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Will This Name Doom My Baby?

After years of trying, we are thrilled to be expecting a baby girl. I didnt think the naming would be hard...I've always liked "Mallory" because it's cute, but not that common. But while looking up name meanings I was horrified to discover that it means "ill-fated young woman." Now I'm a little unsure. - Ill-Fated Mom

Let's talk for a minute about the meaning of meanings.

Of course, none of us want our kids' names to mean something awful. But where did this idea come from that a name's "meaning" is some obscure Latin root you track down via twists and turns through Middle English and French?

What you're talking about isn't a meaning, it's a derivation. Mallory may derive from a French word meaning "unlucky" (nobody's quite certain). Unless that origin is part of our current language, though -- as in names like Destiny and Rose -- it's just a scholarly curiosity.

Think of it this way: if you look up the word "jerk" in the dictionary you might find it comes from an Old English word meaning "prepare." But if somebody calls you a jerk, that doesn't mean they think you're well prepared, does it? Now try asking the next dozen people you meet what the name Mallory means. My guess is you'll get more blank stares and references to the old sitcom Family Ties than derivations from Norman French.

So what does Mallory really "mean"? Well, it's a familiar English surname that used to be a rare male given name. Then starting around the 1940s, the soaring popularity of Valerie rubbed off a little on the rhyming name Mallory, tilting it to the girl's side. The name had sitcom exposure in the '80s, when other surname crossovers like Ashley, Courtney and Lindsay were also taking off. Yet Mallory never approached the popularity of those hits.

Today, that leaves Mallory in an enviable style spot. It's familiar, but not common. It feels classically feminine enough for traditionalists, but contemporary enough for more creative namers. People really like this name. That, to me, is more important than any scholarly derivation.


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October 18, 2010 9:44 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm not a huge fan of Mallory personally (not a bad name, just NMS), but I run into the same problem with another name I love - Claudia. It means "crippled" and as much as I <3 the name, I'm not sure I could ever bring myself to use it knowing the meaning.

October 18, 2010 9:46 AM
By Caitlyn (not verified)

well said :)

I'm also a fan of reverse-engineering a new "meaning" you actually like. Off the top of my head, Mallory could be related to apples (malus) or hammers (malleus) or even honey (mel mellis) - none of which is terribly helpful, I admit, but you get the idea. (And "apple blossom" is certainly better than "unlucky") If it's important to you, check around in different languages and find something you like.

My sister's name is Nyssa. It's a Welsh name, and my parents knew it from Dr Who, but they've always said that in her case it means miracle, from the Hebrew word "ness"

October 18, 2010 9:53 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I guess I don't agree with this way of thinking. To me the meaning or historical connection of a name is very important. I wouldn't choose a name like Lorelei for my child because the history of the name is not very pleasant. Do I want my daughter to be associated with a siren that lured fisherman to their death with her singing? Not so much. I guess when I think about my child possibly being like me someday and looking up their own name I would like them to find something pleasant at the very least associated with their name.

October 18, 2010 10:04 AM
By FranklinSmyth (not verified)

Who knew the baby-sitters club was so doomed? Mallory, Claudia... don't tell me Kristy be-damned.

October 18, 2010 10:23 AM
By Casey (not verified)

When I once looked up my name I found it meant thorny. Well not very positive or girlie, I've found this meaning has effected my life in no way whatsoever.

October 18, 2010 2:56 PM
By Lysis (not verified)

I agree with Laura in general, the "meanings" that most baby name books and websites are mere curiousities at best and sometimes they are just guesses anyway. However, with Mallory, the mal- prefix does stand out to me. Most people know that it means bad or ill. I think that is why Mallory has remained in the shadows while stylistic sisters Courtney and Lindsay had their day in the sun.

October 18, 2010 3:10 PM
By Sarah (not verified)

I don't think that a name's meaning should keep you from using it. My middle name is Dolores, which means sad or sorrows. My first name means princess, and I always found it funny that my names together meant sad princess. I wasn't worried that Dolores didn't mean something great. On the other hand my sister, Valerie, thought it was pretty lame that her name meant strong or healthy. Not bad, just boring.
In the end, it doesn't matter to us what our names mean, it is just a fun fact to know. If you love the name Mallory you should use it. I agree that not many people will know/try to find out what it means when they hear it.

October 19, 2010 7:43 AM
By Moll (not verified)

Even the formerly ubiquitous Mary and its kin have a rough meaning - I have read "bitter", "sea of bitterness", and "bitter tears", although lately name guides have been saying"wished-for child".
In any event, I think Mallory is a great choice for the reasons NameLady described. Perhaps instead of looking into the derivation, you could look to some famous people who have had the last name Mallory, like George Mallory,and use them more as the basis for the name if people ask the meaning?

