The name was originally, (and still is to a certain extent) a diminutive form of Henry. In Germany and in the United States, it was also often used as a short form of Harold.
The name has been used as an independent given name since at least the beginning of the 20th-century. This is reflected in the Norwegian slang term, harry, to describe something that is vulgar or tacky. This idiom first appeared in the early 20th-century among Norwegian elite in reference to the working class, who at that time, popularly gave their children “English” names, something which had not occurred in Scandinavia before. Its feminine cognate is doris.
In the United States, the higest this name ranked was in 1889, coming in as the 8th most popular male name. As of 2010, Harry was the 656th most popular male name.
In England/Wales, he currently comes in as the 3rd most popular male name, (2010). His rankings in other countries are as follows:
- # 6 (Northern Ireland, 2010)
- # 19 (Scotland, 2010)
- # 20 (Ireland, 2010)
- # 27 (Australia, NSW, 2010)
- # 72 (Sweden, 2010)
Its recent resurgence in popularity in the British Isles may be due both in part to Prince Harry (full name Henry) and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.
Another famous bearer is American President, Harry S. Truman (1884-1972).