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Kelly Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

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

Kelly Overview

  • Meaning: Kelly means “warrior” and “bright-headed.”
  • Gender: Kelly is a unisex name.
  • Origin: The name Kelly is of Irish, Scottish, and Gaelic origin.
  • Pronunciation: You pronounce Kelly as “KEL-ee.”
  • Popularity: Kelly is a fairly popular name for girls in the top 1,000 of the top baby girl names list. However, it is less popular as a name for boys.
  • Nicknames: Kel, Kelbele, Kelina, Kelis. Kell, Kellis, Kells, Kellz, Lelly
  • Variations: Kallie, Kelleigh, Kelley, Kelli, Kellie, Kellye.
  • Namesakes: Kelly Alexander, Kelly Armstrong, Kelly Ayotte, Kelly Clarkson, Kelly Gruber, Kelly Jones, Kelly Overton, Kelly Ripa, Kelly Rowland, Kelly Stables.

What Does Kelly Mean?

Kelly means “warrior”, “lively”, “born on a farm”, and “wood” because of its Scottish and Irish roots. As it became widely used in different armies, another name meaning became “brave warrior” amongst different armies in America, Britain, and Australia.

It also translates to mean “bright-headed” and “frequenting churches” because of its Gaelic roots. As American popular culture worked its magic on the name Kelly, it has also been translated to mean “warrior princess.”

What Is the Origin of the Name Kelly?

The name Kelly is of Scottish and Irish origins. Clan Kelly is a Scottish clan with its name possibly coming from Kelloe, a barony located in the Home of Berwickshire. William de Kellaw was a person that was recorded early on with a derivative of the surname in 1278 since he was the bailiff to Alexander III at that time.

The Scottish Clan Kelly bears four blue crests and a black X on a yellow shield (1). Alexander Nisbet once held this coat of arms as the clan chief.

The name’s Gaelic roots come from the word Ó Ceallaigh, which is an Irish surname that translates to mean “descendant of Ceallach.” It started as an Irish surname in ancient history and is now the second most popular surname among Ireland natives. Eventually, it was Anglicized as “O’Kelly.”

How Popular Is the Name Kelly?

Kelly is a fairly popular name with a current ranking of 849 out of the top 1,000 baby girl names from the Social Security Administration. The name was most popular in 1977 when it peaked on the top 10 baby girl name list at #10 (2).

On the top boy names list, Kelly remained in the top 1,000 from 1900 to 2002 where the last known ranking on this list was #884 out of 1,000. The most popular year for Kelly as a boy name was in 1968 when it peaked in the top 100 baby boy names at #97.

Over time, Kelly has been 85% utilized as a girl name and 15% used as a boy name. There are over 81,000 males named Kelly and almost 473,000 females with the same name.

How Do I Pronounce Kelly?

Pronounce Kelly by saying “KEL-ee” for all related origins. No matter how you spell the name, the pronunciation is the same.

Is Kelly a Boy or Girl Name?

Kelly is a unisex name. However, it is more popular as a name for baby girls rather than baby boys.

Variations of Kelly

Kelly is a short girl’s name, but it still has many creative variations. Here are the name variations for Kelly we have picked for you:

  • Kallie (Greek)
  • Kelleigh (Irish)
  • Kelley (Irish and Gaelic)
  • Kelli (Irish and Welsh)
  • Kellie (Irish and Gaelic)
  • Kellye (Irish)

Nicknames for Kelly

While Kelly is a relatively short name, there are creative nicknames available. These are the unique nicknames we like for Kelly:

  • Kel
  • Kelbele
  • Kelina
  • Kelis
  • Kell
  • Kellis
  • Kells
  • Kellz
  • Lelly

Similar Names to Kelly

Since Kelly is a short name, there are same-sized or longer names that sound like it. These are the similar names with a mix of genders that we like for parents considering Kelly as a name for their baby:

Middle Names for Kelly

Kelly pairs well with shorter and longer middle name options. These are the middle names that we love paired with Kelly:

Sibling Names for Kelly

If you have a child named Kelly, we see that you are looking for a name for your new baby that pairs well. These are the sibling names that we love for a child already named Kelly:

For a brother:

For a sister:

Famous People Named Kelly

Many famous people we know and love have the given name Kelly or professionally known as the said name. These are the famous people with the name that we would like to recognize:

  • Kelly Alexander: American politician.
  • Kelly Armstrong: American politician.
  • Kelly Ayotte: American politician.
  • Kelly Clarkson: American singer, songwriter, actress, and television personality.
  • Kelly Gruber: American baseball player.
  • Kelly Jones: American tennis player.
  • Kelly Overton: American actress.
  • Kelly Ripa: American talk show host, actress, television producer, and dancer.
  • Kelly Rowland: American singer, songwriter, television personality, and actress.
  • Kelly Stables: American actress

Kelly in Popular Culture

Kelly is a fairly popular name, so there are frequent pop culture references. These are the pop culture references for Kelly that we would like to recognize:

  • “Kelly”: A song by Peakboy from 2019.
  • “Kelly”: Name of a 1990s television series.
  • Kelly: Character from the Disney XD original, “Star vs. the Forces of Evil.”
  • Kelly Crenshaw: Supporting character in the kids’ show, “Handy Manny.”
  • Kelly Roberts: Younger sister of Barbie Roberts in the “Barbie” franchise.

Kelly FAQs

As you weigh your options with other baby names, here are answers to your other questions about Kelly.

What Is the Popularity of Other Name Variations for Kelly?

Kallie is currently ranked more popular than Kelly at #791 as of 2021. This name variation is 58 rankings higher than Kelly.

What Are the Personality Traits of the Name Kelly?

People with the name Kelly are empathetic, giving, and understanding. Others may feel they can trust you with almost anything.

What Is the History of Kelly as a Boy’s Name?

Kelly was originally a boy-only name. In the mid-20th century, it eventually gained more popularity as a girl name.

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