Elliot: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on January 27, 2014

Empire called Elliott and E.T.'s flight to the...

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on April 11, 2009.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on January 27, 2014.

He’s a surname name with ties to the Bible and to a blockbuster that remains among the most beloved movies of all time.

Thanks to Rocking Fetal for suggesting Elliot as Name of the Day, and to Jennifer for suggesting it was time to revisit this post.

When I was writing the original version of this post, I met a 20-something Elliott and quizzed him about his name. His spelling, he told me, was correct while the single -t form was missing something.

One ‘t’ or two, both spells are perfectly defensible.  The single ‘t’ version is more popular today, though not by much.

Possible origins include:

  • The Biblical Elijah was whispered down the alley into Elias and eventually Elis and the surnames Ellis and Elliot.
  • The personal name Elyat existed in Middle English, possibly related to the Germanic adhel – noble.
  • The Old English Aelfweald might have been preserved as Elliot.
  • Elliot could represent an Anglicized form of Gaelic appellations like Elloch and Eloth.
  • The Welsh Elisedd – derived from elus, kindly – could also have survived as Elliot.

With so many sources and similar names, no wonder the name survived.

Famous bearers of the surname include literary powerhouses George Eliot and TS Eliot.  TS came from a big Boston family, which also included a Harvard University president, several US Congressmen and the co-founder of Washington University of St. Louis.

Fictional figure Billy Elliot charmed audiences as a movie in 2000, and then on Broadway.  Billy wanted to be a ballerina – an unusual aspiration for a boy in a 1980s mining town.

As for notables wearing Elliot as a given name:

  • Eliot Ness brought in Al Capone.
  • Elliott Gould starred in blockbusters like M*A*S*H in the 1970s, and more recently he’s played Reuben in the Ocean’s Eleven franchise.
  • In 1977, the dragon in Disney’s musical Pete’s Dragon answered to the name.  The dragon was animated, but the rest of the movie was live-action.  You can still see Elliott in Disney World’s Main Street Electrical Parade.
  • E.T. the Extra Terrestrial phoned home with the help of 10 year-old Elliott in 1982.
  • Christopher Meloni played Detective Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU from 1999 through 2011.

Billy Elliot the Musical

Then there’s Scrubs.  The medical comedy cast included Sarah Chalke plays a female Elliot.  After nine seasons, no wonder some are worried that this one could go girl.  Add in a few high profile birth announcements, like Marla Sokoloff’s Elliotte, plus our affection for Ella and all sorts of Ellie-names, and it is a reasonable concern.

But so far, it is just a concern.  More girls are given the name than ever before, but it continues to rise for boys.  This makes Elliot more like Ryan - a name that we’re used to hearing for girls, but that remains solidly on Team Blue.

Let’s look at the numbers:

  • In 2012, the ‘t’ spelling was most popular for boys, ranked #242 for boys and #861 for girls.  That translates to 1,480 boys and just 307 girls.
  • The ‘tt’ spelling was #277 for boys, and unranked for girls, which translates to an additional 1,252 boys and 236 girls.

All of this makes Elliot an appealing option for a son – he’s familiar.  He offers stylish short form Eli.  With lots of history and a certain artistic, literary vibe, he’s a great choice for a boy – even if he might share his name with the occasional girl.

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