There are two different accepted meanings for Lorelei (LOHR-eh-lie), the German place name (Loreley) which, legend has it, the siren Lorelei gave her name to. All three use the Celtic ley, meaning "rock." One meaning is "murmuring rock," from lureln and ley, and the second is "luring rock," from x and ley, and "lurking rock," from lauern and ley. From 1843 the etymology was Middle High German lüren, "to lie in wait." One of the first to use Lorelei was German author Clemens Brentano in Zu Bacharach am Rheine in 1801. Heinrich Heine then used this to write Die Lorelei (German) in 1824. Mark Twain later used the name for An Ancient Legend of the Rhine in 1880. There have been operas, poems, songs, sculptures and paintings in her name ever since. Marilyn Monroe popularized the name in the movie "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," based on Anita Loos's novel, and then the name saw a revamp with "The Gilmore Girls." Lurline, as a variant, has its own opera, poem, ships and was used in L. Frank Baum's Oz books (the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). Most recently, Lorelei is a Marvel Universe character and can currently be seen on the TV show "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
The Lorelei is located on the Rhine River between Switzerland and the North Sea. Like most sirens, Lorelei sat on top the rock singing, which distracted or lured sailors to crash into the rock. This legend came about due to this specific rock marking the shallowest and narrowest point in the Rhine, with a strong current that is hard to navigate. Some say her legend originates with being lovelorn and falling from the cliff into the Rhine, the the Greek myth of Echo. That is also where most of her literary inspirations began.
There are many alternate spellings, including Loreley, Lorelie, Lorelai, Lorely and Lorelay. Lurline, Lurlina and Lurleen are other variants. Lorelei remains a relatively rare name even though it currently ranks in the top 1000 at #533, with about 6,900 or so in the U.S. and 566 girls given the name in 2012. It is increasing in popularity slowly after just coming onto the charts in 2004. Alternate spelling Lorelai ranked at #736 in 2012, appearing in 2006.