English, diminutive of Helen, Eleanor, et al
"bright, shining one"

Nell Origin and Meaning

The name Nell is a girl's name of English origin meaning "bright, shining one".

Nell, once a nickname for Helen, Ellen, or Eleanor, is a sweet old-fashioned charmer that is fashionably used today in its own right. While Nell is perfectly in tune with contemporary vintage name style, it hasn't taken off the way some of its sisters have and so maintains an air of distinction. Use Nell or Nellie as a short for any name from Eleanor to Penelope or just name her Nell.

Nell was the pet name FDR called his wife Eleanor (along with Babs), the famous Little Nell in Dickens' Old Curiosity Shop was Elinor, and the infamous mistress of Charles II, Nell Gwynne, was born Eleanor as well.

Nell was the belle of the ball in the Gay Nineties, but has been off the charts since 1956. It's currently popular in France though, ranking at Number 144.

Jodie Foster played the title character of the 1994 movie Nell, and Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton named their daughter Nell, keeping the family tradition of names related to Helen.

# in the US

Nell Rank in US Top 1000

# 162 on Nameberry

Nell Rank in Nameberry Top 1000

Nell Popularity

Famous People Named Nell

  • Eleanor "Nell" GwynEnglish actress and mistress
  • Laura Elizabeth "Little Nell" CampbellAustralian actress and singer
  • Nell Ruth CarterAmerican singer and actress
  • Nell Rose HudsonBritish actress
  • Nell Tiger FreeEnglish actress and singer
  • Nell Blair Walden BlaineAmerican painter
  • Nell BrydenAmerican singer
  • Nell Mary DunnEnglish playwright
  • Nell FreudenbergerAmerican novelist
  • Tracey Jane "Nell" McAndrewEnglish glamour model
  • Nell McCaffertyIrish journalist and playwright
  • Nell MescalIrish singer and sister of Paul Mescal
  • Nell O'DayAmerican actress and equestrian
  • Nell RankinAmerican operatic mezzo,soprano
  • Nell Shipman (born Helen FosterBarham), Canadian actress
  • Ragnhild "Nell" Westgaard SiglandNorwegian singer of Theatre of Tragedy
  • Scottie Nell HughesAmerican political commentator
  • Nell Burtondaughter of Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton
  • Nell Gorman (b. 2009)son of actor Burn Gorman
  • Nell Elizabeth Kennedy (b. 2015)daughter of politician Patrick Kennedy

Nell in Pop Culture

  • Nell Trent aka Little Nellmain character in Charles Dickens' "The Old Curiosity Shop"
  • Nell Kelltymain character in movie "Nell"
  • Nell Bedworthcharacter in movie "It's a Boy Girl Thing"
  • Nell Jonescharacter on TV's "NCIS: Los Angeles"
  • Nell Turbodycharacter on TV's "Rescue Me"
  • Nellodee "Nell" character in Neal Stephenson's "The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer"
  • Nell McLaughlincharacter in "My friend Flicka" by Mary O'Hara
  • Nell Fenwickcharacter in the "Dudley Do,Right" segments of animated series "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show"
  • Nell Rebecchicharacter on Australian soap opera "Neighbours"
  • Nell Stonemain character in "Euphoria" by Lily King, inspired by the life of Margaret Mead