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Holly Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

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

Holly Overview

  • Meaning: The name comes from the holly plant and means resilience and eternal life.
  • Gender: Holly is a girl name but can be a nickname for boy names.
  • Origin: Holly comes from the Old English word “holegn.”
  • Pronunciation: “Hol-ee”
  • Popularity: Holly is a popular name, but was very popular in the 80s.
  • Nicknames: Hol, Holl, Holls, Holly Bear, Hollyberry, Hollycopter.
  • Variations: Holleigh, Hollee, Holli, Hollie, Holley, Hollyann, Hollye
  • Namesakes: Holly Hunter(American actress), Holly Black (American writer), Buddy Holly (American singer and songwriter).

What Does Holly Mean?

The meaning of the name Holly always comes back to the lovely evergreen tree and leaves people associated with Christmas time and winter.

The name may be from the word “holegn”, meaning “to prick,” in Old English, or holen, meaning “the holly tree.” However, there is also evidence that it comes from the French word “houx”, meaning “shrub.” But all of these words refer to the green tree with bright red berries.

Because of the connection between the name and the plant, it also takes on meanings behind the plant. Holly trees and leaves symbolize fertility, eternal life, peace, and goodwill (1). The holly plant is a vibrant sign of life that occurs and prospers during the dark, cold days of winter, showing resilience and hope.

The name Holly is often associated with positive and spirited personalities and a sense of nurturing and maternal energy.

What Is the Origin of the Name Holly?

As mentioned, the origin of the name Holly comes directly from the plant. It is a traditionally British girl name and slowly moved around Europe, first becoming popular in France, followed by Ireland and Scotland.

How Popular Is the Name Holly?

In the US, Holly is currently the 465th most popular name (2). So it’s considered popular. However, the name was very popular between the 1950s and 1990s, making it a top choice for more than 40 years.

But around 1991, it began to drop off, declining in popularity, with its lowest point being in 2016. But it appears to be gaining momentum and rising in popularity once again.

How Do I Pronounce Holly?

The phonetic pronunciation of Holly is Hol-ee. Most people have no issues pronouncing the name, as it’s a well-known plant. However, some mispronounce the name, saying it like, “Haley” Hay lee, or like, “Hallie” Hal ee. But the first syllable of Holly is pronounced like the word ‘haul’, using a short O rather than a short or long A sound.

It can also be mispronounced as “Holy” Hoh lee, which uses a long O instead of a short O. This mispronunciation typically comes from emphasizing the first syllable too much when the emphasis should be on the second syllable. And the L sound should be part of the first syllable, not the second.

Is Holly a Boy or Girl Name?

While Holly is typically a girl name these days, it can also be considered a gender-neutral name. For a long time, it was a common nickname for the boy name “Hollis.” However, Hollis is a rare name in modern times, so Holly is generally considered a female-designated name.

There are other male names that Holly could be a nickname for, such as Holden, but the next section will dive into more variations of this name.

Variations of Holly

There are a few different spelling variations of Holly. Several male names can use Holly as a nickname mentioned here.

For girls:

  • Holleigh (Celtic)
  • Hollee (English)
  • Holli (English/German)
  • Hollie (English/German)
  • Holley (English)
  • Hollyann (English)
  • Hollye (English)

For boys:

  • Holdan (English)
  • Holden (English)
  • Holdin (English)
  • Holland (English/German)
  • Hollis (English)

Nicknames for Holly

Because Holly is already a short feminine name, its nicknames are typically for endearment or giggles rather than convenience.

  • Dolly
  • Hol
  • Holl
  • Holls
  • Holly Bear
  • Hollyberry
  • Hollycopter
  • Holly Jolly
  • Hollypop
  • Holly Rancher
  • Hollywood
  • Holz
  • Lee

Similar Names to Holly

Many names sound very similar to the name Holly. And naming babies, especially girls, after types of plants or flowers is a very common practice, as you can see by this list of similar first names to Holly.

  • Ally
  • Ali
  • Aly
  • Dolly
  • Hailee
  • Haley
  • Halle
  • Hallie
  • Hannah
  • Harleigh
  • Harlie
  • Harley
  • Haylee
  • Hayley
  • Iris
  • Ivy
  • Jasmine
  • Laurel
  • Lily
  • Molly
  • Poppy
  • Sally

Middle Names for Holly

Holly is such a lovely name that there are many middle names you can pair with it. Below is a list of some of the best and most popular middle names for the first name Holly.

Sibling Names for Holly

Many sibling names go well with Holly, so if you want a name that pairs well with a sibling, check out the list below.

For a brother:

For a sister:

Famous People Named Holly

There are a fair amount of celebrities with the first or last name Holly; the most famous ones are below.

  • Buddy Holly: American singer and songwriter.
  • Holly Black: American writer and editor.
  • Holly Cole: Canadian jazz singer and actress.
  • Holly Hunter: American actress.
  • Holly Knight: American songwriter, musician, and singer.
  • Holly Madison: American television personality.
  • Holly Marie Combs: American actress and producer.
  • Holly Valance: Australian singer.
  • Holly Willoughby: American TV presenter.

Holly in Popular Culture

There are a few famous TV, film, and book characters with the name Holly!

  • Holly Cleary: Character from TV’s “True Blood.”
  • Holly Golightly: Character from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
  • Holly Flax: Character from the TV show “The Office.”
  • Holly Forsyte: Character in “The Forsyte Saga” by John Galsworthy.
  • Holly Norris: Character on the soap opera “Guiding Light.”

Holly FAQs

Below are questions people often ask concerning the name Holly.

Is Holly in the Bible?

The name Holly is not in the Bible, but the plant holly is. The pointed leaves symbolize the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head before he died on the cross.

How Old Is the Name Holly?

The name first appeared in the 1880s as a name for baby girls. Before that, it only referred to the plant.

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