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The masculine given name Gary is derived from the word 'spear' in Germanic (gar = spear), meaning a 'spear bearer' and the name (also spelled Garry) is an "acceptable" Anglicised spelling of the Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic personal name Garaidh which, like Gary, is also pronounced gæri.
The usage of Gary as a male given name in the United States is interestingly intertwined with the success of the actor Gary Cooper.
According to the Social Security Administration, Gary was relatively rare as a given name in the 1900-1920s period (e.g., in the 1910s it was the 677th most frequent name, given to less than 0.01% of the babies born in that decade). However, when the actor's Gary, Indiana–born agent Nan Collins told him to change his name (then Frank Cooper) to Gary, this name's popularity soared. In the 1930s, 0.38% of the male babies in the United States were named Gary, and in the 1950s as many as 1.54% of the male babies were given this name, making it the 12th most popular given name of that decade.
The name Gary reached its record popularity (9th place) in 1954, the year after Gary Cooper received his Best Actor Academy Award for his leading role in High Noon. Since then, the popularity of Gary as a given name in the United States has been on a very slow, but steady decline. In the 1990s, this name was the 170th most popular, given to around 0.1% of newborn males.
In the United Kingdom, its popularity peaked during the 1960s (it was the 16th most popular male name in 1964) and still ranked as high as 26th in 1984, but by the 1990s had fallen out of the top 100.
In Scotland there are many places with the name Garry, Garraidh or Gearraidh, such as Garyvard (Gearraidh Bhaird), Loch Garry (Loch Garraidh), Invergarry (Inbhir Garraidh), Garynahine (Gearraidh na h-Aibhne) or Glen Garry / Glengarry (rendered in Scottish Gaelic as Gleann Garraidh) and it is from here that we get the name for the military hat, the Glengarry. In Gaelic, Garraidh can mean a fertile place, copse or thicket. In Scotland and Ireland the personal name Gary or Garry can be translated into Gaelic as Garaidh; this is uncommon but Gaelic names have again become much more popular in both countries, and furth, in recent years. The name Gary can also be a variant of similar names, such as the Welsh Gareth or Garrie.