Rory combines appealing Irish roots with lots of energy.
Thanks to Kelly for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Legendary High King of Ireland, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, claims this name first in the history books. His given name traces back to ruadh – red. It’s the kind of historical link that lends a name strength.
There’s also Rory O’Moore, the well-born leader of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, standing up to the powerful King Charles I of England with little more than guts and determination on his side. A bridge in Dublin bears his name.
All of this makes the name read distinctively Irish.
The name arrives in the US Top 1000 in the 1940s. That’s the era of Ryan (debuted 1946) and decades ahead of Aidan and Liam. Rory has ranked in the US Top 1000 for boys every year since 1947.
It reached a high of #280 in 1959. Credit Rory Calhoun. Born Francis, he left behind a record as a juvenile delinquent to become a Hollywood heartthrob in the 1940s and 50s. He played a lot of cowboys. His screen name was chosen not for its royal roots, but because it sounded like a lion’s roar.
Calhoun’s popularity likely explains the name’s spike in use.
Did he help popularize Rory for girls, too? Maybe. He gave the name to a daughter in 1971. But Calhoun was late to the party. An even bigger Hollywood star, Errol Flynn, chose the name for his daughter in 1947. That marks the first time we start seeing the name chart, in small numbers, for girls. Another spike came in 1969, after the late Bobby Kennedy’s youngest daughter, Rory Elizabeth Katherine Kennedy, was born following his assassination.
Overall, though, Rory belongs to the boys.
Besides Calhoun, there’s:
- Frontman of 1950s and 60s Liverpool band The Hurricanes, Rory Storm. The Hurricanes are memorable mostly because of their drummer – Ringo Starr.
- Bill and Melinda Gates gave the name to their son, a brother to Jennifer and Phoebe.
- Actor Rory Cochrane has been seen on CSI: Miami as well as 24.
- Fictional characters include a companion on Doctor Who.
- Another of the Culkin brothers – as in Macaulay and Kieran – bears the name.
- Celebrity athletes include golfers Sabbatini and McIlroy. The latter might be the most famous Rory of our day.
All those famous figures aside, the name remained relatively unknown into the 1990s. Until Amy Sherman-Palladino developed Gilmore Girls. It debuted in October 2000. The mother-daughter duo at the heart of the series are both named Lorelai, but the younger of the two answers to Rory.
It’s not just her name, either; there’s more than one mention of how Lorelai chose to name her daughter in the first season.
The show is a treasure trove for name enthusiasts. But it did it influence parents?
No question. Check out the numbers:
- In 1999, the name was given to 287 boys and 59 girls.
- By 2001, as the show became a hit, the name dipped slightly for boys, with 236 births, and gained dramatically for girls, at 142 births.
- After the series ended its run in 2007, the 2008 numbers looked like this: 281 boys, 275 girls.
BY THE NUMBERS
In the years since the show left the air, the name climbed for boys and girls alike. That’s true even during recent years, with the Netflix reboot of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life taking us all back to Stars Hollow.
Today, perhaps the best comparison is Ryan. It’s the kind of name that we sometimes hear for girls, but it remains masculine.
With a famous king and a world-class athlete among the many bearers of the name, this feels like a handsome name with plenty of swagger, but still rich with traditional roots. It’s a cheerful, thoroughly likable name.
What do you think of Rory? Do you like it better for a boy or a girl?
This post was originally published on October 28, 2009. It was revised substantially and re-published on November 20, 2019.
We have a Rory Elisabeth – I didn’t realise it was a Kennedy name too! Albeit with different spelling of Elisabeth.
I think Rory is adorable as a nickname for Aurora!
Gilmore Girls debuted in Oct 2000, not 2007. 🙂
THANK YOU! Sometimes my fingers move faster than my brain. 🙂
Lauren Steenkamp says
Maybe it’s because England and Wales are so close to Ireland or maybe because there was a kids cartoon on tv (and possibly still is, it stopped production in 2010) over here but Rory is the 47th most popular name for boys -as of 2018 according to ONS, apologies for the date but it’s the latest year to be put out-
Thank you, Lauren – I didn’t even think to check that, but of course, many of the famous Rorys are English, too! (I mean … Rory Williams!)
My oldest son is Rory, which my husband just had to have. I wasn’t too keen on it at first, but once he was born, it fit him perfectly, especially with the beautiful dark red hair he has. He’s my “courageous red king.” we get compliments on his name all the time, and we like to call him “roar” or Rory the lion.
My brother’s name is Rory. My mom gets a little huffy when she hears of a girl named Rory/i. Every time she exclaims, “But he was named after a red KING not queen!” So I’m slightly, biased, but with the meaning, it’s a boys name. No ambiguity here.
My sons name is Rory, he is 2. Ill be honest i didnt like it at first but it grew on me. I think his name fits him perfectly. Alot of people give me a funny look when i tell them his name but i dont its not their kid they dont have to like it : )
Charlotte Vera says
I know it’s a name in its own right, but to me it always looks like a nickname, whether for a boy or a girl. Maybe it’s because I once read a book that had a character named Roderic who went by Rory?
I like Rory very much on a boy. It manages to be masculine and still sweet. There was a childrens program I remember watching that had a puppet named Gilbert on it and he had a stuffed lion named Rory.
Love it. I too find it hard to say but I still love it. I do prefer Ruaidhr
For me, Rory doesn’t scream Irish, so in general it goes OK with a variety of surnames from around the globe in my ear (Rory Schweitzer doesn’t sound terribly incongruous to me, for example, nor does Rory Sanchez or Rory Macelli). That said, I agree completely that those two Rs make it so the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. My little brother had a friend called Rory (boy) when we were younger and I always thought it was tough to say. I’m not about to use it for my kid, but it’s not like I have a strong feeling about the name otherwise.
I like Rory (for a boy, I hate that I have to spell that out) but traditional Irish names will always be too incongruous with my distinctively German last name (
The other day I was talking on another forum about a name that I like but wouldn’t match my ethnicity/last name, and I had some people mention that they actually like the idea of a first name that is of a different ethnic origin than the last name. If you like Rory (for a boy, I agree with you that it is not my style at all for a girl) I think that you should go ahead and use it!
I like it but not for my son. I like the idea of Ruaidhr
I do agree that the double Rs are kinda hard to say. That said, though I went to school with a female Rory who would get nicknamed Rorita by our Spanish exchange students, I still prefer it on a boy and think it sounds too masculine on a female.
I knew a girl Rory in college who dated a boy Rory! Thankfully, they didn’t make it. Its more of a girl name to me, probably because of her as well as the the Gilmore Girls daughter. I agree with photoquiity, however, that its a bit too awkward to say.
I just have trouble with those Rs right up close to each other. The name sounds awkward. I do think it’s better for a boy than a girl…but not my boy!