Eloise: Baby Name of the Day

Cover of "Eloise (Eloise Series)"

This post was originally published on November 21, 2008.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on August 18, 2014.

One of the most memorable children’s books begins with the heroine introducing herself: I am Eloise. I am six. I am a city child. I live at the Plaza.

Kay Thompson’s pint-sized, über-privileged whirlwind of a girl goes on to get into all sorts of mischief as her nanny gives chase.

Thanks to Kim for suggesting Eloise as our Baby Name of the Day.

Add an H to Eloise, and we come closer to her roots – one of those clunky Germanic combo names, the imposing Heilwidis. The element widis most likely means wide, while the first half – heill – means healthy. In French, Heilwidis became Héloïse, and so some link it to the Greek helios – sun. But that’s almost certainly folk etymology.

Others cluster Eloise and Louise, and tell us that they both mean “famous in battle,” but again, it’s more of a happy coincidence that they share sounds.

We can thank the Normans for bringing the name to England, most often as Helewise and sometimes as Helewis, Helewisa, Elewisa, or Elewys. Like many a medieval moniker, she faded from use, only to be revived by the Victorians.

Parents may have been inspired by Heloise and Abelard. The letters from their illicit affair remain required reading for romantics even today. (And talk about crazy baby names – they called their son Astrolabe!) By all accounts, Heloise was not only passionate, but also brilliant and accomplished in an era when few women were able to excel at scholarly pursuits. After the brouhaha over their affair, Heloise took herself off to a convent and eventually became abbess.

Eloise had a good run. She ranked in the US Top 1000 from 1880 through 1965, peaking at #164 in 1921. Besides the girl at the Plaza, there’s a capable Aunt Eloise in the Nancy Drew series and an oft-quoted Titanic survivor named Eloise Smith.

Until recently, she was heard in Europe, but remained a rarity in the US.

Then came 2009, and Eloise re-entered the US Top 1000 at #912.  She’s had a meteoric rise since then, reaching #338 in 2013, and poised to climb higher still.

And why not?

  • Eloise has loads of vintage appeal, putting her in the company of so many rising names, like Hazel and Olive.  After all, Eloise peaked in 1921, so her revival is just in time to satisfy the 100-year rule.
  • Literary names are having a good run – Emma has been #1 and Madeleine is a twenty-first century favorite, pick your spelling.  Several adaptations of Kay Thompson’s enduring stories in recent years have helped boost the name, too.
  • It’s hard to understand the appeal of El- names, from elaborate Isabella to simple Ella to rising classic Eleanor.
  • Speaking of El- names, doesn’t Eloise hit a sweet spot?  She’s less starchy and regal than Eleanor, but more substantial than Ellie or Elsie.

Denise Richards gave the name to a daughter in 2011, a sharp departure from her earlier picks for daughters Lola and Sam.

If you’re looking for a stylish on-trend choice for a daughter in 2014, Eloise is a great choice – as long as you don’t mind the possibility that she’ll continue to climb!

How high do you think Eloise will climb?  What’s your favorite El- name for girls?

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24 Comments

Currently debating between Eloise and Annabel for our daughter due this spring. My older 2 are Jillian and Oliver. Would love to hear anyone’s thought. 🙂

My little sister (who just turned 6) has the middle name of Eloise! I really love the name, it is very pretty and sounds graceful. As to Monica Jack, I think the nickname would work, though I probably would never think it was short for Eloise. Very pretty names you have picked out! I adore Lucy as well. And Clementine is beautiful!

I love Eloise and have for years, since I was in college. But it’s definitely on an upswing in my social circles. Two former classmates of mine named their daughter Eloise in the last year and I fully expect more to follow. It’s not as rare as it seemed to me in 2002, unfortunately. But it is still lovable.

I think Eloise/Nellie is adorable. Nell is one of my favorite names–and I would prefer it as a nickname for Cornelia, if I could ever get my husband to agree.

Ah, husbands! They are so tricky! Thanks for the comments, Coll and Oph – very reassuring. I am definitely swaying towards Eloise, nickname Nell. I live in New Zealand and have never met an Eloise, so it’s interesting to hear it’s trending upwards.

