Princess Ileana of Romania, born 1907.
Princess Ileana of Romania; Image via Wikipedia

Looking for a Romanian heritage name other than Nadia?  Seeking an intriguing royal choice beyond Mary and Margaret?

Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting one option: our Baby Name of the Day, Ileana.

It’s likely that Ileana comes from Helen, Eleanor, and company.  Given the name’s lengthy history and many foreign variants, it is a reasonable assumption – but I can’t quite trace the evolution.

Whatever her origins, Ileana has a regal air in Romania.  First there’s a mythological princess, a dark-haired, brave, faithful, and hard-working girl who triumphs over a monster.  Okay, there’s a noble prince who does the heavy lifting.  But Ileana seems to have a little more gumption than the average fairytale figure.

The 20th century gave us a real life Princess Ileana of Romania, the youngest daughter of King Ferdinand I.  She married an Austrian Archduke.  Like her mythological namesake, Ileana’s accomplishments speak of diligence and a sensible outlook.  She brought the Girl Guide Movement to her country and worked with the Red Cross, too.  During World War II, not only did she work as a nurse, she converted her family’s castle to a hospital.  While she ultimately gave up her titles and lived in exile, Ileana continued to live an exemplary life.  Late in her years, she took religious orders and established a monastery in Pennsylvania.

Hollywood royalty also has claimed the name.  Angelina Jolie played FBI profiler Ileana Scott in 2004 thriller Taking Lives.  There’s also Ileana Douglas, an actress with a long list of credits, from Cape Fear to Ugly Betty.  She’s the granddaughter of two-time Oscar-winning actor Melvyn Douglas.

There are also Spanish and Indian uses of Ileana that lend her a certain international vibe.  The only thing that might give parents pause is Ileana’s similarity to a cluster of similar-sounding names.  The chart-topping Ella has encouraged adoption of picks like Eliana (#411 in 2009).

But if you’re looking to honor your roots in Romania, or maybe that study abroad semester in Bucharest, Ileana is a viable option.

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. Ooh! I like this name. I’ve been looking for a good I name. Adding it to my list if I have another daughter. Although it might be too similar with my first being Alina (ah-lee-na) .
    Alina and Ileana?

    Hubby and I both like Emilia but we are having 3 kids so, I’m keeping my eye out for I names.

    1. Oh that IS close! Here’s the thing: if you like Alina + Ileana sharing sounds, then it’s a feature, not a bug. The thing that stands out to me is this: I can imagine someone seeing Ileana and pronouncing it … almost exactly like Alina. So that gives me pause … then again, Alina and Emilia are marvelous together, so I can appreciate the draw to an I name …

  2. My daughter’s name is Ileana!
    She is named after her grandmother, though it is not common in Greece.

  3. My niece’s name is Iliarne, pronouced like Ileana but without the “a” on the end. (In New Zealand, we don’t pronounce our R’s, like the British.) My sister knew an Iliarne and always loved the name. I like Ileana, but the “a” on the end makes it longer and more flowery. Both are NMS, but I can understand their appeal.

  4. Wow! I’m so glad you did this one. My cousin’s name is Ileana, and I have always always admired her name. She goes by Ile (ee-leh). There’s just something about this name.

  5. It’s a pretty name with a rather fabulous history. It begins with an “i”, which tends to have fewer names to its credit than vowels like “e” or “a”, but I keep seeming to bump into the similar-sounding Eliana both in real life and on the internet. I think most Ileana’s in North America would have to go through much of their lives correcting people’s pronunciation and spelling. Still, that’s a minor hurdle.

    1. Eliana/Elliana/Elianna is mentioned a LOT on message boards, so I think you’re right, Charlotte.

  6. I always think of the amazing actress Ileana Douglas when I hear this name. It is really beautiful. And I’m so in love with 3+ syllable names now!

    I agree that it could be confused with Eliana, but if you steered clear of ‘Ellie’ or ‘Illie’ as nn I don’t think it would be problematic. I love Lana or Lia as nn for Ileana. It’s definitely a great international name and has a regal sound. I would imagine a little Ileana’s sister to be Nadia, not Mackenzie 🙂

  7. Ileana is pretty. I actually know a girl from Costa Rica with the name, so it seems very Spanish to me. I didn’t realize it also had Hungarian roots.

    I do think it would be often confused with Eliana, but it definitely feels more distinctive than Eliana.

    1. Eliana is above Ileana in my book because,here in Italy, the pronunciation is “Ay-lee-ah-nah” vs. “Ee-lay-ah”

  8. My hubby is of Romanian descent so we, of course, LOVE this name 🙂 Thanks so much for spotlighting it, Abby!