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Helen

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Gender: Female Meaning of Helen: "bright, shining light" Origin of Helen: Greek Helen's Popularity in 2017: #418

The name Helen is a girl's name of Greek origin meaning "bright, shining light". Helen is ranked #418 on our popularity charts and is often added to lists like Old Lady Names and discussed in our forums with posts like "CAF Elimination Style".

From the experts:

Helen is a name that has connoted beauty since ancient times (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.

If Helen is too much of an old lady name for you, you might consider one of its many variations that may be tastier for the modern palate: Helena, Eleanor, Elena, Ella, Nell, or Leonora, to mention 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 has legions of eminent 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.

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

Famous People Named Helen

Helen Adams Keller, American deaf and blind author and political activist
Helen Hayes, American actress
Helen Elizabeth Hunt, American actress
Helen Clare Kane, American singer who inspired cartoon character Betty Boop
Helen Elizabeth Clark, 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand
Helen, Princess of Serbia; daughter of Peter I of Yugoslavia
Helen Augusta Blanchard, American inventor
Helen Lydia Mirren, English actress
Helen Elizabeth McCrory, English actress
(Helen) Beatrix Potter, English children's author and illustrator
Helen Joyce Gabriel Flanagan, English actress and model
Helen Jane Long, English musician
Helen Jairag Richardson, Anglo-Burmese Indian actress and dancer
Helen Rachel Slater, American actress and singer-songwriter
Helen Castillo, American Fashion Designer
Helen Morgan, American singer and actress
Helen Kalin Klanderud, American politician
Helen "Nellie" Costigan Cohan, American actress
Helen George, British actress
Helen Hinkle, member 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

Pop Culture References for the name Helen

Helen of Troy, Greek mythological figure said to be the most beautiful woman in the world.
Helen Stanley, main character in "Helen" by Maria Edgeworth
Helen Leonard, main character in 2009 film "Helen"
Helen Seinfeld, Jerry's mom on TV's "Seinfeld"
Helen Ferguson, paranoid nurse in Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms"
Helen Spitz, character on animated series "Braceface"
Helen Memel, main character in Charlotte Roche's "Wetlands" and the film o the same name
Dr. Helen Magnus, character on TV's "Sanctuary"
Helen Parr aka Elastigirl, character in Pixar's "The Incredibles"
Helen Morgendorffer, character in animated series "Daria"
Helen Harris, character in film "Bridesmaids"
Helen Grady, character in the video game "Silent Hill: Origins"
Helen Hawkins, character on TV's "Siren"
Helen Quilley, main character in film "Sliding Doors"
Helen McIntire, American Girl doll character
"Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet," comic strip by Peter Zale
Helen Longshanks, character in the Inheritance Cycle
Helen Shivers, character in film "I Know What You Did Last Summer"
Margot Helen Tenenbaum, character in film "The Royal Tenenbaums"
Helen, first queen of Narnia in 'The Magician's Nephew' by C.S. Lewis
Helen Graham, main character in 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' by Anne Brontë
Mount St. Helens, volcano in Washington State, USA
Helen Burns, character in "Jane Eyre"
Helen Bryce, character on "Smallville"
Helen Thermopolis, character in "The Princess Diaries" series
Helen Blackthorn, character from Cassandra Clare's "Mortal Instruments and Dark Artifices" series
Helen Ophelia DuBois, character on TV's "Drake and Josh"
Helen, character on Showtime's "Masters of Sex," played by Sarah Silverman
Helen Lovejoy, a character from "The Simpsons"
Helen Schlegel, character in E.M. Forster's novel "Howards End"
Helen, Queen of Eddis in Megan Whalen Turner's "Queen's Thief" series

Comments

Daiseymae Says:

2018-05-11T20:56:04

I love Susan too, but not Maude though. I like Helen also.

paulapuddephatt Says:

2017-02-25T17:28:01

I actually like Susan, too - and Maude...!!! Helena has the same first syllable as Helen.

paulapuddephatt Says:

