Editor’s note: This post was originally published on April 11, 2009. It was substantially revised and re-posted on January 27, 2014.
He’s a surname name with ties to the Bible and to a blockbuster that remains among the most beloved movies of all time.
Thanks to Rocking Fetal for suggesting Elliot as Name of the Day, and to Jennifer for suggesting it was time to revisit this post.
When I was writing the original version of this post, I met a 20-something Elliott and quizzed him about his name. His spelling, he told me, was correct while the single -t form was missing something.
One ‘t’ or two, both spells are perfectly defensible. The single ‘t’ version is more popular today, though not by much.
Possible origins include:
- The Biblical Elijah was whispered down the alley into Elias and eventually Elis and the surnames Ellis and Elliot.
- The personal name Elyat existed in Middle English, possibly related to the Germanic adhel – noble.
- The Old English Aelfweald might have been preserved as Elliot.
- Elliot could represent an Anglicized form of Gaelic appellations like Elloch and Eloth.
- The Welsh Elisedd – derived from elus, kindly – could also have survived as Elliot.
With so many sources and similar names, no wonder the name survived.
Famous bearers of the surname include literary powerhouses George Eliot and TS Eliot. TS came from a big Boston family, which also included a Harvard University president, several US Congressmen and the co-founder of Washington University of St. Louis.
Fictional figure Billy Elliot charmed audiences as a movie in 2000, and then on Broadway. Billy wanted to be a ballerina – an unusual aspiration for a boy in a 1980s mining town.
As for notables wearing Elliot as a given name:
- Eliot Ness brought in Al Capone.
- Elliott Gould starred in blockbusters like M*A*S*H in the 1970s, and more recently he’s played Reuben in the Ocean’s Eleven franchise.
- In 1977, the dragon in Disney’s musical Pete’s Dragon answered to the name. The dragon was animated, but the rest of the movie was live-action. You can still see Elliott in Disney World’s Main Street Electrical Parade.
- E.T. the Extra Terrestrial phoned home with the help of 10 year-old Elliott in 1982.
- Christopher Meloni played Detective Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU from 1999 through 2011.
Then there’s Scrubs. The medical comedy cast included Sarah Chalke plays a female Elliot. After nine seasons, no wonder some are worried that this one could go girl. Add in a few high profile birth announcements, like Marla Sokoloff’s Elliotte, plus our affection for Ella and all sorts of Ellie-names, and it is a reasonable concern.
But so far, it is just a concern. More girls are given the name than ever before, but it continues to rise for boys. This makes Elliot more like Ryan – a name that we’re used to hearing for girls, but that remains solidly on Team Blue.
Let’s look at the numbers:
- In 2012, the ‘t’ spelling was most popular for boys, ranked #242 for boys and #861 for girls. That translates to 1,480 boys and just 307 girls.
- The ‘tt’ spelling was #277 for boys, and unranked for girls, which translates to an additional 1,252 boys and 236 girls.
All of this makes Elliot an appealing option for a son – he’s familiar. He offers stylish short form Eli. With lots of history and a certain artistic, literary vibe, he’s a great choice for a boy – even if he might share his name with the occasional girl.
Ok, as a former English major, I have to add my 2 cents, here, and make sure you all know that the literary George Eliot you mentioned is a nom de plume for Mary Ann Evans – the female author of Middlemarch, Silas Marner, and Daniel Deronda, etc. Wonder if that has anything to do with Elliott being perceived by the culture at large as a unisex name? 🙂 Great post! 🙂
Thanks, Rivkah! And I bet you’re right about George Eliot – I tend to think of Austen as feminine for the same reason. But never in a million years can I imagine a girl George. Well, then again, there’s Nancy Drew’s friend …
Had my now 12-yr-old daughter been a boy she would have been called Elliot. While I can see how this name appeals to some parents of girls – a la Ryan, as mentioned – to me it’s all boy. @Jennifer R, go for it! The world could use more Elliot(t)s!
Jennifer R. says
It’s the only name we mutually love and can imagine on our son, so Elliott it is.
I like gender neutral names, but that is not what we are going for with Elliott. It’s 100% boy to us and hopefully our son won’t mind sharing his name with the occasional girl. Elliott on a boy or girl is pretty rare where we live with neither of us having ever known one. We live in Alabama.
Cecilia Nyarkoh Anderson says
i love the name Elliot,wish to have a friend called Elliot soneday
Jennifer R. says
We are planning to name our son Elliott. I am a little disheartened to read most of the comments here claiming the name for girls. I would love to see an updated post about where this gem of a name is heading. If we intended to use a unisex name that would be fine, but we really don’t want our future son’s name to go the way of Ashley or Leslie. 🙂 Just an idea for a post that would be so helpful!
I think there are a few other names that are picking up speed on the girls side and parents are weary about using them for boys. There are so many soft, lovely girls names that lend themselves to the nickname Ellie that I can’t understand the appeal of Elliott for a little girl.
Jennifer, I like your son’s name and prefer the spelling you’ve chosen as it’s the only “ever-present” spelling of the name in the SSA top 1000 names from 1880 to the present and -seems- to be the most traditional spelling of the name. As you may know, Elliott was a well-used name in Eleanor Roosevelt’s family, being the name of her father (b. 1860), a brother (1889), and one of her sons (1910). I wouldn’t be concerned about some girls also having the name; there are girls called “Sam” or “Alex” too, but that hasn’t stopped Samuel and Alexander from being predominantly male names. I wouldn’t consider Elliott to be ‘gender neutral’ but a traditionally male name that some parents are now naming their daughters, in some cases to get to the nn Ellie in a different way. I think the name will remain predominantly male.
