Lee Name Meaning

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What Does Lee Mean?

Lee is a given name derived from a surname of English origin that means “clearing” or “meadow.” The surname was originally given to a person who lived in or near a laye, from the middle English word meaning “clearing in the woods."

Although Lee is often considered a gender-neutral name, the alternate spelling of Leigh has often been used for girls. Lee is also popular as a middle name, showing up in girl names like Annabel Lee, Bobby Lee, Jamie Lee, and others.

  • Origin: The name Lee comes from English word laye, which means “clearing in the woods” or “meadow”. 
  • Gender: Lee is currently most commonly used as a boy name although it was often used as a girl name as well.
  • Pronunciation: LEE

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's important to select a name that you feel suits your new baby the best.

How Popular is the Name Lee?

The name Lee appears in the Social Security Administration's list of the top 1,000 names for baby boys as No. 30 in 1900. It has never ranked as high again but remained in the top 100 for the next 55 years.

Lee's popularity endured through the 1980s but it eventually started to wane. Between 1990 and 2000, it dropped over 250 spots in the rankings. After that, the name continued to fall out of favor. The latest data from 2020 shows that it is ranked as No. 768, the least popular it has ever been.

As a girl name, Lee ranked as No. 278 most popular name for baby girls in the United States in 1900. It peaked in 1955 as a girl name when it was ranked as No. 182. The name then hovered around that range on the list until the 1970’s when it started to steadily decrease in popularity. By 1991, it had completely fallen off the top 1,000 names for baby girls.

Similar Names

Similar sounding names to Lee:

  • Ashley
  • Bentley
  • Bradley
  • Hadley
  • Huxley
  • Leah
  • Leigh
  • Lena
  • Lia
  • Lily
  • Riley
  • Stanley
  • Wesley

Other Old English names:

  • Bancroft
  • Benedict
  • Clifford
  • Dunstan
  • Elton
  • Farley
  • Grayson
  • Leighton
  • Marlow

Other names that start with L:

  • Landon
  • Leo
  • Leonardo
  • Leroy
  • Levi
  • Lewis
  • Liam
  • Lloyd
  • Logan
  • Luca
  • Luis
  • Luke

Suggested Sibling Names

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

  • Jean 
  • Jordan
  • Kyle
  • Lindsay
  • Lynne
  • Robin 
  • Sam 
  • Shannon
  • Taylor

Famous People Named Lee

As a popular name throughout the last century, history would record not only famous people named Lee, but also some infamous ones as well. One of the most infamous was Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine who assassinated United States president John F. Kennedy in 1963. 

Lee is also one of the most enduring and recognized brands of denim jeans in the United States. The company was formed by Henry David Lee in the late 1880’s producing dungarees and jackets and eventually denim jeans as we know them today. The company rebranded into the iconic Lee brand which remains recognizable worldwide.

Famous Lees:

  • Lee Child, a British author
  • Lee DeWyze, an American singer and the winner of talent show “American Idol” 
  • Lee Grant, an Academy Award-winning American actress and director
  • Lee Greenwood, an American country music singer
  • Lee Iacocca, an American automobile executive who developed the Ford Mustang and Ford Pinto cars
  • Lee Janzen, an American professional golfer
  • Lenore “Lee” Krasner, an American abstract expressionist painter
  • Lee Pace, an American actor
  • Lee Wiley, an American jazz singer

Fictional Lees

  • Lee Adama, the principal character in the television series “Battlestar Galactica”
  • Lee Jordan, a wizard character in the “Harry Potter” series
  • Lee McDermott, a character in the TV series “Desperate Housewives”

More Baby Names

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

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2 Sources
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. Hanks P, Hardcastle K, Hodges F. A Dictionary of First Names. Oxford University Press; 2016.

  2. Social Security Administration. Popularity of name. Updated 2021.