"torch; shining light"

Helen Origin and Meaning

The name Helen is a girl's name of Greek origin meaning "torch; shining light".

Helen is a name that has connoted beauty since ancient times – Helen of Troy was the the mythological "face that launched a thousand ships," over whom the ten-year Trojan War was fought.

The name Helen has moved in and out of favor over the centuries, often alternating with Ellen. It was a Top 5 name for several decades of the early twentieth century, falling out of the Top 100 in the 50s. Now, after being unfashionable for decades, we see signs of a comeback for Helen—it's the kind of serious, unadorned classic many parents are returning to. But if Helen still feels too plain for you, you might consider one of its many lovely variants: Helena, Elena, Eleni, Ella, Nellie or Nell, to name just a few.

In Greek myth, Helen is the daughter of Leda and Zeus, who came to her mother in the form of a swan. Helen also has legions of real-life namesakes, including author and activist Helen Keller, politician Helen Gahaghan Douglas, newspaper reporter Helen Thomas, Cosmo force Helen Gurley Brown, Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding, artist Helen Frankenthaler, and actresses Hayes, Mirren, and Hunt. Beatrix Potter's birth name was Helen.

# 397 in the US

Helen Rank in US Top 1000

# 392 on Nameberry

Helen Rank in Nameberry Top 1000

Helen Popularity

Famous People Named Helen

  • Helen Adams KellerAmerican deaf and blind author and political activist
  • Helen HayesAmerican actress
  • Helen Elizabeth HuntAmerican actress
  • Helen Clare KaneAmerican singer who inspired cartoon character Betty Boop
  • Helen Elizabeth Clark37th Prime Minister of New Zealand
  • HelenPrincess of Serbia; daughter of Peter I of Yugoslavia
  • Helen Augusta BlanchardAmerican inventor
  • Helen Lydia MirrenEnglish actress
  • Helen Elizabeth McCroryEnglish actress
  • (Helen) Beatrix PotterEnglish children's author and illustrator
  • Helen Joyce Gabriel FlanaganEnglish actress and model
  • Helen Jane LongEnglish musician
  • Helen Jairag RichardsonAnglo,Burmese Indian actress and dancer
  • Helen Rachel SlaterAmerican actress and singer,songwriter
  • Helen CastilloAmerican Fashion Designer
  • Helen MorganAmerican singer and actress
  • Helen Kalin KlanderudAmerican politician
  • Helen "Nellie" Costigan CohanAmerican actress
  • Helen GeorgeBritish actress
  • Helen Hinklemember of the Beat Generation circle and inspiration for Galatea Dunkel in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road"
  • Helen Joanna Santos (b. 1944)daughter of actors Dick Haymes & Joanne Dru
  • Helen Grace De Niro (b. 2011)daughter of actor Robert De Niro

Helen in Pop Culture

  • Helen of TroyGreek mythological figure said to be the most beautiful woman in the world.
  • Mount St. Helensvolcano in Washington State, USA
  • Helenfirst queen of Narnia in the novel: 'The Magician's Nephew' by C.S. Lewis
  • Helen Grahammain character in 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' by Anne Brontë
  • Helen Burnscharacter in "Jane Eyre"
  • Helen Stanleymain character in "Helen" by Maria Edgeworth
  • Helen Leonardmain character in 2009 film "Helen"
  • Helen SeinfeldJerry's mom on TV's "Seinfeld"
  • Helen Fergusonparanoid nurse in Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms"
  • Helen Spitzcharacter on animated series "Braceface"
  • Helen Memelmain character in Charlotte Roche's "Wetlands" and the film o the same name
  • Dr. Helen Magnuscharacter on TV's "Sanctuary"
  • Helen Parr aka Elastigirlcharacter in Pixar's "The Incredibles"
  • Helen Morgendorffercharacter in animated series "Daria"
  • Helen Harrischaracter in film "Bridesmaids"
  • Helen Gradycharacter in the video game "Silent Hill: Origins"
  • Helen Hawkinscharacter on TV's "Siren"
  • Helen Quilleymain character in film "Sliding Doors"
  • Helen McIntireAmerican Girl doll character
  • "HelenSweetheart of the Internet," comic strip by Peter Zale
  • Helen Longshankscharacter in the Inheritance Cycle
  • Helen Shiverscharacter in film "I Know What You Did Last Summer"
  • Margot Helen Tenenbaumcharacter in film "The Royal Tenenbaums"
  • Helen Brycecharacter on "Smallville"
  • Helen Thermopolischaracter in "The Princess Diaries" series
  • Helen Blackthorncharacter from Cassandra Clare's "Mortal Instruments and Dark Artifices" series
  • Helen Ophelia DuBoischaracter on TV's "Drake and Josh"
  • Helencharacter on Showtime's "Masters of Sex," played by Sarah Silverman
  • Helen Lovejoya character from "The Simpsons"
  • Helen Schlegelcharacter in E.M. Forster's novel "Howards End"
  • HelenQueen of Eddis in Megan Whalen Turner's "Queen's Thief" series
  • Helen Harrischaracter in the 2004 Comedy film "Raising Helen"
  • Helen Ropercharacter on TV show "Three's Company"

Helen in Nameberry Blog Posts