Conventional wisdom holds that once a masculine moniker is widely used for girls, it cannot be bestowed on a son.
Thanks to Laney McDonald for suggesting one choice that could prove that rule wrong. Our Name of the Day is Kelly.
For girls, Kelly peaked at #10 in 1977, and spent 1968 through 1980 in the Top Twenty. A lot of Kellys are having children of their own these days. (During the 1970s, Kelli, Kellie, Keli and Kellee all charted in the Girls’ Top 1000, too.)
But the impeccably Irish name was once worn by far more men than women. A sixth century saint wore the name, keeping it in use through the years. In fact, Kelly for a boy was a Top 200 pick from the 50s through the 70s – just as it was gaining for girls. He didn’t leave the US Top 1000 until 2002. Variant version Kelley hasn’t ranked for boys since 1982.
Regardless of spelling or gender, all the Kellys trace their roots back to the Old Irish Ceallach. Like many a given name, Ceallach inspired a surname, usually seen as Ó Ceallaigh. The exact origins are debated:
- It could come from ceall – church;
- Others connect it to ceallach – war;
- Bright-headed is another traditional meaning, though that’s harder to trace;
- A few other sources link Kelly to the Welsh celli or Gaelic coille – grove.
Today, it’s a common surname. During the twentieth century, kelly also became a shade of green.
Those who have worn it include:
- Actor and dancer (think Singin’ in the Rain) Gene Kelly;
- Hollywood royalty turned just-plain-royalty Grace Kelly;
- Not-quite-a-princess Autumn Kelly, married Peter Phillips – and became the granddaughter-in-law of England’s Queen Elizabeth II;
- The late Heath Ledger played Australian outlaw/folk hero Ned Kelly in a 2003 big screen adaptation;
- The original American Idol, Kelly Clarkson;
- Perky morning show co-host Kelly Ripa;
- We met Kelly Osbourne, daughter of aging rocker Ozzy, on reality TV;
- Pro surfer Kelly Slater works to reclaim the name for the boys, as do a handful of NFL, NHL and MLB notables;
- There’s also ER alum Kellie Martin;
- Along with Skipper, one of Barbie’s little sister dolls is called Kelly;
But most famous Kellys can be found on the small screen. Aspiring actresses take note – if you’re offered a role as Kelly? Take it. There’s:
- Charlie’s Angels‘ Kelly Garrett;
- Married with Children’s Kelly Bundy;
- The Office’s Kelly Kapoor;
- Saved by the Bell’s Kelly Kapowski;
- 90210’s Kelly Taylor.
Today, Kelly comes in at #248 for girls and is unranked for boys. While Kelly is still in use, she’s been eclipsed by Kaylie, Kinley and company – none of which sound especially fresh.
But somehow on a boy, Kelly seems interesting again. Charmed alum Holly Marie Combs (she played Piper) chose it for her third son, Kelley James. (He’s little brother to Finley Arthur and Riley Edward.)
It’s too soon to say if Kelly will cross back to the boys’ side – but on the long list of names that have been borrowed, he seems among the most likely contenders.