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Gender: Female Meaning of Ethel: "noble maiden" Origin of Ethel: English

The name Ethel is a girl's name of English origin meaning "noble maiden". Ethel and is often added to lists like Old People Names and discussed in our forums with posts like "A brother or sister for little Jack or Olivia".

From the experts:

Ethel is a name we once declared as 'So Far Out They'll Probably Always Be Out,' but with the return of other names on that list and with its new starbaby cred via Lily Allen, its soft sound and admirable meaning, we're not so sure.

At the turn of the last century, when Ethel Barrymore was the belle of Broadway, her first name was wildly popular, a Top 10 name for sixteen year and in the Top 100 until 1939. Other well-known bearers have been musical stars Ethel Merman and Ethel Waters and Robert Kennedy's widow. Not so distinguished: Ethel Mertz on "I Love Lucy".

Ethel fell away from such Old English appellations as Ethelberta, Ethelreda and Ethelinda. Now THOSE, we think we can safely say, are so far out they'll always be out.

Find other names based on Ethel using our baby name generator.

Famous People Named Ethel

Ethel Barrymore (born Ethel Mae Blythe), American actress
Ethel Clayton, American silent film actress
Ethel May Dell, English romance novelist
Ethel Carow Roosevelt Derby, daughter of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt
Ethel Merman (born Ethel Agnes Zimmerman), American singer and actress
Ethel Turner, Australian novelist
Ethel Mary Smyth, English composer and feminist
Ethel Skakel Kennedy, widow of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy
Ethel Waters, American jazz singer and actress
Ethel Elizabeth Gee, English spy
Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg, American spy
Ethel Lilian Voynich, Irish novelist
Ethel Shannon, American silent film actress
Ethel Kremer Schwabacher, American painter
Ethel L. Payne, American journalist
Ethel Hays, American cartoonist
Ethel Hannah Catherwood, Canadian Olympic athlete
Ethel Azama, American jazz singer
Ethel Ayler, American actress
Ethel Percy Andrus, American educator and founder of AARP
Ethel Mary Cooper (b. 2011), daughter of singer Lily Allen

Pop Culture References for the name Ethel

Ethel Anderson, character on TV's "Brickleberry"
Ethel Parks, character on TV's "Downton Abbey"
Ethel Mertz, character on TV's "I Love Lucy"
Ethel May Skinner, character on British soap "EastEnders"
Ethel Hallow, character in "The Worst Witch" series
Big Ethel, character in Archie Comics
Ethel Darling, character in "American Horror Story: Freak Show"
Ethel Thayer, character in Ernest Thompson's "On Golden Pond"
Ethel Eldon, character in Mildred Keith series
Short for Ethelinda, Ethelberta, Ethelgoda, Etheldred, Ethelwynn, etc.
Ethel Hardy, character in G. A. Henty's "Out on the Pampas"
Ethel Toffelmeyer, character in "The Music Man"


MargotBear Says:


Ethel is so unique, I have always pictured it on a feisty, intelligent little girl and after briefly meeting a very kind Ethel I have been slowly warming to it...

me_myself_and_i Says:


Reminds me of Ethel Toffelmeyer from the Music Man, (positive connection!) hilarious character (she's one of the lead pick-a-little ladies

MonikerWanderer Says:


I kind of really like this name!

perdireinz Says:


I personally adore this name. My mother was a huge 'I Love Lucy' fan, so I grew up watching the show. I adore the name Lucille "Lucy" as well, but it is too common for me to consider using. Ethel is out there without being made up. On 'I Love Lucy' Ethel's middle name was Mae. I think Ethel Mae is adorable. I understand most people however, do not agree with me, though that doesn't change my opinion.

paulapuddephatt Says:


Same here. I'm gradually falling in love with almost every name that I previously dismissed as "too much of an old lady name", but some, like Ethel, are taking longer to like - but tentatively getting there...! The name does have some good qualities, and I want to appreciate its beauty.

paulapuddephatt Says:


Not sure this one is ready to come back, but vintage names are in, so who knows?

Essa Says:


I really liked this until someone pronounced it 'Athel', like are you being serious!? They also pronounced Effie as 'Affie' so maybe I shouldn't think into it too much as they clearly have no idea what they're saying.

Ellie Says:


For the record, Ethel Mertz was not on The Honeymooners...she was a character on I Love Lucy (Lucy's neighbor and best friend).

Essa Says:


Love this. Too soon for a comeback? (UK)

headintheclouds Says:


The name Ethel brings back to mind my nightmare days of organic chemistry- I associate this name with chemical compounds too much for me to even tentatively begin to like Ethel.

Ethel is also too lispy-sounding for my tastes (others like Ethan and Esther bother me but not to the extent that Ethel does, for some reason). I'm usually a sucker for most/many vintage, ready-for-revival, so-out-it's-in names, but I'm not feeling it for this one; if I squint and concentrate really hard, I can sort of see the appeal? But then the moment fades and I end up still not liking this name :/

hopefullypeterson Says:


When I was first pregnant, I had I dream in which I named my son "Athel", I've always loved this name. Unfortunately I lost him in March of 2012. My partner and I have a special sweet spot for this name for a boy, sadly it isn't listed on this site but I've seen boys named Athel before.

RobHeathers Says:


Dear NameBerry,

"Ethel Mertz" was Lucy's sidekick on I Love Lucy--not The Honeymooners.

...and I love this name almost as much as I love the character of Ethel Mertz!!

Zelliew Says:


The meaning is the only thing it has going for it.

HeyItsAvery12 Says:


Forever will sound Ethyl on my ears

thedarkfirefly Says:


I wasn't at first keen on the name, but after listening to a song titled Ethel, it grew on me.

Daiseymae Says:


No. Eth-el.

ThistleThorn Says:


Is this pronounced with a long E?

Namernames Says:


Too many years of organic chemistry for me... Ethel will always remind me of ethyl groups! haha

Tanith Says:


Yes! Me too! It's such as shame as the elements of the name all mean I would normally like it (especially as it has such a nice meaning) but I just can't.

Caroline Says:


I don't like the way it sounds!

AnonymousPerson Says:


This will always be the Worst Witch's foe Ethel Hallow to me. I can't see it on a child.

mabespark Says:


I'm waiting for this to start climbing back up. Tentatively beginning to like it.

faithnamer Says:


Haha! I never even thought of that!

SparkleNinja18 Says:


I've always thought it sounded like a person trying to cough something up. But after reading that, I can't unhear a-hole!

Daiseymae Says:


I have always disliked this name. It sounds like a person has a lisp saying a-hole.