The Kennedy family is essentially American royalty, rising to particular prominence and fame during the period during which John F. Kennedy and his siblings had significant political power (which Jackie Kennedy referred to as Camelot). But the family has also been struck by much tragedy over the course of their long history, something the rest of the clan tries to honor. By now, the Kennedy family is expansive, with the grandchildren of JFK and his siblings coming into adulthood. A lot of them have similar names, often as a tribute to earlier ancestors, so let's break out who's who and what their names signify.
Joseph Patrick Kennedy Sr.
The Kennedy family patriarch went by Joe; Joe's father went by the same name in inverse, Patrick Joseph. Both monikers are traditional Catholic names. After a successful career in finance, then politics, Joe passed on his aspirations to the rest of his many children.
Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald Kennedy
Rose's father, John Fitzgerald, was mayor of Boston, and the whole family was part of a wealthy Catholic community in Boston. At the time of her birth in 1890, Rose was a very popular name for a girl and symbolized the fragrant flower. You'll see her first name pop up a lot on this list.
Rose's family didn't initially approve of Joe, so they dated for seven years before getting married. The two had nine children: Joe Jr., JFK, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Bobby, Jean Ann, and Ted. More on all of their names, ahead.
Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr.
Named after his dad, Joe Jr. had really high goals set for him: to become the first Roman Catholic U.S. president. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be—Joe Jr. was killed in a top-secret WWII mission in 1944, and the lofty family goal moved to the second-oldest son.
Technically Rose Marie, she was named after her mother and sometimes went by "Rosie" and the condensed "Rosemary." Tragedy struck her too—she suffered from intellectual difficulties and seizures in her early years. In a short-sighted attempt to help, her father had her lobotomized. As a result, she lost almost all cognitive function and remained in an institution for the rest of her life.
Kathleen Agnes Kennedy
Kathleen went by "Kick" because she was so free-spirited, and also because it was apparently hard for her young siblings to pronounce her full name. When she married, she became known as Kathleen Agnes Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington, but her husband was killed in action four months after they wed. She died in a plane crash with her lover Lord Fitzwilliam (who was married to someone else at the time) in 1948 when she was just 28 years old.
Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver
Eunice is a Biblical name and apparently derives from the Greek word "victory." When Eunice married Robert Sargent Shriver Jr. (who went by Sargent) and took his name. She did an impressive amount of political and philanthropic work, including founding the Special Olympics—partially inspired by her older sister, Rosemary. She died in 2009.
Patricia Helen Kennedy Lawford
Patricia is the female form of the name "Patrick" and derives from the Latin word meaning "noble" (patrician). Patricia, who often went by "Pat," married actor Peter Lawford and had four children before the couple got divorced. She passed away in 2006.
Robert Francis Kennedy
Going by "Bobby" (and later referred to as RFK), his name apparently means "God is my judge" in Hebrew. JFK sometimes referred to his younger brother as "Black Robert" for his habit of constantly moralizing. Bobby went into politics like the rest of his brothers, and was also tragically assassinated in 1968 after winning the California primary for Democratic presidential candidate.
Jean Ann Kennedy Smith
The shyest of the Kennedy children, her name derives from Hebrew for "God is gracious." (The names Joan, Jane, and Jeanne apparently come from the same root.) She was a U.S. ambassador to Ireland and later wrote a memoir. She's the only sibling of JFK's to still be alive in 2020.
Edward Moore Kennedy
The youngest Kennedy was born on George Washington's birthday, so JFK asked for him to be named George Washington. Instead, he was named after his father's secretary, Edward, but always went as Ted or Teddy. Ted also went into politics, yet was often plagued by the Chappaquiddick incident. He died in 2009 from brain cancer.
Caroline Bouvier Kennedy Schlossberg
The oldest daughter of JFK and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, Caroline was named after her maternal aunt Caroline Lee Radziwill, and given her mother's maiden name as a middle name. She served as the U.S. ambassador to Japan and is a lawyer and author.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr.
Named after his father, "John John" or "JFK Jr." became a lawyer and practiced as a New York City assistant district attorney. He also launched magazine George in the 1990s and briefly worked as an actor. He lived a troubled life and died in 1999 when the plane he was piloting crashed off of Martha's Vineyard. His wife, Carolyn Bessette, and her sister Lauren were also on board and died.
Robert Sargent Shriver III
Eunice's son Robert, who goes by "Bob," was named after his father. But it may not be an accident that his nickname is the same as many other family members' (Bob/Bobby), including his uncle RFK. Bob's a lawyer, journalist, and activist who's also been politically active.
