Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Emily

Emily is the English version of the Latin name “Aemilia” which is the feminine form of the Old Roman family name, “Aemilius” (from the Latin “aemulus” meaning “imitating, rivaling, striving to excel”). The Latin word has been traced back to the Proto-Indo-European root *aim- meaning “copy”, which is the same PIE root that gave us our English words “emulate” and “imitate”. In the days of the ancient Roman Republic, the Aemilia family was not only part of the patrician class; they were one of its most prominent. Originally of Sabine origin, the Aemilii was said to have descended from Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome dating all the back to the 7th century B.C.! Apparently, they were “rivaled” by none. The French brought Emil (masculine) and Émilie (feminine) to England after the Norman Conquest of 1066 but Emily didn’t really take off until the 18th century. Emily is one of those distinctly English names, like Alice, Alison, Amelia, Caroline, Eleanor, Elizabeth, Evelyn, Jane, Lydia, Margaret, Mary and Victoria. Emily is just so WASPy, proper and clean-cut. A top favorite among English speaking nations, Emily is currently the #1 baby girl’s name in Ireland, #2 in Scotland, #3 in Northern Ireland and Australia, #4 in Canada, #5 in England, and #6 in the United States.

All About the Baby Name – Emily



The number one personality is a leader - strong and competitive. They are willing to initiate action and take risks. One personalities work hard toward their endeavors and have the ability to apply their creative and innovative thinking skills with strong determination. They believe in their ability to succeed and are too stubborn to be hindered by obstacles. Ones meet obstacles head-on with such mental vigor and energy that you better step aside. They resent taking orders, so don't try telling them what to do either. This is an intensely active personality, but they are also known as starters rather than finishers. They have a propensity to become bored and will move quickly to the next project if not properly challenged.  They are the ones to think up and put into action new and brilliant ideas, but they are not the ones to stick around and manage them. This personality has an enthusiastic and pioneering spirit. They are distinctly original.



Today the name Emily is only “rivaled” by Sophia, Isabella, Emma, Olivia and Ava. Currently in 6th place nationwide, Emily has always been a popular choice in the United States. However, this was a name that experienced a massive revival in the 1990’s and even managed to hold the coveted #1 spot for 12 consecutive years (from 1996-2007). Now Sophia, Isabella and Emma compete for #1. Then again, Emma can always be used as a pet form of Emily, so parents can have the best of best worlds if they can’t decide between the two. Emily “feels” like an old-fashioned name but it much more of a timeless classic. And it is oh-so-British! Perhaps a good name for “literary” girls as it conjures up two famous writers: Emily Brontë and Emily Dickinson (see historical figures below).

Quick Facts






















Cultural References to the Baby Name – Emily

Literary Characters


Emily Charlton is a character in Lauren Weisberger’s 2003 novel, The Devil Wears Prada, which was made into a 2006 movie of the same name, with Emily Blunt as Emily. Against a background of a high profile fashion magazine run by a mercenary publisher, Emily, as the publisher’s senior assistant, appears at first to thrive in this environment. She is fashion-conscious, almost as icy and ambitious as her employer, and impervious to that employer’s slings and arrows. Emily’s dream is to accompany the publisher to Paris for the exclusive Fall Fashion Week, but fate intervenes, both intentionally and accidentally, and poor Emily is laid up in a hospital while the junior assistant takes her place. Defeated poor Emily may be – but she sure looks good at it!

Emily is the title character in William Faulkner’s Gothic 1930 short story, “A Rose for Emily”. Emily is the classic ante-bellum Southern left-over spinster from a family fallen on hard times. Under the dominance of her cruel father, she is not allowed to pursue her own dreams of love and independence. When the old man dies, Emily goes so far as to allow a lower class man, Homer, to court her, much to the surprise of the townspeople. One day Homer disappears; Emily retreats even further into her musty home and her solitude, ever haughty and aloof, and it is not until her death that her awful secret is revealed.

Emily Shelby is a character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Emily is the wife of Mr. Shelby, the slave owner of Tom. She is an upstanding Christian, a loving and loveable woman, and she abhors slavery. When Mr. Shelby sells Tom, it is Emily Shelby who does her utmost to save up enough money to try and buy him back to be with his wife. Her efforts are in vain against the monstrosity of the system, but her kind heart does much to alleviate the suffering around her.

