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Ask Baby Names

Baby name advice from Jennifer Moss, founder of BabyNames.com. Have a question for Jennifer? E-mail it to question@babynames.com

Kelly: Boy’s or Girl’s Name?

Dear Jennifer,

I have been looking at the name Kelly quite often lately because of my interest in genealogy – and I have found that in my genealogy most, if not all, of the Kellys are male, something I find interesting. I am aware that it is originally a male name, so my questions are, when do you believe it shifted and became a more female name (thinking Beverly Hills success did indeed help it become a feminine name) – and on which gender do you prefer the name?

Personally I prefer it on a boy, but just wondering what you think of it. 🙂

Great blog – and most of the time I agree with your responses, so great job and keep up the good work.


Taylor Kinney as Kelly Severide - Chicago Fire

Taylor Kinney as Kelly Severide – Chicago Fire


Hi Sandra,

Great question! I love the name Kelly on both girls and boys, maybe because of my Irish roots! Like Ashley and Brittany, the name Kelly has crossed over to the girl’s side, primarily, in the United States. But although it has shifted, there are still some male Kellys out there, and I hope it does make a resurgence on the boy’s side of the charts.

I knew a male Kelly in college, and he was very tall and handsome! And we now have a male Kelly on one of the most popular shows on network television, Chicago Fire, played by Taylor Kinney (another unisex name). P.S. GROWL!

Would I recommend parents name their child Kelly? Yes, if that’s a name that they are considering (and it goes with all my other tips). I believe gender lines are going to continue to merge when it comes to baby names, especially when a name has been on both sides at one point in time!