Maria Owings Shriver
Eunice and Sargent named their oldest daughter Maria. Maria/Mary is a common Catholic name that often celebrates the Virgin Mary; it looks like Owings is the maiden name of a very distant relative. Maria went on to be an author and philanthropist like her mom Eunice. She also married, and subsequently divorced, film actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Timothy Perry Shriver
Like his sister Maria, the "Perry" middle name looks like it may come from the maiden name of a great-grandmother. Following in the footsteps of his mother Eunice, Timothy has championed the Special Olympics, most recently as chairman.
Mark Kennedy Shriver
Mark was given his mother's maiden name as his middle name, but the politician and activist who has most recently served as president of Save the Children Action Network doesn't seem to have any particular meaning behind his own first name (beyond Biblical significance). Mark named two of his own young children Tommy Kennedy and Emma Rose—note the historic middle names.
Christopher Kennedy Lawford
According to his memoir, the oldest son of Patricia and her husband Peter Lawford was named after Saint Christopher and because his mother, Pat, liked the name. An activist, actor, and author, he spoke about being in recovery from addiction. He died suddenly of a heart attack in 2018.
Sydney Maleia Kennedy Lawford
Sydney was her father's middle name and the first name of several paternal relatives, including her grandfather. Maleia is a name of Hawaiian origins that means "calm or gentle waters." Aside from a brief engagement announcement to James Peter McKievy, Sydney has largely kept out of the spotlight.
Victoria Francis Lawford
Victoria, who's kept out of the spotlight like her sister, is married and apparently named two of her children Caroline Patricia and Victoria Rose. Lot's of family names there. Her own name means "victory" and "frenchman."
Robin Elizabeth Lawford
As with her other siblings, very little is known about Robin, Patricia and Peter's youngest daughter. But she does have the same middle name as her grandmother. Robin is a diminutive of Robert (so perhaps there is some family significance there) and also means "bright fame."
Kathleen Harrington Kennedy Townsend
RFK's oldest daughter was named after his sister and her aunt, but unlike "Kick," her nicknames include "Clean Kathleen," "the Nun," and "the Un-Kennedy" for her stoicism. Ironically, then, she too is politically active. Also, her daughter Maeve gave birth to Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean, the first of the sixth generation of Kennedys with the same middle name as Kathleen's grandfather.
Joseph Patrick Kennedy II
A prominent member of the Kennedy household, Joe was named after his grandfather and uncle. RFK's son served as a member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts in the 1990s and his son, Joseph Patrick Kennedy III (whom you'll see in just a couple slides), is politically active currently.
Robert Francis Kennedy Jr.
Robert and his wife Ethel Skakel decided to make their second son a junior. He's an author, environmental attorney, and activist. He drew some very recent criticism from his siblings on his status against vaccinations. He is married to actor Cheryl Hines.
David Anthony Kennedy
"David" is a Biblically significant name referring to the King of Israel. David, who was apparently introverted and sensitive, was particularly close with his father, RFK, and watched his father's assassination on TV. He began drug use after his brother Joe caused a car accident that fractured David's vertebra and paralyzed his then-girlfriend. Unfortunately, he died of an overdose at 28.
Mary Courtney Kennedy Hill
RFK's daughter, goes by her middle name, Courtney, but her first name has religious and familial significance. She has mostly stayed out of the limelight. She named her daughter Saoirse, which means "freedom," after the freedom of her relationship with now-ex Paul Hill and the freedom she hoped for in her daughter. Saoirse (whom you'll see later in the slideshow) died of a drug overdose in 2019.
Michael LeMoyne Kennedy
Michael was named for Michael Kennedy, a family friend and Irish priest, and his uncle JFK's prep-school roommate and close family friend Kirk LeMoyne "Lem" Billings. He was a lawyer and activist, and died tragically in a skiing accident in 1997.
Mary Kerry Kennedy
Yes, Robert and Ethel named not one, but two of their daughters Mary, but neither of them goes by it. This Mary goes by Kerry. She was married to, and got divorced from, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, during which time she was known as Kerry Kennedy Cuomo. She's a writer and president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights advocacy organization.
Christopher George Kennedy
Robert and Ethel's eighth child, Christopher goes by Chris (unlike his cousin). He is chair of Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises, Inc. He named his own son after him and also has a daughter named Clare Rose.
Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy
Going by Max, RFK's ninth child was named after the WWII general Maxwell D. Taylor. He's a writer and activist. He named his son after him and named his daughter Caroline Summer Rose.
Douglas Harriman Kennedy
Douglas was named in honor of former New York governor W. Averell Harriman. He was a journalist and had a Fox news program Douglas Kennedy's American Stories but, after a scuffle involving nurses at the hospital where his newborn son was delivered, he said his career was over.
Rory Elizabeth Katherine Kennedy
Rory, named after the last king of Ireland, is the youngest child of RFK, born six months after his assassination. She is a renowned documentary filmmaker and an activist who was very close with her brother Michael before he died. She tried to resuscitate him after the accident. It's not the only Kennedy family tragedy to directly impact her; her cousin John Jr. and his wife Carolyn were on the way to her wedding when their plane crashed.
Stephen Edward Smith Jr.
Jean's oldest son, named after his father, has apparently been involved in the Kennedy finances and real estate and served on the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees.
William Kennedy Smith
Stephen's younger brother (whose name means "resolute protector" and whose middle name is his mother's maiden name) is a physician whose work focuses on landmines and landmine injury. He was accused and acquitted of rape in 1991.
Amanda Mary Smith
Amanda (the name means "lovable") is the adopted daughter of Jean Kennedy. She married Carter Hood in 2000. She has a background in special ed and keeps a low profile.
Kym Maria Smith
Kym (seen here with her uncle Ted) has a religiously significant middle name. The English meaning of Kym (a variant of Kim) is "royal fortress;" the Vietnamese meaning is "golden." She's also adopted and stays mostly low-key.
Kara Anne Kennedy Allen
The oldest of Ted Kennedy's children removed her middle name "Anne" when she got married and replaced it with her maiden name, Kennedy. She was a filmmaker; She died of heart attack suddenly in 2011 at the young age of 51, only two years after her father died.
Edward Moore Kennedy Jr.
Named after his father, Edward also goes by the shortened Ted. He is a politician who served on the Connecticut State Senate. His daughter is Kiley Rose Kennedy and his son is also named after him—Edward Moore "Teddy" Kennedy III.
Patrick Joseph Kennedy II
Okay, this is confusing: Ted, like his brother RFK, also named a son Patrick Joseph Kennedy II. This PJK II is also named after his paternal great-grandfather. He served as a congressman from Rhode Island in the House of Representatives until 2011, and he founded the Kennedy Forum.
Rose Kennedy Schlossberg
There are a TON of Kennedy grandchildren and great-grandchildren (30+), and some of them have continued the tradition of being named after famous ancestors. Rose is the daughter of Caroline Bouvier Kennedy and her husband, Edwin Schlossberg. Rose was named after her great-grandmother. She's an actor and often described as a lookalike of her grandmother, Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
John Bouvier Kennedy Schlossberg
Caroline's son has the same name as his grandfather, JFK, and also goes by Jack. He's the only surviving male descendant of JFK. Like his grandfather, he's also interested in politics. He started at Harvard Law School in 2017 and has a highly active Insta. He also made the Vanity Fair Best Dressed List in 2017.
Christina Maria Aurelia Schwarzenegger
Katherine's sister has "Maria" as a middle name (the same as her mom's first name). Her other middle name comes from her paternal grandmother—Aurelia Jadrny, Arnold Schwarzenegger's mom. She's a producer and editor, per her Insta.
Joseph Patrick Kennedy III
The son of Joseph Patrick Kennedy II (RFK's son, not Ted's), Joe Kennedy III is probably the most politically active of the family currently. Right now, he is serving Massachusetts' 4th district in the House of Representatives and he announced he's challenging incumbent Senator Ed Markey in 2020.
Robert Francis Kennedy III
Robert Francis Kennedy III, named after his father, is the only son from RFK Jr.'s first marriage to Emily Ruth Black. Bobby, as he is known, is an actor. He and his wife recently welcomed a daughter named Bobby after her father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
Kyra LeMoyne Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s daughter (with his second wife, Mary Kathleen Richardson) carries the LeMoyne middle name (shared with her uncle Michael). She's a socialite and model who got into hot water (her dad suspended her Instagram) after a cyber-bullying incident. But she's back on the platform now.
John Conor Richardson Kennedy
Though he has a very meaningful, historic first name, RFK Jr.'s second son actually goes by Conor. His second middle name is his mom's maiden name. You may recognize him—he briefly dated Taylor Swift.
Michael LeMoyne Kennedy Jr.
Seen here at his father's funeral after his tragic skiing death, Michael Jr. (named after his dad) keeps a low profile. He got married to Mary Campbell in 2012.
Caroline Summer Rose Kennedy
Though she has the family names Caroline and Rose to choose from, the middle child of Max Kennedy (RFK's ninth child), actually goes by Summer. In 2017, she and her father Max were arrested for a noise complaint in Hyannis Port.
Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy Jr.
Named after his dad, Max Jr. is now in his 20s and taking on more responsibility in the family. In 2018, he spoke during the 2019 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Awards.
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Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.
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