Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Eleanor

Eleanor is a name made popular by Eleanor of Aquitaine (c. 1122-1204), one of the most glamorous, wealthy, powerful and adventurous women in all of medieval Europe. If “celebrity” were a word in the English dictionary in the 12th century, she may very well have been the poster girl definition. She holds the exclusive distinction of having been Queen Consorts of both France (Louis VII) and England (Henry II). No one is quite certain from where her name comes, but there are several educated theories. For one, it’s commonly believed to have been derived from the medieval Provençal (a southeastern French dialect) female name “Aliénor” from the Germanic “aljis” meaning “other, foreign” (from the Proto-Indo-European root “al” meaning “beyond”). Some believe Aliénor d’Aquitaine (Eleanor of Aquitaine) was given the moniker Aliénor in homage to her mother, Aénor of Châtellerault, but altered in order to specify “the other” Aénor. Still, other etymologists surmise Aliénor was merely the Provençal dialectical form of Elena (the Spanish form of Helen). Helen comes from the Greek (Ελένη) from “hēlios” meaning “sun, ray of light” or “the bright one”. Today Eleanor is most popular in England and the United States.

All About the Baby Name – Eleanor



The number Seven personality is deeply mystical and highly in tune with their spirituality. They operate on a different wavelength than the average joe. Spending time alone comes easily to Sevens, as it gives them time to contemplate philosophical, religious and spiritual ideas in an effort to find "real truth".  Sevens are wise, but often exude mystery as if they are tapped into something the rest of us don't understand. They love the outdoors and are fed by nature. Sevens are constantly seeking to understand human nature, our place in the universe, and the mystery of life in general. This makes them quite artistic and poetic, but they are also keen observers with high intellect - so they are equally scientific-minded. Sevens are charitable and care deeply about the human condition.



The name Eleanor was most popular in the United States at the turn of the 20th century up through the early 1940s. The name saw most of its success in the late-teens into the roaring-twenties when it was a consistent Top 50 choice for turn-of-the-century baby girls. Her best year ever came in 1920 when Eleanor was the 25th most commonly used baby girl’s name nationwide. After the 1920s, however, Eleanor began to show backwards momentum on the charts and eventually reached her all time low-point in usage in the late 1980s. However, today, as we’ve crossed the threshold into the 21st century, Eleanor is showing a substantial revival in popularity. She’s not as popular as some of her fellow “grey-hairs” (names such as Ruby or Nora), but she’s inching her way back up to her former heights of glory. This is a name that shares the same antique charm that American parents are so attracted to today, yet Eleanor remains less trendy and overused in comparison to names like Emma, Olivia and Sophia. Eleanor is also quite flexible in terms of pet forms: Ellie, Nora, Lenore and even Ellen or Nellie (not to mention Helen, Elaine and Elena). As a stand-alone name, Eleanor has a lot of built-in confidence and dignity that gives her a slight edge over the competition. It’s truly a multifaceted name.

Quick Facts













The "other"; or The "bright one"










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Eleanor

Literary Characters


Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway is the director of a project looking for signs of extraterrestrial life in the 1985 science fiction novel by Carl Sagan, also made into a film starring Jodie Foster in 1997. When signals are picked up, Ellie is one of five project members who travel into the depths of the Milky Way Galaxy to further investigate. Talk about bravery – this is one gutsy gal. She is also stubborn, opinionated and single-minded, not necessarily negative traits in that line of work. In addition to being open to the infinite possibilities offered by outer space, Eleanor Arroway is also flexible when it comes to exploring the intricacies of inner space, and a compelling focus of the novel and movie is that of the journey of the human mind toward acceptance of the biggest possibility of all – God.

Eleanor is a character in Alice Walker’s 1982 novel, The Color Purple, which was also made into the very successful film of the same name. She is the daughter of the town’s mayor, whom Sofia raises, and who looks to Sofia as a second mother. In the uneven relationship between black and white, Eleanor Jane believes that that is enough to make Sofia love and bless her own child. But Sofia sees the infant boy as just another white, who will grow up into yet another of her many tormentors. As the story ends, Eleanor Jane and Sofia reach a higher level of understanding and faith, but only because Sofia has been brave enough to open Eleanor Jane’s eyes to the banal unconsciousness of the racism she has unwittingly accepted up to now.