October 19, 2010 12:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Check more than one source, and I'm sure you'll find at least a couple that offer alternative meanings. My dog-earred baby fname book (in which I found both my girls' names) has two meaning for Mallory. !. German: army counselor; 2. French: unlucky. Just tell people it's a German name. :)

Personally, I love it. In fact, I'm looking at the inside back cover, where I wrote the names in the book that most appealed to me, and Mallory is listed -- right between Maeve and Tierney.

October 19, 2010 12:03 PM
By Mallory (not verified)

My name is Mallory ( I was named in the 80s after family ties) I have always like my name, it was different without being too out there. I became aware of the meaning of my name in high school and I always joked about it. I don't think that it has made me any less lucky that I would have been with another name.

Go for what you like...meanings are abstract not literal :)

October 19, 2010 1:18 PM
By D (not verified)

This right here is the problem with a self-proclaimed 'expert'.

The meaning of Mallory is transparent to any onomast or any casual student of French. It's all well and nice to say it doesn't matter - it reassures the simplest minds to hear 'nevermind' from an 'expert' but this nonsensical nay-saying simply illustrates why the 'Name Lady' has no status amongst real etymologists, she's just a chick with some database and marketing skills, no more expert than your mother in law.

October 19, 2010 1:24 PM
By joanna (not verified)

I was a nanny for a girl named Malorie. I loved her name. Loved that spelling. The name book I have says German-army counselor and French-unlucky as well, but I guess it's cuz the in French the word mal means bad...? This girl I watched was most definitely not unlucky. If it bothers you that much pair it with a middle name that has a great meaning, that counterbalances it or means a whole sentence, making the "unluckyness" good.

October 19, 2010 1:51 PM
By Mallory (not verified)

Like the above poster Mallory, my name is Mallory and I was named after Family Ties as well. I like to think I'm not particularly ill-fated in life. I've heard a couple meanings for Mallory, including ill-fated, ill-omened, and luckless. My life is fairly average- sure, I've had a few bad things happen, but I've definitely had my fair share of luck in life, so I wouldn't sweat it too badly.

I love having a rare name. I've only encountered a handful or so of Mallory's in my life- most have been significantly younger than me (I'm 25), I went to high school with one, and then there were two I liked to tease weren't real Mallory's because it was spelled Malorie.

October 19, 2010 2:48 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)


you're not by chance an Acacia, are you?

October 19, 2010 2:52 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

The meaning of the name probably will not affect the child's luck; however, I know finding out "Carol" meant "free man" did not entreat me to my name. Overall, meaning should not be a total turn-off, but it should give pause.

October 19, 2010 3:14 PM
By Juulie (not verified)

To By D (not verified): Oh, please. Have you never read Lewis Carroll? "A word means exactly what I want it to mean. No more, no less". We're not talking about etymology here. The question is whether the etymology matters in today's world. The blogger answered with exactitude and precision to the heart of the matter, "It depends on the name." For example, to use an extreme, take the name Adolf. It has a nice etymology, meaning "noble wolf", or "majestic", and it's been a saint's name in different cultures before 1940. But in the modern world only the most extreme fascist Nazi would name their child Adolf and even then, courts will intervene, wherever they have the authority to do so. No one cares about the etymology. And that's NOT what this column is about!

October 19, 2010 3:41 PM
By Julie (not verified)

I have a niece named Mallory. While she has joked about her "bad" name on occasion, I know she likes her name.

In my understanding, the surname Mallory was derived from a nickname meaning "unhappy, unlucky." Instead of thinking its a bad omen, you should think of the name as being ironic. Like a big man called Tiny or a redhead called Blue.

I doubt every Melanie is "black", nor is every Paul is "small."

October 19, 2010 3:58 PM
By Penni (not verified)

D made me laugh. What a funny knickersin-a-knot thing to say. I think the whole business of Baby Name meanings has been driven by folk etymologists rather than serious study, and that's fine. Naming a baby isn't a scientific formula (Anne [Grace] + Claire [Light] = Ballerina). My name means weaver and I never wove a thing in my life. I am not saying meanings don't matter or aren't relevant, but I am saying there is a semiotic arbitrariness to proper nouns that goes beyond any sort of literal historically agreed upon system of fixed signs.

October 19, 2010 5:43 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I knew a Mallory in my Girl Scouts in elementary school. Unfortunately, she was involved in a horrible car accident in 5th grade where the car flipped over and she was thrown into the road onto her head. She is alive today but has developmemental issues. That same Mallory is also one of the sweetest, smartest, funniest girls I know!

