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Kennedy Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

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

Kennedy Overview

  • Meaning: Kennedy means ‘Helmeted head’ or ‘Helmet-shaped head.’
  • Gender: Kennedy is a gender-neutral name.
  • Origin: Kennedy is a name of Gaelic origin.
  • Pronunciation: “KEN-nuh-dee” or “KEN-nih-dee”
  • Popularity: Kennedy is a very popular girl’s name and a fairly popular boys’ name.
  • Nicknames: Ken, Kendra, Kenny, Kenz, Kenzie.
  • Variations: Cinnéiddh, Cinnéidigh, Kenedi, Kenedie, Kennedie.
  • Namesakes: Kennedy Baker, Kennedy Fraser, Kennedy Goss, Kennedy Ochieng, Kennedy Marchement.

What Does Kennedy Mean?

Kennedy is an Anglicized Gaelic male name that means ‘Helmeted head.’

It has two distinct parts, both of which are Irish Gaelic. The first half of Kennedy comes from the Erse ‘Ceann,’ which means ‘head’ (1).

The second and third syllables in Kennedy derive from the Erse word ‘éide’ (2). ‘Éide’ encompasses a variety of meanings, all clothing-related. But in the context of the name Kennedy, linguists interpret it as meaning ‘armor’ or ‘helmet.’

What is the Origin of the Name Kennedy?

Kennedy began as an Irish surname. It first appears in history as a name attributed to a 10th-century king, Cinnétig mac Lorcáin (3).

For many years Kennedy was a prominent surname, especially in North America. However, it gradually rose to prominence as a given name for children of both sexes.

How Popular is the Name Kennedy?

The popularity of Kennedy as a first name varies depending on baby’s gender.

Popularity of Kennedy as a Boys’ Name

It first became popular as a boys’ name in the 1960s, following the election of American president John F. Kennedy.

More recently, however, Kennedy as a boy’s name has fallen out of favor. In 2000, it was a fairly popular boys’ name and ranked 955 out of the 1000 most popular names for boys (4).

By 2005, the name dropped even further down the charts and sat at 996 out of 1000. At present, there is insufficient data to establish the popularity of Kennedy as a boys’ name.

Popularity of Kennedy as a Girls’ Name

By comparison to its male equivalent, Kennedy is a very popular girls name (5).

However, that wasn’t always the case. In 2000, Kennedy was only a popular girl’s name. It ranked number 139 out of the 500 most popular names for girls. Since then, it’s increased steadily in parental favor.

Kennedy was at its most popular as a girls’ name in 2014 when it was number 54 out of the 100 most popular girls’ names.

At present, it ranks 70 out of the top 100 girls’ names, which, while less than it was in 2014, still makes Kennedy a very popular name with parents.

Notably, spelling plays a part in Kennedy’s popularity as a girl’s name. Variations like Kennedi are significantly less popular than the more typical spelling.

How Do I Pronounce Kennedy?

The most common pronunciation of Kennedy is “KEN-nuh-dee.” The emphasis gets placed on the first syllable, and the middle vowel sound is a “U” as in ‘Gum.’

An alternative pronunciation is “KEN-ih-dee.” In this variation, the middle vowel is shorter. The sound is equivalent to the “I” in ‘Nit.’

Is Kennedy a Boy or Girl Name?

Like many names that began as surnames, Kennedy is a gender-neutral name. It works well for boys or girls.

Partly, this is because the bestowing of surnames as names used to be a way for mothers to pass on their maiden names to their children.

Variations of Kennedy

Perhaps because Kennedy originated as a last name, there aren’t many variations, especially in other languages. However, there are several Celtic and English spelling variations of Kennedy, including:

  • Cinnéiddh (Erse)
  • Cinnéidigh (Erse)
  • Kenedi (English)
  • Kennedi (English)
  • Kennedie (English)

Nicknames for Kennedy

Kennedy is an adaptable name that offers parents many opportunities to shorten it. Here are some of the most popular nicknames for Kennedy.

Nicknames for Boys

There are various possible nicknames for boys named Kennedy. The most popular are:

  • Ed
  • Ken
  • Kenny
  • Ned
  • Neddy

Nicknames for Girls Named Kennedy

Similarly, there are a variety of neutral and more overtly feminine nicknames for girls named Kennedy. The most popular include:

  • Dee
  • Didi
  • Kendra
  • Kenz
  • Kenzie

Similar Names to Kennedy

Parents who liked the name Kennedy also considered the following names for their children.

Boys’ Names Similar to Kennedy

Popular male alternatives to Kennedy include:

Girls’ Names Similar to Kennedy

Girls’ names similar to Kennedy that were popular with parents include:

Middle Names for Kennedy

Because of its gender-neutrality, Kennedy is an adaptable name that works effectively with various middle names. These are some of the most popular.

Middle Names for Boys Called Kennedy

Parents who named their sons Kennedy considered the following for middle names:

Middle Names for Girls Called Kennedy

Popular girls’ middle names that are frequently combined with Kennedy include:

Sibling Names for Kennedy

If you are looking for sibling names that work well with Kennedy, there are a variety of options. These are some of parents’ favorite names for siblings of Kennedy.

For a Brother

Popular names for brothers of a Kennedy include:

For a Sister

Parents who named a child Kennedy frequently considered the following names for other daughters:

Famous People Named Kennedy

The popularity of Kennedy as a given name means there are all kinds of famous people who will share the name with your child. Some of the best-known Kennedys include:

  • Kennedy Baker: American gymnast.
  • Kennedy Fraser: American writer.
  • Kennedy Goss: Canadian competitive swimmer.
  • Kennedy Ochieng: Kenyan sprinter.
  • Kennedy Marchment: Canadian hockey player.

Kennedy in Popular Culture

Despite its popularity, Kennedy isn’t a name that often features in pop culture. Here are some of the best-known pop culture Kennedys:

  • Kennedy: Character in the tv series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’
  • Kennedy: Irish chat-show.
  • The Kennedys: British sitcom.

Kennedy FAQs

If you still can’t decide if Kennedy is the right name for your child, here are answers to questions other parents frequently ask about the name Kennedy.

Is Kennedy a Rare Name?

The rarity of Kennedy depends on the gender of the child receiving it. Kennedy is a very popular girl’s name but only a fairly popular boy’s name.

Does Kennedy Mean ‘Mishappen Head?’

The name Kennedy does reference the shape of a person’s head. However, it more accurately translates as meaning ‘Helmet headed.’ Even this is a loose interpretation, since éide, the part of Kennedy that references clothing encompasses a range of meanings from baptismal garments to battle regalia.

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