Baby Name of the Day: Lenora

We’ve discussed Eleanor and Helena. Here’s one that shares qualities with both.

Thanks to Fran for suggesting Lenora as Baby Name of the Day.

Lenora is a name hugging the edges. She’s been falling since the late 1800s, when she ranked in the US Top 200. Her steady decline continued into the 1970s, and she disappeared from the Top 1000 entirely after 1975.

And yet, she’s vaguely familiar, probably because of her similarity to a cluster including other sparingly used names formed with the same elements. I wrote about Leora a while back, when I dug up the following names that also appeared in the 1920 rankings:

  • Leona (#89 in 1920)
  • Leola (#226)
  • Leota (#355)
  • Leone (#488)
  • Leatha (#665)
  • Leonora (#666)
  • Leonor (#882)
  • Cleora (#941)

Lenora was #267 in 1920, and other len- names included:

  • Lenore (#324)
  • Elenora (#687)
  • Lennie (#793)
  • Elenor (#961)
  • Elenore (#992)

It wasn’t just lesser-used names, either. For boys, Leonard and Leo both charted in the US Top 50. Eleanor charted at #25.

Dare I say it? I suspect len- and leo- were the kay- and jay- of their era. Independently, few of the names seemed especially popular. But tally them up, and the impression is very different. A back-of-the-envelope estimate counts around 14,500 girls wearing some variation. That’s far short of the 70,000-plus newborn girls called Mary in 1920, but depending of how you define related names, you can easily surpass staples like Evelyn, Alice and Irene. If I had included Ellen and Helen in all of their possible spellings, she just might’ve given Mary a run for her money.

Calculations aside, notable Lenoras were not many.

One that stands out was Lenora Mattingly Weber, a mother of six and prolific writer. Much of her work took the form of wholesome short stories for women’s magazines and The Saturday Evening Post. From the 1940s into the 60s, she also authored a series of young adult novels about Beany Malone, a teenager growing up in Denver, Colorado, where Mrs. Weber had raised her brood. The series extends from girlhood into Beany’s married life, and eventually included Beany’s cookbook, too.

If you’re a BBC junkie, you might think of actress Lenora Crichlow. She’s appeared in Doctor Who and the supernatural Being Human, as well as the all-human Material Girl, where she plays a fashion designer. And if you follow politics, there’s third-party presidential candidate Lenora Fulani, the first woman and the first African-American to be on the ballot in all fifty states, back in 1988.

There’s also a tiny city in Kansas called Lenora, and a village in the Czech Republic. Toss in a restaurant, a gracious Southern mansion and a handful of other uses.

Lenora has the feeling of a gentle antique, a logical choice to pair with Clara, Abigail and Violet. She’s an unexpected formal option for Nora or Lena. And she’s an elegant way to honor a grandpa Leonard.

Who knows? Maybe around 2115, Kaylee and Kaylin will be prime candidates for a revival.

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23 Comments

I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings but it is not a very pretty name.It reminds me of a witch or haggard old woman.Not a precious baby!

I think we all have that reaction to certain names, Anonymous. But in an age when Eleanor, Nora, and Cora are in the US Top 100, I think Lenora is very on-trend, and would strike most people as quite pretty.

I was named for my grandfather, Leonard. I grew up wishing I had a “normal” name but soon realized I liked having something that was different from most of my peers. My name got shortened to Leni. 😉

I really like the name Lenora, but it always reminds me of the princess in one of my favorite children’s stories…James Thurber’s, “Many Moons”. It’s not a bad association, I’m just not sure it would work for me.

My daughter is Elenora. We wanted to go with Lenora originally but googling with the filter off brought up not one but two adult actresses/models by what would have been my daughter’s full name. But we couldn’t give up the cute “Enora” nickname so we decided to give a due nod to the greatest American first lady, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.

We love her name! People call her Nora too and it is one that is ripe
With variations and wonderful opportunities.

Thumbs up to Elenora, Lenora and Enora! All beautiful names!

Question: Is Leonora a legit verison of this name? I really like that spelling but cannot figure out if that spelling is valid. I see it listed on your list here so I want to think it is. Which leads to another question, Is it pronounced Leo-nora or Le-a-nora.

Thanks! I just found out Leonora is the name of a detention centre in the state I live in which kind of puts a dampener on that one – I knew I’d heard it somewhere! :S I guess my other issue with Noa is the extreme popularity of Noah, but we’ll see, i may come round! Ezra has recently overtaken Eli as my favorite boys name – I am just a little nervous about it because I’ve never heard it used here in Australia, though I’m sure it must be!

Hi Abby, I have been looking around your site for awhile now it’s great! I love Noa for a girl but am put off by the inevitable confusion as to why I have given my daughter a boy’s name. My other half just came out with Leonora/Lenora – one of the only suggestions he’s made, so I’m taking notice! Do you think it’s too big a stretch to nn Noa, (Incidentally I also love Leo as a nn) and which spelling do you prefer? I’m also not sure which pronunciation would be most common or correct. Keep up the great work 🙂

Thanks, Ano! I think Noa from Leonora/Lenora is a stretch – but not an unreasonable one. Leo is great, too. (Though as the parent of a daughter with an ends-in-o name, the impulse for others to call her Clea instead of Clio is intense. At least Noa ends with an a!) I personally prefer Leonora, but it isn’t a strong preference. Oh, and as for worrying about the daughter-with-a-boy’s-name? That’s so common these days … you’ll probably meet people who either whisper it behind your back, or tell you they like Ryan and Evan and Ezra for girls, too. But if you do meet someone who bashes the choice: “Isn’t that a BOY’S name?” you have a rock solid response.

Maybe, maybe not. I suspect most people would say Leonora as “leh NOR ah,” but you could also opt for a four-syllable pronunciation, like “lee ah NOR ah” or even “lee oh nor ah.” Since Eleanor and Eleonore typically don’t pronounce both vowels, I’d guess the three-syllable way is more likely, though …

Lenora is pretty, but with two “nor” names already in my list of top three favourite appellations for girls (Eleanor and Honora), it falls short of making me fall in love. I think that, while I find names that begin with “l” charming, there isn’t a single one I actually want to use.

Lenora makes me think of a tea room in Bournemouth with lace net curtains. I rather like it, but prefer Eleanor.

There’s also the the literary link (albeit a morbid one) with the Edgar Allan Poe poem, “Lenore.” It’s a really intriguing name! And love the nn Lena!

I like Lenora. I also like other Leo and Len names, but Eleanor is still my favorite. Lenora just has a Edgar Allen Poe ring… it’s what I think of, despite the addition of the -a ending. But I wish more little Lenoras were around – granny chic and not musty or dusty… with all the love for L names, I am surprised that this name hasn’t been revived more. @Fran – love Lenora nn Lena!

One of my favorite names…
My grandma was named Nellie and I my husband and I have numerous ancestors named Elinor and Lena, so Lenora would be a nice way to honor them all.

It’s a neat name, and I love Lena. I’m fascinated by all of the leo- and len- variants, too. And I’m tempted to go read those Beany Malone novels …

thanks for covering this name! when i first came across it i wasn’t a huge fan but it has grown on me immensly. it is the most ‘out there’ naming decision i’ve made and my little lenora goes by lena (which was one of your nickname suggestions 🙂 )