Sir William Wallace stained glass in Edinburgh Castle
Wallace (WAHL-iss) is an unusual baby name, since it means "Welshman," but it's of Old French origin, from the word waleis that translates to "Celtic foreigner." Before this, Wallace came from the cognate of an Old English word (Wylisc, Welisc) of the same meaning: "Welshman; foreigner." It originated as a surname. Most of the namesakes bearing Wallace as a surname were from the 1800's and 1900's, and there are many namesakes representing the armed forces, law, media, sports, religion, and sciences. If this name interests you, be sure to look up Alfred Russel Wallace, who was the first to create the theory of evolution in regard to natural selection, and who inspired Charles Darwin. In fiction there are characters in Final Fantasy VII, Pulp Fiction, Stargate, EastEnders, The Office and more with Wallace as their last name. The surname Walsh is connected to Wallace.
Wallace may have first been used as a given name to honor Sir William Wallace, a Scottish hero who helped defeat the English from invading in the 13th century. You might know this if you've ever watched Braveheart with Mel Gibson. Fun fact: the movie's screenwriter is named Randall Wallace. Or you might remember the animated series Wallace and Gromit. Wallace last ranked on the U.S. top 1000 in 1993, but the highest it ranked was #69 in 1923. It is possible, howver, that the name was most popular in 2015 given the rise in the overall number of births. Wally is generally accepted as the traditional nickname. Wallace Beery and Wallas Eaton are two actors who wore the name, Wallace Stegner won a Pulitzer Prize, and there are three Olympic medalists.
Wallis is another form of the name, but for this the most famous namesake was female. Bessie Wallis Simpson was the woman who Edward, Prince of Wales stepped down as the King of England for. He famously wanted to marry "the woman I love," becoming Duke of Windsor, while Wallis (as she was known) became Duchess of Windsor. As one can assume, this was highly controversial, not only because she was not royal or was American, but because she had two living ex-husbands. Wallis was named in honor of her father, William, who was called Wallis.
Duchess of Windsor
Wallis was not used as a girl's name before this event. In 1936 it was used for the first time on 6 girls, up to 33 girls the next year, but then down to 14 in 1938. By 1961 it was unheard of again. Wallis popped back up in 1980, never really climbing in number. In 2015 she was only given to 14 girls, despite the movie W.E. being made in 2011 (by Madonna!) of the royal affair.
Wallis and Futuna are a few French islands in the South Pacific which is inhabited by Polynesians.
Wallis Bird is an Irish musician.