Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Elin
Elin is the Dutch and Scandinavian equivalent of Helen, but is also used among the Welsh. The Greek Hēlēnē (‘Ελενη) has debatable etymologies. The name either comes from the Greek “hēlios” which is the word for “sun” to indicate a sunbeam or ray of light specifically. In a similar vein the Greek word “‘ελενη” means “fire torch” referring to the rare appearance of St. Elmo’s Fire (off the mast of a ship). Lastly, the name could simply come from the Greek word for “Greek” (Hellēn, as in Hellenistic culture) but this is not widely held. The first suggested meaning is probably the most accurate especially when you consider the Greek mythological beauty Helen. Helen is a name made most famous by Homer’s “Iliad” (written around the 8th century B.C.); she was 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 came to symbolize womanly perfection in Western Culture. Incidentally, it wasn’t this classical Greek beauty but rather a 3rd/4th century saint (Helena of Constantinople) who served to popularize and spread the name among early Christians in medieval times. 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 (effectively switching the Roman Empire from a pagan one to a Christian one). 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”). Today, however, most people prefer Helen’s association with the beautiful Greek Queen whose face launched a thousand ships, but she also had the name that practically launched a thousand variations: Helen, Ellen, Eleanor, Elaine (English), Helena (Portuguese), Elena (Italian), Lena, Ella, Elin (Dutch, Scandinavian), Hélène (French), Elena, Iliana (Spanish), Aileen/Eileen (Scottish); Elaine, Elin (Welsh); Aliénor (Provençal). Elin is a Top 20 most favorite girl’s name in Sweden and a Top 25 in the Netherlands. It is also highly common in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.