e61 by Too Far North via Flickr

Take the -ia from Olivia and Sophia, borrow the El- from Ella and Elizabeth, and you’ll arrive at a terribly pretty possibility for a daughter, one that just might have ancient roots.

Thanks to Cindy for suggesting her daughter’s name, Ellia as our Baby Name of the Day.

Ellia has multiple possible origins, from the simple assemblage of popular sounds to ties to a traditional Old Testament name.

  • Ellia may simply have emerged as a variant, and perhaps even a feminine form, of Elijah and Elias. Elijah was slimmed down to Elia in Italian and several other European tongues – think of legendary director Elia Kazan. Census records suggest that plenty of men answered to Ellia, too, at least in the US, and almost certainly as a twist on the Biblical name.
  • In more modern moments, I’ve heard Ellia connected to the French elle – she. But since Elle is also a given name with ties to the popular Ella family, this one is probably on the fanciful side.

But here’s the most intriguing of them all. The Roman gens Aelia was prominent for centuries in the ancient world. The Emperor Hadrian was among their members, as were many distinguished figures well into the fourth century. Aelia Paetina was the second wife of Emperor Claudius, so we know that Aelia was the preferred feminine form for family members.

The origins of Aelia and company are debated, but one suggestion is that it connects to the Greek helios – sun.

Plenty of names have come down to us from ancient days, and while Aelia is poorly represented on the map today, it was once common, bestowed by Hadrian and others to places where they constructed bridges or settlements. Aelia Capitolina once stood on the site of modern-day Jerusalem. Aelia survived in the Byzantine Empire even longer, worn by a few more empresses.

Could the personal name have trickled down over the years? Cindy found it on her husband’s Italian family tree, traced back over several centuries. This tracks with the census records – while some nineteenth century American Ellias were men, an equal number were women – suggesting that two separate origins for the name might be perfectly plausible.

With the exception of Cindy’s report, I can’t confirm another medieval Ellia. Still, Italian was such a fragmented language, and written records were so slim that it means little. It also strikes me that Ellia might have been recorded differently in Latin – could she be hiding as Elisabetta?

Two pop culture references might put Ellia on a 21st century parents’ radar:

  • Actress Ellia English has had a long career, from the television adaptation of Fame in the 1980s to the present-day Disney Channel series Good Luck, Charlie.
  • There was also a minor – but important – character on sci-fi series Stargate Atlantis. Jewel Staite of Firefly fame, played Ellia.

But is Ellia the kind of name that a modern parent would consider? Look no further than Project Nursery.

Ellia has all the markings of a stylish moniker. Her sound fits right in with Amelia, Stella and Eleanor – strong, smart, creative names for a daughter that wear well throughout life. And while she might strike some as invented, her roots run deep. If you’re looking for something just a little bit different, Ellia is one to consider.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. My niece just had a call and named her Ellia, but to me it looks like it would be pronounced ell-eye-uh, and if Elia then Ell-ee-uh. I guess when I see her I’ll find out

  2. We named our daughter Ellia Kate. She was born in ’09. We picked the name in ’07 when we were expecting our first child, but we had a boy. Her name is prn “ell-eee-yuh.” Doesn’t sound masculine at all. We picked the name after seeing a gal on Too Chef named Elia (pronounced the same as our daughter). We love it.

  3. Hi. My name is Ellia. Named after my mother Ellie and
    Father Ian. My middle name is anya~rose.
    I love my name and everyone says how pretty it is
    Plus not many people pronounce it wrong.
    I have met two other Ellia’s although one spells her name
    Elliah and one is Ellia rose and the other is Elliah Beth
    and she was named that after her grand mother Elizabeth but wanted a
    Modern spin on it. My mother’s friend is expecting
    Her 2nd daughter and will be calling her Ellia grace.
    So many people say it’s a name between Ellie and
    Ella but prettier and more unique. I’m in my 20’s
    Those other girls are a lot younger so it must be getting
    A bit more popular now!

  4. We’ve just named our baby girl Ellia after her late grandfather Elias. We are absolutely in love with the name. Obviously for sentimental reasons but also because it’s a bright, happy sounding name. Short, succinct and pretty. We purposefully chose a double LL for the spelling so that it would look more feminine and also so that it would be pronounced ELL-ee-ah and not ILL-ee-ah as it would be with a single L.

    1. Congratulations, Mina! What a lovely, lovey name – and what a sweet tribute to your daughter’s grandfather.

  5. I like Ellia (saying ‘ell ee uh’, not that I don’t like the other prn., just this is the most natural one to me for this sp.). However, I still like just Ella more, despite its popularity. I did find all the possible origins interesting to read about. Aelia is fascinating, I’m liking both prn., though I had thought ‘ay lee uh’! But that was just a guess. And Alaia? Fabulous! I have to write it down.

  6. Thank you so much for featuring my daughter’s name! We’ve only gotten positive feedback on Ellia’s name, and we’ve been happily surprised with how rarely it gets mispronounced (this was our main concern with it). Her full name is Ellia Jane, Jane honoring an aunt and grandmother Jean. I’ve done lots of research and haven’t been able to find much information on the name, so I was excited to read all of the history you were able to find. Thanks again!

  7. My daughters nickname so obviously we love it, her daddy came up with it which makes it all the more special

  8. I know someone who just named a baby girl this. It is a nice name, but is often confused for “Elliot” during conversation.