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Eli Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

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

Eli Overview

  • Meaning: My God, ascent, uplifted, defender of mankind.
  • Gender: Male, sometimes unisex.
  • Origin: Hebrew, Arabic.
  • Pronunciation: ee-LEYE.
  • Popularity: Popular, has grown in popularity during the 2000s.
  • Variations: Ely, Elias, Ali, Ilie.
  • Namesakes: Eli Manning, football player; Eli Whitney, inventor.

What Does Eli Mean?

The name Eli means several things, including My God, ascent, elevation, defender of mankind, and exalted (1). Eli serves as a stand-alone name and a shortened version for other names beginning with “Eli.”

Eli is a classic, robust and biblical boy’s name. Eli has been rising and falling in popularity since the 1880s. In the last 100 or so years, the name Eli has been growing in popularity.

What is the Origin of the Name Eli?

Although versions of the name Eli exist in many languages and cultures, the name Eli as we commonly know it is of Hebrew origin. The name Eli first occurs in the Hebrew Bible in the book of Samuel.

In this book, Eli is the High Priest and Judge of Samuel. As a figure of piety and guidance, the name Eli is instilled in this Jewish history and is a variation on “Ali.”

Eli is most closely associated with the name Elijah, a historical and common Jewish/Hebrew name.

There is also a connection to the name Ali which hails from Arabic origin, with the same meaning.

How Popular is the Name Eli?

The name Eli has fluctuated in popularity over the last few centuries but never dropped away completely. During the last several decades, the name Eli has steadily grown in popularity (2).

Eli is the 144th most popular name in the 2000s so far. Over 130,000 babies have been named Eli since 1880 and about 27,000 since the beginning of the 2000s.

Although the name Eli is gaining popularity, the variation Elijah tends to be more popular.

How Do I Pronounce Eli?

The most common way to pronounce Eli is to emphasize the second syllable as in “ee-LEYE.” You do not pronounce Eli with a long “e” such as “feel.” Instead, the “e” sound is short as in “easy.”

There are some variations in the pronunciation of Eli. For example, it is pronounced opposite in Spanish languages, as “EH-lee.” This pronunciation is much shorter and more clipped.

Is Eli a Boy or a Girl Name?

Traditionally, Eli is a boy’s name. As many names are gradually becoming more unisex, Eli is beginning to be used as a boy or girl name.

Additionally, sometimes Eli is used as a nickname for girls names such as Elizabeth or Elisa.

Variations of Eli

Since Eli is a short boy name, variations are limited. However, here are some names that have a variation in spelling or use Eli as a root.

  • Elia (Italian)
  • Ilie (Romanian)
  • Ali (Arabic)
  • Eliyahu (Jewish)
  • Ely (Russian)

Nicknames for Eli

Nicknames for Eli are somewhat limited as Eli is often a nickname itself for other, longer names that begin with “Eli.” However, here are some ideas on modifying Eli for a cool and casual nickname.

  • El
  • E
  • Li

Similar Names to Eli

Eli is a root for many other unique names. These names span several different languages and origins.

Here are some names similar to Eli that brings a sense of authority, piety, and strength:

Middle Names for Eli

Eli is a great, short, snappy first name that pairs well with many middle names. Eli sounds especially good with middle names with three syllables to balance the shortness of Eli or names with a strong “a” or “o” sound.

Here are some good middle names for Eli:

Sibling Names for Eli

Lots of names sound good with Eli. Similar to middle names, you can choose a sibling name that either complements Eli or provides contrast to it.

Here are some sibling name ideas to go with Eli for boys and girls.

Famous People Named Eli

From inventors to athletes, the name Eli has always had a presence in mainstream culture.

  • Eli Manning: American football player.
  • Eli Whitney Blake: American Inventor.
  • Eli Whitney Blake, Jr.: Scientist.
  • Eli Long: General in Union Army of US Civil War.
  • Eli Roth: American Film Director and Producer.
  • Eli Lilly: Scientist.
  • Eli Tokash: Broadway Performer.

Eli in Popular Culture

Eli is a distinctive name that has made its place in pop culture, especially in modern times. Here are some examples of the name Eli showing a strong presence in movies, television, and video games.

  • Eli: Character in The Book of Eli.
  • Eli: Character on the TV show Freaks and Geeks.
  • Eli: Character on the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess.
  • Eli Ever: Character in the novel Vicious by V.E. Schwab.
  • Eli Gold: Character in The Good Wife.
  • Eli Loker: Character in Lie to Me.
  • Eli Vance: Character in the Half-Life video games.
  • Eli Wallace: Stargate Universe.

Eli FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about the name Eli.

Is the Name Eli Short for Something?

The name Eli can serve as a name itself or as a nickname for other names that begin with Eli. Eli may be short for names such as Elijah, Elias, or Eliahu.

Is Eli a Good Name for Boys?

Yes! Eli is a great biblical, masculine name for boys. Eli is a popular name with a distinctive sound. It is popular without being too common.

Is Eli a Unisex Name?

Parents most commonly choose Eli as a boy’s name, but some may choose it as a girl’s name. Many parents are experimenting with more names as unisex names.

Is Eli a Popular Name?

Eli is considered a popular name as it has ranked in the top 200 popular names since the 2000s.

Is Eli a Biblical Name?

Eli was the High Priest of Samuel in the Book of Samuel in the Bible. Ali, the Arabic equivalent of Eli, is also present in scripture.

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