The name Harper goes back to the medieval era in Europe, when kings and queens had dedicated harp players. This occupational title (meaning someone who plays the harp) evolved into a last name in Scotland, Ireland, and England.
In recent years, Harper has become an incredibly popular first name for girls in the United States. It landed on the Social Security Administration (SSA) list of top baby girl names in 2004 and soon shot up the charts, becoming the tenth most popular name for girls in the U.S. in 2020. Credit author Harper Lee – who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for her classic American novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Lee was born in 1926 as Nelle Harper Lee, and went by Nelle. (Interestingly, her middle name was intended to honor a local Dr. Harper who saved her sister's life.) Lee's book – a tale of racism, injustice, and coming of age in the American South – is a favorite of many Americans and is widely taught in the U.S. The book holds a special place in American literature, so it's no wonder many people want to name their children after its author, who passed away in 2016.
Today, Harper is predominately used as a girl's name, but it used to be more common for boys. On the SSA list, Harper has been in the top 20 girl names since 2013. For boys, Harper was never as popular and dropped out of the top 1,000 names in 2019.
In addition to paying tribute to Harper Lee, Harper has several baby-naming trends fueling its popularity. Many parents are choosing traditional last names as first names for their children, which can give older names with a rich history a more modern feel. Also, Harper's success reflects the move toward gender-neutral names.
Harper has artistic flair due to the name's link to the musical instrument – and several musical celebrities have chosen it as a baby name for their sons and daughters, including singer Victoria Beckham, musician Paul Simon, and actor and Broadway star Neil Patrick Harris.
Harper is a name with literary and musical chops – and it's a stylish name fit for a stylish kid.
Harper Lee : American author
Harper Goff : American musician and actor
Harper Williams : American basketball player
Harper LeBel : American football player
Harper Grace : American country music star
Harper Simon : Singer-songwriter and son of musician Paul Simon