American Names · Analysis · Modern names

The Name Holly

Holly US Rank 465 Graphic.

For one reason or another, I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about the name Holly lately! Now that we’re into the month of December, that seems especially fitting.

Holly is the perfect name for a baby born around the Holidays because it evokes a sense of place and feeling for a joyful, magical time. It can take a religious association like the Holly & Ivy carol, but because it’s a plant it can also be as secular as the eggnog and jingles we fill our lives with in December. A baby Holly could be born to a family of any religious or cultural background who simply enjoys the time of year or celebrates a holiday in early winter and wants to commemorate the baby’s birth.

I’ve noticed that Holly is starting to rise in popularity again after a 40-year decline. It peaked in the 70s and 80s, but it doesn’t feel as dated as some of the other names that were trendy then. I suspect that’s because it’s never been in the top 10 or even the top 25, which makes it harder to associate with one specific era even if it belonged to one! At its most popular, Holly ranked only #48 in 1979 and 1983. Currently, it ranks #465 with 668 baby girls, slowly creeping from its most recent low point in 2016 at #526 (589 girls). Why has Holly stabilized and grown? My guess is that there’s a couple of things going on.

One of the biggest things the name Holly has going for it in the 2020s is that it’s a nature name. Nature names are massively trendy; I’m sure you know at least one baby girl named Violet, Hazel, or Willow. River is popular for any gender. Though Holly doesn’t have the vintage-American style laurels that Magnolia and Olive boast, it is the name of a tree (however seasonally specific). Today’s parents love tree names! You can’t find a corner of the internet where even tree-adjacent names like Asher and Oaklynn aren’t being discussed. For nature-loving parents having a December baby, Holly is the name to choose.

The other thing I think may be associated with Holly‘s growing popularity is the rising trendiness of similar-sounding names. Holland debuted in the top 1000 for girls in 2014, and now ranks its highest at #638 (462 girls; 87 boys also received the name). When one name becomes popular, similar names grow in turn; though Hollyn is still rare, it was given to 135 girls in 2021 – more than double the number named Hollyn in 2016 (56). Hollynn is an ultra-rare spelling at 11 uses, but 5 years earlier only 6 girls were given that spelling. You can also find babies named Hollynd, Hollin, and Hollan. Another increasingly trendy name to consider here is gender-neutral Hollis, which was given to 163 girls and 199 boys in 2021. Similar sounds boost names together by creating familiarity.

What do you think of Holly? Would you use it? Do you have any other ideas why it’s getting more popular? Let me know!

3 thoughts on “The Name Holly

  1. Great analysis! I love following things like this. What sources do you utilize?I’ve seen the popularity graphs on Behind the Name, but I never knew where she was drawing from, either.
    Keep up the good work!

    The Civil War Names Project

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I typically use the Social Security Administration’s baby name data as my main source! It covers the period from 1880-present, but is more accurate for people born after 1937. They usually release the new data sets every Mother’s Day weekend. The nice thing is they’re available to the public and you don’t need a special subscription to view them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s