Eleanor is a character in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, written around 1798-99. She is the daughter of the tyrannical General Tilney and sister of Henry, who courts the novel’s protagonist, Catherine Morland. Eleanor is described as having “…a good figure, a pretty face, and a very agreeable countenance…” ; she is a fashionable and elegant person. She is also a kind and good friend to Catherine and a beloved confidante of her brother Henry. All that virtue and beauty is duly rewarded, as Eleanor gets her very own Viscount at the end of the book.

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Eleanor

Popular Songs


a song by Jet

Eleanor Rigby
a song by The Beatles

Lady Eleanor
by the The Gathering

Famous People


Eleanor Roosevelt (U.S. First Lady)
Eleanor of Aquitaine (royalty)
Eleanor Audley (actress)
Eleanor Parker (actress)
Eleanor Powell (actress)
Eleanor Roosevelt (U.S. First Lady)
Eleanor of Aquitaine (royalty)
Eleanor Audley (actress)
Eleanor Parker (actress)
Eleanor Powell (actress)
Eleanor Roosevelt (U.S. First Lady)
Eleanor of Aquitaine (royalty)
Eleanor Audley (actress)
Eleanor Parker (actress)
Eleanor Powell (actress)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Eleanor

Historic Figures


Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the most beloved women of modern times, both as First Lady during her husband’s four terms in office, and as a public figure in her own right. In her long and varied life, she was a humanitarian, a civil rights activist, a teacher, a diplomat, a columnist, a radio spokeswoman, a speechmaker, an advocate for women’s rights and, incidentally, a wife and mother. Coming from a privileged but lonely background, wherein she suffered the deaths of both parents and siblings at an early age, she was subject to lifelong bouts of depression. She married her cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when she was twenty-one, and was immediately swept into the press of public life that surrounded and supported him. She was also swept into a world that was fraught with personal harm for her. Her formidable mother-in-law opposed her and her gregarious husband was unfaithful to her. A turning point came in 1921, when Franklin contracted polio, and Eleanor supported his decision to stay in politics against the wishes of his mother. She began making public appearances on his behalf, and by the time he was president, she was a seasoned politico. It is highly likely that she had a romantic relationship with the journalist, Lorena Hickok. She and Franklin, who sustained several long term extramarital relationships himself, seem to have agreed to go their separate ways together, in a very modern and civilized solution to the problems of their public personae. After Franklin’s death, Eleanor continued with her far reaching humanitarian work, and died a revered figure at the age of seventy-eight. She set a high standard for all women, one that is eminently worthy of pursuing.

Eleanor of Aquitaine was the powerful queen of France, wife of Louis VII, and of England, as wife of Henry II; she was also the mother of ten, including three future kings of England. High-spirited, willful and well educated, Eleanor became the wealthy Duchess of Aquitaine while still a child, making her a highly prized candidate as potential Queen Consort. Entrusted to the guardianship of Louis VI, she was almost immediately married off by him to his son and heir, Louis VII. She and her husband took part in the Second Crusade, with less than stellar results, and eventually their marriage was annulled, on the basis of consanguinity, but actually because she had only produced two daughters in fifteen years. On to Part II for our Eleanor – richer than ever, she now marries the man who becomes Henry II of England (to whom she was even more closely related by blood than to Louis). In the parentage department, she fares quite a bit better – providing Henry with five sons and three daughters. This marriage proves to be a fractious one, and Henry II even has Eleanor put under house (castle?) arrest for sixteen years when she supports one of her sons in his rebellion against the king. The indomitable Eleanor, twice a queen, thrice a mother of kings, outlived everyone, except two of her ten children, and died at the age of eighty-two, still considered an “admirable beauty”. The scope of this amazing woman’s fortitude was amply portrayed by Katharine Hepburn in the 1968 movie, The Lion in Winter (for which she received an Academy Award).