one of the very few surname names I like on a girl.

    1. My son Frankie would have been Flannery if he’d been a girl. Flannery O’Connor is my favorite author and, Sebastiane, I do hope that someday she is canonized.

  9. Thanks for featuring Flannery! (I feel like such a NoTD hog lately!)

    Flannery is my mother