formal names for NellFormal names for Nell range from traditional choices like Eleanor to newer options like Nella.

If you love the idea of a daughter answering to slim, trim Nell, but want something longer for the birth certificate, this list is for you.


The story behind Nell is just plain fun.

Back in the day, the affectionate phrase “mine Elle” was smooshed into my Nell. That means that many an El- name could’ve become Nell.

The same thing explains why Ann became Nan.

But even without my Nell, the sound occurs in plenty of feminine names, traditional favorites, rarities, and modern innovations, too.


Helen and Eleanor seem like completely different names, and indeed, each claims distinctive roots.

But something funny happens over the years, and they get mixed together. That’s probably because of names like Elena. Many languages translate Helen as Elena, as yet Elena looks an awful lot like a cousin to Eleanor. The same thing happens with Ellen, which might serve as a form of Helen, or a nickname for Eleanor. Or maybe they are related after all. Kate covered a possible connection between the two names here.

Whatever the case, all of the Helen-Eleanors potentially become Nell.


Capable and classic Eleanor qualifies as a nickname-rich choice, from the expected Ellie to the equally wearable Nell.


A Disney princess and the most popular of the Helen names today, Elena seems less likely to shorten to Nell – but it could.


Brief and complete, Ellen requires no nickname, but Nell works well. Born Nelle Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was named after her grandmother Ellen – with the name reversed. (She dropped Nelle and used just Harper Lee as her pen name.)


As with Ellen, Helen seems spare, tailored, and nickname-proof. But Helen called Nell could be a delightful surprise.


With three possible pronunciations – or more! – Helena might give some parents pause. Too bad, because it could fit right in with Sophia and Amelia. Actor Helena Bonham Carter named her daughter Nell. Bonham Carter’s mother was named Elena; her grandmother, Hélène. That makes Nell the fourth generation with some form of the name.


Does this seem like a surprising category? A host of names starting with the Ann sound lend themselves to the nickname Nell.


The Polish form of Angela is pronounced ahn YEL uh. It could become Anya or Annie, but Nell seems like an original short form for a daring name.


Possible spellings abound, but this Ann-Lee smoosh puts the Nell sound smack in the middle.


Also spelled Annelise and Annalisa to name just two, this German name combines Ann and Elisabeth. Once again, that makes it easy to find a way to Nell.


Antonia and Antoinette don’t do it, but this elaborate feminine form of Anthony does, thanks to the -nella ending.


The Nell sound is everywhere!


A vintage name with an intriguing backstory, Avonelle easily lends itself to Nell.


Ancient, elaborate Cornelia could shorten to Cora or Neely, too.


Danielle peaked in the 1980s; Daniela followed more recently. While it sounds more like yel, the letters suggest Nell, too.


In Irish legend, Fionnuala’s evil stepmother transformed her and her siblings into swans, cursed for 900 years. The name eventually came into Scottish and English as Fenella, a rare name that certainly gets to Nell.


One of many feminine forms of John, Janelle is a 1970s favorite. Pairing it with a vintage nickname would be an unconventional and intriguing choice.


In Greek myth, Zeus created Nephele from a cloud. She became the mother of centaurs. Pronounced nef eh lee, there’s a hint of the Nell sound there.


A favorite of recent years, Penelope comes with plenty of nicknames options. With “nel” right in the middle, no question Nell belongs on that list.


A handful of names start with Nel.


Retro Nelda brings to mind Lorna and Twyla, or other 1930s choices like Rhonda, Elda, Vida, Glynda, Gilda, and Ouida. Glenda reached the US Top 100 in the 1940s. If you have a Nelda on your family tree, Nell might be the modern update.


It might be short for names like Cornelia, but if Delia stands on its own, why not Nelia? Nell – or maybe Nel – serves as the logical nickname.


Nella last appeared in the US Top 1000 around 1941. Since then, similar names have taken a generation by storm. Hello, Ella, Bella, and Stella. Just like parents now choose Tessa instead of Theresa, Nella might make a more appealing formal name for Nell to many.


Contract the N and the el, and this Christmas-inspired choice leads to Nell. Noelia and other Noel- names work well, too.



An Irish surname name with Nell baked right in.


If Connelly is an option, then Donnelly might work, too.

What are your favorite formal names for Nell? Or would you stick with Nell on its own?

This post was originally published on June 8, 2012. It was revised substantially and re-posted on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 and again on March 25, 2021.


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 dearly love Nella, all on its own (or Nela, as it is spelled where I live in Central Europe, and it’s decently popular here). I’ve always thought it could work as a sweet nickname for Gwendolen and Magdalen too!

  2. This was an option nickname for my sister Harriet after my aunt Helen but great-uncle Harry and great-aunt Nina the Hat maker seemed better. Shes a Harriet nicknamed Hattie now but she could have been an Ellen nicknamed Nell/Nellie

  3. I’m a Nell who, like Helena Bonham Carter’s daughter, has just that on my birth certificate! (middle name Anna). I’ve found it to be completely fine as a stand alone name, although one unexpected consequence is that sometimes people scanning paper will say “Neil”, and then be surprised to see a woman standing in front of them! (I think this is a small price to pay for having such a great stand-alone name). 🙂

    My mother still calls me “Nella” or “Nella Bella” as a nickname, which I also adore.

