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Can grey be a first name?

Can grey be a first name?

Grey as a first name is certainly unusual, but not entirely unheard of. Here are some key points to consider when evaluating grey as a potential baby name:

Background on the name Grey

The name Grey originated as a surname, derived from the Old English word “graeg” meaning “gray.” As a surname, Grey dates back to the medieval era in England. The Grey family was a noble house of medieval England, with several members serving as knights and barons.

As a first name, Grey has been used rarely for both boys and girls since the late 19th century. It follows naming trends of using surnames as first names, as well as colors and nature words being adopted as names.

Current popularity and usage

Grey remains an extremely rare first name today. According to Social Security card application data, there were:

97 baby boys named Grey
233 baby girls named Grey

born in the United States in 2020. For perspective, the most popular boys name James was given to over 19,000 babies that same year.

However, Grey has seen steadily rising usage as a first name since the 2010s. It ranks higher for girls, likely because Grey feels more feminine than masculine to modern ears. The similar sounding Grayson, with the same origins, is significantly more popular for boys.

Different spellings

The most common spelling is Grey, but other creative spellings include Gray, Graye, and Grae. These help distinguish it as a name versus just the color grey. The spelling Gray is also an established surname.

Grey 233 girls in 2020
Gray 141 girls in 2020
Graye 14 girls in 2020
Grae 6 girls in 2020

As you can see, Grey is by far the most popular spelling for girls. The more distinctive Grey helps cement it as a name.

Opinions on Grey as a baby name

Opinions are mixed on using the uncommon Grey as a first name. Some of the key pros and cons that parents raise:


  • Grey has a smooth, soft sound that’s pleasant to say
  • It’s easy to spell and pronounce
  • The color grey has positive associations like sophistication and sleekness
  • It’s gender neutral – usable for boys or girls
  • Grey can have the cute nicknames Gray or Grae


  • The rarity of Grey may lead to misspellings and mispronunciations
  • Some dislike Grey’s connection to the dreary color grey
  • It may be seen as just a name of a color, not a “real” name
  • The surname origins aren’t as apparent as similar-sounding Grayson

Celebrities with the name Grey

A few celebrities have brought attention to the name Grey in recent years:

  • Actress Meryl Streep has a daughter named Grace Jane “Gracie” Grey
  • Journalist Katherine Schwarzenegger and actor Chris Pratt named their daughter Lyla Maria Schwarzenegger Pratt, and call her by the nickname Grey
  • Actor Josh Duhamel and musician Fergie named their son Axl Jack Duhamel, and call him by the nickname Grey

While Grey may not be these celebrities’ legal first name, it demonstrates Grey’s use as an endearing nickname.

Middle name option

For parents who like the idea of Grey but hesitate to use it as a first name, Grey can make for a great middle name. Paired with a more common first name, it’s an easy way to sneak in the unique name Grey.

Some potential first and middle name pairings could include:

  • Emma Grey
  • Ava Grey
  • Charlotte Grey
  • Sophia Grey
  • Olivia Grey
  • Noah Grey
  • Liam Grey
  • Elijah Grey
  • Owen Grey
  • Levi Grey

Using Grey as a middle name allows your child the flexibility to choose whether to go by Grey or use their more common first name.

Nickname potential

The short length of Grey makes it difficult to create longer formal names. But it does allow for cute nicknames if desired:

Grey Gray, Grae
Greyson Grey
Graham Grey
Gregory Grey

You could also potentially use Grey as a nickname for longer color names like Slate or Cobalt.


Overall, Grey is an extremely rare but intriguing baby name choice. Its connection to both a color and surname gives it a stylish edge. While the unconventional name may not suit everyone’s taste, it can make for a unique name for boys or girls. The modern gender neutral style matches current naming trends.

As a first name, Grey will undoubtedly lead to some raised eyebrows and questions. It may fit a parent seeking an uncommon, artsy name for their child. Using Grey strictly as a middle or nickname provides a safer alternative if you aren’t quite bold enough to make it a legal first name. But just like the color grey itself, the name Grey straddles the line between black and white, classic and trendy. Ultimately whether it feels like a daring or dated choice is up to individual parent preference.