Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Helena

Helena is the Latinate form of Helen used primarily among the Germans, Dutch, Portuguese, Scandinavians and Slavic people. Helen is the English form of the Greek Hēlēnē (‘Ελενη) which most likely comes from the Greek “hēlios” meaning “sun” – more specifically, a sunbeam or ray of light. In a similar vein the Greek word “‘ελενη” means “fire torch” in reference to the appearance of St. Elmo’s Fire (a lightening-like phenomenon off the mast of a ship). In ancient Greek mythology, Helen is the name made famous by the beautiful Spartan queen whose abduction by Paris set in motion the epic 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 by mythological standards. 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. 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 oversaw in Jerusalem (she is thus the patron saint of “new discoveries”). Helen will, however, be remembered most as the face that launched a thousand ships, but she also had the 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. Among medieval English speakers, Ellen was more common than Helen. Helena has been and continues to be the more common variation used throughout Europe. Today the name Helena is a Top 100 favorite in the countries of Croatia, Austria, Catalonia, Spain and Belgium.

All About the Baby Name – Helena

Personality

OF THE GIRL NAME HELENA

The number Nine personality represents the completion or ending of the cycle, and a need for perfection. This is the personality that moves from "self" to a greater understanding and compassion for the human condition and the world order. They want to make the world a better place. Nines are capable of great spiritual and humanitarian achievements. They are courageous and fearless, able to fight great battles on behalf of worthy causes. These personalities will not tolerate injustice. They are compassionate people with a strong sensitivity to others. They are able to both educate and inspire. Friendships and relationships are the lifeblood to the Nine, and they place a high value on love and affection. Nines are often exceptionally gifted artistically, and they have a keen imagination and enterprising mind.

Popularity

OF THE GIRL NAME HELENA

The female name Helena was at her peak popularity in America during the late 1800s more than 100 years ago. As the decades persisted into the 20th century, however, Helena showed downwards trajectory on the charts as she began to fall from fashion. By the early 1990s, Helena was bestowed upon baby girls so rarely that for a while the name fell completely off the charts. Helena has since returned to the charts mostly thanks to a revived interest in so called “old lady” names that were popular at the turn of last century. While Helena hasn’t experienced the ϋber-popularity that we’ve seen with some names like Isabella, Emma and Olivia, she is still showing a promising future. Helena is a feminine and pretty sounding name and the “a” ending elongates the two-syllable English Helen. We will forever think of the Spartan queen whose beautiful face caused the Trojan War. Indeed, Helena is a shiny “ray of light” and an all around gorgeous name.

Quick Facts

ON HELENA

GENDER:

Girl

ORIGIN:

German

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

3

RANKING POPULARITY:

549

PRONUNCIATION:

he-LE-nah

SIMPLE MEANING:

Ray of light; Sunbeam

Characteristics

OF HELENA

Multi-talented

Intuitive

Oneness

Idealistic

Philanthropy

Independent

Perfection

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Helena

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME HELENA

Helena is one of the four young lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s very popular play, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596. Helena is a beautiful but insecure girl of impeccable background who is in love with the rather careless Demetrius. Demetrius has been chosen by Egeus as a suitor to his daughter, Hermia, and Demetrius is just fine with that, even though he was once engaged to Helena. Hermia, however, loves Lysander, and is plotting to elope with him. Hoping to win Demetrius back, Helena tells him of the elopement plan, but this only spurs Demetrius on to following them into the Athenian forest in hopes of winning Hermia for himself. In the meantime, the fairy king, Oberon, has ordered his little henchman, Puck, to sprinkle fairy dust in Demetrius’ eyes so that he will fall in love with Helena again. Puck naturally gets it wrong, sprinkles the dust in both Lysander’s and Demetrius’ eyes while they sleep and, when they awake, they both fall in love with the first person they see – in both cases, Helena. So now Helena, whom nobody paid attention to before, is having a duel fought over her! In addition, Hermia is none too happy with this turn of events, and she turns on her old friend, Helena. So now Helena takes stock of the situation, and believing Demetrius to be mocking her, spurns him. Oberon takes charge, ordering Puck to right the situation, and the spell is removed from Lysander, but not Demetrius, so pretty soon all the right people are in love with the right people and everyone is set to live happily ever after. And Helena needs to get a grip, accept that Demetrius really does love her, stop whining, be happy, and live up to her beautiful name. And she does!

Popular Songs

ON HELENA

This is Helena
a song by OMD

Helena Montana
a song by Terry Allen

Helena 2
a song by The Misfits

Helena
a song by Nickel Creek

Famous People

NAMED HELENA

Helena Bonham Carter (actress)
Helena Christensen (supermodel)
Helena Rubinstein (Polish-American businesswoman)
Helena Suková (Czech tennis player)
Princess Helena of the United Kingdom (royalty, daughter of Queen Victoria)
Saint Helena (Empress of Constantinople and mother to Constantine the Great)

Children of Famous People

NAMED HELENA

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

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME HELENA

We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Helena