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Harper Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

Learn about the name Harper including the meaning, gender, origin, popularity, and more.

Harper Overview

  • Meaning: Harper means “harp player” or “minstrel” in Middle English.
  • Gender: Harper is a unisex name.
  • Origin: Harper was firstly an English, Irish, and Scottish occupational name given to harp players.
  • Pronunciation: Harper is pronounced as “HAR-purr.”
  • Popularity: Harper is a very popular girls’ name in the United States, ranking tenth in 2020. It is less popular as a boys’ name and held the 970th spot in 2018.
  • Nicknames: Arpey, Happy, Har, Harp, Harpey, Harpley, Harps, Harpy.
  • Variations: Harpere, Härpfer, Harpor, Harpour, Harpur.
  • Namesakes: Harper LeBel (American NFL player), Harper Lee (American novelist), Harper Simon (American singer).

What Does Harper Mean?

Harper means “minstrel” or “harp player” in Middle English. Harper was at first an occupational name, used as someone’s surname to indicate their job, like “Smith,” “Miller,” and “Hunter.”

The name Harper stems from the word “harp,” a large string musical instrument. In the Bible and artwork, angels were recurrently depicted as using harps as their instruments of choice. Because of this, harps are seen to hold angelic qualities.

What Is the Origin of the Name Harper?

Though primarily Scottish, Irish, and English, Harper also has Norman, Gaelic, and German roots. Harper was originally used only as a surname before rising in popularity as a first name in the United States.

Used as an occupational name, Harper has links to the Middle English last names “Harpere” and “Harper.” It also has roots in multiple other surnames: the Gaelic “Mac Chruiter,” the German “Härpfer,” and the Norman “le Harpur.”

In almost all its early variations, the last name Harper signified someone who could play the harp or was otherwise musically inclined. The Gaelic “Mac Chruiter” is one exception, translating to “son of the harp player” instead of “harp player” directly.

Those with the name Harper were held with some reverence in the medieval ages. The harp was considered among the finest of musical instruments. Those who dedicated their lives to the harp stood as part of the bóaire, a much higher class than most other musicians.

How Popular Is the Name Harper?

Harper became a popular unisex name around the turn of the century. It is particularly so among girls in the United States but is relatively common around the rest of the world.

According to the Social Security Administration, Harper was the 887th most popular girls’ name in the United States in 2004. It quickly grew in popularity, becoming the 11th most popular girls’ name by 2014. By 2020, Harper had risen to tenth place (1).

As a boys’ name, Harper is less popular. Harper peaked as the 606th most popular boys’ name in the United States in 2012 but dropped to 970th by 2018.

In the UK, Harper was a popular girl’s name and fairly popular boy’s name in the early 2010s. It was the 89th most used girls’ name in England in 2015 but has somewhat dropped in popularity since.

How Do I Pronounce Harper?

The name Harper is pronounced, “HAR-purr.” The first syllable rhymes with “car” and the last syllable is like a cat’s “purr.”

Is Harper a Boy or Girl Name?

Harper is a unisex name that can be given to any gender. At present, Harper is significantly more popular among girls. Historically, Harper was much more common as a name for boys in the early 20th Century.

Variations of Harper

Harper has received a few variations since its Old English origins, generally across Europe. Below are some of the most notable Harper variations:

  • Harpere (English)
  • Härpfer (German)
  • Harpor (English)
  • Harpour (English)
  • Harpur (Norman)

Nicknames for Harper

Though the most obvious is “Harp,” Harper has a variety of nicknames your newborn is sure to love.

  • Arpey
  • Happy
  • Har
  • Har Har
  • Harp
  • Harpey
  • Harpley
  • Harps
  • Harpy

Similar Names to Harper

If Harper isn’t quite the name you are looking for, here are some baby names we think you may like instead:

Middle Names for Harper

Though you may already have one in mind, below are a few middle names that go great with Harper:

Sibling Names for Harper

When naming more than one child, it’s important to give names that go well together. The following are excellent choices for a sibling:

For a brother:

For a sister:

Famous People Named Harper

Despite not being very popular until the last few decades, there have been many famous Harper’s across history. Below are some of the most notable namesakes:

  • Harper Goff: American actor, musician, and artist; helped design US camouflage design during World War II.
  • Harper LeBel: American professional football player from 1985 through 1998; most notably played for Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears.
  • Harper Lee: American novelist; best known for “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
  • Harper Reed: American engineer, hacker, and entrepreneur.
  • Harper Simon: American singer, songwriter, and producer; son of Paul Simon.

Harper in Popular Culture

In addition to being the name of one of the most famous authors, Harper is a popular name among storytellers.

  • Harper Avery: Retired surgeon, of which the “Harper Avery Award” is named in the ABC TV series “Grey’s Anatomy.”
  • Harper Connelly: Titular hero in mystery novel series “Harper Connelly Mysteries.”
  • Harper Dearing: Primary antagonist in 10th season of CBS TV series “NCIS.”
  • Harper Finkle: Alex’s best friend in the Disney Channel TV series “Wizards of Waverly Place.”
  • Harper Pitt: Mormon housewife in Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.”

Harper FAQs

Below are some of the most asked questions about the name Harper.

Is Harper a Royal Name?

Harper is not a royal name, but it is a noble name. In the Medieval era, harp players and those with the name Harper were often members of the upper bo-aire class of nobility.

What Is the Biblical Meaning of the Name Harper?

Though the name Harper does not appear in the Bible, it still has biblical meaning. Harps are depicted in the books of Revelation, Daniel, Nehemiah, Psalm, Corinthians, and many others.

The harp is treated as a heavenly instrument, often used by angels or to greet the coming of someone saintly.

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