Kelly Name Meaning & Origin


Pronunciation: KEH-lee (key)

Origin of the name Kelly:

Transferred use of the Irish surname meaning “war, strife” or the transferred use of English place-names derived from the Cornish celli (wood, grove).

From A World of Baby Names by Teresa Norman.

Related Names:

Keli, Kelley, Kelli, Kellie

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US Popularity of Kelly Over Time

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Comments and insights on the name Kelly

My name is Kelly Ann. I was born in 1957. Yeah. Will hit the big 60 this year! Growing up I knew three boys with the name Kelly. I'd like to know if there is any girl out there born pre 1957 with the name Kelly? Also my mother said she named me Kelly after the niece on a television show called "Bachelor Father". She was watching it after delivery. My name is Kelly Lynn. It seems everyone named Kelly has the same middle name!

My 18 year old sister's name is Kelly and I think it sounds very 80's/early 90's. Just personal opinion though.

The spelling of my name is KELLYE, for which there were times I could have screamed! Like when I had to send a legal document back 3 times to get the spelling correct or when a teacher took over 20 minutes guessing everything, but the correct way, to spell my name. (I finally had to tell him) Or how many times has it been mispronounced!!

Where I went to school there were 5 Kelly(e)'s. And only 100(+/-) kids in the high school! 3 of us were in my grade and the other 2 were in my sister's....and they were her 2 best friends! Heaven forbid someone call out 'Hey, Kelly(e)'!!

There wasn't that many Kelly's at my school, but it seemed like every Kelly I did meet, we all would have the same middle name. Which is Lynn.

Well my name is Kelli and my middle name isn't Lynn, it's Joanne.

Mine is Kelly Jo.

I have a friend named Kelly Jean.

I was born in 1978. My name is Kelly Suzanne. I went to school with several Kellys.

Years ago I worked at a Vital Statistics office where they sold birth & death certificates. A young woman came in to get her own birth certificate, and her name was (would you believe) Kelly Kelly Kelly. Sounds like her parents' last name was Kelly and they were trying to be cute!

We named our daughter Kelly Anne in 1986. I love the name but my family also made comments about it being a boys name. She named her son Ezekiel which I find funny since her name is easy to say and spell. When I read some of the name choices here, I cringe thinking that the child is going to hate that 12 letter name, with a lot of vowels etc. Keep it simple people. She's had the most fun with her name being Kelly when The Osbourne's was on TV.

Personal experiences with the name Kelly

I'm a Kelly bc my Dad is Irish and it was his Grandmother's last name. However, when I think of the name Kelly, I think of a red haired, freckle faced Irish girl, preppy well-off and casual, off playing field hockey at someplace like U of Notre Dame. Whereas I'm a dark haired, dark eyed, olive skinned person who is part Jewish-Italian and a bookish nerd that hates sports :) LOL! So yeah I feel like my name has never at all 'fit' me. It's also very casual and kind of childish, esp after 40. Not a 'smart' person name. In business I've often wished I had a more serious and at least a smarter name - Ellen, Julia, Kate, Katherine, Olivia - something like that. There are few CEO's named Kelly! LOL! Oh and some people who remember 90210 and Married With Children still think of Kelly as a "hot blonde bimbo" type name. If you're naming your baby Kelly it's good to keep all this in mind! :) It's a great name if you feel that it fits you tho!

While working at the Vital Statistics Office several years ago, a young woman came in to get a copy of her birth certificate, and her full name was Kelly Kelly Kelly! No kidding, you can find her on People Finders!

Smelly Kelly ate some Jelly off her Belly! That being said, I LOVE my name. I don't actually even remember being upset, I just thought it was cool there were words that rhymed with my name. I wouldn't change it for anything.

When my mom named my Kelly in 1960, my grandmother was horrified that she would give a boy's name to a little baby girl. Growing up, there was never another Kelly in school - to this day, I still don't personally know anyone named Kelly. There was a short period of time when I didn't like having an unusual name, but most of my life I haven't thought about it one way or the other.