Do you think Nellie (a family name) could be used as a nickname for Eloise? It traditionally belongs to Eleanor, Ellen, Helen etc, none of which appeal to us, but I’m wondering if it would work with any name including “El.”? Thoughts please? Little sister for Clementine Rose due next week – aaaargh! Lucy is another family name we’d like to use – Lucy Olivia Bruce, but we think she might get Lucy Brucey . . . Bruce is very tricky to work with!! Husband sugested Lucinda Olivia Bruce so she could introduce herself as Lucinda Bruce if she wanted then use the nickname Lucy and hope people didn’t make the Lucy Brucey connection. I have trouble warming to Lucinda, though – to me it has a cold sound whereas Lucy is warm and friendly. If we went with Nellie or Eloise, what middle names would work? I adore Nellie Olivia Bruce, but the initials are a bit unfortunate!!

Okay, here’s the thing: my daughter’s formal name is Claire Caroline Wren, and we call her Clio. Everyone calls her Clio. With the exception of her nursery school, doctor’s office, etc., most people are only dimly aware, if at all, of her formal name.

So me? I have ZERO problem with the idea of stretch nicknames. To me, Nell/Nellie from Eloise is obvious and perfectly comfortable. But here’s another random factoid – at least some of the N- short forms come from an old affectionate phrase in Norman French/English – my Ann would’ve been more like mon Anne – monanne, mineanne, Mine Ann, Nan. So adding the N- in front of an El- name to get Nell or Nellie is downright traditional. Mine Eloise – mineloise – all of a sudden the “nel” is there for the taking.

If you’re that worked up over Lucy Bruce, it strikes me that Lucinda doesn’t cut it, unless you’re willing to use the short form Cindy or Lindy. I like Lucindia, nn Lindy, but that’s not the name you like, right? You like Lucy.

So let’s assume you use Eloise, which, for what’s it is worth, seems more in keeping with Clementine than Lucy.

Clementine Rose Bruce and …

Eloise Violet Bruce
Eloise Lucille Bruce
Eloise Olivia Bruce (quite a bit of lo and ol, but unworkable – at least in my Mid Atlantic American accent)
Eloise Lucienne Bruce (maybe too frou frou – and lots of oooo)
Eloise Faye Bruce

As for Nellie, I’m guessing you’re not in the US and I’m guessing Little House on the Prairie wasn’t a thing there. I am trying to tell myself that Nellie is just like Sadie, but I keep seeing half-pint’s prairie mean girl nemesis in my brain. As much as I like Nell – and I love Nell – that gives me pause.

But middles for Nellie are FAR easier, because you could use Nellie Louisa and pick up some of Lucy’s lou.

Hi Abby

Oooh, I LOVE Claire (actually love it as a middle name for Eloise, as well as a first name) but husband is not convinced. We were also planning on Cleo or Clio as a nickname for Clementine, but we have just kept the long form for now!

Thanks so much for your advice and ideas. You’re right, I’m in Christchurch, New Zealand rather than the US – astounding to get name advice from so far away as I’ve never actually posted a question on any website before! And although I read and loved Little House on the Prairie as a child I’ve never seen the screen version and it wasn’t big here – I don’t remember Nellie. Sounds like a good thing! Our Nellie source is my grandfather’s family – Nellie and Lucy were his sisters (and Lucy was the name of his very spirited mother too, a six foot something blonde, way back when, who was expected to remain unmarried and look after the elderly family members but instead eloped with the groundsman / shepherd and was disinherited! Hence I think of Lucy as sassy whereas Lucinda sounds like the one who would have stayed!), and we’d like to include a name from Grandpa’s family. His Nellie was lovely and terribly bright but killed tragically at 17 when a bus hit her brother’s motorcycle, so it would be nice to remember her somehow. I do agree that Nell is nicer, but Nellie seems to flow better with/ soften the pretty abrupt and masculine Bruce!

Delighted with your factoid re: the “N” shortenings. As an English teacher I love to be armed with the facts about these things, and I’d always wondered where the N came from! Thank you! Suddenly Nell seems perfectly legitimate for mine Eloise. I’m loving your suggestion of Violet as a middle name fro Eloise, too – it goes well with sibling mn Rose but is a tad more original, and would also be a small concession to my 2 1/2 year old’s plan to name her little sister Flower Baby!!

