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This post was originally published on February 4, 2010.  It was substantially revised and re-published on October 13, 2014.

A foreign import, a nature name and an unexpected way to get to an all-the-rage nickname? What’s not to love?

Thanks to Corinne for suggesting Elowen as our Baby Name of the Day.

Nature Names: A Trend the World Over

Nature names are big in the US.  From Holly to Willow, River to Fox, plenty of our children’s names are English-language words that evoke the great outdoors.

We’re not alone in this habit.  While some languages have long used nature names, others are embracing them right now, from the French Océane to today’s Cornish choice.

Elowen: Cornish Heritage Choice

Elowen is simply the Cornish word for elm tree, but it isn’t exactly a traditional name.

Cornwall is a remote, rocky place, located at the southwestern tip of Great Britain. You would expect the language to be different, and so it is. The Celtic language traces back to the sixth century, but was nearly extinct by 1900.

Activists saved Cornish.

It’s been included in the official European charter for minority/regional languages since 2002, and there are now about 3,000 fluent speakers – up from almost zero not long ago.

Cornish parents have embraced Cornish names – whether they’re fluent in the language or not.

Only trouble?  The names were forgotten with the rest of the vocabulary.

Name blogger Bewildertrix wrote to the Cornish Language Partnership in 2009 to ask about Elowen’s use, and received this response:

Elowen is indeed used increasingly in Cornwall. … it is a Cornish word and is accepted as a name in Cornwall … The incidence of Cornish names is increasing all the time as people wish to explore their own heritage and pass it on to their children.

The name is pronounced with emphasis on the second syllable: el LOW en. But if you’re in the US, odds are you’ll favor ELL uh wen, sort of like Ellen with an extra sound in the middle.

Elowen: Rarity on the Rise

There’s something almost JRR Tolkein about this name. It brings to mind Arwen and Eowyn.

There’s also Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s graphic novel Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, first published in 2007.  It includes a character named Elowen.

But that’s not a drawback.  In fact, Elowen’s fairytale qualities might be a plus.

Other reasons this name could catch on:

  • We do like our Ellie and Ella names.  Eloise, Elena, Ellison, Elodie … there’s no shortage of options, and Elowen first right in.
  • Another Cornish choice made it all the way to the #1 spot in the 1970s: Jennifer.
  • There’s something tailored-yet-feminine about Elowen, a little bit like another former favorite, Allison.  The name could appeal to parents after something feminine, but light on the frills.

And yet Elowen remains rare.  As of 2013, just 19 girls were given the name in the US.  Of course, this still represents an increase from a decade earlier.

If you’re after something truly unusual, with ties to the natural world, and yet likely to wear well from birth into adulthood, Elowen is rich with potential.

What do you think of Elowen?  Could this name ever be as popular as that other Cornish import, Jennifer?


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 daughter, born in May of 2019 is named Elowen Fae. She looks like a little woodland fairy as she loves flowy dresses.

    I call her Effie as a nickname, since her first and middle initials are EF. But her dad likes calling her Ellie, her nana calls her Beastie, and her aunt calls her Elle Woods. Lol.

    I love the Tolkien vibes the name has. It was one of the reasons I was so drawn to the name.

    We have yet to meet another Elowen in person as the name seems to be fairly rare still.

    1. Effie is a darling nickname, and Elowen Fae is gorgeous. And yes – Tolkien vibes is the perfect way to describe it!

  2. Our first child Elowen June was born two months ago. We found out that just a few days later a second Elowen was born in the same hospital! (We live in the US.) My doctor said it was a little confusing for them at first.

    Elowen was the only girl name seemingly in existence that my husband and I both liked. (No idea what we will do if we have another daughter someday…) I always wanted to name a daughter Selladore based on the phonaesthetics of “cellar door”, but that was strongly shut down by him as “not a real name”. I’m not upset anymore though: Elowen is just as beautiful and fun a name to say aloud. We haven’t decided on a true nickname yet, but my husband is embracing the alphabet nature of it and calling her Elowen O Pea.

  3. I’m so interested to see all the Elowen’s that have been born since 2013 when we named our second daughter Elowen Piper. At the time, we had sat for hours fitting syllables together until we came to this name and spelling. We truly thought we made it up! But I love the meaning and history of the word, and that our Elowen will have something to tell about her unusual name.

    We receive many compliments on the name, though I’ve had to spell it endlessly. At first, dear aunties kept trying to attach the nickname Ellie to her because they couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around the word. She is Elo to her big sis, occasionally Elle to me, but usually just Elowen. After almost 4 years, we don’t regret this name pick at all.

  4. We came across this name while hiking in California. Camp El-O-Win for girls. We were told it’s a Native American word meaning “happy house”. My husband and I love the Elowyn spelling and the Elle-o-when soft pronunciation. Our two girls have Irish and Scottish names so I like adding Cornwall into the mix. I also love that there is an actual fairytale “Elowen and the Bramble bush” in Cornish literature. There is a cute video on YouTube. I had never heard of this name and now I am seeing it everywhere. This name is definitely going to hop, skip and jump up the charts. Romantic, poetic and fairytale worthy! With so many adorable nn like Ellie, Lola and Winnie. Already seeing all the combined spellings starting to add up. 64 girls in total for 2015.

  5. Our granddaughter was just born yesterday and our daughter/son-in-law surprised us with her beautiful name: Elowen Victoria. As her last name begins with E, her initials will be EVE. So cute! We adore this name and are so happy that our granddaughter will carry it all through her life. We, too, noticed the similarity to Eowyn from Lord of the Rings but that made it even better in our book!

    1. Laura, congratulations on your new granddaughter! What a lovely, lovely name. Wishing your family joy!

  6. We just had a little girl in May and named her Elowen Sage. 🙂 We love the nature association as well as the whimsy feel! Winnie is the nickname right now but that could change as she gets older 🙂

  7. Just welcomed my granddaughter into the world. The other initial name picked just did not suit her once looking upon her lovely face. Elowen, with the middle name of; Siobhan (mom’s 1st name, pronounced sha-vahn) she is. I too am excited for this name as it is both strong and feminine. The potential nick names of Elle, Elo, Ella, and/or Winnie are also nice for her. Elowen is unique but at the same time uses familiar nick names, is phonetically easy to pronounce, and is an actual historical name, not just some made up name. Very cool!
    Thank You,

  8. Ooh, I love this. And if I were named that, I’d milk the Ella Minnow Pea-ness of it. Two name nerd thumbs up.

  9. We named our daughter, who will be one Dec 30, Elowen Sue. 🙂 we love the name. We thought her nickname would be Elle or Winnie, but instead we often call her Elo! Thanks so much for this post, as it was an integral piece when decided on the name Elowen!

    1. Thank you for sharing! I’m delighted the post was helpful. And Elo is a great short form of Elowen. Wishing her an early happy birthday!

    2. My daughter was born on Dec 30 2012 – and we named her Elowen Grace. I thought we’d shorten it, but haven’t. We pronounce it as you would “Owen” if you stuck “Elle” at the front. We chose it as my husband is Cornish. Just love the fact that our daughters share the same unusual name and festive birthday! Hopefully she won’t get bored of having to explain the spelling or pronunciation of her name, but at least she has plenty of options to shorten it. One of the reasons we chose a more unusual name is that we named her older brother Oliver (just turned 4) only we didn’t realise how common his name was! Though have since realised that we named both of our children after trees (olive and elm). We didn’t think we were hippies, but maybe we are after all 🙂

        1. What a lovely name, Ariel! Congratulations on your new daughter – or should I say happy almost first birthday? 🙂