Sally originated as a nickname for Sarah, a Hebrew female name meaning “lady, princess, noblewoman” which comes from Hebrew root word sarar (to rule, to be princely) from sar (chief, ruler, prince, captain, chieftain, official) which seems to be a cognate of Akkadian šarru (king). Sally is also a surname with several possible meanings:

  • it could have originated as a variant of Sawley, the name of several places in England. While the second element of the name -ley comes from a locational name via Old English lēah meaning “wood, woodland, clearing, meadow”, I couldn’t find anything on the first part of the name. It may be related to sallow, the name of a type of willow tree which comes from Old English sealh (willow, sallow);
  • the first element could also be derived from Middle English sal, sale meaning “hall” via Old English sæl (room, great hall, castle);
  • I’ve seen it listed as possibly having a French origin. If so, the first element of the name may come from French sol meaning “soil, earth; ground; floor) via Latin solum (soil, ground, floor), which could have originated as a topographical name for those who slept on a communal threshing floor;
  • it’s also possible that it’s a combination of -ley and salé, a French word meaning “salty”, perhaps a topographical name for someone who lived near a salt marsh;
  • it could also be an anglicized form of a Gaelic surname, the anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Salaigh though I couldn’t find anything behind the name.

Sally is also a word referring to a sudden dash or rushing forth, or more specifically troops from a besieged place attacking the besiegers. The origin of the word comes from French saillie via Old French salir (to leap, to jump) via Latin salire (to leave).

Origin: Hebrew, Proto-Indo-European



  • Sallie (English)
  • Salli (English)
  • Salley (English)


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