SPOTLIGHT ON: Perry

Pear tree framed by a stone archway.

As a given name, Perry is surprisingly understated, both in usage and style. The name has been around seemingly forever, but at the same time seems quiet. Perry never became prevalent, but had always been in the background.

Perry left the top 1000 in 2006. In 2010* 128 boys and 32 girls were named Perry.

In 1880, the first year U.S. names stats are available; Perry just missed the top 100, ranking at 101. Considering the appeal of surnames in the 19th century, that rank is not surprising.

What is surprising is the name’s steady decline since surname-names never lost their appeal. Perry did see a very slight increase in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s and then resumed its downward trend.

Perry is a recent discovery that has stayed on my mind. My most recent run-in with Perry was as one of Waltzing More than Matilda’s Old School Names from the Bonds Baby Search. Since Perry never left my mind, I sensed it deserved recognition. When I learned Perry originates from “pear tree”, it had to be one of our “Forest and Tree” names.

There are two origins for Perry. One is that of the surname derived from Middle English “perrie” meaning “pear tree”. Another origin is from the Welsh ap Herry, meaning “son of Herry.” Perrie is an alternative spelling. Another variant is Parry.

Perry is like Percy but a lot more down-to-earth. Rare for a hipster choice, Perry seems understated. Perry’s subtle hipster appeal, along with its friendliness and casual (but not too casual) style, give it great potential. It may not be among the stylish trade-surnames like Archer, Fletcher or Porter, but that gives Perry a leg up, making it different, but  as a surname-name, not too different.

While gender cross-overs may make those of you with boys cringe, Perry makes a great gender cross-over contender, being similar to Kerry. Besides that, Perry has fruit origins, and most fruit names are seen as feminine by most people. Perry is a subtle fruit name, less in-your-face than Apple.

The Perrie spelling seems especially feminine and fits in with many ie-ending girl names that are on-trend: Ellie, Maisie, Millie and Tillie.

Parents of boys: don’t fret. Perry crossing over doesn’t make it off-limits for boys. Both sexes could work this name. Some names work well as unisex names, such as Hayden and Quinn. Perry could be one of these names.

Having English origins, Perry has potential in other English-speaking countries. How popular is Perry in other English-speaking countries?

Let’s look at the numbers. In the U.K., there were 24 newborn boys named Perry in 2010. This gives Perry a ranking of #1109 which it shares with several other names. There were fewer than 3, if any girls named Perry in the UK. These numbers suggest Perry’s popularity, at least for boys, is roughly comparable in the U.S. and U.K. relative to population. **

In BC Canada, Perry was given to fewer than 5, if any, boys or girls. We were unable to find data on names outside the top 100 for Australia or Scotland.

Perry’s real popularity is as a surname. Perry was the 97th most popular surname in the U.S., belonging to 212,644 people, according to 2000 US census data.

Perry has some famous bearers, most notably, Perry Como the singer with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Grammy winner for the 1950’s song “Catch a Falling Star”. Actors with the last name include Luke Perry and Matthew Perry, both of 90’s TV fame.

How could Perry go wrong? Perhaps Perry is not more popular because it sounds too similar to Harry. Or perhaps Perry rhyming with “fairy” could give some expectant parents pause, especially those concerned about teasing. These drawbacks are minor. Rare is a name that’s drawback-free.

One of Perry’s other strengths is as a “golden-mean” name. Golden-mean names fit the middle of a style spectrum, useful for parents who have divergent tastes. As a “golden-mean” name, Perry sounds more traditional than Scout but less traditional than John.

Perry is adorable on a little boy. Perry would also work on a grown man. Perry could be adorable on a little girl or grown woman too.

Readers: What do you think of Perry?

*Can’t wait for the 2011 results to come out!
** Since I was unable to find population data for the same year, I didn’t do calculations, but here are the figures I found on Wikipedia:

  • US population was 313,376,000 in 2008
  • UK population was 58,789,194 in 2001
Photo credit: Pear tree / Pear

Comments

  1. I think Perry is charming! I wonder if Katy Perry has anything to do with parents turning away from it. She’s not exactly a role model I would choose for my child.

  2. A name book I have at hand says Perry can also be short for Peregrine, and believes that in the US, it was originally used to honour Admiral Oliver Hazard Perry, who defeated the British on Lake Erie in 1812, and later Admiral Matthew Galbraith Perry, who opened up Japan to foreign interests. The book seems to think that in the UK, Perry is a “first name name” and in the US, a “a surname name”.

    To me this name is too gender-specific to give to a girl, and girls already have Peri anyway.

    We don’t say this to rhyme with “fairy”, and I have seen this occasionally in BAs this year, which pleases me for some reason. It has a 1950s flavour to me (even though I did go to school with someone named Perry).

  3. My sons name is Perry. The reason we chose it is because in one of the baby name books we have it says it means “little Peter” in old French, and my husbands name is Peter. We have also seen it listed as meaning just “Peter” in French. Everyone has said they love it as a name, and most have said they have never heard it before. We both wanted an old-fashioned name but also a not so common name. And I think Perry is perfect.
    When I was pregnant with our son, I couldn’t decide between Perry & Henry. But chose Perry for the reasons above, and now my son is born (he is 4mths old) It is just perfect for him, Henry just wouldnt suit him at all.

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