The name Rory came up a few days ago in the quintuplet post, so I thought now would be a good time to take a closer look at Rory–especially at how pop culture has been tugging the traditionally male name over to the girls’ camp for quite some time.
First, the history. Rory is the Anglicized form of a Gaelic name that has been spelled various ways (e.g. Ruaidhri, Ruaidri, Ruari). Probably the most notable bearer was the last High King of Ireland, Ruaidri Ua Conchobair.
Rory was being used as a boy name in the U.S. long before it first popped up on the SSA’s baby name list in 1933. But this started to change in the late 1940s:
- 1945: 20 boys
- 1946: 37 boys
- 1947: 73 boys, 41 girls [debut]
- 1948: 123 boys, 43 girls
- 1949: 149 boys, 45 girls
Those 41 baby girls in 1947 made Rory the top debut name for baby girls that year.
So what happened in 1947? The movie Stallion Road, starring actress Alexis Smith as rancher Rory Teller. (Also starring future president Ronald Reagan, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday just a few days ago.) You can check out the original Stallion Road trailer at Turner Classic Movies.
(Interestingly, in the book Stallion Road, on which the movie was based, the lady rancher was named Fleace Teller. The screenplay was written by William Faulkner — he might have been the one to change it.)
Usage for boys stayed strong during the ’50s and ’60s with the help of actor Rory Calhoun (real name: Francis McCown). But, after Stallion Road faded from memory, usage for baby girls decreased so much that Rory fell off the girls’ list entirely for a few years in the 1960s.
And then, in December of 1968, Rory Kennedy came along.
- 1966: 254 boys
- 1967: 202 boys
- 1968: 171 boys, 18 girls
- 1969: 352 boys, 105 girls
- 1970: 281 boys, 51 girls
Rory is the daughter of Ethel Kennedy and the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. She was born six months after her father, a presidential candidate, was assassinated. According to news articles announcing the birth, Ethel liked the name Rory because it was similar to Robert’s name without being “too obvious” (as the name Roberta would have been, she felt).
This time, the female version of Rory was able to hang on until the next pop culture boost: TV series Gilmore Girls (2000-2007).
- 1998: 302 boys, 53 girls
- 1999: 286 boys, 59 girls
- 2000: 290 boys, 85 girls
- 2001: 236 boys, 142 girls
- 2002: 257 boys, 187 girls
Character Rory Gilmore was played by Alexis Bledel–yup, another actress name Alexis. (In both cases, though, Alexis was just a stage name. Alexis Bledel’s first name is actually Kimberly, and Alexis Smith was born Gladys Smith.)
And that leads us to today. How has Rory been used lately? It’s a close race:
- 2007: 258 boys, 244 girls
- 2008: 279 boys, 274 girls
- 2009: 298 boys, 283 girls
It’ll be interesting to watch what happens in the next few years. Will usage for girls go back into decline? Will it overtake usage for boys? What do you think?
Source: “New Kennedy Girl May Be Named.” Schenectady Gazette 14 Dec. 1968: 2.