baby name EleanorRegal, capable, and classic, the baby name Eleanor makes a great choice for a daughter.

Thanks to Nessa and JNE for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


Influential queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, born around 1122, sometimes gets credit as the first bearer of the name.

Her mother answered to Aénor. Legend tells that Aenor named her daughter Aliénor from the Latin phrase alia Aenor – the other Aenor. Whispered into French and English, it took its current form.


William the Conqueror’s aunt answered to the name Eleanor a solid century before these events.

Maybe her mother liked the play on words. Or maybe they came from a long line of bold namers. After all, Aenor’s mother is recorded in history as Dangereuse. (She was born Amauberge, or maybe Amalberge, a saint’s name, but history prefers her nickname.)

She may not be the first, but her legacy makes her unforgettable. The well-born heiress boasted good looks and book smarts. Educated in both traditionally feminine and masculine pursuits, she inherited her father’s holdings as a teenager, becoming one of the most eligible brides in all of Europe.

No wonder, then, that the accomplished aristocrat became Queen of France and later Queen of England. In Paris, they Latinized her name as Helienordis.

Powerful, intelligent, and capable, the Duchess and Queen served as patron to writers, schemed for her children’s political advancement, led an unsuccessful crusade, and determined her own fate to a degree unthinkable for most women in her era.

No surprise her name endured.


Plenty of other women wore the name, including many a queen and aristocrat. By the 1200s, the baby name Eleanor entered regular and steady use.

You might also think of:

  • Jane Austen’s Elinor Dashwood, from 1811’s Sense and Sensibility.
  • The Beatles’ song “Eleanor Rigby.” While reports vary, it is believed that the name came from a gravestone in a cemetery near Paul McCartney’s childhood home. The original Miss Rigby might have been a scullery maid.
  • One of the Chipettes – Alvin & company’s female counterparts – is known by the name.
  • Karl Marx gave the name to his youngest.
  • Dancer Eleanor Powell tapped her way through 1930s Hollywood hits like Born to Dance.
  • JRR Tolkein created an Elvish version of the name – Elanor.
  • Rainbow Rowell created a famous character by the name in Eleanor & Park.
  • E! original series The Royals gave the name to a partying princess.


But perhaps the most enduring association in the US is former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

Born into a privileged family and highly educated, Miss Roosevelt – she and her future husband were fifth cousins – made waves as an activist and political campaigner in an era when women did not engage in public life. She proved an unconventional First Lady, too, publishing a newspaper column, holding press conferences, and speaking widely.

In 1940, Mrs. Roosevelt became the first First Lady to speak at a national party convention, and she served as a powerful advocate for the early civil rights movement.

It seems impossible to list all of the ways she changed the role. Controversial at the time, she continued in public life, becoming the first chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Many consider her one of the most admired women of the twentieth century.


With admirable namesakes and nicknames galore, no surprise that the baby Eleanor counts as a classic today. The the name is enjoying new heights of popularity, too. It re-entered the US Top 100 in 2014, for the first time since the 1940s.

Today it makes a rock solid choice for a daughter.

What do you think of the baby name Eleanor? Would you use it in full, or with a nickname?

Originally published on January 18, 2009, this post was revised and reposted on November 14, 2016. Additional updates occurred on July 19, 2020.

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. My name is Eleanor. I used to really hate my name, but when I started looking up meanings it actually started to grow on me. Now I’m proud to carry it.
    I get so many variations of my name, the most common being Nelly, then Nell, one person calls me Ellie, and one calls me “Spaganella”. I really don’t know where that came from!
    I love that I share a name with Eleanor Roosevelt, and aspire to be like her one day.

  2. My husband loves Eleanora. I’m happy I married a man with good taste in names but I just don’t like it. I prefer Annora to Eleanor(a). A major reason for that being is it has no known meaning.

  3. My name is Eleanor. I was named after many generations of Eleanors in the family and I have loved my name from the day I could say it. I hated beig called “Nellie” as a child so as soon as I could “put my foot down”, I have used my proper name….Eleanor. I have a young cousin who also has Eleanor for her name. To possess this name is a blessing and I thank God that I have it.
    Eleanor Barrucand.. Edmonton, Canada.

  4. I wonder if the name Leonor has any relation to Eleanor. My aunt is named Leonor, those close to her call her Leo. I don’t know the origin, but we are hispanic so it could be that. We call her Tia Nor, tia meaning aunt in spanish.

  5. Nessa, what a great family tree! I’d use Eleanor in a heartbeat if I were you.

    JNE, that’s a funny thing about family names. If you use them, there’s pressure to keep going. If you don’t, well … it’s kind of like the Jolie-Pitt kids. How come #5 and #6 suddenly get *family* names? It feels unbalanced.

    Paige, I think you’re right about Nellie always being the mean girl.

    Charlotte, too bad about your husband’s veto. It often feels like the baby naming dynamic is that mothers generate ideas and fathers shoot them down. I’m jealous of every woman who reports her partner is interested in choosing names.

    And Emmy Jo, I think a mini-boom in Eleanors and Noras would be a great thing! 🙂