Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Shirley

Shirley is the transferred use of an English surname, derived from a place name. It’s composed of the Olde English elements “scir” meaning “bright, clear” or “country, shire” and “læch” which described an “open space, meadow”. Scirlæch would have been the Olde English rendering of one of several places, located in West Midlands, Derbyshire and Southampton (as well as a district in greater London). The surname Shirley would have originated with a person who was born in one of these hamlets or villages but then moved to another location. The location of their birthplace (in this case Shirley) would have been a means to identify specific individuals (this is how surnames developed from place names). As a given name, Shirley was at first considered exclusively masculine, but that all changed with the publication of Charlotte Brontë’s popular novel “Shirley” (1849). In the book, the titular character’s parents expected a son, but when she arrived, they still gave their baby the name Shirley despite her gender. Charlotte Brontë is pretty much credited with turning Shirley from a boy’s name into a girl’s name. In the early part of the 20th century, America’s sweetheart, Shirley Temple, is credited with popularizing the name among U.S. parents.

All About the Baby Name – Shirley



Romance is the hallmark of the Six personality. They exude nurturing, loving, and caring energy. Sixes are in love with the idea of love in its idealized form - and with their magnetic personalities, they easily draw people toward them. Like the number Two personality, they seek balance and harmony in their life and the world at large. They are conscientious and service-oriented, and a champion for the underdog. These personalities naturally attract money and are usually surrounded by lovely material objects - but their human relationships are always primary. They thrive in giving back to others rather than being motivated by their own desires. This is when they achieve great things. Sixes are natural teachers, ministers and counselors.



The name Shirley dates back to the 19th century in the United States, although at the turn of the 20th century, she was a moderately familiar name at best. It wouldn’t be until 1918 when Shirley finally claimed Top 100 status – however, the true pinnacle of her popularity was achieved in 1935 and 1936 when she was the #2 baby girl’s name nationwide. This name pretty much dominated the second half of the 1930s all thanks to Curly Top (aka Shirley Temple). This pint-sized triple threat was basically the #1 box-office star in the country at the time, and scores of new parents named their baby girls after her. Later generations also became fans when old Shirley Temple movies were repeatedly played on TV. Shirley did not fall off America’s Top 100 list of girl names until 1964 – she had a long ride indeed! We must say, old Shirley went out of style pretty fast after that. The last time she appeared on America’s Top 1000 list was in 2008. About 175 baby girls received the name Shirley in 2012 (she’s currently ranked at #1328 in the nation). She’s pretty much out to pasture, grazing in that “bright meadow” of hers for the time being.

Quick Facts













Bright meadow










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Shirley

Literary Characters


Shirley Keeldar is the title character of Charlotte Brontë’s 1849 novel, Shirley. Shirley is an orphaned young woman of means who chafes against society’s restrictions on the role of women, and who has very strong ideas about how men should behave, as well. Shirley is also an heiress, which makes such a stance much more palatable. Many a young man seeks her hand and her purse, but Shirley holds out for what she wants, and wonders why it is that women are prescribed only to the hearth, while their mental and physical health both deteriorate. No such fate for our Shirley! Played out against the backdrop of social unrest, unemployment, the Napoleonic Wars, and Luddite uprisings, the novel provides a rich setting for an intelligent young woman’s observations. Of course, as always, money doesn’t hurt!

Anne Shirley is the title character of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1908 classic, Anne of Green Gables, which was followed by several sequels. Anne is an orphan who is adopted by an elderly Prince Edward Island brother and sister in the mistaken idea that they were getting a boy to help out on the farm. Surprise! They got an eleven year old, red-headed, feisty, sometimes ill-tempered but always interesting girl! Anne quickly establishes herself as a force to be reckoned with, as she makes her way through her new life. She is a passionate child who, like many children, wishes to be and look different from herself. Her interactions with her guardians and the people of her new town are laced with misunderstandings and quarrels, but as she grows, Anne begins to understand the world around her in a more level-headed fashion. She matures into a lovely young woman who is a joy to her family and friends, who becomes a teacher, and who is poised on the brink of falling in love. Anne was so delightful that readers clamored for, and got, more.

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Shirley

Popular Songs


Sister Shirley
a song by The Badlees

Sippin' Shirley Thompson
a song by Jeannie C. Riley

Shirley Lee
a song by Rick Nelson

Shirley Jean
a song by The Foghat

Shirley D. Pressed
a song by Home Grown

a song by John Fred and His Playboy Band

Poor Shirley
a song by Christopher Cross

Letter to Shirley
a song by Nat Stuckey

Theme Song to Laverne & Shirley
a TV Theme Song

Famous People


Shirley Temple (child star)
Shirley Maclaine (actress)
Shirley Bassey (Welsh singer)
Shirley Jones (actress)
Shirley Knight (actress)
Shirley Williams (British politician)
Shirley Scott (jazz musician)
Shirley Booth (actress)
Shirley Manson (alternative musician)

Children of Famous People


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

Historic Figures


Shirley Temple was probably the most popular and beloved American child star of all time, and she held the title of top box office draw from 1935 through 1938 all by herself. Single-handedly, this adorable, mop-topped, singing and dancing bundle of energy lifted the spirits of a Depression- worn population and gave them joy in the present and hope for the future. Little Shirley was apparently as cute and likeable off screen as on, and was given a sheltered and loving home life by her parents. She didn’t make the transition to adult stardom, and very wisely retired in 1950. After a short marriage to the actor John Agar, with whom she had a daughter, Shirley went on to marry California businessman Charles Black in 1950, with whom she had two children, and to whom she remained married until his death in 2005. Our Little Shirley was a Republican, a politician and a foreign ambassador, but she will always be remembered as the little darling who danced with Bill Robinson and who exhorted us to join her “On The Good Ship Lollipop”. This lovely 85 year old woman will always be about five years old in our hearts.