Part-nature name, part-surname, part-sunglasses company – and definitely one to watch.
Thanks to Chantal for suggesting Oakley as our Baby Name of the Day.
Oakley is a surname, given to someone who lived near – wait for it – a bunch of oak trees. It’s pretty easy to unpack this one. Oak trees are native to England, and much of Europe. They’re symbols of endurance, embraced since ancient days. More than a dozen countries have named the oak their national tree, including England and the US.
As for the origins of the word oak, they’re a little murky. The word was ac in Old English, and ook in Middle English. But mostly, Oakley is straightforward.
What you might be wondering is whether this is a name for a boy or a girl. In 2011, 157 girls were given the name Oakley, versus 191 boys. But before you give this one to Team Blue, bear in mind:
- Variant spellings like Oakleigh, Oaklee, and Oaklie add another 100 girls to the tally, while only the -ee spelling is in use for boys. All of the spellings combined tilts this one feminine.
- The best known bearer of the surname is probably superstar sharpshooter Annie Oakley, born Phoebe Ann Moses. The surname was part of her stage name, and she lends Oakley a cowgirl cool vibe.
Then again, there are masculine Oakleys.
- In the 1920s, Oakley Kelley was a record-setting aviator for the United States Army Air Service, forerunner of the Air Force.
- Berry Oakley was a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band.
- There’s also a glacier in Antarctica, named Oakley Glacier in honor of a chaplain stationed at McMurdo Station in 1967.
- Writer Oakley Hall was best known for his westerns, several of which were adopted by Hollywood in the 1950s. His son, also named Oakley Hall, became a playwright.
- From the 1880s through 1920, Oakley charted in the US boys’ Top 1000 nineteen times – indicating that he had a good history of use as a masculine moniker.
Let’s call this one gender neutral for now.
Or maybe even canine, as the brand Oakley was apparently named after an Irish setter, the pet of the brand’s founder, Jim Jannard. Jannard started Oakley with just a few hundred bucks and a lot of great ideas. It’s now a major international brand, part-fashion, part-function, worn by athletes and recording artists alike. You couldn’t name your child Quiksilver, but there’s something active and vibrant about Oakley.
That’s likely why the name Oakley is so appealing. It sounds fearless and outdoorsy, suited for a X Games athlete or a Yellowstone Park Ranger. If you’re after an unambiguous nature name, you might consider just Oak. If you want something clearly feminine, a few parents have used Oaklyn or Oaklynn. But if your goal is a modern name that isn’t invented, a choice that has some history but still feels fresh and new, then Oakley is one to consider.