I have a friend named Kelly who goes by her middle name Victoria because she thinks Kelly sounds too "casual."

Casual names were "in" a few years ago, but beautiful names like Victoria, Sophia, Isabella, are the in thing now.

We know a woman named Kelly-Marie.

My name is Kelly and I've never liked it. It makes me think of big hair and superficiality. When I was a kid, I hated the fact that it rhymed with the words belly, jelly, and smelly, which can lead to some potentially unpleasant combinations. Also, there is really no possible nickname... I'd go by my middle name if it didn't suck more.

My name is Kelly, and I've always loved it. I especially love that there's no nickname for it, because I never had to answer the question, "Do you go by Kelly or ______?" Yes, I got the Smelly Kelly first grade. You get over it. As an adult, I feel that it has aged well and suits me in my professional capacity.

I love my name. My middle name is Rachelle (meaning Lamb) and it fits my personality great - a little "Warrior Lamb". I never dealt with the rhyming taunts however - I married a man named Jay and at my wedding, the pastor presented us as Mr & Mrs. Jelly. We all laughed.

My name is Kelly. im okay with my name. my father said i was named after the girl from Cheers. I laughed when i found out that i have a song too! :] in kindergarden there was another girl named kelly and this crazy other girl was obsessed with our names and would never leave us alone! and in 4th grade i remember my gym teacher -- robert was embarassing for me to share a name with a teacher.

I don't love my name, but I think I look like a Kelly, and it fits me. I also like my Irish heritage, so I like that I have an Irish name. I never understood why it's a male's name though, it sounds girly to me. A lot of cool names are unisex though, so it's not a bad thing I guess. The only thing I really dislike about it is the spelling, and writing it. I wish my parents spelled it Kelley or Kellie, or anything but Kelly. I hate writing my name, it's awkward to write.

I was named before I was born (even before they knew if I would be a boy or girl) and after my great grandfather, who's last name was Kelly he was half Irish. My mom agreed to this and made Kelly my first name in place of what became my middle one: DonTrice (a combination of my father's name and a cousin of hers or something...) and yes it is supposed to have the "T" capitalized. I have alsways been grateful to my gramps for that because there is no way I would have enjoyed introducing myself to people as DonTrice. Although most people would assume that my name was something like that stereo-typically, since I am Black, but tried and true ol' Irish Kelly has always made more sense, even when I loathed it and called myself Princess for most of second grade! Now I love the history behind my name and wouldn't change it for anything. :)

My name is Kelly. When I was a kid, I hated it because it seemed strange. I didn't know any other Kellies, and people would sometimes ask what it was short for (?). Now I love it, even if it is super common and I can't go a year without someone making reference to Woody from Cheers's song for his wife. But my name has meaning, and that is important to me. My first name is my maternal grandmother's maiden name, my middle name is my paternal grandmother's maiden name, and I couldn't thank my mother enough for giving me a name that really matters!

I know so many Kelly's it's ridiculous. All of them have been very smart, but the one I'm closest with is not just smart but very friendly, athletic, and funny. She is one of my best friends and the sort of childish nature I think the name has suits her really well. All the Kelly's I know are asian, but I should mention my school is also 60% asian. I love the name Kelly and think it's great, but it's very common.

Nicknames for Kelly

Kellis /Kelis
Kelly Belly Jelly
Kelly kat

Meanings and history of the name Kelly

Kelly is a given name and surname which originates in England, Ireland and Scotland. Etymologically, the Irish surname originated as a patronymic surname, with the prefix Ó ("grandchild", or "male descendant") and the suffix Ceallach ("strife", or "contention"), an Old Gaelic clan name, Ó Ceallaigh (anglicisized as "O'Kelly").

It's been adapted to mean "brave warrior" in many English language armies (for example, the Irish Army, British Army, and Australian Army) and "warrior princess" by American popular culture. Kelly is the second most common family name in Ireland (after Murphy).

