She’s another obscure saint’s name, and an impeccable Welsh heritage choice. If you’re looking for something less obvious than Gwendolen, here’s one to consider.
Thanks to Charlotte for suggesting Eluned as our Baby Name of the Day.
Let’s tackle the pronunciation first: is it el u NED or EL in ed? Forvo’s pronunciation sounds more like el EE ned. Say that in American English, and it might be interpreted as Ellie Ned. Attractive alternative spelling Eiluned muddies the waters further, suggesting ay lu NED. Variant Elined might help – or not. As with many an import, this is only an option for parents willing to pronounce, correct, explain, and pronounce again. And again.
But if you can clear that hurdle, this is an intriguing option. Eluned was sister to Endellion, one of King Brychan’s two dozen kids, most of who carried on dad’s work of converting others to Christianity. Eluned earned her halo for rejecting the advances of a pagan prince. He pursued her, and it ended in her death – but where she fell, a spring arose. (Okay, where her severed head fell, the spring arose. You might tell your daughter the first version.)
Most sources agree that her name is derived from the Welsh word eilun, for image. She’s been exported in an astonishing number of forms:
- In the collection of Welsh myth known as the Mabinogion, Luned is a handmaiden to the Lady of the Lake. Luned has been interpreted as the celestial Lunette;
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King retold the stories of King Arthur for a nineteenth century audience. In his work, the knight Gareth falls in love with the difficult Lynette. Tennyson didn’t reinterpret her name himself – he was borrowing from Sir Thomas Mallory’s 15th century Le Morte d’Arthur. It was Mallory who converted Luned to Lynette;
- Some suggest she’s also the source of Enid, which could easily be a contracted form of the longer name. Enid also appears in Tennyson’s Idylls. But Enid is probably a separate Welsh name, derived from their word for purity.
Eluned has never appeared in the US Top 1000. While she’s rare on my native shores, two notable Welsh women have answered to the name:
- Born aboard the ship Myfanwy en route to Patagonia, writer Eluned Morgan was known for her early twentieth century accounts of life in the Welsh settlement;
- Also known for her writing, Eluned Phillips won the bardic crown at the National Eisteddfod of Wales twice – the only woman to do so. Her triumphs were relatively recent – 1967 and 1983 – but aren’t quite enough to make Eluned familiar outside of Wales.
I can’t tell if she’d fallen out of use in Wales for generations, or if she’s simply always been sparingly bestowed.
An American girl could answer to Ella or Ellie as a short form, keeping Eluned right side of wearable. (There’s also Luna, depending on the pronunciation you prefer.)
Imports with little history of use in English can be tricky, but Eluned might strike the right balance. Her El- links to Elizabeth and a host of other familiar choices, but her overall sound is distinctive. File her with other obscure saints’ names like Everild – if you don’t mind explaining, she can be a lovely option.