Origin of Hilary, A Primer for Names

Hilary (also spelled as Hillary) is a gender neutral name most often given to woman that was originally derived from the Medieval Middle English words Hilarius and Hilaria. Hilarius and Hilaria go back even further, finding their origin in the ancient Roman tongue; the root meaning of Hilary as a name is both, cheerful and happy. Despite the fact that in the modernized Western world the name is given fairly exclusively to females, in ancient Rome the name was given in converse fashion, almost exclusively for men.

Meaning of the Name

As one might have guessed simply from looking at the old derivations of the modern name, the name Hilary is derived from the same word as “hilarious.” This gives the somewhat stolid name a rather charming and amiable affectation.


Despite the positive connotations the popularity of Hilary as a name for girl’s has always been fairly low. With a bell curve peaking between 1880 and 2012, with a marked spike during the entirety of the 80s which was the time in recent history when the name was most popular.

Famous People with the Name

Here’s a list of a few famous people called Hilary:

  • Hilary Swank – The American actress who won a number a number of major award for the film ‘Boy’s don’t cry’
  • Hilary Duff – an American actress and singer.
  • Hillary Clinton – the former 1st lady and wife of Bill Clinton

Useful Resources

Discover the meaning and popularity of other girls’ names on our website

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