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Lee Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

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

Lee Overview

  • Meaning: Lee derives from the Old English word “laye,” which translates to “clearing in the woods” in modern English.
  • Gender: Lee is traditionally a male given name, but it is used as a middle name for boys and girls.
  • Origin: The name Lee has its origin in Old English, but there are variations in other languages that come from medieval times and more modern iterations.
  • Pronunciation: Lee is a single-syllable name and is pronounced like “bee.”
  • Popularity: Lee was once extremely popular in the United States. While it remains fairly common, it no longer ranks highly. It was number 768 in 2020.
  • Nicknames: La-La, Leebo, Lee-lee, Leezy, Le-le.
  • Variations: Ashleigh, Bradley, Lea, Leah, Leander, Leia, Leigh, Leo, Leroy, Marlee, Morleigh, Raleigh, Rawley, Roy.
  • Namesakes: Lee Marvin (American actor), Lee Child (British author).

What Does Lee Mean?

Lee is a name derived from the Old English word “laye,” meaning “clearing in the woods.” Originally used as a surname and meaning someone that lived in or near the woods, Lee is now a given name that translates as “meadow” or “clearing.” (1)

What Is the Origin of the Name Lee?

The name Lee derives from the old English word ‘laye,” which means “meadow” or “clearing in the woods.” There are also other derivations of the name Lee. For example, Lee can mean “glade,” “poet,” “plum,” “the king” (in French), or “dweller of a deer meadow,” depending on the language.

Other possible inspirations for the name are its associations with place names. Many towns and villages in Britain are named Lee.

How Popular Is the Name Lee?

The name Lee was once a top 100 name for boys in the United States, making it very popular. In fact, it was number 39 at the turn of the 20th Century (2).

By 1956, it saw declining popularity but remained in the top 200 names for boys until nearly 1990. Since then, its popularity as a given name for boys has seen a continuing downward trend.

By 2014, it was still fairly popular, barely in the top 700 names for boys. It experienced a brief resurgence but placed 768 in 2020.

How Do I Pronounce Lee?

The name Lee is single-syllabic. Pronunciation is “LEE,” and sounds like bee or fee.

Is Lee a Boy or Girl Name?

As a given name, Lee is almost always a boy’s name. But, there are alternate spellings, like Lea or Leigh, that are fairly common girls’ names. Plus, Lee is a fairly popular choice as a middle name. For instance, Bobby Lee or Sheila Lee might be examples of a given name combined with Lee as a middle name.

Variations of Lee

The name means different things in different languages (for instance, it means “king” in Old French). Some of the many variations include:

  • Ashleigh (English)
  • Bradley (English)
  • Lea (Hebrew)
  • Leah (Hebrew)
  • Leander (Greek)
  • Leia (Hebrew)
  • Leigh (English)
  • Leo (Greek)
  • Leroy (French)
  • Marlee (English)
  • Morleigh (English)
  • Raleigh (English)
  • Rawley (English)
  • Roy (English and French)

Nicknames for Lee

Lee is a one-syllable name. As such a concise name, it doesn’t have many nicknames. But, Lee is often a shortened form or nickname for other names. Some of the more common nicknames for Lee are:

  • La-La
  • Leebo
  • Lee-lee
  • Leezy
  • Le-le

Similar Names to Lee

There are quite a few names that have a similar sound or relationship to the name Lee. Some examples include:

Middle Names for Lee

Lee is fairly common as a middle name, pairing with given names like Jamie, Annabel, Bobby, Christie, Anna, Jason, Henry, Mary, and others. But, Lee is also a given name that lends itself to pairing with a few middle names. Some examples include:

Sibling Names for Lee

Sibling names don’t necessarily have to relate to one another. Lee can allude to terms like forest clearing, glade, woods, and more, so there is some appeal in using names with similar meanings. Some of the best names for a sibling include:

For a brother:

For a sister:

  • Lala
  • Layla
  • Lea
  • Leah
  • Leal
  • Leala
  • Leia
  • Lelia
  • Lily
  • Lola

Famous People Named Lee

There are quite a few examples of famous people with the first name Lee. You might recognize:

  • Lee Child: American author of the Jack Reacher series and other novels
  • Lee DeWyze: American winner of the reality competition “American Idol.”
  • Lee Grant: American Academy Award-winning actress.
  • Lee Greenwood: American folk singer who wrote the song “God Bless the U.S.A.”
  • Lee Iacocca: American former automotive executive.
  • Lee Janzen: American pro golfer.
  • Lee Pace: American actor.
  • Lee Wiley: American jazz performer and singer.

Lee in Popular Culture

Lee is also a given name that’s fairly common in pop culture. It’s used in song names, for characters in books and movies, and more. Some famous examples include:

  • Lee Adama: Character in the TV series “Battlestar Galactica.”
  • Lee Chaolan: Character in the video game series “Tekken.”
  • Lee Everett: Character in the video game “The Walking Dead.”
  • Lee Jordan: Character in the “Harry Potter” series.
  • Lee McDermott: Character in the TV show “Desperate Housewives.”

Lee FAQs

Some questions about the Lee name come up frequently.

Is the Name Lee Associated With Any Colors?

The name Lee is often associated with rust, green, and red. In addition, Lee has a connection to topaz and copper.

Is Lee a Common American Surname?

Recent surveys show that about 900,000 Americans have the last name, Lee. That’s an impressive figure given that there are about 330 million people in the United States, according to federal statistics (3).

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