October 19, 2010 6:06 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

D is hilarious. Sure, I did take derivations into some consideration when naming my kids, I enjoy the meaning of my name, and hey, I have a background in French, but seriously...?Out in the real world, who actually goes around judging people they meet by the etymology of their names? Wait, maybe she does. That says volumes more about D's personality than about the fate of this baby girl! (And...ahem...jealous of someone's marketing skills much?)

October 19, 2010 7:13 PM
By Tanya (not verified)

Name meaning matters more to some than others. While it's extremely important to me (and I am sad that my name lacks in this area... with an somewhat interesting history and vague to no meaning)... I believe that a name is more than a sound... and deeply considered meaning when naming my children. However, your child may grow up not to care; or it may mean the world to them- you won't know until their old enough to have an opinion!

October 19, 2010 7:37 PM
By Knit-Wiht (not verified)

I personally love the name Mallory, its my cousin's name. I will point out that my mother always called her Malcontent whenever she pouted or whined about anything.

October 20, 2010 5:10 AM
By lulus mummy (not verified)


October 20, 2010 6:30 AM
By Julie (not verified)

My name means "bearded youth," derived from "Julius." But most modern sources will tell you that Julie simply means "young." Maybe you could "invent" your own meaning for your favorite name. Or just run with it: I think "ill-fated woman" sounds kinda dark and mysterious...very cool. It's definitely not the worst meaning out there.

October 20, 2010 1:11 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Not to offend, but Claudia might be my least favorite name ever, not that it means a thing. LOL I immediately feel the unattractive associations of...clod-hopper, clogs, heavy, slow, unfortunate. Weird how our minds work so quickly with an image or feeling. Mallory has become more popular it seems, but "mal" is a negative root. It feels unhappy to me. We all like different things, again no offense meant to anyone. :) My sweet mother-in-law had 4 boys. When I had a girl, she persisted that we name her penelope, but she pronounced it pen-uh-lope. Long 0 silent e. LOL We were baffled. I think penelope(ending in long e) is cute. But yikes. We had to get out of that tactfully. She was so cute. "penalope. nice name. I like it. Name her penalope" I'll never forget that. LOL

October 20, 2010 1:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

LOL! What names are more your style, D?

October 20, 2010 1:28 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Casey....I named my son Casey. I loved the associated old story of Casey at bat. But everything I've read says Casey means "brave, spirited" and I liked that. He's 18. He doesn't care for his name, as he says it's a girl's name. He doesn't realize that girls have been named Casey for about 20 years now. Boys have been Casey for hundreds of years. Ironically he asked me what his name would have been had he been a girl. I said "Casey" LOL! I liked it for both. I've never heard the "thorny" association.

October 20, 2010 7:43 PM
By A British Laura (not verified)

When I look at what the names in my family mean I find it easy to see that the meanings don't have that great an influence on our lives. Maybe my dad Alan was 'handsome' in his younger years, but that's only one possible meaning, my mum Karen has a name meaning 'pure' but was not married in white, my brother Jason is not a 'healer' and I wouldn't call my sister Donna a 'lady'. As for me my name means 'of the laurels' which is said to symbolise the laurel wreath given to victorious Romans, but I often feel anything but victorious.

If setting too much store by a name's meaning puts you off using it that's your choice, but remember the average person you come across probably won't know or care too much what the name means but rather what associations they make with the name.

October 21, 2010 11:01 AM
By Annee (not verified)

I have always liked the name Mallory -- wanted to name my twins Mallory & Hillary (sort of a mountain climging thing) after Sir Edmund Hillary and the ill-fated George Mallory).

I think historical reference and popularity have more of an affect on the perception of names than their "meaning".

Good luck to Mallory's mum ... :o)

October 21, 2010 1:14 PM
By ML (not verified)

Even the name Mary means "bitter". That means my name, Molly means bitter, too. I'm not bitter about that. :)

October 22, 2010 5:21 PM
By jenna (not verified)

can a name seal your fate?
will this name doom my baby?
can i name my baby after the bad guy?

sheesh... every week its like the SAME question. its getting old.

October 23, 2010 4:39 PM
By Lisa (not verified)

ROFL @ an image of Claudia Shiffer being a heavy, slow clodhopper :P
I know a Claudette, just putting it out there for the Claudia fans too ;)

But back on topic, I agree with British Laura (and Jenna). It's not going to be the meaning of a name that will affect your outcome in life, but other people's association with a name may affect the way they treat you.