Little Em’ly is a character in Charles Dickens’ novel, David Copperfield, published in 1850. Emily is the niece of David’s housekeeper, and an early love interest for him. She is a sweet little girl, but she has a vanity that impels her to strive to the upper classes. This results in her jilting her good suitor, Ham, and running away with the snobbish James Steerforth – without benefit of marriage, mind you. After many years, her uncle tracks her down, abandoned and on the verge of even worse sin. The usual remedy – emigration to Australia, of course. Not a bad outcome, after all, especially insofar as both Ham and Steerforth meet their deaths by drowning.

Emelye is a character in The Knight’s Tale, the first of Chaucer’s 14th century Canterbury Tales. Emily, the sister-in-law of Theseus, is a beautiful young woman who has pledged to remain unmarried. The best laid plans, however, are subject to her becoming the love interest of dueling cousins, Palamon and Arcite, who arrange a tournament so that one of them may win her hand. Emily is devoted to the goddess, Diana, and prays to her to accept her as a virgin huntress in the goddess’ service. No marriage and children for her, says Emily – why, she’d rather be a woodworker! Weelll, if she has to do the girly thing, then, if you please, Diana, make the winner the man who loves me most. We won’t spoil the suspense by telling you which man wins.

Emily is one of the main characters in Thornton Wilder’s groundbreaking 1937 play, Our Town, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. Emily is second in importance to the Stage Manager, as she represents the totality of everyday life in one cycle, and articulates to us, the audience, the hard-learned lesson of the precious transience of that life. From childhood to young girlhood to married life to motherhood, Emily walks in the steps of Everywoman, as she tentatively tries on each new cloak of passage and adapts to what life has to offer. In her case, in addition to love and familial bonds, life offers early death. She is allowed to come back for one brief moment of her childhood, but she cuts it short, in the full realization of what we, in everyday life, often ignore –“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?” Good question, Emily.

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Emily

Popular Songs


For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her
Simon & Garfunkel

Emily Harper
a song by Mark Wills

See Emily Play
a song by Pink Floyd

Me and Emily
a song by Rachel Proctor

Emily's Song
a song by Moody Blues

a song by Velvet Chain

A Rose for Emily
a song by The Zombies

A Letter to Emily
a song by The Kennedys

Famous People


Emily Bronte
Emily Dickenson (poet)
Emily Watson, (actress)
Emily Blunt, (actress)
Emily Deschanel, (actress)
Emily Mortimer, (actress)
Emily Proctor (actress)
Emily Rose (actress)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Emily

Historic Figures


Emily Jane Brontë was the author of the classic novel , Wuthering Heights, first published in 1847 under the name of “Ellis Bell” (the times being what they were for women in professions). She was the daughter of a clergyman; her mother died when she was only three. She and her sisters, Charlotte (Jane Eyre) and Anne (Agnes Grey), formed an unlikely literary triumvirate, isolated as they were in their motherless household in a remote parish near the Yorkshire Moors, often steeped in poverty and enduring ill health, the early death of their siblings and the neglect of their guardians. Emily was always a very private person, who chafed against the restrictive rules society imposed upon women, and found her outlet in poetry and in her famous novel. She died of tuberculosis in 1848 at the age of 30, but in her short life she managed to provide us with one of the world’s most enduring love stories, as well as a paean to the power of the human soul to survive any indignity fate places before it. Her philosophy is best expressed by a line from one of her poems that declares: "No Coward soul is mine...”

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was the reclusive American poet who lived from 1830 to 1886, and wrote a treasure trove of poetry in her life, much of which centered on death and its consequence, immortality. The complete and unaltered collection of her poems was not published until 1955, almost a century after her death, and it established her as a major American poet. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to an impeccable strain of Puritan settlers, one of whom founded Amherst College, her early life was one of privilege and conventionality. But she was always strongly affected by the deaths (often untimely) of friends and relatives. As she grew older, she spent most of her time at home, caring for her ailing mother and attending to household duties, while indulging in a passion for horticulture and herbariums. In 1858 she began revising and collecting her poetry, amassing over 800 pieces. By the 1860s, she had become a virtual recluse, suffering from what the physicians of the time termed “nervous prostration”, but which many modern day scholars believe to have been agoraphobia. She began to be truly reclusive, speaking to visitors from behind a door, and conducting her social life largely through correspondence. In 1874, when her father died, Emily did not attend the funeral. Whatever her reasons, Emily Dickinson chose seclusion as her companion and poetry as her legacy. When she died at the age of 55, the poem read at her own funeral was that of another, equally individualistic, Emily – Emily Brontë – “No Coward Soul is Mine”.