Lindy is pretty but no longer works as a nickname “down under” after a notorious disappearance/murder case decades ago in Australia, in which Lindy Chamberlain was famously but perhaps unfairly jailed for the murder of her baby girl, whom she claimed had been taken from a tent by dingoes (wild dogs). So down here any Lindy would inevitably be on the receiving end of “The dingo stole my baby.”

Many thanks again for your time and thoughts,

Monica

I find Eloise absolutely fabulous. I really do see her being the bearer of both a spunky, can-do attitude, and a composed and graceful one.

I may be unduly influenced by my college adviser, though, who is an Eloise. Just a fabulous woman who does the name great justice!

The only drawback I find is the NN potential. Ellie is just ‘meh’ to me… Perhaps ok for a family pet-name (as in a name used by family, not one for your pet, though, admittedly, it is our pet’s name – Ellie Mae – but we didn’t pick that out ;)), but not one I’d like to be an everyday call name.

Eloise is my favourite of the ‘El’ names, she’s pretty and feminine without being sickly sweet and best of all, she’s familiar sounding without being popular (she’s teetering on the edge of the UK top 100). I’m really over Ellie though – a (nick)name I do find too sickly sweet and rather childish, so the potential that Eloise would become another Ellie is her main drawback for me.

I love Eloise (obviously), as we just gave the name to our daughter. It is common and current here in France, not too common in English-speaking countries and easy to pronounce in both. Not everyone is sold on it (clearly, from the comments above), but I agree it has potential to suit someone both elegant and feisty and we think it is a great name for our daughter. We might call her El or Ellie sometimes at home, but will introduce her as Eloise and hope the full name will stick.

I really like Eloise, she is on my names list.
I would be afraid though that people would call her Louise instead of Eloise.
A good sister name for Eloise (in my opinion) is Clementine.
I could really imagine sisters named Eloise and Clementine 🙂

I loved that book! The one I had a child fell apart so I bought a new one.. made me want to live in the Plaza….but not being wealthy, I had to settle for slipping in and using the lobby bathroom when I passed by. Eloise – as a name it has charm and I can see people using it for a baby. I don’t love its sound. I prefer Ella, or Louisa. but not Ellie. I like Eleanor but only if you pronounce the last syllable “nor.” I have an aunt by that name and many people including my grandparents pronounced it ‘”ner.” Ella-ner.

I do like Eloise, however she’s always seemed a bit too ‘prim’ for me… I, like othes, adore her soft lyrical sound that can still generate some kind of spunk!!

I really don’t find her that uncommon, either. I’m not sure of her Australian statistics, but she doesn’t seem a rarity down here! I know one who’s my age [mid-20s], and one who’s a teen, and one who’s 3 and a bit [my adorable cousin] – albeit, two of them are french. I’d happily slip her in a middle somewhere if I had another girl, but she’s not a first for me.

I adore Eloise! It floats in and out of my top five. It’s an excellent “Madeline-substitute” for those who have realized there really ARE too many Maddie’s running around the playgrounds. I love how she manages to be both sophisticated and spunky. Great Name of the Day!

I like Eloise, in theory anyway. As Kim said, she sounds lovely and she has a great range of nicknames. I don’t think “uncommon” or “unfamiliar” with Eloise, rather, it’s familiar to most and, in the 50 somethings, at least heard still. I know two who are just over 50 these days. My problem is Ellie. It’s backwoods hillbilly sounding and the name I still give to stuffed elephants. I thoroughly dislike Ellie. Ella may be plain but doesn’t remind me of elephants. And she’s getting a bit of a workout these days too. Even Ella’s not appealing like she used to. Eloise is lovely, indeed, but please, only in full. 😀

I’m torn about Eloise. Purely by sound, I LOVE her. When I say Eloise outloud, she sounds lilting and melodic to me. I like the nicknames Ellie, Ella, Lo, Lulu, and even, as my sister has so helpfully pointed out, Wheezy. 🙂

But is she TOO uncommon? Too connected to Ms. Thompson’s character? Too French-sounding? And I’m not having much luck coming up with sibling names for Eloise either.