2017-02-25T17:24:24

I used to, but I am put off by the fact that there isn't one clear way to pronounce the name. I've fallen for Helen again. It's a classic, with such a strong history. Helena is lovely too, though - and I pronounce it helen-a, not hel-ay-na - no offence to anyone who says it the other way, as both are legitimate. I heard helen-a first, and I think the fact that I'm English could possibly be a factor.

paulapuddephatt Says:

2016-11-17T23:08:36

Lovely, classic name

Fluffykitten101 Says:

2016-11-12T10:31:12

Why is this name so popular? It sounds like a middle aged woman's name and like Susan, should not have been revived. It also sounds ugly, with hell as the first syllable. I really can't see the appeal at all. I'd rather call my kid Maude than plain old Helen. But despite my hate for this name, I think Helena is a stunning choice.

Haids1987 Says:

2016-09-12T15:56:29

This name actually has kind of a frightening connotation for me--when I was in 3rd grade I read this great ghost story by Mary Downing Hahn called "Wait Till Helen Comes," where Helen is a ghost child. It's an awesome read and I actually still read it every summer--but unfortunately this lovely gem has a spooky vibe for me. :)

glitterpenis Says:

2016-09-12T14:14:31

Just because it's an old name doesn't make it ugly. There are lots of older names that are becoming really popular again and for good reason; they're lovely and unique. Hazel, Violet, and Helen are just a few that come to mind. I prefer Helena and Helene (ha-leen) variations.

WiseBird39 Says:

2016-02-18T20:59:44

I love Helen. It's, in my opinion, such a timeless name. Even though it has that air of old-fashioned-ness about it, it still sounds so sweet and fresh to me.

EW314 Says:

2016-02-18T11:33:37

This is a classic, refined, understated and beautiful name with a great history. I like lots of its variants, too: Helena, Helene, Ellen, Nell, Eleanor/Elinor (not technically related but similar in sound) and Lena.

snowsbeloved Says:

2015-11-05T08:28:33

My middle aged, almost senior citizen aunt is a Helen. It's hard for me to look past that association. I try to look at the name objectively and can almost see its appeal, but then I don't see it :(

itshelenh_ Says:

2015-09-19T15:35:23

it doesn't bother me!

itshelenh_ Says:

2015-09-19T15:35:08

my name is Helen and i absolutely love it! everyone i know doesn't think it is an old lady name! it is actually climbing back up the charts and it is very youthful! its a shame that you call your own name disgusting.

itshelenh_ Says:

2015-09-19T15:33:41

:(

itshelenh_ Says:

2015-09-19T15:33:29

really? my name is Helena and i know a Helena and everyone says they like Helen better

itshelenh_ Says:

2015-09-19T15:32:06

same! (my name is helen!!)

itshelenh_ Says:

2015-09-19T15:31:52

My name is Helen also! A lot of people says it is an old name but i love it! When, i was very little, i hated it but now, i think its beautiful! Having family from Ireland lets me know that are a lot of Helens out there which makes me smile :) And actually my mother called me Helly too!!

Jinxgirl Says:

2015-06-18T15:36:09

Helen is a nice enough name, though serious for a child. Nell or Nellie might be a way to get around that as a nickname. I am not bothered by the hell part

Daiseymae Says:

2015-05-08T13:39:36

It could have been much worse for you if you were named Beulah, Bertha, Gladys, Agatha, or Maude. I really like the name Helen.

Daiseymae Says:

2015-05-08T13:37:52

I have always liked the name Helen. It is my grandmother's name, and it really never goes out of style.

TheHumanCanvas Says:

2015-02-11T22:00:39

I used to hate this name, but now... what can I say? It's grown on me, and now sounds young and fresh to my ears. I think it sounds beautiful, but serious. Of course, I only know two Helens, and one is middle aged, the other elderly. It could be difficult to use for a child. But I recently read 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' (Anne Bronte) and now I have a whole new association for the name Helen. I love it!