Hi Jennifer, You’ve named your son by now, but I’ll comment anyway for anyone reading these posts. Elliot/t to me is very classic on a boy, more trendy for a girl. Trends come and go, but the classic is much more likely to endure for boys. I think it’s cute on a girl but not something I’d choose for my own daughter. On a boy – gorgeous, handsome, timeless.
Wow – it will be VERY interesting to see how Elliot/t ranks when the 2010 numbers come out. I suspect it might simply join the ranks of the many names used almost equally for boys and girls. Or maybe Elliot/t is the next Ashley … dashing on a man, but far more common on a woman?
I’ve recently discovered Elliott on TNT’s Leverage – it really makes me love the name for a boy. The actor’s name escapes me, but I’ve seen him on TV here and there for the past few years.
Laura Rose says
The actor’s name is Christian Kane, just thought I’d let you know. He also played Lindsey on Angel, among other things.
Lindsey … interesting. I do love the sound of Lindsey on a boy, but I can’t help think it might be tough right now. Maybe in twenty years.
I love the name Elliott! I am having a girl and the two names I have picked are Marley and Elliott…I have just not decided which one to name her yet! I am sure it will be Elliott, however I spell it. I have like it ever since I heard it on Scrubs! I think it will give her a edge in the real world, if she is a lawyer, who knows if she is a he or she!
I’m a little behind here, but I also named my daughter Elliott. She’s now a beautiful little 2 year old. My mother was shocked and horrified at my name choice, but has now finally accepted it. My husband and I always thought it was so cute, and we didn’t even have any other name choices. We just knew she was going to be Elliott. I had no idea we would get such a huge reaction from people! A lot of people were critical and I even had second thoughts more than once. But now her name suits her, and I love it.
I named my daughter Eliot- literary reference has special significance for my husband and me.
I guess I’m trendy, sue me! Apparently many people hate this name on a girl, but I hate a lot of names other people name their kids. I just keep it to myself, smile & nod 🙂
Ah, Laura – welcome to a major 21st century controversy. Friends of mine just named their daughter Tucker. She’s darling, and the name suits her well *and* has meaning to her family … but they’ve definitely received some looks.
my daughter is called elliot too!!!! yey ive never met another trendy person either. 🙂
AMEN!!! I’m due in May with a baby girl and were naming her Elliot Grace. Ive heard some awful names before and I think its funny when people try to voice their opinions, like I’m going to take anyone else’s opinion in naming my child but my husband, who loves the name for a girl.
I really like Elliot – and even though I hear E.T. saying it in my head when I read it (EL-EE-UT), that’s an indearing thing to me. Despite my general dislike for gender neutral names, I (not so) secretly (anymore) like Elliot on a girl, entirely due to Scrubs. Not that I would ever use it for a girl myself, but it’s one I’d kind of be excited to see someone have the scruff to use for their daughter. Having said that, on a boy, Elliot is great. Eli is a fine nickname, as well. In all, it’s a really snazzy name.
I like Elliot but prefer Elias myself as a way to get to Eli (which I’d never use alone).
Elliot’s charming. I have Eliot on my lists, for T.S and it sometimes ends up in the middle, but Eli’s too popular already in my neighborhood (I either hear one mom yelling Eli an awful lot or is two or three yelling for different ones, can’t tell yet). And with my skinny, brainy almost scarwny before puberty boys, the possibility of a teasing Ellie or two really bugs me, personally.
But Elliot I do like, on anyone else’s kids. (For the record, I was always in camp Ezra, for RF’s second! I am so JAZZED she used it!) Elloit’s handsome, sweet and stylin’. A real winner of a name, just not for me.
This is one name I love a lot! Honestly, I’m always surprised by female Elliot/ts – the name somehow seems very masculine to me. Perhaps because of characters like Elliot Stabler (swoon too), or the kid on ET may have really influenced me, haha. At any rate, a name I love that I would be delighted to hear on young gentleman these days!
I was one of those who mourned RockingFetal’s loss of Elliott to Ezra, but I can see her son is not at all an Elliott, and I’ve come around to Ezra. 😉
Elliot is a name my husband and I like very much for a girl. However, as much as I really love it, I’m a little leery of boys’ names for girls or even androgynous names like Parker or Harper. It’s things like this that make me wonder if I am more traditional than I’d like to believe. But the Elliot/Ellie package is a hard-to-resist combination.
hi my daughters name is elliot. her nursery and dr calls her elliot but the family sometimes slip and call her ellie. it can be quite confussing for her at times bless her but shes catching on the ellie is a nick name and elliot is her real name. i think its a lovely fresh name for a girl though her dad disagrees!
Emmy Jo says
Elliot Stabler! (swoon) I love Law & Order: SVU.
Elliot is a good name. It has soft sounds but that sharper T ending — very cool. I actually knew a really cool guy in college named Elliot. He used to ride a unicycle around campus.
I must have known a female Elliot in my formative years because for some reason this one feels happily unisex to me (which is strange because boys’ names usually don’t feel unisex to me).
Thank you! Elliot was under consideration while naming my last son – painfully so. I couldn’t decide between the two to save my life. Spelling issues were a huge factor in holding me back from Elliot. I did ask some friends and family to write the name for me upon hearing it, and if memory serves, they did all write ‘Elliot.’ Still, I thought it may be a fluke. I also mentioned how we might sometimes call him Eli. A few family members latched on to that like a pack of wild dogs, which really helped to turn me off. When Ezra was born, we even got a few, “I thought he was going to be Eli!”s. I still very much like the name, and while I can picture my older son as an Elliot, Ezra surely is not. I may use Elliot for a middle name if there is another boy in our future.