Holly (name)

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Holly is an English-language surname and given name.

Holly is a special name and known as an English or Irish surname (variant Holley) it is either locational, ultimately derived an Old English hol lēah "[dwelling by] the clearing by the hollow", or descriptive, from hol-ēage "hollow-eyed". In Ireland, it was also used as a translation of the name Mac Cuilinn, which is derived from cuileann, the Gaelic name of the holly tree, and by extension sometimes of the similar-sounding McQuillan surname of Ulster.[1] The masculine names Holly, Hollie were derived from the surname, but have mostly fallen out of use since the mid 20th century due to the rise in popularity of the feminine name. Hollis is an English surname derived from a Middle English holis "[dwelling by] holly trees"; it was also used as a masculine given name.

Holly (variant Hollie) was first used as a feminine given name in the 20th century, as a "botanical" girl's name, in reference to, or at least secondarily associated with, the holly tree. While the feminine name is on record in the United States since the 1930s, its surge in popularity was due to Holly Golightly, the socialite protagonist in Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958), which was made into a film starring Audrey Hepburn in 1961. The name of this character is stated to be short for Holiday (rather than a reference to the plant).[2] The name peaked in popularity in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, and has declined since, ranking at #380 in the United States as of 2009.[3] It was popularly given in England and Wales during the 2000s, staying in the top 30 girls' names throughout 1996–2012, with a peak at rank #12 in 2002 (and dropping to rank #33 as of 2013).[4] A tendency to give the name to girls born on or near Christmas has also been observed.[5] More recent eccentric spellings of the feminine name include Holli (1970s), Holleigh, Hollee, Hollye.[6]


Further information: Holley (surname)


Given name[edit]


Gender feminine
Word/name short for Holiday; plant name.


Fictional characters[edit]


Gender masculine
Word/name from the surname

Fictional characters[edit]

  • Holly Martins, played by Joseph Cotten in Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949)
  • Holly (Red Dwarf), a central character on the British TV series Red Dwarf (1988) — the character is a computer and was played by a male actor in the first two seasons, but by a female actor in later series.


  1. ^ "Holley, a surname of England, Holly of Ireland, from Old English hol and lēah - (dweller by the) clearing in the hollow, or hol and ēage — hollow-eye, a nickname; in Ireland for Mac Cuilinn by translation (Co. Kerry) and an occasional synonym of MacQuillian in Ulster." E. Seary, William Kirwin, Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland, 1998, p. 255.
  2. ^ "A memorable fictional Holly is the enigmatic heroine of Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, Holly Golightly (almost named Connie, and with the full name Holiday), played indelibly by Audrey Hepburn." nameberry.com
  3. ^ U.S. Social Security Administration Baby Names Database http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/
  4. ^ England & Wales Baby Names. "Holly". Englishgirlsnames.  Behind the Name. "Holly ranks just outside the British Top 30, but it's been out of favor here since the 1970s Era of Nickname Names." nameberry.com.
  5. ^ "The name is often given to daughters born on or near Christmas." Think Baby Names. "Jolly Holly has always been favored for girls born around Christmas, evoking the symbolic shrub with dark green leaves and bright red berries." nameberry.com.
  6. ^ according to thinkbabynames.com. Holleigh, Hollee, Hollye is not recorded in the top 1,000 US statistics, Holli makes a transient appearance in the top 700 in 1970.