Harper Name Meaning

Baby standing in crib

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Although it has long existed as a surname, Harper has gained popularity as a first name in the last two decades. Derived from the word “harp,” referring to the musical stringed instrument, Harper means “someone who plays the harp.” 

During medieval times, noblemen and lords often employed musicians in their households for entertainment, including harp players. Talented harpers were one of the most important figureheads in the medieval baronial halls. In ancient Irish law, the elegance of harp music gave noble status to harpers.

Origin: English, Scottish, Irish

Gender: Harper is most commonly used as a girl name although it is also used as a boy name.

Pronunciation: HAAR-pr

Although baby names are separated by gender, Verywell Family believes that sex does not need to play a role in your name selection process. It is important to select a name that you feel suits your new baby the best.

How Popular is the Name Harper?

Harper follows the trend of surnames evolving into popular first names. The name first surfaced in the Social Security Administration's list of top 1,000 girl names in 2004. Ranked as No. 887 upon its initial appearance, Harper has since jumped way up to the top, being No. 10 in 2020.

Harper made its biggest leap between 2005 and 2006 when it jumped 234 places. It steadily increased in popularity in the following years until it broke top 10 status in 2015. It peaked in 2018 and 2019 when the name Harper was ranked No. 9.

Though Harper is sometimes used as a boy name, it is not nearly as sought after for boys as it is for girls. As a boy name, Harper entered the charts as No. 683 in 1905. However, by 1907 it had slipped out of the list of top 1,000 most popular names for boys.

It didn’t reappear until almost 100 years later when it reentered as No. 955. Harper peaked as a boy name in 2012 when it ranked No. 606. After only a handful of years later in 2018, it once again dropped off the list of top 1,000 names for boys.

The name Harper was made popular with characters by the same name in TV shows such as “Lost,” “Girl Meets World,” “Gossip Girl,” and "Wizard of Waverly Place." The name may have also started trending in conjunction with a resurgence of interest in author Harper Lee, who wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird." Her second, somewhat controversial novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” was published in 2015. 

Name Variations

The following are variations of the name Harper:

  • Harpor
  • Harpour
  • Harpur
  • Harp

Similar Names

Similar sounding names to Harper:

  • Amber
  • Harbor
  • Harlow
  • Hazel
  • Heather
  • Parker
  • Piper
  • Ryder
  • Taylor

Other Scottish names:

  • Ansley
  • Blair
  • Elspeth
  • Fiona
  • Isla 
  • Leana
  • Lorna
  • Skye

Other names starting with H:

  • Hannah
  • Hattie
  • Hazel
  • Harriet
  • Hayley
  • Heather
  • Heaven
  • Helen
  • Holly
  • Hope

Suggested Sibling Names

Looking for a sibling name for Harper? Here are some popular options:

  • Aiden
  • Brody
  • Caden
  • Collin
  • Kaitlyn
  • Kennedy
  • Reagan
  • Riley
  • Sawyer
  • Shannon

Famous People Named Harper

Although Harper was traditionally a surname, it has since been used as a first name mainly for girls although boys are sometimes also named Harper. Celebrities have taken a liking to the name as well. Stars like David Spade, Lisa Marie Presley, Neil Patrick Harris, and Victoria Beckham have all chosen the name Harper for their kids. 

Famous Harpers:

  • Harper Goff, American artist, musician and actor who contributed to many Disney projects including early renderings and concept art for Disneyland
  • Harper LeBel, former football player who played for the NFL
  • Harper Lee, American novelist best known for her 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” which won the Pulitzer Price and became a classic of modern American literature
  • Harper Simon, American singer-songwriter whose music has been featured on shows and films, and son of Paul Simon

Fictional Harpers:

  • Harper Avery, namesake of the Harper Avery Award and grandfather of character Jackson Avery in “Grey's Anatomy”
  • Harper Connelly, title character who possesses supernatural abilities from "The Harper Connelly Mysteries" novels by Charlaine Harris
  • Harper Dearing, businessman-turned-terrorist and the main antagonist in the 9th and 10th seasons of "NCIS" 
  • Harper Decker Simmons, character with high achiever syndrome in the family comedy film “Parental Guidance”
  • Harper Pitt, character in the Pulitzer Prize winning play “Angels in America” 
  • Harper Finkle, character in the Disney Channel sitcom “Wizards of Waverly Place” who is the best friend of the show’s main character
  • Harper Lee Burgess, character in the sitcom “Girl Meets World” who plays a friendly and eager new teacher not afraid to do what she feels is right
  • Harper Stanhope, character in “Lost” who played a therapist as part of the Others
  • Harper, one of two twin sisters who appear in the anime series “Pokémon Sun and Moon"

More Baby Names

Still searching for the perfect baby name? Check out these related baby name lists for even more options:

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Social Security Administration. Popularity of name.

By Vicky Yip
Vicky is a freelance writer specializing on topics relating to prenatal care, motherhood, parenting, family, and home life. She is also a Senior Contributor for HoustonMoms (City Mom Collective).