Harley – Name of the Week – British Baby Names

Harley – Name of the Week – British Baby Names

Harley girls name

HarleyFalling in nicely alongside popular Charlie, Harry and Harvey, Harley has stormed the Top 100 in E&W in the past decade with a count of thousands.


From the Old English elements hara “hare” and lēah “clearing, glade, meadow, wood”. It was first used as a place name in both Shropshire and West Yorkshire, and later became a habitational surname.


As a surname turned first name, Harley has been used since the 17th century. The surname itself was used by the aristocracy (much like Percy, Sidney, Cecil and Howard), particularly associated with the Earls of Oxford — the famous Harley Street and Oxford Street in London was named for Edward Harley “Lord Harley”, 2nd Earl of Oxford.

On the 1851 UK census, 54 males were named Harley. This number had risen to 159 by 1881, and to 306 in 1911. The name saw some usage for women in the late 19th century, but it was extremely rare. It did not come into more regular use for girls until the late 20th century, alongside similar sounding Hayley and Carly.

The popularity of Harley is a very recent phenomenon. In 2000 Harley ranked #183 with 186 births; in the previous four years it had plateaued at much the same rank. By 2003 it had crept up to #143 (312 births), and then took a dramatic leap to #102 (554 births) in 2004, and then to #70 (959 births) in 2005. To put that usage in perspective, in 1996 186 boys were given the name; in 2006, 1092 boys were registered — a 600% increase in just ten years.

Why the sudden leap in 2004/5? Similar-sounding Top 50 names such as Charlie, Harry, Harvey and Finley no doubt helped paved the way, while popular TV drama Footballers’ Wives featured a character named Harley Lawson from 2004 – 2005.

Since 2006, the name has steadily risen in the Top 100 in England and Wales. In 2010 it ranked #57 with 1304 births (#55 in Wales, #56 in England). Spelling variations included Harlee (18) Harlie (13), Harleigh (6), Harli (6) and Harly (3), with hyphens Harley-Jay (17), Harley-James (9), and 4 named Harley-Jack (4), and Harley-Joe (4).

Back in 1996, the usage for boys (186 births) was very nearly matched for girls (111 births). Since then, however, the name has slightly declined as a feminine name. In 2010 Harley ranked #616 for girls in England and Wales with 62 births. Spelling variants included Harleigh (21), Harlie (17), Harlee (5) and Harli (5).

In Scotland the name is far less popular and still very unisex, much like it was in England and Wales in the late 90s. In 2010 the name ranked #148 (36 births) for boys and #345 (10 births) for girls, shifting to #205 (21 births) for boys and #249 (16 births) for girls in 2011.

Famous Bearers:


* Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer(1661-1724) was Lord High Treasurer for Queen Anne. He was the first to hold the title of “Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer” which was passed down through the Harley family. *Harley Granville-Barker (1877-1946) was an English actor and playwright.* William Sylvester Harley(1880-1943) was an American mechanical engineer and co-founder of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. * Harley Parker (1915-1992) was a Canadian artist and professor.

Popular Culture:

*Harley Alexander-Sule (b.1991) is co-member of Brit act Rizzle Kicks.


* Harley-Davidson (or simply “a Harley”) is a well-known brand of motorbike. * Harley Benton is a well known brand of musical instruments, particularly guitars.* Harley Street is a famous street in London, known for its high concentration of private medical practices.


Harlie, Harlee, Harleigh, Harly, Harli, Harlea


HAR-lee [key]

Possible Diminutives:

Hal, Lee

Sibling Names:

Skye Lacey Miley Alexis Megan Alicia Lewis Bailey Cole Ryan Kai Corey

Name Lists:

Lively Lads

If you like Harley you may also like: Harvey, Riley, Harrison, Marley, Taylor, Logan, Harris, Harlan, Charlie, Farley