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Helen Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

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

Helen Overview

  • Meaning: Helen means “light” or “bright.”
  • Gender: Helen has been used primarily as a feminine name.
  • Origin: The name’s origin is Greek with unclear exact origins. Helen is similar to the Greek words for torch and moon.
  • Pronunciation: “heh-luhn”
  • Popularity: Helen is used less frequently than in the past, and ranked 440th in the United States in 2021.
  • Nicknames: Ellen, Ellie, Lena, Lenie, Helli.
  • Variations: Ellen, Helena, Helene, Yelena.
  • Namesakes: Helen of Greece and Denmark, Queen Helen of Serbia, Hellen Keller, American author and advocate.

What Does Helen Mean?

The name Helen is thought to mean “light” or “bright.” Additional interpretations suggest the name may also have connotations with the moon if it has a link to the Greek goddess Selene. In addition, because of the popularity of the store Helen of Troy, it has long been associated with beauty.

What Is the Origin of the Name Helen?

Helen’s origins come from the Ancient Greek name Helenē (Ἑλένη). The exact etymology is unclear, but the name is similar to the Ancient Greek word for torch, from which we extrapolate the meanings associated with light (1).

The history of the name Helen is a long one. Indeed, the popular legend of Helen of Troy told the story of the most beautiful woman in the world. She was said to have been the daughter of the god Zeus and the mortal Leda. Her beauty inspired many men in Greek mythology to fight for her hand in marriage (2).

It is also deeply rooted in the spread of early Christianity through the Roman Empire. Helen’s popularity among Christian groups can be traced back to the Roman emperor Constantine I. The emperor’s mother, Helena, was the one to convert him to the religion giving the name special meaning for Christians (3).

How Popular Is the Name Helen?

The name Helen has been a popular choice for a very long time. In the United States, Helen has been very popular at certain points. It was the second most popular name in the country from 1900 to 1919.

After reaching peak popularity during these decades, the name’s use began to decline gradually. The name dropped out of the top 100 most popular names in the United States in the late 1950s. However, Helen is still in the top 500 and ranked 440th for newborn girls in 2021 (4).

How Do I Pronounce Helen?

Pronounce the name Helen like “heh-luhn” with no hard emphasis on either syllable.

Is Helen a Boy or Girl Name?

During its long history, Helen has been used nearly exclusively as a feminine name. Nevertheless, Helenus of Troy was a prince known for being a seer. While the name is distinct from Helen, it is the most similar option for a boy.

Variations of Helen

Since this name has been around for many years, there are also lots of variations of the classic name, such as:

  • Ellen
  • Elin
  • Helena
  • Helene
  • Yelena

Nicknames for Helen

Helen lends itself well to many nicknames for your child. If you already have Helen or thinking of shorter versions for the future, take a look at some of these nicknames:

Similar Names to Helen

Many names are similar to Helen. Some of our favorite picks have related origins or meanings. Check out these names that are close to Helen:

Middle Names for Helen

There are numerous middle name options for a timeless name like Helen, with some standout choices including:

Sibling Names for Helen

Do you already have a daughter named Helen and looking for sibling names that pair well? Consider the following for a little brother or sister:

For a Brother:

For a Sister:

Famous People Named Helen

In the long span of Helen’s popularity, there have been many notable people named Helen, ranging from royals to authors and actors:

  • Helen of Greece and Denmark: Queen Mother of Romania.
  • Saint Helen of Serbia: Serbian queen.
  • Helen Boderick: American actress.
  • Hellen Keller: American author and advocate.
  • Helen Beatrix Potter: English author and scientist.

Helen in Popular Culture

Many characters in works of popular culture have had the name, Helen. Here are some of the most prominent pop culture figures with the name Helen:

  • Helen Dubois: Character from “Drake & Josh.”
  • Helen Kingsleigh: Character in the Disney film “Alice in Wonderland.”
  • Helen Grace: Character in the “Spiderwick Chronicles.”
  • Helen Morgendorffer: Character from “Daria.”
  • Helen Henny: Chuck E Cheese mascot.

Helen FAQs

These are some of our most frequently asked questions about the name Helen. Check out our answers below!

Is Helen an Arabic Name?

Helen doesn’t have a specific history as an Arabic name. However, the name was spread across the Roman Empire and has undoubtedly been used as an Arabic name.

Is Helen an Old Fashioned Name?

Helen has been a very popular name for girls for centuries. The name’s longevity doesn’t necessarily mean it’s old-fashioned. Indeed, if you’re looking for a classic choice with a great history, Helen is a good option.

What does Helen Mean in the Bible?

The name Helen doesn’t have a Biblical meaning. It has gained popularity as a Christian name because Helena was the name of the mother of the first Roman emperor to convert.

What Goddess is Helen?

There’s no record of a goddess named Helen. However, in the legend of Helen of Troy, Helen was the child of a god. In some interpretations, this made her immortal.

Who Was Queen Helen?

Two prominent Queens have been named Helen. The first was Helen of Serbia, the Queen of Serbia in the 13th century. She was an efficient ruler of the area and opened the first school for girls in the region. After her death, she was canonized, making her a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church (5).

Another famous regal Helen was the queen mother of Romania. She was in the country during the fascist takeover during World War II. Her role in government was superficial, but with what influence the dictatorship left her with, she made numerous attempts to protect the country’s Jewish community (6).

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