Friday, October 26, 2012

Diverted by a Name: Hollis

Hollis, New Hampshire via Wikipedia

The town of Hollis, New Hampshire was named after Thomas Hollis, a wealthy benefactor of Harvard University. Actually, the town name has been Hollis exclusively since 1815... before that date, since its inception in 1746, it was Holles after Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle. Starting in 1775, it was both names, but Hollis eventually won out. Several other towns in the United States are named Hollis, and the surname is heard frequently.

What about Hollis as a given name? I admit when I was first asked to look into this name (a thanks goes to Jacque for the request!), I thought it was a girl name. Possibly because of the "holl" in the beginning that made me think of Holly. In fact, Hollis means "lives near holly bushes" so I wasn't too far off. But the name is both a masculine and feminine one, with a stronger history in the United States as a name for boys. It was in the top 1000 as a boy name from 1880 until 1974 (peaking at #292 in 1908), while it was only in the top 1000 as a girl name from 1948 until 1955 (peaking at #772 in 1953). As a boy name it remained in the 300s from the turn of the century until 1935, when it gradually began to fall in the rankings. In 2011, 101 boys were given the name Hollis versus 60 girls. All that to say, it seems to weigh on the side of masculine.

Hollace is an interesting variant that is similar to Wallace (whose variant Wallis was made famous by a female celebrity). Other alternatives include Holles, Holless, Holliss, Hollys, Hollyes, Hollies, Holleis, Holyss and even Hollister. Similar names would be Holly, Holland, Heloise, Haley, and Halsey.

Known Hollises:

Hollis Caswell - an American educator

Hollis Robbins - an American scholar

Hollis Mason - a fictional character, part of the Watchmen comic books

Hollis Woods - a fictional character, Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff

What do you think of Hollis? Do you see it as a boy or girl name?


Info from and


  1. It seems masculine to me, like a male version of Holly, although really you could use it for either.

    I quite like it; it seems like a good Christmas name.

  2. i've been hearing it as a girl's name, I know of at least 2 Hollis' born in the last year or so with the name Hollis. I know someone with Hollis as a last name, and I always thought it would be a pretty name for a girl.


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