View of Elsinore, Denmark, from Kronborg Castle.
View of Elsinore from Kronborg Castle; Image via Wikipedia

Prompted by a post on Elsie, Emily of Word Cake suggested this literary place name.

Our Baby Name of the Day is Elsinore.

Before you declare this one way too over the top to ever consider, here’s a surprise: US Census records indicate that women have been named Elsinore over the decades. How many? Not enough to chart in the Top 1000, and no more than five in 2009, but more than a handful.

William Shakespeare gets credit for fixing Elsinore in our collective memory as the setting for his tragic masterwork Hamlet. Head to modern day Denmark, and you’ll be visiting Helsingør. It is, in every respect, as Shakespeare wrote about it, and a castle fit for a troubled prince stands there, near the water.

The castle is called Kronborg, and it merits a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites roster. The designation is not just because Kronborg is the setting of Shakespeare’s tale, but also for its status as an important Renaissance castle.

Time your visit right, and you may actually be able to see Hamlet performed at Kronborg. It doesn’t happen often, but occassional performances have been staged in recent years, most recently in 2009, when Jude Law took up the role of the Prince of Denmark.

Shakespeare was a great borrower, of course, and Hamlet’s roots begin with a medieval Danish story, exported in a more modern form in the 1500s, and eventually interpreted by the Bard around 1600. At the time, Helsingør was a big deal in international shipping. Shakespeare could have visited the area – even the castle – and we know that plenty of actors in his troupes made the trip. Even if he never set foot in Denmark, he certainly would’ve heard about the city and its impressive fortress.

Elsinore is referenced in plenty of other places, from 1983 cult comedy classic Strange Brew to the work of Danish writer Isak Dinesen.

None of this makes Elsinore a likely option for a girl’s name. The meaning is straightforward – hals means narrow. You can visit Helsingborg in Sweden, just a stone’s throw across the strategic straight of Øresund. Elsinore was likely in use as the city’s English name before Shakespeare cemented it in our memories.

Parents have borrowed plenty of names from the pages of Shakespeare’s plays: Gertrude and Ophelia from Hamlet, as well as Jessica, Juliet, Portia, and more. But it is Elsinore’s sound that places her in their company. She’s quite close to Eleanor, and not too far away from Elisabeth.

It makes for one of those compromise names that appeal to many parents. Elsinore is literary, truly unusual as a given name, and yet familiar at the same time. Nickname options range from Ellie and Elsie to Nora, all of which would fit right in circa 2011. She’d also fit in with a cluster of girls’ names that are sensible, feminine, and yet quite tailored. Think of Evelyn and Caroline, or the British Imogen. They are lady-like names, with a certain backbone. Elsinore may be truly unusual, but she fits right in.


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. Very important people in my life are Elsa and Eleanor, plus I love Hamlet, so Elsinore is definitly a potential middle!

  2. My name is elsinore 🙂 I’m 13 years old from sweden. Bur everyone calls me elsi 😉

  3. My little sister (19yrs) name is Elsinore. Named after my great nana. Her nickname is Elsi. Sure it’s unusual but who wants to be called an average everyday name where you meet someone with the same name on an almost daily basis.

  4. This would actually make for a beautiful name. I like it way more than Eleanor, which I have never been a fan of, and I like that it can be shortened to Elsa, Elsie or even Nora. I am not digging the meaning, rather boring, but it would make a great converted place name-first name.

  5. I say ELL-si-nore and I don’t hear the ‘snore’ association. I hear a great full name for the nn Nora!

  6. I pronounce Elsinore as ELL-sih-nor. This name only makes me think of Lake Elsinore, a town in Southern California (in the “Inland Empire” area).

    1. Same here. I can’t imagine it as a name because it’s so ingrained in my head as a lake. I see how people could like it for all the cute nicknames and similarity to Eleanor, but to me it sounds really masculine/non-descript/unfeminine. For me, it would be like naming a kid Huron or Erie or Ontario, maybe that’s seems silly, but, that’s how it is for me and I would assume most people from Southern California would feel the same.

    2. I agree– I immediately thought of Lake Elsinore and was surprised it hadn’t been mentioned before! It’s a fine place to live, but not somewhere that I’d want to name my child after. If I were to use a place name, I’d have to choose a place that evoked beauty for me. Which is why I would end up with children named Lucerne and Cabo San Lucas! (Though come to think of it, they could be much worse!)