The many forms of Helen

Once a Top 10 name in the U.S., spending many years as high as #2, the name Helen has now slipped to #419. It’s had a similar downward slide in Canada and the U.K. However, it’s a solid classic which ages very well, and has so many lovely forms in other languages.

1. Helena is my favorite form of the name, used in German, Czech, Dutch, Polish, the Scandinavian languages, Slovenian, Slovak, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Icelandic, Estonian, Finnish, and Croatian. The Hungarian form is Heléna. My favorite pronunciation is Heh-LAY-nah. It can also be pronounced with a silent H, as in Galician and Portuguese.

2. Elena is Spanish, German, Bulgarian, Romanian, Macedonian, Slovak, and Lithuanian.

3. Yelena is Russian. Besides Lena, one of the base nickname forms is Lyolya.

4. Jelena is Serbian, Estonian, Latvian, Slovenian, Lithuanian, and Croatian. An alternate Latvian form is Jeļena.

5. Hélène is French. This was one of my least favorite characters in War and Peace!

6. Heleen is Dutch.

7. Ellen was never quite as popular as Helen, though it enjoyed many years in the Top 100. As of 2015, it had dropped to #705 in the U.S. It’s more popular in Europe, at #18 in Sweden, #23 in Finland, #29 in Denmark, #56 in Ireland, #82 in the Czech Republic, and #89 in Northern Ireland.

8. Elin is Welsh and Scandinavian. This name is quite popular, at #16 in Switzerland, #25 in Iceland, #30 in The Netherlands, and #37 in Sweden.

9. Ileana is Romanian, Italian, and Spanish. Romanian diminutives are Ilinca and Lenuța. This was the name of the youngest daughter of the awesome Queen Marie of Romania, and from all accounts was a truly lovely, caring, compassionate person.

10. Ilona is Hungarian.

11. Elina is Swedish and Finnish. The Latvian version is Elīna, and the Old Norse form is Elína.

12. Elaine is English, adopted from an Old French form of Helen.

13. Elene is Georgian and Greek.

14. Eleni is another Greek form.

15. Helene is German and Scandinavian.

16. Eliina is Finnish.

17. Elen is Welsh.

18. Olena is Ukrainian.

19. Léan is Irish.

20. Alena is Belarusian.

21. Elna is a southern Swedish form of Elin, as well as a Dutch and Danish nickname for Helena.

22. Halena is an obsolete Ukrainian form.

23. Heghine is Armenian.

24. Héilin is another Irish form.

25. Heleainná is Sami, a native Siberian language. A simpler Sami form is Helená.

26. Heleni is Brazilian–Portuguese.

27. Heleno is Esperanto, and yes, that is supposed to be a female name. Traditionally, O is a feminine ending in Esperanto, though many female Esperantists have modified their names to end in the more familiar A.

28. Helina is a rare Estonian and obsolete Swedish form.

29. Helle is Estonian.

30. Léana is another Irish form.

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