Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Lorelei

Lorelei is a name with two theorized etymologies. First, it’s the combination of an Old German word “lureln” meaning “murmuring” plus a Celtic word “ley” meaning “rock”. Second, it could be derived from the Germanic "lauern" (meaning “to lurk or lie in wait”) along with the aforementioned Celtic word for rock. Therefore, the name either means “murmuring rock” or “lurking rock”. Lorelei is the name of a rock positioned on the banks of the Rhine, a European river flowing from Switzerland to the North Sea. The Lorelei (or Loreley) rock is located at the narrowest point of the river and is therefore subjected to strong currents and rocky conditions which have caused scores of maritime accidents (the heavy currents create the “murmuring” sound owing to the rock’s name). As such, various legends concerning the dangerous rock have sprung up around Lorelei by German poets (the rock is located on a portion of the river located in Germany). In one story, Lorelei, having been spurned by her lover, lures fishermen to the rock (and their death) with her enchanting songs. After being condemned to a nunnery for her bad deeds by a local religious leader, she falls from the rock herself and dies (the rock henceforth echoes her name forevermore). In another story, Lorelei is a beautiful fair maiden who, perched at the top of the rocks, innocently combs through her beautiful golden hair. The fisherman below, distracted by her beauty, drive their boats into the rocks or run them aground in the water. American author Anita Loos used the name Lorelei Lee for her central character in her jazz-age defining novel “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1925) which was later adapted into a highly popular musical (1949) and film (1953). The character of Lorelei was probably most famously portrayed by the legendary Marilyn Monroe. Just as the lovely siren who "lurks" upon the rock along the German banks of the Rhine “murmuring” her songs and enchanting every man below, so too does Loos' blonde beauty Lorelei in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” captivate all of the poor lovesick men around her. Lorelei will always be associated with a beautiful yet dangerous seductress (like Lolita, Scarlett, Jezebel and Delilah).

All About the Baby Name – Lorelei



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Lorelei is at the height of her popularity on the American female naming charts right now. First appearing on the charts in 1938, the name was likely influenced by Anita Loos’ 1925 best-selling novel “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” which featured the memorable Alabama blonde character Lorelei Lee. The name only stayed on the charts at low levels of usage for five years before returning again in 1951 (thanks to the popular musical based on the novel which introduced to the stage a young Carol Channing). The movie version was released in 1953 with the iconic Marilyn Monroe. Still, this exotic name was only used sparingly, and finally disappeared from the charts altogether in 1959. Lorelei retreated to the shadows for over 40 years and completely off the American radar until this century (2004). It appears that a TV show called “The Gilmore Girls” helped popularize the name once again; featuring three generations of women named Lorelai (noticed the slight respelling). Even though the show is now off the air, the name Lorelei is sticking to the charts with increasing usage. Whether parents are recalling the mysterious German legends of the Lorelei Rock or the beautiful blonde bombshell from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” or if the younger generations are simply attracted to the offbeat name of some television characters, Lorelei seems to be striking a chord. There’s something poetic about the name Lorelei (it almost feels Hawaiian like Leilani). The name conjures up mystery, romance and danger (as well as beautiful, innocuous gold-digging blondes). Lorelei is not a heavily used female name and so still feels like an original choice. Nicknames include Rory, Lory, Lore, and Lei. There will likely be issues with pronunciations and misspellings which can cause a nuisance, but it may be worth the inconvenience for such a lovely moniker. Other spellings include Loreley and Lorelai, but Lorelei is the most widely accepted among English speakers. This pretty little rock is still “lurking” on the sidelines and “murmuring” her name for parents across America to stand up and take notice.

Quick Facts













Murmuring rock, Lurking rock










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Lorelei

Literary Characters


Lorelei is, in German legend, the name of a young maiden who, distraught over an unfaithful lover, threw herself into the Rhine River. Immediately she was turned into a siren, and forever after, she has been luring sailors to their deaths with her enchanting and hypnotic singing. Sitting high upon the rocks, brushing her golden locks, she proves irresistible to the men who pursue her fleeting beauty, only to crash upon the rocks beneath her. The enduring myth has been the subject of poems, novels, paintings and musical works throughout the ages.

Lorelei Lee is the heroine of screenwriter/novelist Anita Loos’ 1925 blockbuster, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which was later made into a 1949 stage musical with Carol Channing and then into a 1953 movie starring Marilyn Monroe in a signature role. Lorelei is the quintessential twenties’ era flapper/golddigger, a showgirl (and yes, she would say girl) well aware of her attributes and their powers to secure her male attention. Lorelei’s ambitions do not tend toward the picket fences and tea for two – as Marilyn sings it: “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” – just give her expensive baubles, thank you, or the cash instead. And Lorelei is utterly charming at it. Although she is in love with rich boy Gus Eisman, Lorelei doesn’t hesitate to take off on a cruise to Europe with her friend, Dorothy, and finding other objects of flirtation. Having been encouraged by one of her many admirers to keep a diary, she does so, regaling us with illiterate renditions of her doings (for instance, she meets “Dr. Froyd”). She also captures the attentions of a married diamond mines owner (Sir “Piggy”) and appropriates a tiara from him. After many accounts of shopping, parties and general merriment, involving madcap adventures, Lorelei returns to America and convinces Rich Boy’s father that she is, after all, just a working girl doing her best to advance herself. It’s as easy to marry a pretty girl as it is a rich boy. As she so delicately puts it: "I don't want to marry your son for his money, I want to marry him for your money”. Well said, Lorelei Lee, and good luck!

Childrens Books


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Popular Songs


a song by The Comeback Kid

Famous People


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Children of Famous People


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Historic Figures


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