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Gender: Female Meaning of Nell: "bright, shining one" Origin of Nell: English, diminutive of Helen, Eleanor, et al

The name Nell is a girl's name of English origin meaning "bright, shining one". Nell and is often added to lists like Vintage Girl Names and discussed in our forums with posts like "Love, Like, Lose... Name Game- GIRLS".

From the experts:

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.

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

Famous People Named Nell

Eleanor "Nell" Gwyn, English actress and mistress
Laura Elizabeth "Little Nell" Campbell, Australian actress and singer
Nell Ruth Carter, American singer and actress
Nell Rose Hudson, British actress
Nell Tiger Free, English actress and singer
Nell Blair Walden Blaine, American painter
Nell Bryden, American singer
Nell Mary Dunn, English playwright
Nell Freudenberger, American novelist
Tracey Jane "Nell" McAndrew, English glamour model
Nell McCafferty, Irish journalist and playwright
Nell O'Day, American actress and equestrian
Nell Rankin, American operatic mezzo-soprano
Nell Shipman (born Helen Foster-Barham), Canadian actress
Ragnhild "Nell" Westgaard Sigland, Norwegian singer of Theatre of Tragedy
Scottie Nell Hughes, American political commentator
Nell Burton, daughter 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

Pop Culture References for the name Nell

Nell Trent aka Little Nell, main character in Charles Dickens' "The Old Curiosity Shop"
Nell Kellty, main character in movie "Nell"
Nell Bedworth, character in movie "It's a Boy Girl Thing"
Nell Jones, character on TV's "NCIS: Los Angeles"
Nell Turbody, character on TV's "Rescue Me"
Nellodee "Nell," character in Neal Stephenson's "The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer"
Nell McLaughlin, character in "My friend Flicka" by Mary O'Hara
Nell Fenwick, character in the "Dudley Do-Right" segments of animated series "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show"
Nell Mangel, character on Australian soap opera "Neighbours"
Nell Stone, main character in "Euphoria" by Lily King, inspired by the life of Margaret Mead

Nelli, Nelley, Nellie, Nelly, Nelma, Nella

Nell's International Variations

Neile, Nela, Neila, Nialla (Irish) Nelya (Russian)


Ridesontwohorses Says:


Could Nell be a nickname for Amelia because Amelia= Mellie, Mellie= Nellie?

katinka Says:


I adore this name. Simple, strong, cute and quirky. Just perfect.

katinka Says:


Your name is all kinds of fabulous with your surname!

burg123 Says:


Sounds like a little kid name, and an old lady name, bu I can't picture this on a teenager or a middle aged adult.

Joyce Says:


My mother's name was Nell-Karen. I always loved the name. I do not know how her parents come to name her. There might have been some kind of European influence to the name. She was born in German of American parents.

nell_07 Says:


As a Nell myself, I'm hugely biased, but I really love the name! Short, fun, vaguely vintage but with a relatively cool/modern feel - at least that's the image I got from it.

I was christened Eleanor, but almost exclusively nicknamed Ellie until I was 18. It never really felt like me but it never occurred to me that I had another option. Then I came across nameberry, became a massive namenerd, learned that actually there's a bunch of nicknames for Eleanor (Elle, Nora, Lena, etc) and fell head over heels for Nell!

Two years on and I can't believe I ever went by anything else!

paulapuddephatt Says:


Sorry about your friend. My best friend died, too. It's a lovely name, but how annoying for people to spell it as Neil. I think it's unusual as a given name. Nell was traditionally short for Helen, Ellen or Eleanor, but lately, hear it for Penelope, and various other names.

taylorthewriter Says:


Nell was the name of my best friend before she passed away; it's a great, strong name in its own right but I'll warn you now: everyone is going to misspell it as 'Neil'. It's what happened to my friend on almost every letter or newspaper mention she received. I'm always going to associate this name with a funny, kind, clever girl because that's exactly who she was.

alliebelle Says:


Not a fan, it makes me think of a stern old teacher or librarian figure. I guess it's all about associations.

cabosanmucus Says:


Nell is so elegant! I absolutely adore it. Not Nellie, just Nell in its full glory. 😊

EW314 Says:


Gorgeous, simple and strong. I love this as a standalone name but for various reasons I intend to use Helena with the nickname Nell for a daughter.

Impwood Says:


Nell can also be short for Fenella.

Daphodil Says:


This is such a sweet name. It makes me think of a happy toddler with rosy cheeks and dimples. Not sure I would be brave enough to use it on its own, but I would definitely love to meet a little Nell.

madmaddie Says:


Very pretty, but I know a not-so-nice person with the name, so I don't really like it.

ajt Says:


My favourite name! My first daughter will be a Nell

Eva Thyssen Says:


This is a pretty name, better than Nelly and Nellie IMO.

Nell Elphinstone Says:


My name is Nell, and so was 2 of my great aunts, That,s the reason i've been called Nell