[ 2 syll. he-len, hel-en ] The baby girl name Helen is pronounced as HHEHL-ahN (English) †. Helen is an English name of Old Greek origin. The name is of the meaning bright one, shining one. It is derived from the element 'helios' meaning sun. The name was borne in Greek mythology and in Homer's Iliad by the beautiful Helen of Troy, who was the daughter of Zeus; her capture by Paris the prince of Troy launched the decade-long Trojan war. The name was also borne in the 3rd century by Emperor Constantine's mother, known from the Latin form Helena. In literature, the name was borne by characters in the William Shakespeare plays Troilus and Cressida (1602) and Cymbeline (1609). The name was first used by English speakers in the 16th century.
Helen is a widely used name; it has 154 variations that are used in English and other languages. Variations used in English include Elaina (also used in French and Spanish), Elaine (also used in French and Welsh), Elana, Elane, Elayne, Eleanor, Eleanore, Elen (also used in Welsh), Elenora, Elenore, Elina (also used in Finnish, Indian, and Scandinavian), Elionor, Elle, Ellen (also used in Scandinavian), Ellie, Elly, Ellyn, Ellynn, Elnora, Heirnine, Helaina, Helaine, Helan, Helana, Helean, Heleana, Heleanor, Heleena, Helena (also used in Czech, Dutch, Finnish, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Polish, Portuguese, Scandinavian, and Spanish), and Helenann. Other English forms include the pet forms Ella (also used in Scandinavian), Nell, and Nellie, and the variant spellings Helenh and Hellen.
Foreign variations of Helen include Aileen (Irish), Aili (Finnish), Ale (Lithuanian), Aleen (Celtic), Alena (Czech, German, Russian, and Slavic), Alenka (Russian and Slavic), Aliute (Lithuanian), Alyna (Russian), Eileen (Irish), Eilidh (Gaelic and Scottish), Eleanora (Italian), Elena (Czech, Italian, Romanian, Russian, Slavic, and Spanish), Elene (Greek), Eleni (Greek), Elenie (Greek), Elenita (Spanish), Elenitsa (Greek), Elenka (Czech), Elenoa (Hawaiian), Elenola (Hawaiian), Elenor (Spanish), Elenuta (Romanian), Eleonor (Spanish), Eleonora (Polish and Spanish), Elia (Hawaiian), Elianora (Hawaiian), Elin (Scandinavian and Welsh), Elli (German), Ellin (Welsh), and Elna (Dutch and Scandinavian). Specific foreign variants include the pet forms Leen (Dutch) and Leentje (Dutch).
See also the related form, Eliana (English, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish).
Helen is a classic favorite. Today it is still fairly popular as a baby name for girls, though it was in more widespread use before. At the peak of its usage in 1917, 3.048% of baby girls were given the name Helen. Its ranking then was #2. The baby name has since suffered a marked fall in popularity, and in recent years it is of occasional use. In 2012, its usage was only 0.040% and its ranking #402. Out of the group of girl names directly linked to Helen, Ella was the most commonly used. In 2012, its use outnumbered Helen's by 12 times. Helen has predominantly been a girl name, though in the past century it has also been used for boys. In 1941, 203 times as many girls than boys were given the name Helen.
† Pronunciation for Helen: HH as in "he (HH.IY)" ; EH as in "ebb (EH.B)" ; L as in "lay (L.EY)" ; AH as in "mud (M.AH.D)" ; N as in "knee (N.IY)"
Details of famous persons named Helen:
Activist Helen Keller, born 27 June 1880 - 1 June 1968, Tuscumbia, Alabama.
Actress Helen Hayes, born Helen Hayes Brown, 10 October 1900 - 17 March 1993.
Actress Helen Hunt, born 15 June 1963, Los Angeles, California.
Actress Helen Mirren, born Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov, 26 July 1945, London, England.
Author Helen Fielding, born 19 February 1959, Morley, Yorkshire, England.
Author Beatrix Potter, born Helen Beatrix Potter, 28 July 1866 - 22 December 1943, London, England.
Cartoonist Helen Hokinson, born 29 June 1893 - 1 November 1949, Mendota, Illinois.
Opera Singer Nellie Melba, born Helen Porter Mitchell, 19 May 1861 - 23 February 1931, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
US First Lady Helen "Nellie" Taft, born Helen Herron, 2 June 1861 - 22 May 1943, Cincinnati, Ohio.