National Harley Day is celebrated annually on December 3. The name Harley is actually a unisex one, derived from Old English. It is made up of two words — ‘hara,’ meaning hare; and ‘leah’ meaning wood, clearing, or meadow. So, literally translated, the name means “hare’s meadow.” While this may appear to be a strange meaning, it has not stopped parents from naming their children Harley. It originally hails from the northern regions of England, namely Shropshire and West Yorkshire (near the Welsh border), and there are some varied interpretations of the name. For instance, some believe it to mean ‘from the hare’s wood’ or ‘rabbit archer,’ while others feel it is derived from the Old English ‘haer,’ which means ‘rock’ or “heap of stones.” In either case, the name still has a fantastical feel to it because of how obscure it is.
History of National Harley Day
During different periods of time, the name Harley has come to be associated with very specific kinds of images. From the beginning of the 1900s till well nigh the end of the century, the iconic motorcycle brand Harley-Davidson monopolized the name, becoming the largest motorcycle company in the world by 1920. It’s no surprise that most people considered Harley to be a masculine name, reflecting the macho image evoked by classic American muscle bikes and choppers.
The name Harley first burst onto the scene as a boy’s name in 1880. It was only later, in 1991, that it began to catch on as a girl’s name, ranking 667 that same year among the most popular girls’ names. Today, the name is gender-fluid and as edgy as ever, thanks to pop culture, with New Mexico recording the highest number of Harleys in 2018. Only recently have things started to change, with the name Harley now having a subversive and edgy feminine connotation. This is largely thanks to DC Comics for introducing the world to the antics of Harley Quinn. She made her first appearance in 1992, in “Batman: The Animated Series,” as a character foil for the Joker, and has won the hearts of many a comic book aficionado since then. As a result of various big-screen adaptations, such as her own T.V. series (and eventually movie) “Birds of Prey,” Harley Quinn has become popular not only at Comic-Con but also in general pop culture.
However, there are also a whole slew of Harleys in history who are worth their salt, even if they have not achieved as much renown as their fictional or brand-name counterparts. One such Harley is Harley Granville-Barker, a British actor-turned-playwright and director who was a key figure in English theater. He dared to write plays around controversial themes such as abortion, which did not go down too well with the audiences of his time. Another interesting fact is that there are a whole bunch of famous sports people called Harley. Among them is Harley Leland Race, a contemporary American professional wrestler who then became a promoter and trainer in the later stages of his career. With a host of accolades to his name, Race is one of only six men who have achieved induction into all the major league Halls of Fame, including the W.W.E., N.W.A., W.C.W., and others.
National Harley Day timeline
Though the reason is not very clear, the name Harley, for boys, becomes popular.
William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson establish the renowned American motorcycle company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Granville-Barker’s play “Waste” is banned in theaters due to its controversial topic of the politics around abortion.
Quinn makes her screen debut in “Batman: The Animated Series” and becomes a hit.
National Harley Day FAQs
How many ways can you spell Harley?
You would be surprised at the number of ways. The most popular spelling adaptations or versions include Harlee, Harleigh, Harlie, Harli, and Harly.
What nationality is the name Harley?
Harley is a predominantly British name. It especially hails from the northern parts of the country, like Scotland and the borderlands between England and Wales. Since the name is derived from the Old English for ‘hare’ and “wood or clearing,” it makes sense that the name has its roots in these wilder, more pristine parts of the nation.
What does Harley mean in Hebrew?
Harley is not actually a Jewish name, as it is originally from Britain. The closest Jewish name to Harley is Harel, which means “mountain of God.”
National Harley Day Activities
Choose a famous Harley
We’ve given you some of the more well-known Harleys. However, you can always embark on your own exploration and find out more about a Harley that interests you. And if you happen to know a Harley, even better. Reach out to them and hear their story.
Go for a spin on a Harley
We’re sure that this one will be a crowd pleaser. If you know a Harley motorcycle owner, it’s time to butter them up. If there’s a Harley showroom near you, why not take one out for a spin? There is even a Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in honor of over 100 years of the company.
Watch a Harley character
Apart from the highly popular DC character Harley Quinn (whose backstory is fascinating for hardcore DC fans and the mildly curious alike), there are other characters called Harley. The popular anime “Pokemon” also has a Harley in it, and there are some Harleys in the Marvel universe too.
5 Lesser Known Facts About Harley-Davidson
Harley bikes were in World War I
A third of Harley-Davidson’s bikes were bought by the U.S. government in 1917, when they entered World War I, and the American army rode them into Russia.
A truly unique sound
The sound of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle engine is actually patented.
The best in luxury motorcycles
The Harley-Davidson Comic Starship is a bike you need to have deep pockets to even consider; it’s priced at around $91.71 million.
Aid to the Boys in Blue
Harley-Davidson has been providing bikes to the police force for over 100 years now.
Their own T.V. show
In 2016, the company got its own T.V. show called “Harley and the Davidsons,” which is based on the founders and company history.
Why We Love National Harley Day
It appreciates a fairly unique name
The name Harley is not a very common one, despite its rise in popularity over the last century or so. This day enables us to appreciate the name, its mysterious origins, and the people who identify with that name.
The pop culture associations
From the quintessential American motorcycle brand to the iconic character of the Batman franchise, there are many associations that spring to mind when hearing the name Harley. To the British, it may especially be dear, as not only does it hail from England, but it may also evoke images of the famous Harley Street of London, which is known for its private specialists and physicians.
A great name for musicians and sports people
We notice that many Harleys are usually gifted musicians or sportspeople. For instance, did you know that the real name of popular Australian artist Flume is really Harley Edward Streten? There are plenty of sporty people who are also called Harley. One has only to do a quick Google search.
National Harley Day dates