Riley:From a meadow of rye

Name Space

Riley has divergent meanings – "woods clearing" or "courageous/valiant" – because the name has two different origin stories. In the English tradition, Riley comes from the Old English terms ryge and leah, meaning "woods" and "clearing."

In this interpretation, the name has links to nature and humanity's impact upon it. Clearings can also symbolize realizations, or insight being more easily obtained. Because clearings made in the woods allow new vegetation to take hold, the name Riley could also be linked to rebirth and growth.

In the Irish tradition, Riley is derived from a last name, Reilly, and the first name Raghailleach. These names mean "courageous" or "valiant." In this tradition, the name Riley imbues little boys and girls with strength and bravery.

Riley is pronounced "rye-lee." The "rye" sound recalls the grain that's popular around the world. This association might remind literary parents of J.D. Salinger's classic book The Catcher in the Rye, published in 1951. In this coming-of-age story, protagonist Holden Caulfield ruminates on an image of children playing in a rye field. For Caulfield, the image comes to symbolize the innocence of childhood. Fans of Salinger might associate Riley with childish playfulness and freedom, a beautiful sentiment to bestow upon a son or daughter.

Although Riley is gender neutral and popular for both boys and girls, it's currently about four to five times more popular for baby girls in the United States. The name has been on the Social Security Administration's list of top baby boy names for more than 100 years, but started taking off for girls in 1990. By 2002, Riley became more popular for girls than boys in the U.S.

In 2020 Riley was number 33 for girls on the SSA list and number 258 for boys. For boys, Riley peaked in 2002, when the name was number 99. For girls, the name was most popular in 2016, when it hit number 22.

Riley has many different spellings to choose from, though Riley is the most common for both genders. Variations include Railey, Rylee, Ryleigh, Reilley, Rheilly, Rheilley, Rhiley, and Rielly, among others.

Riley is a relatively short name, so many Rileys don't use nicknames. However, there are some cute options, including Rye, Rye-rye, Lee and Lee-lee. Spinoff names like Ryla and Ryland are possibilities, too.

Riley is a great name choice for people who want their child to have a gender-neutral name with character and charm. It's a familiar, easy-to-pronounce name that continues to be popular for boys and girls.

The Five Elements:
Also Spelled Like...:
Rileigh Rylee Ryleigh Rylie
Famous Riley:

Riley B. King : Musician better known by his stage name, B.B. King

Riley Keough : Actress; granddaughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley

Riley McCuster : Member of the U.S. National Gymnastics Team

Riley Smith : Television actor known for roles on 24 and True Blood

Riley Keough : actress

Riley Steele : actress