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Elena Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

Learn about the name Elena including the meaning, gender, origin, popularity, and more.

Elena Overview

  • Meaning: Elena means “shining light” or “bright.”
  • Gender: Elena is a female name mainly used in Greece, Spain, and Italy.
  • Origin: Elena stems from the Greek word for torch which is “helene.”
  • Pronunciation: Elena is pronounced “UH-len-uh” in English-speaking countries. It can also be pronounced either “EE-lay-nuh” or “el-en-UH.”
  • Popularity: Elena is currently at the height of its popularity in the United States as it is ranked the 53rd most popular girl name at present. In other parts of the world, it is a common name.
  • Nicknames: Elle, Ellie, Len, Lena, Lennie, Nellie, Nena.
  • Variations: Alena, Alenka, Alyona, Elene, Eliana, Eline, Helen, Hélène, Helena, Ileana, Ilona, Jelena, Olena, Yelena.
  • Namesakes: Elena Asimakopoulou(Greek model), Elena “Ellie” Goulding (British singer-songwriter), Elena Satine (Georgian-American actress).

Elena is a pretty name with an evocative meaning. Find out where it comes from, how it’s pronounced, and more in this article.

What Does Elena Mean?

Elena is a female name that means “shining light” or “bright.” It is commonly used across many cultures and generally has the same or similar meaning (1).

What Is the Origin of the Name Elena?

Elena originates from the Greek language.

However, uncertainty surrounds the first usage of the name. It is believed that the name Helenē (Helen in English) is the inspiration for this variation. The word “helene” is Greek for “torch” and was prominently associated with Helen of Troy (2).

How Popular Is the Name Elena?

Elena is very common among Greek, Spanish, and Italian-speaking people. Its variants are just as popular in their respective countries.

Elsewhere, in the United States, the name is gaining traction for girls. In 2021, it is ranked the 53rd most common name for newborns. It first broke into the top 100 in the US in 2016. Over the last two decades, it has consistently been within the top 250. (3).

How Do I Pronounce Elena?

Elena is a multi-syllabic name that is pronounced similarly to its spelling. The most common phonetic pronunciation in an English-speaking country is “UH-len-uh.”

In some countries, it is pronounced “EE-lay-nuh” or “el-en-UH.” Spelling plays a role in the pronunciation of the name. The culture and local language play a substantial factor in how it is pronounced.

Is Elena a Boy or Girl Name?

Based on historical use, Elena is a female name across most records. There is not enough concrete evidence to suggest that Elena is making the jump to a male’s name.

Variations of Elena

Elena has a long history, and that has led to it being adopted as a name in numerous languages. Here are a few versions and variations of Elena in other countries and cultures:

  • Alena (German and Slavic)
  • Alenka (Slovenian)
  • Alyona (Slavic)
  • Elene (Georgian)
  • Eliana (Portuguese)
  • Eline (Dutch, Norwegian, Sranan Tongo)
  • Helen (English)
  • Hélène (French)
  • Helena (Latin)
  • Ileana (Romanian, Italian, Spanish)
  • Ilona (Hungarian, Finnish, Latvian)
  • Jelena (Slavic)
  • Olena (Ukrainian)
  • Yelena (Slavic)

Nicknames for Elena

Due to its multi-syllabic nature, Elena lends itself to many nicknames. Some endearing options include:

  • Ella
  • Ellie
  • Len
  • Lena
  • Lennie
  • Nellie
  • Nena

Similar Names to Elena

Many names come from Greek words. If you like Elena, but want something slightly different, these name ideas are similar:

Middle Names for Elena

Elena is a beautiful choice that lends itself to many middle names, both short and long. Pairing two names that end in the letter “a” or the “a” sound is a pretty idea for a name that rolls off the tongue. However, traditional middle names also go well with Elena.

Some great options for a middle name are:

Sibling Names for Elena

If you are looking for a name that goes well with Elena, try to find one with a comparable syllable count, the same beginning letter, or a similar theme and origin.

Fortunately, the Greek language is filled with names that match Elena perfectly:

For a brother:

For a sister:

Famous People Named Elena

There are plenty of famous people named Elena. Of course, many who bear this name are from Greece, Russia, and Spain. Take a look at this list and see if you recognize any of the following:

  • Elena Asimakopoulou: Greek model.
  • Elena Delle Donne: American basketball player.
  • Elena Goulding: Professionally known as Ellie Goulding, British singer-songwriter.
  • Elena Kagan: American Supreme Court justice.
  • Elena Kosmina: Ukrainian beauty queen and model
  • Elena Panaritis: Greek economist.
  • Elena Satine: Georgian-American actress.
  • Elena Zamolodchikova: Russian gymnast.

Elena in Popular Culture

Interestingly, Elena is a name present in popular culture quite often. Check out these characters to see which ones you know and which you might have missed:

  • Elena: A Soviet scientist from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
  • Elena Gilbert: Character in the television show “Vampire Diaries.”
  • Elena Ramos: Character from the television series “Dallas.”
  • Elena Castillo Flores: Character from the Disney animated show “Elena of Avalor.”
  • Elena de la Vega: Character from the 1998 film “The Mask of Zorro.”

Elena FAQs

These are some of the most commonly asked questions about the name Elena.

Does Elena Mean “Moon?”

Elena is a derivation from the Greek word for light, “helene.” However, the Greek word “selene,” which means “moon” is also seen as an inspiration for the name. Either way, the Greek language is very influential in the name’s development.

How Old Is the Name Elena?

There is no definitive answer to when Elena first came into use. Still, it is known that people were using the name Helen and Helene in the days of Ancient Greece thanks to prominent figures like Helen of Troy. Elena might have been in use at this time, but there is not enough substantial evidence to support that.

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