Paige_Mackenzie Says:

2014-11-21T00:29:08

My grandmother's name was Helen, I plan to use the name for a daughter in her honor! This is a beautiful name with a wonderful meaning.

Orchid_Lover Says:

2014-09-21T19:00:16

Sorry about the double post but yay for the link finally being approved...oops nevermind gone again

helenlouise Says:

2014-09-20T16:25:00

Helen is my name and I HATE IT, do not burden your child with this name! I have met about 2 or 3 other my-age Helens in my life and we have all had the discussion about what a disgusting name we share. There are no nicknames, it doesn't sound pretty! I WISH my mum had gone with her number 1 choice Emma rather than be put off by the fact that my cousin is Emily.

clairels Says:

2014-09-19T18:59:03

Unfortunately I agree. I did know one Helen in school and I always thought, "Why do you have an old lady name? You don't look old." For me I just can't seem to shake that connotation.

Jmyrtle Says:

2014-09-19T09:11:18

I prefer Helena

GreenEyes375 Says:

2014-09-16T17:50:28

I love Helen! It is my name, and I have always thought it was beautiful. I was named after my grandma who died when I was younger, and I have only ever met three other people with my name. One was an elderly lady, one a baby, and the other was the same age as me. Like helenberry, I am called Hellie from time to time (more now than when I was a kid), but my most common nickname is Lene. I love the history behind my name, and I plan to give it or some variation to one of my daughters someday.

Orchid_Lover Says:

2014-09-16T14:07:58

I tried to post a link to a cool article about names like this earlier but it was blocked...it's called "How to tell someone's age when all you know is her name" and was on fivethirtyeight. com (now I'm afraid of hyperlinking...) Anyway, Helen peaked in the US number-wise in 1923 (31,491), percentage-wise in 1917 (3.05% of baby girls that year) and in rank between 1900 and 1919 (it was #2 all those years). It hasn't started a consistent upward trend but that will likely start any year now as the beloved grandma Helens die out and baby Helens are named in her honor. That is the story behind the baby Helen I know, and it is a big reason for the 100 year rule.

Guest Says:

2014-09-16T13:53:50

All the Helens I know of are older women or from the early 20th century when this name was most popular. It just sounds old to me anyway. Helena and Elena sound much more youthful to me and I know/see many young Elenas.

AnonymousPerson Says:

2014-09-16T11:53:22

I don't understand this. To me Helen is springing with youth. All the Helens I know are children or young women, and to be honest, I've never met an elderly woman called Helen.

AnonymousPerson Says:

2014-08-30T20:14:31

Hélène is the French variation, and it's pronounced more like "il-lenne" in France. I personally love all of the variations of the name; it depends on the child.

helenberry Says:

2014-08-04T02:32:13

Helen is my name so I am biased but I absolutely LOVE it. This may be culture gap but it doesn't seem to have the reputation of an old lady name in Europe. Having moved from Ireland to England, I have found there are definitely more Helens in England (more Ellens and Aileens in Ireland) but the ones I have met were all young too! There is something very cool about your name being at least 3000 years old and the first thing that pops into people's heads is Helen of Troy - the daughter of Zeus! I think it's personal preference whether you like Helen, Hélène or Helena. I think Hélène can sound pretentious if pronounced correctly (ay-LEHN) and unfortunately plain uneducated if pronounced modernly (He-LEEN). Helena, whilst very lyrical, can be confusing, will people pronounce it the traditional HEL-lehn-ah or the modern He-LAY-nah? I think Helen is unambiguous, recognisable yet a little unusual, classic and subtly feminine. (And when I was a kid my mum called me Helly affectionately from time to time - it's not too grown-up for a child at all!)

CocoWhite Says:

2014-06-17T22:43:26

I just don't like how the first syllable is pronounced like "hell"

Guest Says:

2014-06-17T02:56:27

This will always be "old woman" to me but I LOVE Helena and Elena.

AnonymousPerson Says:

2014-06-12T13:08:22

I really like this name!