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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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 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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