Elwyn: Baby Name of the DayElwyn is a name on the verge of extinction. Can it be revived in the twenty-first century?

Thanks to Alli for suggesting her father’s name as our Baby Name of the Day.

Elwyn: Alvin

Ealdwine was an Old English name, from the elements eald – old – and wine – friend. While you’ve probably never heard of Ealdwine, the pieces of the name survive in Aldo and Edwin. Alvin is the most common modern form of Ealdwine.

At some point Ealdwine became Elwyn. And Elwyn became a sometimes-heard surname.

A seventh century Bishop of Lindsey was known as Ethelwine or Elwin. He’s mentioned in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People as a saint, though we don’t know much about his life.

During the 1700s and 1800s, there were revivals of Anglo Saxon favorites like Alfred and Edith. Alvin, too, rose from obscurity.

By 1880, the first year the US Social Security Administration reported name data, Alvin was the 131st most popular name for boys. Fewer than five babies were named Elwin or Elwyn.

Elwyn: E.B. White

Charlotte's Web

Both spellings of the name slowly started to creep up in use.

You’ve probably heard of one Elwyn – though you don’t know it.

Elwyn Brooks White, the author of Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web and co-author of The Elements of Style is almost always referred to by his initials: EB White.

White was born in 1899, one of seven boys given the name that year. Elwyn hugged the edges of the US Top 1000 in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and was ranked every year from 1912 through 1939.

Elwin fared even better, charting in the Top 1000 from 1897 through 1945, and well as several years before and after.

Other notables include a Louisiana politician, a British writer, a paleontologist, and a judge.

The -wyn spelling peaked in 1924, when 104 boys were given the name. The -win spelling rose slightly higher, given to 145 boys in 1926.

Elwyn: Welsh

All of this surprised me, because I expected the name to be Welsh.

Names ending in -wen, like Bronwen, Olwen, and Arianwen, are feminine names in Welsh. Wyn names, like Cledwyn and Dilwyn are masculine. So a -wyn ending name often signals a traditional Welsh name for a boy.

That’s not the case here, though – at least not most of the time. I did find a handful of uses in Wales, and British Baby Names includes it on their list of Clunky Celtic names, along with gems like Colwyn and Islwyn.

Elwyn: Boy or Girl

Elwyn: Baby Name of the DayAmericans often prefer to reserve ‘y’ spellings for girls, and so Bronwyn and Olwyn have been seen in the US.

Alvin sounds masculine, and broadly familiar thanks to many a famous bearer. Besides the chipmunk, there’s dancer Alvin Ailey, writer Alvin Toffler, and a handful of athletes.

But Elwyn leans feminine, a spin on traditional Ellen and an alternative to all of the El- names that are so popular today. The -wyn brings to mind the -lyn of Evelyn, Brooklyn, and Madelyn, as well as Gwyneth.

And, as Alli pointed out when she requested this name, the nickname Winnie works well with Elwyn.

While the numbers tend to give this one to the boys, it’s not unknown for girls – at least until recently. Because this name is truly on the edge of extinction. Fewer than five children have been named Elwyn in any given year since 2011. For three decades prior, only a handful of children were given the name.

Elwyn is rare, but perfectly wearable in our age of two-syllable, ends-in-n names. But it might be more tempting for a daughter than a son today.

What do you think of Elywn? Is it better for a boy or a girl?

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. I am 5 months pregnant with a boy, and he will be “Elwyn”. It is a family name on my husband’s Welsh side (there have been 4 generations of Elwyns so I’m happy to keep it alive!)

  2. Interesting comments. My name is Elwyn i am almost eighty, I was born in Wales and I always thought it was a Welsh name. When I was growing up in North Wales the name wasn’t that uncommon. It’s a bit sad that the name has gone out of fashion as a man’s name. Hwyl fawr.

  3. Being an almost 43 year old female Elwyn, I lean towards support of it being feminine though I have had people question me as a child and as an adult why my mother gave me a boy’s name. But I’m very proud of it and have become prouder of it as I’ve grown older. The only Elwyn I’ve come to know in my life was a way older gentleman…not sure if he is still alive today. Elwyn is one of the many names that I inherited at birth and on my birth certificate. Coupled with my married name, it has become quite a mouthful indeed. Happy nevertheless to carry the name on.

  4. I have a girl Elwyn born in 2016. Loved that it was unique without sounding ridiculous or made up. ❤️

  5. My son is called Elwyn, I thought it was welsh for fair of face but seems as though I have been wrong all these years. Most Elwyn’s you come across are over 75 but my son is 22 and keeping the name alive.

  6. My Grandfather and Great Grandfather were both Elwyn Lemuel. My Grandfather passed away two months before my first daughter was born and we named her Elwyn Louise in memory of him.

  7. I have known too many men with this name. So in no way possible , through my experiences, could I identify it as a female name. With that said, it was featured on a little boy in the Murdoch murder mystery series that takes place in 1889 and progress forward. I think its the episode with man-made robots in season 1. I think the name is soft like Edwin, Edmond or Ralf/Rolf. It isn’t harsh sounding or spelled in a funny way that is outside our norm, allowing parents to use the name to honor family heritage, without going to the extremes with names like Aguiluf, Cynewulf , Ceolwulf, Cnute, Etheldred, or Otto. Which all have harsh sounds or annunciation issues. By the way, I knew the name was German in origen, it had never crossed my mind as being Welsh in origen until now.

    1. It was Alwyn on Murdoch Mysteries [known as The Artful Detective in the U.S.] — the character was in three season two episodes. I *adore* that show! 😀

    2. “”My Uncle Elwyn is tall, my Elwyn is small, my Elwyn plays a mean basketball…

      That’s from a cute hidden track on the Barenaked Ladies live album Rock Spectacle, heard at about the eight-minute mark on the “If I Had $1000000” track. Literally every single time I hear or see the name Elwyn, that song plays in my head — it’s a good thing I love both the name [on a boy] and the song. 😉

      And I think it *could* be a modern construction from Welsh elements, like ‘elus’ or ‘elain’ + ‘wyn’, but it probably doesn’t have documented usage in that way.

      1. Oops, didn’t mean to post that as a reply — my husband walked in on me singing that song and I had to explain it to him, and I got distracted, lol. 🙂