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Gender: Female Meaning of Shirley: "bright meadow" Origin of Shirley: English

The name Shirley is a girl's name of English origin meaning "bright meadow". Shirley and is often added to lists like Names That Mean Hope and discussed in our forums with posts like "Adding Then Eliminating -- Girls Themed".

From the experts:

All Shirleys were born in 1937, when Shirley Temple was America's princess -- or at least sound as if they were.

Shirley Temple almost single-handedly lifted the gloom of the Great Depression, and in tribute (and perhaps wishing for a similarly curly-headed, dimpled darling of their own), thousands of parents of that generation gave their little girls her name. In 1935, Shirley was the second most popular girls' name in the country with more than 42,000 babies named Shirley.

In an earlier time Shirley was used primarily for boys, but the tide turned with the publication of Charlotte Bronte's novel Shirley in 1849, the story of a character whose parents had selected the name for a boy child, then decided to use it anyway when he turned out to be a she.

In addition to Shirley Temple, there have been Shirleys MacLaine and Jones and writer Shirley Jackson, as well as rocker Shirley Manson.

Find other names based on Shirley using our baby name generator.

Famous People Named Shirley

Shirley Temple Black, American actress and diplomat
Shirley MacLaine (born Shirley MacLean Beaty), American actress
Shirley Hardie Jackson, American author
Shirley Ann Manson, Scottish lead singer of band Garbage
Shirley Henderson, Scottish actress
Shirley Mae Jones, American actress
Shirley Veronica Bassey, Welsh singer
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm, first black U.S. Congresswoman (New York)
Shirley Elizabeth Collins, English folk singer
Shirley Clarke, American film director
Shirley Lynn Phelps-Roper, American lawyer and activist
Shirley Booth (born Marjory Ford), American actress
Shirley Frances Babashoff, American swimmer
Shirley Natasja Clamp, Swedish pop singer
Shirley Kwan (Shuyi), Hong Kong singer
Shirley Knight, American actress
Shirley Hubertina Maria Adriana Kocaçınar, Turkish footballer
Shirley Vivian Teresa Brittain Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby, British politician
Shirley Zwerus, Dutch singer and pianist
Shirley Chung, Chinese-American chef
Shirley Yeung (Sze-ki), Hong Kong actress
Shirley Douglas, Canadian actress, mother of actor Kiefer Sutherland

Pop Culture References for the name Shirley

Shirley Feeney, character on TV's "Laverne & Shirley"
Shirley Keeldar, main character in "Shirley," by Charlotte Bronte
Shirley Bennett, character on TV's "Community"
Shirley Ryan, character on TV's "Love Child"
Shirley Partridge, main character on TV's "The Partridge Family," played by Shirley Jones
Shirley Miller, main character on TV's "Shirley," played by Shirley Jones
Shirley Brahms, character in British TV series Are You Being Served?
Shirley the Loon, character in Tiny Toon Adventures
Shirley Fenette, a character in the anime Code Geass
Shirley Yeager, character in anime Strike Witches
Shirley, character in The Jimmy Timmy Power Hour 3
Shirley, a hairdresser in the videogame MySims
Shirley Fennes, a character in the videogame Tales of Legendia
Shirley, a main character in animated film "Shaun the Sheep"
Shirley Taylorson, character in video game Acidic
Shirley Yang, character in "Ghost Blows Out the Light" by Zhang Muye
Anne Shirley, main character in the "Anne of Green Gables" series, who had a son named Shirley Blythe
Hotel Shirley, Sierra Madre, California, built in 1911, restored in 1998
Shirley Crain, character in "The Haunting of Hill House"


paulapuddephatt Says:


I really like it. I can see Shirley coming back into style somewhat, in the future. It's pretty.

EvaThyssen Says:


Shirley is a lot better than the ultra boring, bland Emily. So refreshing!

ThoughtfulCharmer Says:


I am a thirty-something, female (I can't even imagine this was ever considered a masculine name) and I was named by my Dad who lost his mother while he was in Vietnam. So when I came along, I was given her name: Shirley Louise. Otherwise, if my Mom had any say in the matter, I would have been named Emily Rose. (which I think is a horror movie character).
Admittedly, I never liked having an uncommon name. I never went to school with or knew another Shirley.

Zelliew Says:


That's how I'd feel about it

AldabellaxWulfe Says:


Even if you don't like the thought of it being used for a boy, the fact is that Shirley was originally masculine, and should have a male page to show for it.

That said, while I do actually like it for a girl, primarily due to its Shirley Temple association (seriously, she was so cute!), as a 'traditionalist', I find myself crushing on it quite hard for a boy. The problem is, it's been stereotyped as an old woman's name. Even my mum and aunt, who are totally supportive of my desire to give a future son the traditionally masculine name Evelyn, think that Shirley is 'too feminine'.

The use of 'girly' names on boys (even if they're masculine in origin) tends to make a lot of people uncomfortable. And while I'm not particularly fussed about other people's comfort zones in terms of naming, the thought of having to explain or defend my name choice to anyone who might seek to question it is off-putting. Still, the fact is that Shirley hasn't been in or anywhere near the top 1000 name list for girls in over 20 years now. So if there was ever a time for Shirley to have an easy transition back to the boys, I suppose now would be it.

Aimee Says:


I am surprised by the positive responses. I know a 30 something year old with this name and I always feel bad she has an old lady name. It just doesn't seem fitting.

ThistleThorn Says:



gailk Says:


I don't think this belongs on the "Names No Girl May Ever Be Cool Enough For" list. I understand it's not some people's favorite, but it does not rank among the likes of Gay and Hortense

claraminta Says:


This is like my second favorite name right now

Mairin Says:


A pretty name that deserves another chance. It goes well with one-syllable middles.

faithnamer Says:


I actually think that this would be a really cute name for a little girl.

raevynstar Says:


"Shirley" no one can hate this name, although it's dated? :(