Alternative origins are locational:

* In England, from Kelli in Devonshire, reflected as the Welsh/Cornish celli ("grove"), in public records dating as far back as 1194.
* In Scotland, from Kelly, near Arbroath, Angus, reflected as the Gaelic coille ("wood" or "grove"), in public records dating as far back as 1373.

There are several surname variants including: Cheallaigh (add the prefix Ní for a maiden name, instead of the masculine prefix Ó; see example Lisa Kelly/Laoise Ní Cheallaigh), Kelle, Kelley (often associated with pre-famine, mostly Protestant emigrants, during the Irish diaspora), Kellog, Kellye, Kellyn, and McCullough.

Kelly, and variants, was originally only a surname. With transferred use, Kelly became a popular masculine given name also, and subsequently a popular feminine given name. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, Kelly, girl's name, was ranked #999 in 1944, then steadily gained popularity through 1977 (#10), before declining (#212 in 2006); Kelly, boy's name, was ranked in the top 600 through 1939, then steadily gained popularity through 1968 (#97), before declining (#884 in 2002). There are several given name variants, including: Keely ("strife", or "war"), Kellee, Kelleen, Kelleigh, Kelley, Kelli, Kellie, and Kellye.

Famous real-life people named Kelly

Kelly Iyogun (born 1992), A Nigerian Poet ( Kelly Justice - A Nigerian Blogger (
Kelly Brook (born 1979), English model and actress
Kelly Chen (born 1973), Chinese singer and actress
Kelly Carlson American actress notable for her role on Nip/Tuck
Kelly Clarkson (born 1982), American singer/songwriter
Kelly Fraga (born 1974), Brazilian volleyball player
Kelly Haxton (born 1982), Canadian football (soccer) defender
Kelly Hart, historian, author of The Mistresses of Henry VIII
Kelly Holmes (born 1970), British retired athlete
Kelly Hu (born 1968), American actress
Kelly Kelekidou, Greek singer
Kelly A. Ayotte, US Senator from New Hampshire
Kelly Key (born 1983), Brazilian singer
Kelly Kline (born 1981), American porn actress
Kelly Kulick (born 1977), American pro bowler
Kelly Llorenna (born 1975), English singer
Kelly MacDonald (diver) (born 1988), Canadian diver. (Kelly Marie (born 1957), Scottish singer
Kelly McCormick (born 1960), American diver
Kelly McGillis, American actress
Kelly Osbourne (born 1984), daughter of Ozzy Osbourne; co-stars in the reality show The Osbournes
Kelly Poon, Chinese singer
Kelly Preston (born 1962), American actress
Kelly Price (born 1973), American singer
Kelly Ripa (born 1970), American actress and talk show host
Kelly Rowland (born 1981), American singer with Destiny's Child
Kelly Stefanyshyn (born 1982), Canadian swimmer
Kelly van der Veer (born 1980), Dutch male-to-female transsexual and TV personality

Kelly in song, story & screen

Private Kelly, the main character in Kelly's Heroes
Kelly Roberts, Barbie's younger sister
Kelly, valley girl drag persona created by Liam Kyle Sullivan first for the video "Shoes"
Kelly, signature of The Onion's editorial cartoonist Ward Sutton
Kelly Bundy, played by Christina Applegate on the TV series Married... with Children
Kelly Collins, DCOM in Cadet Kelly
Kelly Cramer, on the soap opera One Life to Live
Kelly Gaines, played by Jackie Swanson on the TV series Cheers
Kelly Garrett, played by Jaclyn Smith on the TV series Charlie's Angels
Kelly Kapoor, played by Mindy Kaling on the U.S. version of The Office
Kelly Kelly, stage name of wrestler Barbie Blank
Kelly Leak, baseball playing thug in the 1976 film The Bad News Bears
Kelly Kapowski, played by Tiffani-Amber Thiessen on the TV series Saved by the Bell
Kelly Taylor, played by Jennie Garth on the TV series "Beverly Hills, 90210"

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