Ellery – Girl Name or Boy Name?

Ellery - girl name or boy name?

In the comments to my final road-trip post, several people mentioned Ellery. So I thought we should take a closer look at the name.

Specifically, let’s discuss whether Ellery is a boy name, a girl name, or both.

First, a little background. Ellery is related to Hilary, which comes from the Latin masculine name Hilarius, a derivative of hilaris, “cheerful.”

Like Hilary, Ellery began as a boy name. Unlike Hilary, Ellery was used primarily for baby boys all the way until the 1980s. (For Hilary, the scales tipped from “mostly boys” to “mostly girls” during the 1940s.) Fictional detective Ellery Queen may have helped reinforce Ellery’s masculinity mid-century.

Ellery popped up on the girls’ list intermittently from the ’50s through the ’70s, but wasn’t a regular presence until the mid-1980s. By the late ’80s, more girls than boys were already getting the name:

  • 1982 – 25 boys and fewer than 5 girls named Ellery
  • 1983 – 29 boys, 6 girls
  • 1984 – 30 boys, 6 girls
  • 1985 – 21 boys, 8 girls
  • 1986 – 16 boys, 8 girls
  • 1987 – 28 boys, 11 girls
  • 1988 – 15 boys, 16 girls
  • 1989 – 12 boys, 18 girls
  • 1990 – 18 boys, 26 girls
  • 1991 – 15 boys, 28 girls
  • 1992 – 14 boys, 19 girls
  • 1993 – 18 boys, 32 girls
  • 1994 – 15 boys, 29 girls

From 2004 to 2005, the number of baby girls named Ellery nearly doubled, from 77 to 130. I’m still not quite sure why. Regardless, the number has stayed above the hundred-mark ever since.

Meanwhile, on the boy’s side, the number of baby Ellerys is dwindling:

  • 2007 – 10 boys and 151 girls named Ellery
  • 2008 – 19 boys, 141 girls
  • 2009 – 8 boys, 171 girls
  • 2010 – 13 boys, 187 girls
  • 2011 – 10 boys, 196 girls

Right now, Ellery is in danger of dropping off the boys’ list entirely.

It’s also on track to reach the top 1,000 for girls soon. (It ranked 1,216th in 2011.)

So what are your thoughts on Ellery: Girl name? Boy name? Somewhere in between?

[Other girl name/boy name debates: Aubrey, Avery, Charlie, Elliot, Maxwell, Peyton, Rory, Shea, Stuart]

10 Responses to Ellery – Girl Name or Boy Name?

  1. Well obviously there is a difference in whether a name is male or female depending on what you’re talking about.
    In origin Ellery is definitely a boy name, in usage its unisex but its gonna go girl. I think its because of the Ell- sound thats very popular for girls right now.
    For me, origin trumps usage, so I see Ellery as a male name.

  2. For some reason I had thought Ellery Queen was a woman writing under a nom de plume, but I just realized I was confusing Ellery Queen with Ellis Peters.

    Even though I was wrong… I will probably always consider Ellery in the same category as Carson, Harper, Ellis. In my mind they’re all male names, but I’d never be surprised to hear any of those names on a girl.

  3. In the middle names, Ellery was also the English vernacular form of Eulalia – one of many medieval feminine names that were preserved only in surnames and were later used by man (Evelyn is another example). So it has two different etymologies, one masculine and one feminine – for once, an unisex name that is actually unisex.

  4. * I meant “in the middle ages”, of course.

  5. When I consider whether a name is a boy or girl name I always consider one of two things – how it sounds and how it looks. To me, saying it aloud, depending on where you put the emphasis (if you pronounce it as Ell-ry vs. Ell-er-y) you could justify it being either male or female, but once I physically look at it, to me it seems more feminine. Just my thoughts!

  6. Interesting post. I actually have a 17 year old nephew named Ellery — he was born in 1995. I’m not sure how he’d feel about so many girls being named Ellery within the last decade, though.

  7. A friend of mine with the name notes that the spelling Elorie originates from the Basque region of France/Spain, where its usage is typically for girls.

  8. It’s a little cousins name, so to me I connotate it with her so I feel it’s a girls name, but I had never heard the name before she was born. I don’t think I could name a boy Ellery. Her name is Ellery Jessamine, we call her Elle. It just feels so effeminate. I couldn’t see it on a little boy.

  9. We named our daughter Ellery knowing that the origin was male but to us it sounds and looks feminine. We have received many compliments on the name. When we tell people that it was originally a male name, others say they could never imagine it as a male name. We also plan to call her Elle when she’s older.

  10. Just as Ash did, we named our daughter Ellery, knowing it was originally masculine. Hillary, Meridith, Kelly, Kerry, and so many other men’s names are now considered unisex names. We adore our Elle and are so happy she has a name that is not quite as common…yet!

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