Harris: Baby Name of the DayHarris picks up on the Brooks Brothers trend, and offers a fresh take on popular classic Henry, too.

Thanks to Another for suggesting today’s Baby Name of the Day.


Traditional Henry comes from the Germanic elements heim and ric – home ruler. It became Heinrich, then Henri in French. The Normans imported it to England, where it became very English indeed.

There have been eight kings Henry, including the oh-so-famous Henry Tudor, he of the many wives.

We view Harry as an old school Henry nickname. In medieval England, Harry was closer to an everyday pronunciation of Henri. (Listen to Henri pronounced in French, and you can imagine how it happened.)

Harris – and Harrison – simply mean “son of Henry.” It’s a patronymic, just like Anderson and Johnson and so many other surnames.

Plus, since Henry and Harry were wildly popular first names, there are plenty of people with these last name forms, too. (Along with cousins like Hendrix, Henderson, and even Perry.)

It also serves as an Anglicized form of several Irish and Jewish names; plus, the Greek Charalampos – to shine from happiness – can also be replaced by this shorter name. I’m in love with that last meaning, even if it’s probably not the origin for most families’ surnames.


We tend to think of surname names as novel, but of course that’s not true.

From 1880 through 1968, Harris regularly ranked in the US Top 1000. It appeared on the fringes a few more times in the 1970s and 80s.

Like so many similar choices, it reflects the practice of choosing family surnames – like a mother’s maiden name – for a son’s first or middle name.

While it’s tough to generalize, lots of surname names fell out of favor after the middle of the twentieth century. It wasn’t until the 90s that parents embraced a wide range of last names as firsts – even when they weren’t found on their family trees.


As it happens, the slightly longer Harrison has almost always been more popular than Harris.

Today it sits at #115, within striking distance of the US Top 100.

That puts it behind #16 Henry, but well ahead of Hendrix (#322), Harry (#620), and Henrik (#748).

But it also opens the door to Harris as a similar, but slightly different pick.


The list of famous figures with the surname is a mile long.

Think actor Neil Patrick; athlete Franco; singer Emmylou – and that’s just a few.

Here’s my favorite quirky name fact: Sirrah sounds almost like Sarah. I like it as a (very) subtle honor name. (Though I suppose it’s a little bit of a stretch.)


As of 2018, just 200 boys (and ten girls) received the name.

Why is it so much less popular than Harrison? I’m guessing Harrison Ford, star of blockbusters from the 1970s right through today, explains much of the longer version’s rise.

But today, with picks like Miles and Brooks and other boy names ending with s gaining in popularity, it could be a great moment for Harris.

In fact, it made my list of the twenty best boy names for 2020.

Whether it appears on your family tree, serves as a creative spin on Henry, or just feels like a traditonal-but-different choice for a son, I think Harris is a can’t-miss choice.

Do you prefer Harris over other Henry names? Would you use this, or Harrison?

First published on July 21, 2008, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on March 5, 2020.

Harris: Baby Name of the Day

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. Hi Friend of a friend – welcome! Brennan *is* interesting on a girl, especially given the family link. And since there’s the Celtic Brenna and dated Brenda, it seems feminine, too.

    And Katharine, your across-the-pond perspective is so valuable! I’d heard that Harry was white hot in the UK but had forgotten that little factoid – isn’t it interesting that Henry isn’t as common? Do you think it’s about the boy wizard, the young prince or just something in the air?

    For me, Harry fails the “formal name over nickname” test – as in, if there is a full version available, it should be used. So I’d have to use Harris, Harrison or Henry – and since my husband dislikes surname names, that would leave Henry. Another, I hear you – Henry is big – way big. There’s not a Henry on our block at the moment, but there are plenty in our circle, along with little Charlies and Theos. So it wouldn’t make the cut for me, either, which is too bad, because I really quite like it.

    I do know a little Harrison, twin brother of Georgia. It’s not a family name, just something they liked. But they live in Texas, so I suspect he’s among many boys with a last-name-first.

  2. I think Harris is a refreshing way to get to Harry. I don’t care much for the name on its own, but it’s much more wearable than clunky old Harrison or Harold and a bit more substantial than just using Harry as the given name.

    I’m in the US, so Harry is still pretty uncommon and would be considered a bold choice for a baby. Harris seems like a less-shocking, more mainstream way to get to it.

  3. Not being one for surname names I’m not remotely into Harris, that said as surname names go I concede it’s not a bad one.

    On the other hand, I like Harry, although it is top 5 in the UK 🙁 I quite like Hal or even Hank for that matter, but these are just not nicknames that you ever come across in the UK and so would take quite a bit of getting used to.

    Now Henry – I just love Henry! I guess that again this is down to geography but for me Henry isn’t trendy at all. (I hope no one minds me continually referring to where I’m from, but there are just so many cultural differences with names that fascinate me) Personally, I would place Henry alongside George, William, Charles, Edward and James as being one of those traditional Royal stalwarts. To put this into context, here is a sample of the Henry’s I know and their sibling sets:

    James and Henry
    William, Annabel and Henry (Just like the Princes!)
    Edward, Isabel, Henry and Emily

    You ge the picture!

  4. Here’s another last name made first for you: Brennan. We named our daughter Brennan after my husband’s grandmother’s maiden name. We had a tough time finding girl’s names we could agree upon and this was the only one we both liked! I’ve heard of a few other Brennans, but they are all boys. For some reason we thought it sounded nicer for a girl. I think for a boy it would be confused with Brandon or Brendon more often. I haven’t seen Brennan on your site yet, so I thought I’d share. By the way- this is an interesting and fun blog- thanks for creating it!

  5. I like Harris! It’s a lovely name, and one I bestowed on the family dog growing up 🙂 Harris is definitely a really great name, masculine and strong but I’d think I’d prefer Harrison over Harris. I don’t know why but I feel Harrison sounds more mature than Harris, and Harrison seems to work better professionally than Harris. But, like Lola said, I’d be delighted to meet a little boy named Harris.

  6. It can be done, family name or not, but for me, surnames must be family related or I will not use them, hence the thought pattern. As I said, there’s nothing wrong with Harris and I’ll even go one better, Another, I’d rather meet a little Harris over a little Jacob, Aiden or Daniel (I have an irrational hatred of Daniel). Harris is just not one for me, it’s fine for anyone else! 😀

  7. To me Hal is a nickname for Harold, no other name. I can’t see getting Hal from Henry. I understand your point though, Lola – we almost named our son Calvin, but hating Cal as a nickname, I couldn’t do it. I think Harris can be done even if it’s not a family name, though. Because it has the easily available nickname Harry, unlike some other surnames-as-first-names.

  8. As far as surname names go, Harris is… tolerable. I’d rather bury them deep in the middle, myself. My problem with Harris is simple, I heartily dislike Harry. Hal is my Henry nickname of choice (yes, like the murderous computer and Flash [Hal Jordan]). And Harris to Hal is a bit too much of a stretch to make me comfortable.

    I wouldn’t hiss at a Harris, though, I’d probably just breeze past him thinking “Must be a family name” and leave it at that. He’s perfectly innocuous. 🙂

  9. Ooooh, I like it. It’s not unheard of, it’s not gloomy, it’s not overly Victorian. The only think I don’t love about it is its relation to Henry, one of those names I’ve recently heard a little too much in the trendy Brooklyn playground at my parents’ house. There are three little Henrys there – this part of the world is not awash in Jadyns, no it’s all Henry, Ophelia, and Marguerite, if you can believe that! Harris is simple, pleasing to the ear, and in my opinion, not pretentious at all!