What Does the Name Kelly Mean?


The Origin of Kelly

The name Kelly comes from the Gaelic tradition, and it means warrior. The name has evolved over time. Kelly is the English form of the ancient Irish Gaelic name Ceallach. It is also said to be transferred from the Cornish name celli, which means wood or grove.

It is a very popular Irish name meaning war, lively, and aggressive. It was originally an Irish surname, but starting in the second half of the 20th century, it has  become a first name.

The name Kelly is also a Scottish name, meaning wood.  Like the Irish name it was first  a surname, and has only become a first name in the later part of the 20th century.

As a surname the name may come from multiple places. It may originate from the Clan Kelly, located in Scotland, which may have derived from the toponym Kelloe.  In Ireland, it may derive from O’Ceallaigh or O’cdhla.

In both traditions the name can be used for both girls and boys. While the name started off as a popular first name for boys, it is far more popular for girls.  It’s been a first name for boys since the 19th century, and began as a girl’s name in the 1940’s, partially from the popularity of the actress Grace Kelly.

It was the fictional character “Kelly Garrett”  in the 1977 movie Charlie’s Angels, played by Jaclyn Smith that sent the name skyrocketing up the popularity charts.

Skype English Lessons with Native teachers ››

Kelly’s Popularity

The popularity of the name Kelly grew in the 1950s and peaked in the 1980s. Since then the use of the name has steadily declined. This is most likely because of the extreme popularity of the name, and parents wanting a more unique name for their child.

Kelly is most popular in the following countries; Ireland, Belgium, Canada, Portugal, England, Wales, The United States of America, and France.

Check Your Grammar ››

Nicknames and Variations of the name Kelly

The most popular nicknames for Kelly are Kell and Kel. This is true for both the male and female version of the name.

Some popular variations are Kellye, Kellina, Kellie, Kelli, Kelley, Kelle, Keeley, Keely, Kelianne, Kelleen, and Kelleigh.  Some popular masculine variations are Cellch, Cillian, Keeley, and Killian

Skype English Lessons with Native teachers ››

Characteristics of a Person Named Kelly

People named Kelly tend to enjoy traveling and adventure. They prefer to set their own pace to life.  

They are also quiet, cooperative, considerate, sympathetic to others, adaptable, balanced, and can also be shy. They are trustworthy, respect the confidence of others. They may make great diplomats, partners, and mediators.

Check Your Grammar ››

Famous People Name Kelly

Kelly Bishop – Carole “Kelly” Bishop is an American actress and dancer. She is best known for her role as Emily Gilmore on the TV series, Gilmore Girls.

She also played Jennifer Grey’s Frances “Baby”’s mother in Dirty Dancing. She created the role Shelia in A Chorus Line, and won a Tony Award for her performance.

Kelly McGillis – is an American actress. She played Charlie in Top Gun, for which she received a Golden Globe and BAFTA nomination.

Kelly Lynch – Is an American actress and model.  She has appeared in movies, including Cocktail, Roadhouse, and Drugstore Cowboy.

Kelly Preston – Is an American actress, model, and wife of John Travolta. She has appeared in over 60 TV shows and films. She has been in films including Mischief, Twins, and Jerry Maguire.

Kelly Rowan – Is a Canadian actress and former model. She is most known for her role as Kristen Cohen, in the TV series The O.C.

Kelly Rutherford – Is an American actress. She is known for her roles as Sam Whitmore on Generations, Megan Lewis on Melrose Place, and Lily Van der Woodson on Gossip Girl.  

Kelly Ripa – Is an American actress, dancer, talk show host, and producer. She played Hayley Vaughn on All My Children. She has co hosted the television show Live! since 2001. She also starred as Faith Fairfield on the show Hope and Faith.

Kelly Slater – is an American professional surfer. He has won the title World Surf League Champion a record eleven times, including five consecutive wins from 1994-1998. He is both the youngest and oldest person to be crowned with that title.

Kelly Clarkson – Is an American singer, songwriter, and author, and the first winner of the TV show American Idol. Her debut single, Before Your Love/A Moment Like This   became the best selling single of 2002 in America. She has sold over 25 million albums and over 36 million singles. She has won 2 Grammy Awards and multiple other awards.

Skype English Lessons with Native teachers ››

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments