Girl Baby Name


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Quick Facts on Ellen

  • Gender:
  • Girl
  • Origin:
  • English
  • Number of syllables:
  • 2
  • Ranking popularity:
  • 700
Simple meaning:
Ray of light, sunbeam

Characteristics of Ellen

  • Communicative
  • Creative
  • Optimistic
  • Popular
  • Social
  • Dramatic
  • Happy

Etymology & Historical Origin - Ellen

Ellen developed as an English form of Helen in the Middle Ages, before they adopted Helen (which wasn’t until the 17th century). Helen is the English form of the Greek Hēlēnē (‘Ελενη) which has debatable etymologies. The name most likely comes from “hēlios” which is the Greek word for ‘sun’ to indicate a sunbeam or ray of light specifically. From ancient Greek mythology, Helen is a name made famous by the beautiful Spartan queen whose abduction by Paris set in motion the mythological Trojan War. She is known as the woman whose face “launched a thousand ships” and therefore often considered the most gorgeous woman who ever lived. Incidentally, it wasn’t this classical Greek beauty but rather a 3rd/4th century saint (Helena of Constantinople) who served to popularize the name among early Christians in medieval times which is when the English adopted Ellen as their equivalent. Saint Helena was the beloved mother of Roman Emperor Constantine I (272-337) who had the distinction of being the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. According to popular legend, Helena is also credited with finding the “True Cross” (relics of the cross on which Christ was crucified) buried at a dig site she orchestrated in Jerusalem (she is thus the patron saint of “new discoveries”). Indeed, though, Helen is most famous for having the face that launched a thousand ships, but she also had a name that practically launched a thousand variations: Ellen, Eleanor (English), Helena (Portuguese), Elena (Italian), Lena, Ella, Elin (Dutch, Scandinavian), Hélène (French), Elena, Iliana (Spanish), Aileen/Eileen (Scottish); Elaine (Welsh); Aliénor (Provençal) – not to mention a slew of diminutives: Elle, Ella, Ellie, Lena, Nell, Nella, Nellie. In fact, Nelle is Ellen spelled backwards. Among medieval English speakers, Ellen was the most common – it wasn’t until after the Renaissance when Helen became more common in Great Britain. Today, Ellen is a high ranking name in Sweden, but also in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Popularity of the Name Ellen

Ellen has enjoyed a very popular career as a female name in America. The name has been shared by two First Ladies (Chester Arthur’s wife and Woodrow Wilson’s wife). Since the U.S. government first began tracking naming trends in 1880, Ellen has been a commonly used girl’s name. Although she has generally resided at the higher end of the Top 100 list, the name has enjoyed a place there for almost 80 consecutive years. It wasn’t until 1962 that Ellen finally fell from the Top 100 list of most commonly used female names. From that point on, Ellen has been in relatively slow decline. Then in the late 1990s, she pretty much experienced a free-fall down the charts to very low levels of popularity today. Ellen is a lovely, simple and unpretentious name. So much so, she is often considered slightly boring by today’s standards and more preferred as a middle name. This minimalistic English classic remains a pretty name, and now that it’s so underused, it has become more original.
Popularity of the Girl Name Ellen
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Cultural References to the Baby Name - Ellen

  • Literary Characters of the baby name Ellen

    Literary Characters of the Baby Name Ellen

    Countess Ellen Olenska (The Age of Innocence) Countess Ellen Olenska is the memorable character in Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning 1920 novel, The Age of Innocence who poses a threat to the marriage plans of two young members of upper class society in New York City of the 1870s. Ellen is the older, sophisticated and worldly cousin of May Welland, who is engaged to Newland Archer. Ellen has just returned from Europe alone, and plans to divorce her husband, a Polish count who has been cruel and unfaithful. Divorce in these circles at this time is unthinkable, and Ellen’s family enlists Mr. Archer, an attorney, to try and talk her out of it. In the process, he comes to appreciate her independence and to see how inequitable are the social restraints under which he has been raised. Fighting against the powerful attraction he has for Ellen, Archer convinces May to marry sooner than planned. Ellen, likewise in love and realizing its futility, nobly rises to the occasion. She agrees not to divorce her husband, she remains in America, and she distances herself from the young couple. Ultimately, upon learning of May’s pregnancy, she returns to Europe just as Archer is poised to leave May for her. Society’s strictures triumph, although, seeing Michelle Pfeiffer in the 1993 movie by Martin Scorsese makes us wonder where Daniel Day-Lewis found the fortitude.

