The Origin and Meaning of the Name Emily

Emily is a classic name that originated from Arabic. In the United States, it was the most chosen name for girls between 1996 and 2007.
The Origin and Meaning of the Name Emily

Last update: 11 October, 2022

If you have to choose what to name your daughter, we suggest you discover everything about the origin and meaning of the name Emily. It can be a great choice for your little girl!

Emily is an international name that, according to data from the Social Security Administration, was the most chosen name for girls in the United States between 1996 and 2007. Today, it’s still ranked in the top 20 female names in the country. Here, we’ll tell you much more about the name Emily!

What’s the meaning of the name Emily?

Depending on its origin, Emily has different meanings.

According to the Latin etymology, it comes from Aemulus, which means ‘rival’ or ‘opponent’. As for the English origin, it’s related to the Germanic component amal, which means ‘hard-working woman’ or ‘she who strives’. Whatever the meaning, the name Emily will be great for your little girl!

The traditional and aristocratic origin of the name Emily

During the Roman Empire, there was a well-to-do social class made up of the so-called “patrician families”. One of them was the gens Emilii. Therefore, experts believe that from this Roman cognomen comes the Latin name Emilio and its feminine form Emilia, or Emily.

Other experts believe that Emilia is the Latinized version of Emily, an English name that has the same roots as the Germanic origin, Amelia.

In any case, Emily has been a famous name for centuries. For example, Emily is the wife of Iago in William Shakespeare’s play Othello, while, Emilia is one of the main characters in Giovanni Boccaccio’s stupendous 14th-century Italian work, The Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio.

Emily, in other languages

Variations of Emily in different languages result in very nice names. Let’s take a look:

  • In German and Czech: Emilie.
  • In Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, or Polish: Emilia.
  • In French: Émilie.
  • In Bulgarian, Croatian, Slovenian, and Macedonian: Emilija.
  • In Portuguese: Emília.

In addition, you can opt for shorter variations (hypocoristic), which are also very popular, such as Emma, Em, Emmy, Milly, Emmie, Emi, and Millie.

A young girl holding the American flag.
Emily was the most chosen name for girls born in the United States between 1996 and 2007.

What’s the saint’s day for Emily?

If you’re a believer, you’re going to love this fact. You can name your baby girl Emily if she’s born on any of the dates that celebrate the saints who bear this beautiful name:

  • Blessed Emilie of Oultremont: February 22.
  • Saint Emilie of Vialar: August 24.
  • Saint Emilie of Rodat: September 19.
  • Saint Jeanne Émilie of Villeneuve: October 2.

Famous people with the name Emily

You already know the origin and meaning of Emily. Now, do you want to know which famous people have made it so popular? Let’s see.

Women writers

  • Emily Barton: American-born novelist and author of The Book of Esther and Brookland.
  • Emily Brontë: British writer, author of Wuthering Heights.
  • Emily Elizabeth Dickinson: American poet. She is one of the major referents of the genre.

Movie and TV stars named Emily

  • Emily Blunt: British actress who participated in hits such as Mary Poppins Returns and The Devil Wears Prada.
  • Emily Browning: Australian actress and singer who starred in films such as Pompeii and Legend.
  • Emily Deschanel: Actress whose main starring role was in the TV series Bones.
  • Emily Margaret Watson: British stage, film, and television actress.
The actress Emily Watson.
The famous British actress Emily Watson is one of the ambassadors of this beautiful name in the world of show business.


  • Emily Savitri Haines: Canadian singer and songwriter of Indian origin. She’s the lead voice of the rock band Metric.
  • Emily Carr: Canadian writer and painter, representative of the modernist and post-impressionist style in her country.
  • Emily Mary Osborn: British painter of the Victorian era.

Women politicians

  • Emily Davies: Suffragist and fighter for women’s suffrage in England.
  • Emily Lau: Journalist and women’s and human rights activist in Hong Kong.
  • Emily Murphy: Jurist and activist for women’s rights. She was the first female magistrate in Canada in 1916.
  • Emily Hobhouse: British activist and pacifist who took action to help prisoners in South African concentration camps during the Boer War.

Emily and other name options

The origin and meaning of the name Emily date back to classical times. However, it’s so beautiful that it’s still a popular name to this day. It’s a universal and eternal name, one of those that has enough character to survive for centuries and still be chosen.

If you liked what we told you about the name Emily, then you may have just found the right name for your little princess. On the other hand, if you want to keep looking for alternatives, on our site you’ll find many options. Here are some interesting lists, such as names from literature or Roman names, to continue with the classic style.

You can also look for the origin and meaning of other female names, such as Emma, Rebecca, or Mia.

Still haven’t decided? Start now!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.