October 28, 2010 1:54 PM
By Becky (not verified)

Of course, for a whole generation of us, Mallory and Claudia are inextricably linked as members of the Babysitters' Club

October 30, 2010 12:05 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Oh, I'm SO with the previous poster who pointed out that a name's etymology is not nearly as important as its connotation. Adolf has a ncie etymology but a bad connotation. Mary has a bad etymology but a nice connotation.

To me, "Mallory" makes me think of a mallard duck. so I probably wouldn't give it to a child. But I don't think my kid is unlucky because I named her that, just as I don't think I'm dooming a son to baldness if I name him Calvin (religious rebellion, though, perhaps?)

November 5, 2010 1:42 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Mallory and my best friend's name while growing up was Hilary. I wasn't named after Family Ties, but rather the old "Mallory Hat Factory" in Danbury, CT where many of my old relatives used to work. When I was younger I always wanted a more common name like Karen or Katie, but once I reached middle school and high school, I grew to love it. I have met less than 10 other Mallory's in my life, but no one I meet seems to be unfamiliar with the name. It feels feminine and unique to me.
The only thing that is a little annoying, yet funny, is that the people taking my order at Starbuc'ks will forever assume I said "Valerie" and proceed to write it on my cup.

November 10, 2010 5:59 PM
By Cecily's Mom (not verified)

I don't know if anyone else has pointed this out but.......Mary in hebrew is bitter. Subsequently Marie, Maria, and any other variations also mean bitter.

Is this what you think of when you meet a Mary, Marie, or Maria?....... I doubt it.

My daughter's name is Cecily. On some occasions I've seen that it means blind. No one has ever said anything to me about this. Or that my name (Marie) means bitter.

Mallory is fabulous, and even more special because you've been holding onto it for your long awaited precious daughter.

Go for it!

November 11, 2010 1:30 PM
By JoAnn (not verified)

Tell us, D, is it your job to visit websites and trash-talk the owner?
Get yourself a life.
And a name. :p

November 23, 2010 9:04 PM
By :) (not verified)


December 5, 2010 11:07 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Our daughter's name is Cecilia, which means blind. That was a little hard to get over, but she is named after Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

Maybe if you found a different Mallory to associate her name with it would help you feel better about the yucky 'meaning'.

I think Mallory is a great name!

December 19, 2010 11:10 PM
By Mallorie (not verified)

Another Mallorie here to weigh in. Also named in the 80s after the Family Ties character. I've always like the unique aspect of the name; it set me apart from all those Jessicas and Ashleys in school. My mom's baby naming book had the "little general" meaning listed...and it was in the BOY'S section! It's a fun name to do wordplay with, as I usually go by Mal and there are many (albeit negative) words to use as nicknames: malicious, malfunction, malcontent, malevolent, etc. Anyone with a sense of humor can handle having this maybe unlucky name.

February 9, 2012 12:48 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Mallory, Mallory Kiersten including my middle name. It's pretty without being TOO unique. I get both the; it's old fashioned/it's from family ties. The only problem I've run into is that I'm engaged to a man who has an 11 letter long last name, but I grew up with a 5 letter last name. Signing my full name just got a whole lot harder!!!haha

February 20, 2013 11:49 AM
By Mallory-Jain (not verified)

My name is Mallory and i love it. I havent really had much good luck but i dont believe that has anything to do with it at all. There is also a very expensive and well known british jewellers called Mallorys, i plan on getting my wedding ring from there as i believe that my name has only one sole meaning and that is personally to every individual person not what a silly book says. Love your name not matter what! The most important people to you gave it to you and you should be proud to have it!

March 5, 2013 10:27 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Where I live, Claudia is a word for Wedgie in your pants. I can see why you would like it due to a model named Claudia... But I wouldn't use it here.

January 1, 2014 10:05 PM
By Lesley (not verified)

I have a granddaughter named Mallory. I love her name. I suggested it to my daughter and she remembered my childhood friend with that name. Lesley mean 'gray fort' but I didn't care. Growing up I never met any other Lesley until college. It is nice to have a name that is different but not weird or strange. Mallory is feminine and classy. Go for it.

January 8, 2014 10:57 PM
By Diane (not verified)

I named my daughter Mallory mainly because I love the name, and because I was a fan of Family Ties...more Michael J. Fox than Justine Bateman though. ;)

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I named my baby girl after a DISEASE! Actually, it's a "syndrome" Mallory, along with our last name, Weiss, is a horrible affliction involving the esophogas. Google it!

Now that she's 20 years old, it's more of a family joke. Only doctors really know. ;)

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