    Ellen Robillard O’Hara (Gone with the Wind) Ellen O’Hara is the mother of Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s classic 1936 novel, Gone With the Wind, made into the equally successful 1939 movie of the same name (in which the character is played by the serene Barbara O’Neill). Ellen is an aristocratic Southern girl of French descent who, thwarted in her desire to marry her true love, devotes herself to the earthy Gerald O’Hara and the running of the plantation called Tara. She is almost impossibly good and dutiful, and presents a difficult model for her daughter to live up to. At the same time, however, Ellen provides the steadfast moral support for the family that almost immediately falls apart after her death. Scarlett, by dint of her formidable tenacity, turns their fortunes around, albeit not quite in the fashion of which Ellen would have approved. Nonetheless, it would appear to be Ellen’s influence that allows Scarlett to keep going, no matter the cost.

  • Popular Songs on Ellen

    Popular Songs on Ellen

    Ellen - a song by 10,000 Maniacs

    Poor Ellen Smith - a song by Kingston Trio

  • Children's Books on the Baby Name Ellen

    Children's Books on the Baby Name Ellen

    Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella (Susan Lowell) - Once upon a time, there was a sweet cowgirl named Cindy Ellen, who lived with the orneriest stepmother west of the Mississippi and two stepsisters who were so nasty, they made rattlesnakes look nice! But when a fast-talkin' fairy godmother teaches Cindy Ellen a little lesson about gumption, Cindy lassos first place at the rodeo and the heart of Joe Prince...You may think you've heard the story before-but you'll get a side-splittin' bellyache after you're through with this hilarious rendition told Wild West-style! Recommended for ages 4-8.

    Ellen Tebbits (Beverly Cleary) - Ellen Tebbits has a secret that she'll never share with anyone. That is, until she meets Austine—and discovers that Austine has the same secret! Soon the girls are best friends who do everything together—attending dance class, horseback riding, and dodging pesky Otis Spofford. But then Ellen does something terrible, and now Austine isn't speaking to her. Will Ellen be able to prove how sorry she truly is? Recommended for ages 8-12.

    Ellen's Broom (Kelly Starling Lyons) - A young girl learns a new meaning for freedom during the time of Reconstruction. Ellen always knew the broom resting above the hearth was special. Before it was legal for her mother and father to officially be married, the broom was what made them a family anyway. But now all former slaves who had already been married in their hearts could register as lawful husband and wife. When Ellen and her family make the long trip to the courthouse dressed in their best, she brings the broom her parents had jumped so many years before. Even though freedom has come, Ellen knows the old traditions are important too. After Mama and Papa's names are recorded in the register, Ellen nearly bursts with pride as her parents jump the broom once again. Ellen is a wonderfully endearing character whose love for her family is brought to life in Daniel Minter's rich and eye-catching block print illustrations. Recommended for ages 5-8.

  • Famous People Named Ellen

    Famous People Named Ellen

    Famous People Named Ellen - Ellen Arthur (U.S. First Lady); Ellen Wilson (U.S. First Lady); Ellen DeGeneres (comedienne/TV personality); Ellen Barkin (actress); Ellen Burstyn (actress); Ellen Page (actress); Ellen Pompeo (actress); Ellen Tyne Daly (actress); Ellen Naomi Cohen (aka "Mama" Cass Elliot/musician); Ellen Cleghorne (SNL cast member); Ellen G. White (author); Ellen Foley (singer); Ellen Hopkins (author)

  • Children of Famous People Named Ellen

    Children of Famous People Named Ellen

    Famous People Who Named Their Daughter Ellen - Chester A. Arthur (U.S. President); Ulysses S. Grant (Civil War General/hero and U.S. President)

Personality of the Girl Name Ellen

The Three energy is powerful and enthusiastic. These personalities are cheerful, full of self-expression, and often quite emotional. They have an artistic flair and "gift-of-gab" that makes them natural entertainers. Their joyfulness bubbles over, and their infectious exuberance draws a crowd. The Three personality is like a child - forever young and full of delight. They are charming, witty, and generally happy people. The Three personality lives in the "now" and has a spontaneous nature. Threes seem to live with a bright and seemingly unbreakable aura that attracts others to them. In turn, they are deeply loyal and loving to their friends and family. Luck also has a tendency to favor number Threes.

Variations of the Baby Name - Ellen

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