  4. Hurrah!! My given name is Ellen though most people in my life call me Nelle, spelt with the -e suffix since that’s Ellen backwards 🙂 Like Ann vs. Anne it just looks complete to me with that spelling. I love both my names, and it’s fun to be a mid-twenties woman with two names out of step with my generation.

    I was gratified to see Ellen on the list as options as a way to get to Nell – obviously makes sense to me! I have to share, however, that I’ve had a not insignificant number of people (new acquaintances or strangers) give me grief over my nickname not being “real.” Apparently “Ellie” or “Elle” is more appropriate to some people, as if my appellation was a committee decision! Ugh!

    My sister dubbed me “Nelle” as a kid and it’s stuck ever since. She’s got Nelle on her baby list and I have Wren (since ‘Ren is phonetic nickname of hers) on mine.

  5. I like Nell as a nickname and would want a longer form on the birth certificate.

    Aniela – I have not heard this before and I like it.

    Annelie, Annalee, Anneliese – I like these, but I don’t quite see Nell as nicknames for them.

    Antonella – I like this, but not as much as Antonia or Antoinette.

    Eleanor, Elinor, Eleonora – I would be most likely to use one of these with the nickname Nell.

    Fenella – this is interesting.

    Helena – I do like this. .

    Noelle, Noella, Noelia – I really like these, but I would not use a nickname for them.

    Nephele – interesting, but I don’t get Nell from it.

    Penelope – this is not really a favorite name of mine, but I think Nell is a great nn for it.

  6. My -nel- list:
    Anelie, Anelle, Anelyse, Annelaure, Anneli, Annelien, Annelies, Annelise, Annelle, Annelore, Annelotte, Annelyse, Antoinela, Antoinella, Antonela, Antonella, Brenel, Brenelle, Brennel, Brennelle, Brunella, Brunelle, Canelle, Cannelle, Chananela, Chananele, Chananella, Chananelle, Chanel, Chanele, Chanelle, Channel, Channele, Channelle, Cornela, Cornelia, Cornelie, Cornelienne, Cornella, Cornelya, Danela, Danele, Danella, Danelle, Darnella, Darnelle, Denela, Denele, Denella, Denelle, Donella, Donelle, Fannelle, Fenella, Finella, Ganel, Ganela, Ganele, Ganella, Ganelle, Hananela, Hananele, Hananella, Hananelle, Hannele, Hannelore, Ionela, Jabnela, Jabnele, Jabnella, Jabnelle, Janel, Janela, Janele, Janella, Janelle, Janello, Jannel, Jannela, Jannele, Jannella, Jannelle, Javnela, Javnele, Javnella, Javnelle, Jenel, Jenela, Jenele, Jenella, Jenelle, Jennel, Jennela, Jennele, Jennella, Jennelle, Jonel, Jonela, Jonele, Jonella, Jonelle, Jonnel, Jonnela, Jonnele, Jonnella, Jonnelle, Khananela, Khananele, Khananella, Khananelle, Kornela, Kornelia, Kornelienne, Kornella, Kornelle, Kornelya, Leonela, Leonele, Leonella, Leonelle, Lionela, Lionele, Lionella, Lionelle, Lyonela, Lyonele, Lyonella, Lyonelle, Manel, Manela, Manele, Manella, Manelle, Marianela, Marianella, Marinela, Marinella, Matanela, Matanele, Matanella, Matanelle, Menela, Natanela, Natanele, Natanella, Natanelle, Nathanela, Nathanele, Nathanella, Nathanelle, Nela, Nelda, Nele, Neli, Nelia, Nelie, Nelinha, Nella, Nelli, Nellie, Nelly, Nelsa, Netanela, Netanele, Netanella, Netanelle, Nethanela, Nethanele, Nethanella, Nethanelle, Ninel, Ornella, Parnel, Parnele, Parnelle, Penelope, Penelopi, Pernel, Pernele, Pernelle, Peronel, Peronele, Peronelle, Peronnel, Peronnele, Peronnelle, Petronel, Petronela, Petronella, Petronelle, Peyronel, Peyronele, Peyronelle, Peyronnel, Peyronnele, Peyronnelle, Pietronella, Prunela, Prunele, Prunella, Prunelle, Ranela, Ranele, Ranella, Ranelle, Ronela, Ronele, Ronella, Ronelle, Sanela, Sefanela, Sefanele, Sefanella, Sefanelle, Sepanela, Sepanele, Sepanella, Sepanelle, Sephanela, Sephanele, Sephanella, Sephanelle, Shanel, Shanele, Shanelle, Shannel, Shannele, Shannelle, Sharnel, Sharnele, Sharnelle, Tanela, Tanele, Tanella, Tanelle, Tsefanela, Tsefanele, Tsefanella, Tsefanelle, Tsepanela, Tsepanele, Tsepanella, Tsepanelle, Tsephanela, Tsephanele, Tsephanella, Tsephanelle, Tzefanela, Tzefanele, Tzefanella, Tzefanelle, Tzepanela, Tzepanele, Tzepanella, Tzepanelle, Tzephanela, Tzephanele, Tzephanella, Tzephanelle, Vernela, Vernella, Yabnela, Yabnele, Yabnella, Yabnelle, Yavnela, Yavnele, Yavnella, Yavnelle, Yvanelle, Zefanela, Zefanele, Zefanella, Zefanelle, Zepanela, Zepanele, Zepanella, Zepanelle, Zephanela, Zephanele, Zephanella, Zephanelle